E ven before I started thinking about having children, I encountered a lot of negative beliefs around pregnancy, birth and having a newborn baby. This influence, even though mostly subconscious, had a big impact on me and delayed my decision of having a child. If I didn’t have a positive experience taking care of my husband’s children from his first marriage, maybe I wouldn’t want to have my own baby. Children’s love is so rewarding that you make the choice of having them even though you still think that it can be difficult.
Then I traveled to Bali, India and China, and I saw that pregnant women and mothers of a newborn can be happy, smile and enjoy their lives. And they don’t necessarily have to be victims of all those negative symptoms described in medical books. They can have a healthy pregnancy and natural birth that is quick and safe, and they can have a quiet easy-going newborn baby that keeps them smiling all the time. This evidence led me to stop believing what is the truth of our western culture and follow my instinct.
And the result is that I’m a mother of 4 month old happy and relaxed baby who never cries longer than 30 minutes a day, and usually even less, and only to indicate his needs. I’m only 4 kg over my weight from before the pregnancy, and this is the same weight I had 1 day after giving birth. This is a weight I assume is healthy in order to breastfeed my baby with ease. I never have sore nipples because I use silicone nipple shields and I’m enjoying good sleep with my baby, sleeping even longer thanks to the hormones related to breastfeeding.
Let’s discuss all the myths of pregnancy, birth and parenting that I encountered on my way and how I found my own positive solution to each of them.
Prepare yourself to have a baby
Relax and practice deep relaxation
Eat healthy and organic food for you and your baby
1. Myths around pregnancy
I preferred to know as much as possible about what can go wrong with the pregnancy, birth and beyond, to be able to search for positive solutions long before I experienced any of those negative symptoms. If you have a tendency to worry too much, don’t do this because it can be overwhelming. After the first 2 months of my pregnancy I gathered enough information about what can go wrong that I decided to stop listening to more stories from my friends and doctors and focus on finding positive role models and program myself for a great experience.
The first symptom of pregnancy for many women is nausea. When somebody would ask me, “Do you experience morning sickness?”, I would reply, “I don’t have morning sickness, I have all day sickness.” And that’s true – I almost couldn’t eat anything that I ate with pleasure before. I had to discover new food that was better for my body, and what I could and wanted to eat was changing every couple of weeks. I decided to follow my instinct, to eat something small every two hours and to only eat simple healthy whole foods such as fruits, raisins, yoghurt, rice, fish, salad, whole grain toasted bread, avocados, falafel, and tortillas (made from eggs and potatoes). It’s natural that your organism is adjusting to the needs of the baby so your diet needs to be full of vital substances for the baby in each moment of its development. That’s why it is important to make sure that you eat as much healthy organic and simple food as you can so that you can give your baby the vitamins and minerals it needs. And you cannot find these in artificial sweets, dressings, ice cream and chips. Thanks to following my instinct I knew clearly when I wanted to eat strawberries and when I wanted to eat shrimp, and my nauseous feeling only came back when I skipped a meal or I was tired and my baby was telling me to take a break and have a siesta.
I was also told that I will get fat and it will be difficult to loose the weight later. I saw many women that became fat after pregnancy, so I took care of myself. I remember we met a man whose wife was pregnant and more advanced than me by then and he mentioned that sometimes she craves ice cream in the middle of the night. No wonder she is gaining so much weight because it’s not really an ice cream her baby needs but protein or fruits for more energy. I had to eat as well sometimes in the middle of the night because my baby needed more resources and was hungry, but I was choosing whole grain toast with avocado, tomato and olive oil or had prepared natural yoghurt (or soy yoghurt) with banana, raisins and whole grain flakes. Of course it’s not that you can never indulge in sweets or other unhealthy food, but it shouldn’t be a rule and the needs of your baby should be your first priority. So if you really want an ice cream, eat it after a whole food meal and maybe… you wouldn’t need it so urgently anymore. That’s why I gained only 4 kg during pregnancy, plus of course the weight of my baby in the womb, the water around the baby and the placenta (6-7 kg) and then the weight of the milk in my breasts (2kg).
I also heard that my body will be swollen, especially my legs, I will have back pain, my teeth and hair will become weak, I will have problems with my thyroid and many other problems such as pregnancy diabetes and so on but … I didn’t have any of them. I ate very healthy so I didn’t have problems with sugar and swollen legs which comes from too much sweets. I supplemented myself during the whole pregnancy, especially with B12, folic acid and calcium which are crucial, and additionally iron is very important in the last 2 months of pregnancy when you pump 40% more blood through your body for your baby and you don’t want to become super tired. I also experienced that not all supplements absorb in the same way, so not all of the supplements you buy in the pharmacy will work for you. Choose as much from a natural source without extra chemistry as you can. For my back I practiced exercises throughout my pregnancy, especially yoga and daily walks with my husband. I was taking naps as well whenever I felt very tired, especially in the first and third trimester.
Don’t worry, even if you work in an office. It doesn’t take as much effort as you think to organize your life to eat healthy and exercise and rest well. It takes much less effort than being sick and weak throughout your pregnancy.
And one more thing: many women complain that they cannot sleep due to the baby moving inside during the night. Practice deep relaxation for your muscles and it will relax your baby as well and you will sleep great. If you wake up during the night, your baby might be hungry, so eat and practice deep meditation again to sleep. I loved to sleep with my baby during the pregnancy, especially in the last weeks when I could feel him better because he was adjusting his body position to mine and it was a really close bond.
2. Myths around giving birth
The main myth about giving birth is that birth is painful and dangerous so you have to be drugged and put in the hospital in order to give birth. Women have given birth for centuries and millennia and women in Asia still prefer to give birth at home.
A big study among 24,092 women from the University of Copenhagen in 1997 showed that ‘perinatal mortality was not significant in the two groups [women delivering at home versus women delivering in hospital],’ and no maternal deaths occurred in either group. Moreover, babies in the home birth group were less likely to have low Apgar scores, and the mothers were more likely to deliver without medical interventions (induction, episiotomy, Caesarean section, etc.).
I read a book “Childbirth without Fear” that impacted me the most. Dr. Grantly Dick-Read discovered that those women who complain that they feel pain in childbirth are victims of the Fear-Tension-Pain Syndrome. When we assume that something will be painful, we feel tension that results in pain. The natural action of the uterus during birth is to expand and this muscle cannot expand when you are stressed. This inner struggle of expanding and suppressing the expansion by stress and fear cause pain. The truth is that it doesn’t need to be like this, and women in cultures where giving birth is a natural process rarely felt any pain. I decided to prepare myself as well to feel very relaxed and also have a water birth. My first birth was quite long, 9 hours in total, but I didn’t feel any pain.
I gave birth to Thomas at home in the birthing pool with an experienced midwife and my husband. Thomas was born 5 days after the due date given by the doctors but I wasn’t worried because it’s natural that babies can be born 2 weeks before or after the date and it is still fine if the baby and the mother are healthy. For centuries there was not a big deal around a date. We played quiet Tibetan music from Nawang Khechog. My midwife was very experienced with home births and had great results, delivering even twins at home so I felt completely safe. My birth experience was a strong experience of extreme peak performance where I was completely with my body and my baby. I felt that my baby was with me. At the beginning of the contractions, when they were getting 2 minutes apart and I went to the bath, I felt the tiny hand of Thomas doing a rhythm in my womb. This was the rhythm he was doing when happy after I would eat strawberries and mangoes. And he repeated this rhythm just 1 hour before the birth when I could already feel the end of his head coming out.
I went to a gynaecologist 3 times for a check-up at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of my pregnancy, to ensure that everything was ok and that he was a boy. I didn’t want to go more frequently because the USG is not so healthy for the baby and is not needed too many times. My midwife was far better in describing my baby’s position and parameters at the end of pregnancy than any electronic device and the baby felt much more relaxed being touched by the loving hands of me, his father and the midwife. In addition, doctors are very scary sometimes. Many doctors tell you only what can go wrong and how you can protect yourself from that with medical intervention and drugs. For me, pregnancy is not a disease so I didn’t want to spend too much time with the doctors and in hospitals, especially that I couldn’t imagine having strangers surround me during this very private experience. I preferred to relax with my baby inside on the sofa, waiting for the contractions to get stronger and just breathe deeply. The deep relaxation I was practicing, before giving birth, was the best way to make my baby and me sleep so well during my whole pregnancy and after Thomas was born. Thomas just knew when to sleep and how to relax with me sleeping, both of us together.
Not all people want to experience giving birth at home and they feel safer in a hospital. A good tip from me would be: Even if you want to give birth in the hospital, don’t arrive at the hospital too soon. The hospitals have a rule that if it takes you too long to open your body enough to push, they may perform a Caesarean on you. The doctors are also very keen on giving drugs to stimulate birth. The problem with these drugs is, especially with an Epidural, that you lose control of your body and there can be more difficulties with your child’s umbilical cord and generally your child moving through the birth channel, which leads to an increased percentage of the Caesarean section.
That’s why I didn’t want to go to hospital because it’s too much medical intervention that the doctors may try to force on you when you are really vulnerable and when it’s difficult to say no. What can help is to find a midwife, or a doula, even if you give birth in the hospital so she will help you to choose the right moment to go to hospital and support you with dealing with the doctors.
The interesting thing I discovered is that you don’t need to learn how to breathe during birth because you will know what to do. Instead learn deep relaxation which will help you to go over contractions with ease and with patience. Even if you would feel that you cannot stand more contractions, when you relax you will just trust the process. With trust you will open more and more, make the impossible possible. Don’t focus on pain and on all the negative beliefs your doctors try to tell you, just trust the beauty of giving birth and all will be well. Remember that pain doesn’t exist, it’s just the tension you create that you need to release. And you will go from one contraction to the other, like riding the waves. Remember, this is the bigger opening you can experience. With opening your womb and vagina, you open your heart for the baby. It’s the biggest opening a human can experience and I was very sentimental the next two weeks after birth, crying with each romantic song and being always amazed that this big beautiful baby could just come out from me.
3. Myths around parenting
When I started asking about the experience of others with newborn babies, most people said that I should prepare myself to be tired and that I’m not going to sleep a lot. I didn’t want to believe that there is only this dark scenario. My experience of pregnancy taught me that if you prepare yourself, if you have comfortable pillows, if you exercise, eat well and relax, it will all be fine. So I wanted to foresee what to do with a newborn baby. My husband told me to find something on how to make a baby sleep during the night. I read all these best-selling books on how to let a baby cry until she calms down or a strategy on how to pick-up-put-down a baby in a crib until he is so exhausted that he would stop finally crying and fall asleep.
All those books were so stupid. I knew intuitively after traveling to Asia that I just needed to keep my baby close to me because he needs to feel safe and that is it. So I just held my baby a lot in my arms from his first day. He just slept beside me during the night and ate, slept and played on me during the day. So I was doing all my business calls and emails with him, and read many books while he slept. We took my baby for a walk in a baby carrier. I hired a helper for the house so that I didn’t need to move away from my baby, and I had somebody take care of my baby for two hours a day so that I could rest and spend some time with my husband. And I breastfed my baby whenever he wanted to.
There is another myth that you will look ugly and you can forget about sex. In my case, I felt really sexy when I started showing more of that pregnancy shape with bigger breasts, rounded hips and a beautiful pregnant belly. I felt even more feminine than before so I invested in pregnancy dresses and organic nail paint in red color. So don’t forget that you can still be sexy and have sex during your pregnancy till the end. It even helps to stimulate giving birth. We had sex when my contractions were around 5 minutes apart and it provoked the labor to really get started. You can also come back to sex whenever you want when your vagina recovers after the birth, just get a nanny to really celebrate, otherwise your tightly sleeping baby may wake up in the crucial moment.
I read some good books: “Continuum Concept” , books on natural parenting and co-sleeping , and a book about the theory of a forth semester that claims that babies would normally be born after 12 months if not for the big head so the first 3 months you should imitate the conditions in the womb (skin to skin touch, swaddling tight, carrying with you). Actually, according to Sharon Heller, skin to skin touch and close relationships throughout our life can predict how happy and safe we feel that this can increase the oxytocin level . I also work with my good friend who is a cognitive-behavioural therapist on my fear that when my baby cries I don’t know what to do, which was not true and actually my baby never cried very much. This fear just came up from the stories I heard from other people.
The result is that my baby sleeps all night with me without crying. He just wakes up for breastfeeding which I do laying down so that we can immediately fall asleep again. I sleep so well thanks to breastfeeding hormones that I sleep longer in total than before pregnancy, and I also have a siesta with my baby Thomas and he is so relaxed that he cries only when he is far from me and becomes hungry or it’s hard for him to poo. He rarely has any stomach upset thanks to breastfeeding on demand. And he is a great baby. I have just completed 5 weeks of full-featured movie directing with my husband in Malibu, USA, and baby Thomas was a part of this adventure, most of the time with me. I was the only breastfeeding mother on the movie set and Thomas was the only baby there. He was also the best coach on the movie set, relaxing others with his smiling face. Now he is 4 months and has started making sounds and moving around. Being so close with me helps him now with others and soon he will start his independent adventure with the world.
To summarize, to prepare yourself to have a baby:
1. Relax and practice deep relaxation.
2. Don’t scream during giving birth because it will start a panic reaction in you and your baby. Instead make tribal low sounds or sing.
3. Use technology wisely. There is some good stuff such as silicone nipple shields to protect your breast and have pleasure with breastfeeding from the first day.
4. Eat healthy and organic food for you and your baby.
5. Trust yourself because you know best what is good for you and your baby.
6. Don’t resign from activities that are important for you. Just find a way to do them with the baby or hire help (I produced a movie about coaching with my baby).