How to Prepare

Preparation is the name of the game

If you have experienced anxiety in the past, have family members who suffer or just have that feeling that you may struggle to cope then it’s best to be as prepared as you can be before the birth of your baby.

If you are worried about labour and giving birth then the best thing you can do is speak to your midwife and write up a Birth Plan to put you in control. Talk to your friends who have had babies. Know that it’s going to hurt and put you in some uncomfortable positions. But also know that most women in the world have been there and done it, and you will be able to do it too.

1. Fit and healthy

It sounds obvious but if you have looked after yourself during pregnancy then you will physically feel more capable of looking after your baby. In turn your mental health will benefit as well. You can exercise throughout your pregnancy as long as you don’t raise your heartbeat significantly and you don’t attempt anything more than is normal for you. Walking, pilates, yoga and swimming are all incredibly valuable forms of exercise which are relatively inexpensive or free and are easy for anyone to do. Look for pre- and post-natal yoga and pilates classes as these will take into consideration how you have given birth – especially if you have had a c-section.

2. Fresh air

One of the quickest ways to feel better mentally is to go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. So make sure you will be able to do this without stress post-baby. Buy yourself a sling, a baby carrier, or a pram that’s good for off roading. Invest in some comfortable walking boots and a good waterproof coat if you’re giving birth in the autumn or winter. Have these things ready before your baby comes along so they’re there and you have no excuses for not going out. You could even buy a local map or map app for your phone and work out where the walking paths are that are most accessible to you.

pregnant woman walking a dog

Think about joining a local wildlife trust, the National Trust or a Forestry England arboretum. This will give you access to a huge amount of green space. They often have playgrounds for when your baby has grown, easy car parks and nice cafes. And sometimes even Buggy Fit type classes which are great for getting your fitness back, but also making new friends.

3. One thing a day

Don’t have unrealistic expectations of what you can achieve post pregnancy. For the first one to three months you may find that you are happiest simply being inside and near the house. My friends and I have always advocated that, with children, you can do one thing well a day! Anymore and something will go wrong. Don’t pile any pressure on yourself to do too much in a day.

4. Batch cook

This tip can be found in any baby book. You’ve finished work and you have some time on your hands pre-baby. The best thing you can do is start making lasagnes and cottage pies! You will be so grateful for them when you’ve been feeding someone else all day and the last thing you want to do is cook for yourself.

5. Online Shopping

One of my greatest fears after having a baby was visiting a supermarket. The toilets are often quite grotty, so you’re worried about your baby needing a nappy change. There’s nowhere to feed, so you have to time it right. The trolleys can be quite dirty. And then once they’re a little older, all they do is pull packets and tins off the shelves and demand chocolate treats and magazines! Often leading to a public meltdown. We very quickly turned to online shopping! Most of the big supermarkets offer this service. Get your account up and running and start stockpiling nappies!

6. Tell people you might be feeling like this

Don’t suffer in silence. Speak to your partner, your parents, your midwife, your GP. The more people who know you might struggle post birth, the more people can look out for you and alert you if they think something is wrong. Postnatal depression and anxiety can creep up on people without them realising and the longer you leave it, the harder it can be to treat. There’s no shame in struggling, even if we still find hurtful comments on social media. Know that there are many others just like you feeling the same way. And often if you speak out, they will too.

money box and folded clothes

7. Save money

Finances are an obvious worry for anyone having a baby because your monthly salary will almost definitely reduce quite considerably for quite a few months. It makes sense to try and save as much money as you can in advance, and know exactly what is available to you – especially if you are self employed or a freelancer. Understand that despite what you think when you go on maternity leave, your ideas may change dramatically once the baby comes along. Many people lengthen or shorten their maternity leave because things haven’t gone as expected.

8. Be prepared

You don’t want to be buying things like car seats, prams, cots in a rush after the birth of the baby. Make sure you are ready. There are loads of online resources which can give you an idea of what you need both in hospital and for those first few weeks when you get home. But also don’t go mad with thinking you need all the latest gadgets and gizmos. Talk to other parents who have more than one child. Ask them what they actually used with their second child! We all go a bit crazy with buying pretty cute things for our unborn, but there’s a big difference between what you want and what you actually need and will use!

9. Group of friends (NCT) and research local classes

I’m a big fan of NCT. It costs quite a lot of money but if you get the right group of people on your course it can be a life line – especially at 3 in the morning! If you can’t afford NCT, or there is no local group, then ask your NHS midwife for any local course details or consider attending a pre-natal pilates, swimming or yoga class. Anywhere where you might be able to make friends. Having people around you who are experiencing exactly the same thing as you is one of the most rewarding resources there is. Set up a whatsapp group for your new group of friends. There is always someone else awake at the same time as you and ready to chat. It will mean the world to you at that dark hour.

10. Practice relaxation techniques

There is nothing more frustrating than when you’ve finally got your baby to sleep or to nap and you’re lying in bed or on the sofa wide awake, unable to fall asleep yourself. It’s infuriating. Knowing how to relax isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally. It’s a technique, much like learning how to send yourself off to sleep. So teach yourself before the baby comes along. Maternal Balance is full of resources to help you do this.

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