Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What is Natural Parenting: Preparing for Pregnancy

Finally getting into my Natural Parenting series. The first practice of Natural Parenting is "Prepare for pregnancy, birth, and parenting." I have a lot of thoughts on these (so much so that I am splitting this into 3 parts, rather than one mega-post), but I'm not sure how much of it is "natural". This is partially because I didn't really know what Attachment or Natural Parenting were before Gus was born, so I didn't prepare with this concept specifically in mind, although I did instinctively lean that way. Also, I feel like we did the same thing that most families preparing for a new baby do (or at least most families with a similar cultural, academic, and socioeconomic background to me), so it feels strange to write some of it down as something noteworthy. Nonetheless, this is my story, and here is a part of it. 

Preparing for pregnancy

Our pregnancy with Gus was very much a “planned” pregnancy in as much as one can plan these things. That being said, I didn't actually do much to prepare myself for it. I started taking folic acid supplements months in advance, because I had read reports of a study showing benefit from taking folic acid up to a year before conception, and that’s about it.

I didn't do any preparation with regards to diet or exercise before my pregnancy. I was already eating a fairly healthy, mostly whole foods diet. And to be honest, I don't know if I even thought about physical fitness. Since moving to the UK, I have always walked a lot (funny how not having a car will do that to you!), so I have a pretty good level of fitness anyway. But I certainly didn't think to do any more than that. And emotional preparation was not even on my radar. I just knew I had been wanting a baby for some time, so I figured I was mentally ready!

One thing that we did do to prepare for pregnancy, in a way, was to use Natural Family Planning (NFP) to first avoid and then achieve pregnancy. It was important to me to use NFP, not only for religious reasons, but because I don't like the idea of putting artificial or unnecessary chemicals or hormones into my body. I am quite hesitant to take medications casually anyway (for instance, I would much rather just wait for a headache to go away on its own, if it doesn’t prevent me from going about my day, than take a tablet for it), so I would not like to take a daily medication unless really necessary. Plus, when we were ready to become pregnant, using NFP meant that my body didn't have to “detox” and we understood my fertility cycle. So it was really a win-win choice for us.

My current status is again one of preparing for pregnancy, although we don't have any immediate plans. Not that it would matter if we did—I am still breastfeeding Gus enough that my cycle has yet to return since his birth. So at the moment we are on God's time, neither trying to conceive nor trying to avoid pregnancy. And I kind of like it. If I had the choice right now—pregnant or not?—I don't really know what I would choose. Three of my friends who have toddlers Gus's age are pregnant, and there is a significant part of me that is quite envious. On the other hand, we are so happy as a family of three, and I love being able to focus on Gus, that I wouldn't want to rock the boat with changes. 

One thing I am keen to do before becoming pregnant again is to learn to squat.  That sounds a bit silly, but there is a rationale behind it. Squatting has numerous benefits, including being a great position for birth (it can give you vital extra millimetres in the size of the pelvic opening compared to some other positions!) and strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Much better than doing Kegels, according to the squatting expert Katy Bowman. So at the moment I am stretching and strengthening the necessary muscles in my legs and glutes to be able to hold a proper squatting position. I just have to remember to do the exercises every day!

While I had a blessedly easy pregnancy with Gus, one issue I did run into was low iron. (Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings has a great summary about iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy, if that sort of thing piques your interest.) This led to real lack of energy (more than just normal pregnancy-related lack of energy) in the first half of my pregnancy until I started on iron supplements. I'd therefore like to increase my current intake of dietary iron, with the hope that having high iron stores at the start of a pregnancy will mean that any natural decrease during pregnancy won't lead to deficiency and the related exhaustion--something I certainly won't need when chasing after an active toddler! My only problem with this is, like doing the exercises above, I am great at making plans and less good at remembering to put them into action. It's worth a go, though!

1 comment:

  1. I, too, am a master at making plans and then forgetting to follow through! Low iron is a bummer while chasing a toddler, though, that's for sure! I'm doing my best to keep mine up, and now that I'm in the latter part of pregnancy, I think my levels are approaching "normal" again. You can really feel the difference!

    It sounds like you managed to be pretty well prepared for Gus' arrival, and I'm sure that with all the new information you have this time around, you'll be even more prepared for baby two when you decide you're ready!