A few years ago, as a doula and health educator, I shared 10 things I always tell pregnant people. While those words still ring true, and helped evolve my work into something new, the last year has been a time of deep change. We’re in a new landscape, and the pregnancy and postpartum experience feels different than before. To that end, here are five additional tips for new parents to help you on your way…
1. Move your body in a way you enjoy.
Connecting with your body during and after pregnancy is incredibly helpful for your mood and well-being. Feel free to make your practice small and sustainable, so you’re able to stick with it, even if it’s just 15 minutes a day. Whether neighborhood walks or workout classes, choose whatever works for you. (One of the positive things about this year’s move to digital is the wealth of wonderful exercise opportunities, from Pilates to HIIT, that are now available online.)
2. Communicate with your baby.
Some people think talking to your baby during pregnancy feels silly, but from a research perspective, we know that babies in utero can hear the outside world and are able to respond. If you’re having a stressful day, one practice I love building the habit of saying to your baby, ‘This is not about you. I’m just having a hard day — but I’m going to do my best to protect you.’ Also, please know that once your baby is here, bonding may not be immediate. The idea that everyone is instantly in love and bonded with their baby is a fallacy for many people. It’s okay if you don’t feel that right away.
3. Optimize telemedicine.
During the pandemic, healthcare had to innovate, including making a push to telemedicine. Of course, you’ll still need to attend some in-person appointments, but getting to take more doctor and midwife visits from home allows you to be prepared and collected. Keep a notepad with all your questions written out or keep your notes app open on your computer or phone. You don’t have to worry about forgetting to bring anything, because you’re already home!
Mental health services have also become an online fixture. Over the years, I’ve worked with parents needing anti-anxiety medication or antidepressants before, during and after pregnancy. If that’s you, I want you to know that you’re not alone, and to feel empowered to make an actionable plan around protecting and maintaining your mental health.
4. Find a buddy.
Right now, many of us have communication fatigue. Don’t put stress on yourself to find a social circle of pregnant friends — just try to find one person who is in a similar place as you, if possible. (If you don’t know anyone, the app Peanut has a way to connect with other pregnant people. Keep in mind your buddy doesn’t have to be in the same city, state or even country as you.) Then, find ways to communicate that work for you. Even texting is great. It can be so helpful to ask someone, ‘What are you experiencing?’
5. Get creative about connecting with loved ones.
If your loved ones aren’t nearby and can’t gather for a traditional baby shower, many people look to Zoom. Instead of having everyone virtually pile in, you could also consider setting up a one-on-one FaceTime with distanced loved ones, so you can more deeply connect with them. Another thing I encourage people to do is to ask your loved ones to write you a letter. It can be so nice to have something physical to hold onto. I also love the idea of creating a virtual playlist, where you invite everyone to suggest a song. Then, when you’re postpartum, you can listen to it and think of the people who helped create it.
This year, one silver lining is that we’ve made more space in our culture to talk about feelings, mental health, anxiety and depression. We can also talk about race in a way we couldn’t before. This exposure to the more challenging parts of our lives — and the acknowledgment that everyone goes through hard times — is a step in the right direction. Our culture is starting to acknowledge that we don’t exist in a technicolor reality. Wherever you are, please be gentle with yourself and know that what you’re feeling is okay. Sending you so much love.
Erica Chidi is the co-founder and CEO of LOOM, a platform empowering women through sexual and reproductive health education. She is also a doula, health educator and the author of Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, and Early Motherhood.