Updated: Sep 29, 2019
I will be forever grateful that I decided to do an antenatal education program with my husband, before my first birth.
I had been reading books about childbirth as a way to prepare but, to tell you the truth, I was scared of childbirth.
At the end of the course though, I felt supported, connected, informed and empowered. And I know my husband felt the same.
During the most challenging times of labour, I was keenly aware of how different the whole scenario would have panned out had I not prepared myself (physical, emotionally, mentally).
The fact that childbirth is seen as the focal part of parent education, in our society, highlights an issue, however.
Most parents-to-be don’t give ‘what happens after the baby is born’ a second thought.
The few that do, think of it as something to do or to learn about after the baby arrives.
I have had countless of parents of older kids telling me how they wished they had done more before.
The key take-away for me is that, the more preparation we do, the less we end up facing some of the key problems confronting parents. Some of these are:
Lack of child-development knowledge that leads to misunderstandings
Lack of time and money
Confusion about different parenting philosophies that could back-fire
and there are many more, but the one I’d like to zoom in on now is
When my first son was six months old, I was packing for our first trip together as a family, with him by my side, when he lost consciousness for a few seconds. I was by myself and it was a terrifying experience.
The worst-case scenario ran through my brain – I thought he was going to die.
But I had taken a kids’ first aid course while I was pregnant. The ambulance paramedic told me I had done the right thing by calling emergency, doing CPR and staying with my baby at all times. And everything was alright.
There had been no need for my worry about the worst-case scenario. Just like when the doctor wanted to see us when I was pregnant with our second child.
Thinking the doctor only saw you immediately if there was something very wrong, we completely freaked out when we were told he wanted to see us.
But it was only to tell us our baby was fine because he happened to be close by!
So, I’m not saying we, as parents, will never worry, but it’s about being aware.
When are we worrying?
Why we are worrying?
Are we letting fear and trauma control us?
Is there a way we could have prevented the worry?
There will be real and imaginary worries and fears throughout our family life. And I never advocate a fearless attitude. Our fear reflex keeps us and our children alive.
The key question is:
How can we embrace worry and fear and transform it into something useful for both us, and our children - without the need to age years every time we think something is going to happen?
I love Elizabeth Gilbert’s approach to dealing with fear:
Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously.
Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting – and may I say, you are superb at your job.
So by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring.
There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this:
Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed.
You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps, you’re not allowed to suggest detours, you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature.
Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio.
But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive."
Fear is forbidden to drive! Worry is forbidden to drive!
The more prepared we are as parents, in the various areas needed to see our family thrive and succeed - and this can be anything from:
Socio-emotional intelligence skills - for both child and parents,
Year-by-year child development knowledge
Learning how to take care of our individual and family needs,
Challenging misconceptions etc
- the more aware and knowledgeable we are and will be, and the more confidently and competently we, as parents, will ‘drive’ as we guide our children.
Preventing and preparing doesn’t mean we stop being adventurous or daring or stop taking risks or designing our future.
Think of it as self-defence.
Do you stop being a creative, spontaneous, fun, [insert your favourite trait] person because you know how to defend yourself?
In fact, the knowledge gives you more freedom to be all those things.
Preventing and preparing means thinking long term about the commitment we make by bringing children into the world and caring for them. Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally, spirituality. It means being one, if not two or three, steps ahead.
It’s about peace of mind, but not the type you get from buying a device that monitors your baby’s oxygen levels while sleeping, which can run out of battery or play up at any given moment.
It is about preventing harm that we may be doing, even unintentionally, because of lack of knowledge.
It's about arming ourselves with the tools so we can guide our unique, individual child.
It’s about being ready for whatever comes our way as much as it's within our capacity.
In other words, but with less words, it's about going from this:
It is indeed possible! #PrepareAndPrevent
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