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My husband and I took a childbirth class when I was seven months pregnant. We sat in a room in the basement of our local hospital with other first-time parents and we learned all about labor and delivery. Our instructor coached us on different ways to cope with labor pains. She showed Power Points of the various pain medications, and empowered us to make our own choices when it came to them.
Side-by-side we sat while we practiced swaddling a doll, changing its diaper and giving it a bath. We quizzed each other on the different stages of labor and took notes on hospital bag packing. I got to bounce on an exercise ball and lean against him in a slow dance, swaying side to side as we practiced getting through imaginary contractions. We spent the drives home gossiping about the other couples.
A week and a day after our last class, my water broke in our bed at 4:30 AM. I was on the phone with the birth center as the contractions started coming three to five minutes apart. Our baby was breech, so we knew a C-section was coming, regardless of how much I labored. We rushed to get ready and packed the last minute things for our hospital bags, unprepared since she was coming almost a month early.
I was worried about how close the contractions were coming. We arrived to check at the birth center and I was placed in a gown in one of the triage rooms. I joked (sort of) that my deep breathing exercises weren't distracting me from the pain.
I was so focused on how I would manage my pain, how to time contractions, and swaddling a newborn, that I lost sight of the most important thing: We were a team.
"Why don't you try the counting one we learned?" he offered from his chair next to me.
I came to a realization then. He wasn't that clueless labor partner that seems to dominate the movies and TV. He remembered the techniques we learned. He offered multiple tips when the pain was getting intense and gently reminded me to tell the doctor my quick and dirty birth plan right before we entered the operating room. I was so focused on how I would manage my pain, how to time contractions, and swaddling a newborn, that I lost sight of the most important thing: We were a team.
It's so easy during pregnancy to think you're going through it alone. To suffer constipation, nausea, and swelling in silence. To complain to your girlfriends because how the hell could your partner possibly understand round ligament pain, the kicks to your ribs, the crushing pain of contractions.
But in completing our birthing classes, I realized how united my husband and I had become when it came time for our own birth experience. I didn't have to go through it myself. I had a partner alongside me, encouraging and focusing me for the birth of our child. We were going to get through it together.