Pregnancy Must-Haves!

I was thinking about items that I consider to be must-haves for pregnancy and for parenting an infant, prompted by Carolyn. There really aren’t many actual material things that I find entirely necessary most of the time- I tend to believe that marketers of baby products go way overboard in trying to convince parents that they need more more more! (For fear that they will otherwise not be a good caregiver to their baby? Because they worry that babies are SO hard to take care of? I’m not sure.) Anyway, here are my five endorsed pregnancy items, items that prepared my body and mind for birth:

5. A large exercise ball: When I was expecting Grace, I worked in a special education classroom where students had a choice of sitting in chairs or sitting on exercise balls like these. It turned out to be quite handy because I was able to sit on one for the entire work day throughout my pregnancy. I even borrowed one for use at our house, though I must say the temptation of the couch got the best of me most of the time when I was at home! The benefits of an exercise ball (or “birthing ball” and they are known in the childbirth community) are numerable. In pregnancy, just sitting on the ball encourages healthy hip and back posture (while lightly toning the correct muscles to do so) as well as opening the pelvis to allow baby to sink deeply into place in preparation for labor. The mother’s erect posture achieved on the birthing ball also encourages the vertex or “head down” position.  Benefits of the birthing ball later on: Some mothers use the ball for positioning during labor- whether sitting on the ball and circling the hips, leaning the body draped over the ball, or whatever is comfortable. Once the baby is born, some people find that sitting on a birthing ball relieves pressure on a bruised or torn perineum. It’s also a good tool for bouncing and lulling a baby to sleep. Plus, when it’s time to get back in shape, you can use the exercise ball for its original purpose… exercise! (Yeah, I didn’t do much of that, whoops.) This link has some information about using a ball during pregnancy.

4. Floradix: This totally disgusting-tasting liquid iron supplement turned my whole pregnancy around. I understand that low iron levels, though somewhat common, do not affect every expectant mother- but the benefits for me during my last pregnancy were so profound that I would supplement with Floradix prophylactically if I had to do it again. Before Christmas time I was unable to stand long enough to make a grocery run- I would start feeling queasy, shaky, and worried I would faint. I wanted to remain active during my pregnancy, but working out would have been dangerous. Enter Floradix. Two weeks later I was back to my normal self and my normal energy level, working out at the gym and doing yoga on a regular basis. What makes Floradix different from other iron supplements is that it is entirely plant-based and does not cause the nausea and constipation that iron pills tend to. It’s a little pricy, but here’s a hint: it’s much cheaper if you buy online over at Swanson’s Vitamins.

3. Jennifer Wolfe’s “Prenatal Vinyasa Yoga” videos: These are simply the best, in my opinion. I’m picky about yoga videos, but yoga classes are not in large supply out here in the middle of nowhere so I read the reviews online and chose very carefully. Jennifer Wolfe is awesome. I had the short forms DVD, which I dare say is plenty challenging for me. (I enjoy yoga and wouldn’t say I’m a beginner, but I am certainly not advanced in my practice.) The 15 minute segment was great for a little pick me up at times when I was on the go. The 30 minute segment was my regular go-to, and the 45 minute segment was a challenge that I attempted only a few times. Doing the deep squats, lengthening stretches, and stability poses made me feel like some sort of pregnancy goddess. Seriously, it made me feel like my body was made for making babies. Jennifer’s voice is soothing (with no breathy new age bullshit) and she explains each pose clearly with modifications for your stage of pregnancy. You can find her DVD’s online here.

2. Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin: I would encourage every pregnant mama to read this (or even every person who thinks they might be pregnant one day.) It is a great read that really helped to build my faith in my body and its abilities in birth. If you are not aware, Ina May Gaskin is essentially a modern midwife guru who has helped countless women to give birth safely and naturally. The entire first portion of the book is birth stories from a variety of women, most homebirths on “The Farm” where Ina May lives and practices midwifery. The second half of the book contains notes on exactly how the body works in order to birth a baby. Unlike many of the resources out there, it focuses on the body- not on what pharmaceuticals are available, not what to expect from medical interventions, not what to pack in your hospital bag. It’s plain and simple a book about the birthing body. Even if you are not planning to birth at home, this is a valuable book simply for acquiring knowledge to build confidence in birth itself. Ignorance might be bliss until it’s go time and you’re in labor. And then- knowledge is power; it releases our fears which can interfere with the natural birthing process. Oh yeah- and I also found the statistics page at the end of the book to be very enlightening!

1. Hypnobabies Home Study program: I’m not sure if I’ve ever elaborated on the fact that I used the Hypnobabies program to prepare for the birth of Grace. I’m going to let it speak for itself- here is a description from the Hypnobabies website:

“Hypnobabies is a very successful 6 week complete childbirth education course using Gerald Kein’s Painless Childbirth techniques instead of simple relaxation, breathing or guided imagery. This allows our Hypno-Moms to enjoy “Eyes Open Childbirth Hypnosis”, easily remaining deeply in hypnosis while walking, talking changing positions; being as mobile as they would like to be during childbirth. We are famous for much shorter, easier and more comfortable labors, making childbirth the joyful experience it was meant to be.

You’ll use your Hypnobabies Workbook, CDs and hypnosis scripts to train your inner mind that contractions in labor will be felt only as pressure, tightening, pushing, pulling and normal baby movement sensations. You’ll be fully in tune with your baby during the birthing process, and as aware as you’d like to be, easily able to communicate and be in charge of your own birth experience.

Hypnobabies uses the same kind of hypnosis techniques that people employ when preparing for surgery without any medication, which is called hypno-anesthesia. Our classes also teach our Hypnobabies Birth Partners how to fully support our Hypno-Moms, although Hypnobabies can also be used very successfully by single mothers”

Here’s the general idea: You use a book to work through the home study program, learning about how hypnosis works, prenatal nutrition, the process of childbirth- it’s a complete childbirth education course. Email support is always available. Along the way, you introduce new hypnosis tracks- 30 minute sound recordings that address different aspects of pregnancy and birth- from general relaxation, to perception of birthing waves (known outside of the Hypnobabies program as contractions,) to the dilation of the cervix. You listen to one track per day and when the course is finished, there is a one-track-per-day maintenance program. It seems like a lot of work, but the secret is that you can listen to your tracks while you are going to sleep and it is totally okay to to sleep right through. In addition to being the ultimate way to multitask, I’m just going to say that I slept really really well when I was pregnant. The soothing hypnosis works like a charm. In addition to the daily tracks, there is an affirmations disc full of positive self-talk about pregnancy and birth. You can listen to it just about any time- while you’re asleep (I used to create a playlist on my ipod with my daily track plus affirmations,) while you’re in the bath, when you’re driving- whenever you have a chance. The real test is the labor itself and I think Liesbeth would agree that the techniques we learned in our Hypnobabies program were exceptionally helpful at that time. I was able to remain totally calm and in control with Liesbeth’s assistance- in particular, she used the “release” cue that we learned from the program while applying pressure to my forehead and this ritual was all I needed to enter a state of total relaxation. Hypnobabies also offers in-person classes with an instructor depending on your location. They also offer tracks for such topics as turning a breech baby, eliminating nausea, and creating peaceful sleep.

Well, there you have it, my pregnancy must-haves. All of you experienced moms out there- I am curious to know what is on your pregnancy must-have list. Please share!

Stay tuned because I will also be posting my infant must-haves in the near(ish) future!

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