Thursday, May 23, 2013

2013 Childbirth Education Blog Carnival: What I Didn't Expect

Welcome to Day #4 of the Blog Carnival honoring 
the International Week for Respecting Childbirth.  
We are focusing this Blog Carnival on the importance of childbirth education!

What I Didn't Expect
by Elly Taylor

I like to be prepared. Childbirth was no different. My husband and I paid for eight weeks of private classes with a renowned educator and she was fantastic. I felt empowered. The birth went to plan. We were all set up to be a happy family.

It’s what I wasn’t prepared for that bought us undone. I didn’t know until a decade later, after years of research and working with other parents, that what undid us is common for most parents: having a baby changes you and it changes your marriage. We’ve had to repair ours over and again since.

As a mother, I became deeper and wider. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. I found it hard to put words to this and the lack of words caused a silence between my husband and I. Silence became distance. Distance became disconnection, disconnection became differences and these caused conflict. According to researcher John Gottman, this is common for 92% of parents.

As a relationship counsellor, I noticed a pattern of relationship distress with my clients too: disillusioned with unmet expectations, overwhelmed by unanticipated needs. Riding an emotional rollercoaster, in a different car from their partner. Feeling like they were changing for the better, but their partner for the worse. Partners felt the same way. Each blamed the other for what neither of them were prepared for.

Childbirth educators have a tough gig. Nothing can prepare parents adequately for parenthood. No course can possibly equip parents for all that parenthood means. And yet it’s an exciting time in childbirth education. Because it’s changing too. In Australia, new research is emerging that parents are asking for information: on birth options, on parenting, and on becoming parents. We now have knowledge on what makes a family flounder or thrive and proof that this new information makes a difference: Gottman found two 40 minute sessions improved relationship quality and reduced Postpartum Depression by 60%.

There are now clear guidelines for parents to give them the best possible start for their new family: don’t expect things to ‘get back to normal’; it’s up to you to work together to create the ‘new normal’. Muster up a village: ask for help, accept it, direct it. Become emotionally intelligent – you’ll need it for parenting. Negotiate so your differences bring you closer together instead of push you apart. And finally, stay connected with each other. 

Because the bond between you is the foundation of your new family.

Elly Taylor is an Australian relationship counsellor, columnist for Practical Parenting magazine and the Sydney Morning Herald, and author of the book Becoming Us,Loving, Learning and Growing Together. Her passion is including fathers/partners more in pregnancy, birth and parenting and facilitating whole-family bonding during the perinatal period. Elly conducts workshops for parents and birth professionals both in Australia and internationally. She lives in Sydney with her gorgeous firefighter husband, their three children and a rotation of pets.

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