The Best Ways to Prepare for Life with a Baby

The other evening I had the pleasure of attending a Better Beginnings Night at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre. This was an event that reached out to any person looking for more information about pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum resources here in Ottawa. We saw women very close to their due dates, as well as women and their partners planning for pregnancy. There were birth doulas, postpartum doulas, chiropractors, and various businesses offering information and free samples. This got me thinking - what are the best ways to prepare for pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum? I think we all know the more obvious ways to get ready: prep the baby's room, attend regular prenatal appointments with your healthcare provider, and purchase baby supplies. But research has shown that women and partners who are well prepared for the reality of postpartum life tend to fare better in terms of adjustment issues and perinatal mood disorders.

So as your "in-house" doula, I present to you the top tips for preparing for life with a baby (hint....this involves a lot of classes!):

1. Take a prenatal class - one with an actual live teacher. The City of Ottawa now offers a free online course, but research has shown that your interaction with a teacher and/or classmates will enhance your learning. You also want to make sure that the class you choose focuses primarily on labour and birth - stages/phases, physiology, comfort measures for pain and  unexpected outcomes.

2. Take a yoga class - start in early pregnancy, and continue practicing as much as possible throughout each trimester. You not only prepare your body for the physical rigor of labour, but you teach yourself relaxation skills (the KEY to having a healthy birth)

3. Take a baby/newborn preparation class - most of us have absolutely no experience with newborns before we decide to get pregnant. In order to be comfortable with all the challenges you will face as a new parent, you need to understand newborn behaviours, sleep patterns (no, newborn babies do not sleep through the night!), and diaper, feed and carry your child.

4. Make a postpartum plan - it sounds silly, I know. "I need a PLAN to parent my child?" Yes, you least in the beginning. You will be shocked at all the little details you hadn't thought of once baby arrives. Who is nearby to give you support? How will you get breaks? Who will cook and clean the house? Walk the dog? If you take time to think about these things before you enter the postpartum phase, you'll feel less overwhelmed.

5. Take time to hang with your friends who have become parents. Ask them questions. Hold a baby, and offer to babysit several times.

The clients I work with who adjust the easiest to postpartum life are the ones who have:

- a lot of family nearby - husbands/partners that can stay home on paternal leave (if this isn't possible due to financial reasons, plan who else you can call on for assistance) - lots of experience with newborns - taken prenatal classes - lower anxiety due to proper physical activity, meditation or relaxation skills, and yoga

Did you adjust well to the postpartum phase? What made it easier on you?

Dula? Doola? DOULA!

LowRes-Misty-2 The word doula comes from the ancient Greek language meaning "female servant," but it has come to mean a labour support person - someone knowledgeable about birth who will support the labouring woman and her partner before, during, and after birth. Anyone can call themselves a doula and often the woman's sister or friend will assume the role, but professional doulas are trained and some are certified by organizing bodies worldwide. Birth doulas provide information to the expecting woman during her pregnancy, emotional and physical support during her labour, and immediately after the birth. Postpartum doulas work with families in the 4th trimester (the first three months after baby is born) to help encourage, support, and provide information.

Now that we've got that out of the way, what do doulas actually do? Do you need a doula for your birth? What about after baby is born?

Let's talk about birth first. Birth doulas provide continuous support which has been shown to have many benefits including improved maternal and fetal health. Just how does a doula support a labouring woman? It depends on the woman! Some women need a gentle touch and encouraging words while some need to be left alone; some women like knowing their doula is there for ideas and suggestions; and some need a lot of physical support. Whatever you need, your doula is there for you.

Doulas are really handy when it comes to keeping mom comfortable, whether it's applying a cool cloth to the forehead, making sure the room is warm/cool enough, dimming the lights, suggesting different labour positions, or keeping mom hydrated and fed. But there are also things that are taught in the trainings - providing pressure on the back for pain relief, the use of a rebozo - a long, scarf-like piece of material - the use of a TENS machine, massage techniques and something called the double hip squeeze. These are only some of the comfort measures and tools we bring to each and every labour.

A doula can help you feel confident and empowered. A doula can hold your space and hold your hand. A doula can let your partner take a break. A doula can make a world of difference.

As for postpartum doulas, we joke that they try and work themselves out of a job. Postpartum doulas are there to answer any question relating to your new baby or your postpartum body. They are often trained to help with breastfeeding and sometimes baby wearing, cloth diapering, and can always find great resources in the community for anything challenging that comes up. They work with you to help you find your new normal, to find your rhythm, and to blossom into your new family unit.

Want to know more? Want to meet some Ottawa doulas in person? You're in luck. There is a FREE information session Tuesday, July 15th at 7pm at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre. You can ask all your questions and maybe find a doula you like.

Hope to see you there!

Kamerine is mom to Little J and Little K.  She documents her life with two toddlers, a husband and a cat at The Life of KKamerine is also a birth doula, and you can find out more about her services at Tiny Feet Doula Services.


What is a doula?

by Misty When you make the decision to get pregnant, you know that at some point, you’re going to be pushing a little human being out of your body. The realization of this fact often hits home late in pregnancy:

“At around 8 months pregnant, I started to become anxious about the labour and birth process. What had I gotten myself into? Everywhere I turned there were horror stories about labour – all you needed to do was watch TLC for an afternoon, and you’d soon be thinking that every birth story is an emergency.”

Sound familiar? What if there were women out there who could tell you that birth can be exciting, magical, and really, not that bad!?  Good news! They exist, and they’re called doulas!

What’s a doula? I know, it’s a funny word. It essentially means “womanly servant.” A doula is someone who guides a woman and her partner through the birth of their child. In addition, doulas provide essential prenatal support and education, as well as postpartum wisdom to get you through those first hectic weeks.

Well, I have a midwife, so do I really need a doula? Midwives care for the medical aspect of your pregnancy and birth. Doulas have no medical role, and are entirely devoted to supporting, reassuring and comforting you and your partner. Midwives find doulas to be extremely helpful for their clients, as they are often busy with paperwork and monitoring.

But what can a doula do for me? Picture this: it’s 2am, and you’ve been woken up with mild cramping, which you’re timing at about 10min apart. It’s too early to call your midwife or go to the hospital, but you’re anxious and have a lot of questions. So you call your doula! She’ll chat with you over the phone and make suggestions, or come right over to your house if you need her. As contractions become more intense, a doula will give you a massage, do relaxation exercises with you, suggest position changes, and get you water and food if you so desire. She stays with you for your entire labour (even if it’s 24 hours!) and ensures you are comfortable and resting before she leaves.

I want an epidural, so I don’t need a doula Doulas can be supportive, regardless of whether you are planning to labour naturally or with the use of pharmaceuticals. You generally need to reach 4cm dilation before a hospital will administer an epidural, so there are quite a few hours where you will need to use alternative coping strategies for your pain. As well, doulas can reduce the increased risk of vacuum/forceps delivery or caesarean section by helping you change positions in bed.

My husband is going to be my birth coach A doula never replaces the role of a husband or partner. Even though you get to know and trust your doula, your hubby will help you to relax and feel safe. However, your partner is only human, and he will need to take breaks! A doula is there to provide some relief for Dad, and to help comfort and reassure him that things are progressing normally.

As long as women have been giving birth, doulas have been around to provide support – often they were a relative or good friend who had experienced childbirth themselves. Nowadays, we tend to live far away from our families, and fee-for-service doulas have taken their place. If the cost is prohibitive, consider creating a “doula fund” for your baby shower, find a doula-in-training or one that offers their services on a sliding scale.

If you’re pregnant and feeling anxious, turn off the TV and give a doula a call! Before you know it, you’ll be holding a little babe in your arms and saying “that wasn’t so bad!”

Misty is a local doula who lives in Orleans with her husband and 2yo daughter. She claims that birth is “not that bad.” You can find out more about her at

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