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Nurturing, It's A Natural
March 2002 -
Expecting A Baby

Before your child is born, take some time to think about what it will mean to be a parent.

For in the baby lies the future of the world. Father must hold the baby close so that the baby knows it is his world. Mother must take her to the highest hill so that she can see what her world is like.
-From a Mayan proverb

The world looks different from a child's eyes
Before birth, the mom's body is the baby's whole world, so make sure it's a healthy place to live. The best thing you can do for your growing baby is to live a healthy lifestyle. Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and violence can all harm a child even before it is born. Regular check ups during pregnancy can prevent a lot of problems later.

Some pregnant women, or parents awaiting an adoption, like to imagine what the world might look like from the child's eyes, as soon as the baby comes out into the world or arrives at her new home. What do you see when you picture the world as a newborn baby might see it?

It's Perfectly Normal
Pregnancy, delivery, and taking care of a baby are all things that are hard to imagine if you haven't experienced them yourself. So it's normal to be nervous or to not know what to expect. My friend Margaret got a lot of reassurance from her grandmother when she was pregnant with her first child: " She would tell me, 'Margaret honey, if I could do it, you can do it,' and I would laugh and stop being so nervous about it. "

When the new child is a second or third child, older siblings can be jealous, or worried that there won't be enough attention and love to go around. Make sure to tell them that you will always love them and take care of them, and help them get ready for their new role as an older sibling.

What do you think?
When a new child arrives, there isn't much time to sit and think--things are way too hectic and busy! So it can help to take a few minutes to reflect on what it will mean to be a parent, or to have anther child in the house. Here are some questions to get you started:

How is this baby going to change your life?
Who is going to be your biggest help?
What are you going to pass down to your child that you learned from your parents?
What are you going to do differently?
What are your hopes and dreams for your child?

Especially for Dads
I asked a new dad, Al, how he got ready for fatherhood. " This probably sounds silly, " he said, " but I started to talk to the baby before she was even born. It began as kind of a joke, to make my wife laugh, but then I realized that I had a lot to say to the little tiny being in there. Sometimes at night I would cuddle up with my wife and talk to the baby, telling her all my hopes and dreams, and it was a great way for me to get ready. " I didn't think that was silly at all. Maybe the baby inside couldn't talk back to Al, but it was a great way for him to start to bond with his baby. When the baby was born, Al had lots more to say!

Al's friend, Peter, didn't talk to his baby before his little boy was born. But he said that he got ready by supporting the baby's mother to be healthy and happy during her pregnancy.

Managing stress
Pregnancy can be a joyful and exciting time, but it can also be stressful. You might be worried about money, or childcare arrangements, or whether your baby will be healthy. The most important way to manage this kind of stress is to talk about it with other expectant mothers (and fathers), and to talk with people who have been through it already. You will see that you are not alone in your worries, or your excitement. Most parents don't get enough support, so make sure that you line up plenty of friends, relatives, coworkers, and others to listen to you, and to help you cope.

One of the best ways to handle the stress of expecting a baby is to get home visits from someone who knows all about what to expect. Home visits provide emotional support and practical help before a baby is born, and afterwards too.

Another thing that can get in the way of feeling joy and excitement when you're expecting a child is if you have lost someone close to you, and you still feel grief and sadness about that loss. Did you have a parent or a sibling who died when you were young, or did you have a miscarriage or a baby who died? That kind of loss can be overwhelming. When we have lost someone, we can sometimes have a hard time attaching to a new baby, so make sure you can find a trusted friend or counselor to talk about those old losses. That way, we can honor the memory of those we have lost and prepare ourselves for a strong bond of love with a new child.

Home visits
Good Start, a program of MSPCC, offers home visits to expecting parents and to babies and young children up to three years old. The home visits are free and voluntary, and cover the areas of health, parenting, safety, child development, and support. They can help a family learn about resources in the community, such as parenting classes, parent support groups, play groups, counseling, and substance abuse treatment. In Boston, call 617-983-5800.

If you are under 21 and expecting your first child, home visits are available from the Healthy Families program. Healthy Families is a program of the Children's Trust Fund, and also covers the period from pregnancy to age three. Their goal is to help young parents, moms and dads, to get the support and information they need to raise healthy happy children. Healthy Families home visits are free and completely voluntary. For more information on their statewide services, call 1-888-775-4KIDS.

The Children's Trust Fund and MSPCC, which provide these free services, are cosponsors of Nurturing...It's a Natural, a public service campaign to promote positive parenting.

Some health insurance companies provide their clients a similar service, offering home visits from a nurse to help expecting parents prepare for a new baby, and help new parents with breast-feeding, bathing, health and safety. Call your health insurer for details.

Larry Cohen
phone: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com

Larry Cohen
1680A Beacon Street | Brookline, MA 02445 | Tel/Fax: 617-713-0568

email: larjack@playfulparenting.com