Sometimes the conflicting emotions of anticipation and anxiety can be overwhelming. But these emotions may play a part in preparing you to become a parent. Since a baby brings major changes to your life, a little upheaval during pregnancy helps a couple adapt to the turmoil that's typical of life with a new baby. If, however, you find your emotions are too close to the surface, look at your schedule. A daily walk is one way to ease stress. When you're overtired, you react more strongly to negative feelings, so grab a nap during the afternoon whenever you can. Develop a routine that helps you wind down and relax at the end of the day.
Activities like preparing space in your home for a nursery, washing baby clothes, and collecting the necessary equipment will make the baby's impending arrival more real for you. Pick up on opportunities to talk with other expectant parents-their comments and suggestions will get your mind in gear. Register for prenatal classes early in your pregnancy through your hospital or public health unit, or check the Yellow Pages under Prenatal Classes.
Besides learning about the mechanics of birth and the techniques that will help you with labour and delivery, you will have a chance to talk with others about the whole experience. Sometimes in the context of a freewheeling classroom discussion, one partner will mention a concern that you both can discuss and resolve together after class. Be sure to ask your doctor if you can arrange a tour of the hospital services.
Your own parents are bound to be excited by the prospect of grandchildren. Ask them about their memories of when they were expecting you. From the time we were children ourselves, we never tire of hearing stories about our past. Listen to their recollections and continue the story-telling tradition with your own children.
Some Typical Pre-Birth Worries
I'm not sure I'll be a good parent.
The fact that you're reading this book means that you want to learn about how your child will grow and develop and what he will need from you. That willingness to learn is key to becoming a responsive and understanding parent. Find out as much as you can, not only from books but also from spending time with the children of your friends or relatives. Offer to babysit, to hold a baby for a few minutes, to change a diaper. If you would like the opportunity to pose your questions to experts, contact your local public health unit or family services association about parenting classes in your area.
You may also be worried about your ability to be a good parent because you, as a child, did not receive good parenting. This is a good time to reflect on your positive and negative childhood experiences and to get professional help if childhood memories of abuse surface.
Sometimes I'm afraid our baby might not be born healthy.
Worry about the baby's health is probably the most common anxiety of expectant parents. And knowing that the likelihood of a problem is very slight doesn't necessarily calm your fears about your baby. For the record, Canada's infant mortality rate for children under one year of age is 6.3 per 1,000 live births, one of the lowest in the world. But if worry about your fetus consumes your days and nights, try talking out your fears with your partner who may be experiencing the same emotions. Sometimes just talking out your fears will help both of you. Your doctor or your midwife can help you find answers to specific concerns. Above all, continue to provide the best possible environment for your developing fetus.
I worry that the baby will put a lot of stress on our relationship.
Your relationship with your partner will certainly change when a baby joins the party. You might be noticing changes already. The focus of the relationship shifts to the baby and away from the other partner. But you're still the same team and this is an adventure that, if embarked on as a team, will enhance your relationship. If romantic moments occur less frequently, don't allow them to disappear. Take the time daily to hold hands, to hug, to share some intimate thoughts even if you are unable to do anything else.
I'm not sure we can afford a baby.
The good news about babies is that they don't care about fancy gear and designer clothes. Put the word out to other parents that you're accepting hand-me-downs, check garage sales for equipment (but be aware of safety requirements), and join a toylending library - these methods will stretch your budget over several more months, even years. A debatable benefit is that your household expenses may be lower because you won't have as much time for socializing and entertaining.
I watch the news at night, and I wonder if it's right to bring a new life into a world that is rife with danger.
It's easy for a parent-to-be to feel overcome by all the worst-case scenarios. Try to focus on the positive. Remember, you live in a democratic country that is not at war, that is not subject to drought and famine, and that has a decent health-care system. And you are providing your baby with an immediate environment that is safe and loving. Perhaps this tiny soul you're bringing into the world will make news herself by growing up to develop a cure for AIDS or to lead an environmental crusade that will result in cleaner air.
Excerpted from Growing with Your Child: Pre-Birth to Age 5 by Christine Langlois. Copyright 1998 by Telemedia Communications Inc. Excerpted, with permission by Ballantine Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.