My Path To Motherhood: From Preparation To Postpartum

When I decided I was ready to become a mother I did a tremendous amount of work on myself, mentally and physically, to make sure that I was prepared for the long road ahead. No one can guarantee that you will have an easy time with pregnancy or a trauma-free birth experience, but there are things you can do to increase your odds of these things happening.

By Robyn Riley7 min read
My Path To Motherhood: From Preparation To Postpartum jonathan-borba-tcxoboFjhlY-unsplash (1)

I would like to share with you my entire journey of becoming a mom and everything I did to give myself the best chances for entering into this new and challenging chapter of my life with as little struggle as possible. I hope that you will find some useful advice and tips that you can integrate into your own journey.

Becoming a mother breaks you apart in many ways; you’re not the same person you once were. You’re more than you once were and to your child you are everything. While this process can be scary at times, it’s ultimately a blossoming more than it is a demolition. 

You must be ready for rebuilding who you are through tender and patient cultivation. Your child will be a part of that process. In many ways, if you’re receptive to them, they teach you how to be the parent they need, rather than the parent you thought you would be. 

Admitting I Was Ready for Motherhood and Changing My Bad Habits

The first thing I had to do when I became committed to the idea that I wanted to be a mother was to admit to myself that I had a lot of bad habits. At the time I was a smoker, I didn’t exercise or take vitamins, I had a bad relationship with food and often underate or skipped protein, and I wasn’t consistent with my sleep schedule

I wasn’t living in a way that allowed me to thrive, and I knew it. As a result of being no doubt deficient in many essential nutrients and in a perpetual calorie deficit, I had issues with anxiety and mood swings, indicating possible hormonal imbalances. I knew that I had to get all these things under control if I was going to have any hope of conceiving without trouble and having an enjoyable pregnancy and birth experience. 

I wasn’t living in a way that allowed me to thrive, and I knew it. 

I’ve never been good at doing things simply for myself and for my own benefit. This may stem from the trauma I experienced as a child, but I have always needed some kind of external reason to be kind to myself or to work on improving my situation. Nothing in my life has been more motivating to me than thinking about my efforts benefiting my future child and family. 

Once the decision had been made, I envisioned what my life would be like if I managed to succeed at changing my ways and living well for my future children. This ideal scenario was extremely motivating for me and in times of weakness helped me push through to overcome taking the easy way out.

Prepping My Body for Pregnancy

The first thing I did was I quit smoking cold turkey. It was extremely difficult, but within about three months I no longer struggled with cravings. I began eating a high fat, high protein diet with quality, whole ingredients and made sure that I was eating enough of these things too. My husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, invited me along to his gym sessions where he would teach me how to lift weights and train my body to become stronger. 

He also taught me about how to properly supplement for optimizing my hormonal balance and physiology. The supplements I began taking (and still take as a nursing mom) are high-quality DHA, iodine, vitamins D, C, A, and B12, iron, zinc, magnesium, turmeric, and an organic, grass-fed beef collagen powder. 

I still have trouble going to bed at the same time every night. As a natural night owl, getting to sleep has never been a skill of mine. I did try my best though, sometimes with some resistance, and while my sleep schedule was not perfect, it definitely improved.

I began eating a high fat, high protein diet with quality, whole ingredients. 

Once I integrated all these new habits, I naturally began to feel really good. I was still prone to the occasional anxiety spell or doom spiral, but never to the degree that I had experienced before. There was no hopelessness anymore. I felt like I was moving forward with intention and conviction, and my dreams of having a family felt more possible than they ever had.

This process went on for the entire first year of my husband’s and my courtship and was a kind of blooming for me in letting go of many of the crutches in my life that had held me back up until then. Having a supportive partner who will not simply flatter you but will encourage you to become better was essential to my success as well. 

My husband’s strength and honesty about where I needed to improve myself allowed me to form a deep trust in him and in myself, especially when I began to see results. I knew that when we decided to be married after a year, I was with a man who would continue to uplift me. It was also a relief to know we wouldn’t have to waste any time in me preparing to get pregnant after marriage. I knew I was ready.

Trying To Conceive

I am very fortunate to have had an extremely easy time getting pregnant, but I would be lying if I said that my self-improvement for an entire year leading up to TTC didn’t give me an advantage. I used a fertility tracker on my phone for about six months before I got pregnant too, and this was my main method of determining when my ovulation window would be. 

My periods have always been very easy, mostly pain-free, and regular. I never felt the need to take basal body temperature or use ovulation strips, but these can be very useful methods for finding out when you’re ovulating if your period tends to be a little more unpredictable. 

I used a fertility tracker on my phone for about six months before I got pregnant.

The first month came and went, and I didn’t get pregnant. I was worried already that maybe it would take a long time. I knew that it can take healthy women up to a year to conceive. I prayed and hoped with all my heart that wouldn’t be the case. On month two, I was blessed with my first pregnancy and began the first real steps on the path to motherhood. 

I felt all my work had paid off: I was physically, mentally, and spiritually ready. This child was so wanted and so loved from the moment he was conceived. The feeling of readiness and security in my marriage allowed me to have a deep confidence in my body to do what it was supposed to do and created a feeling of excitement about labor rather than a feeling of fear. 

My Experience with My First Pregnancy

Once I realized I was pregnant, my husband began working on trying to find a new job in Canada. We were living in Brussels at the time, and we didn’t want to raise a child in such a busy and chaotic urban environment. Luckily my husband didn’t struggle too long to find us a path back to my home country, and before the end of my second trimester, we were on our way. 

Planning a big move while pregnant is not easy, and I have heard of many people having to go through this experience. It was possibly the most stressful part of my entire pregnancy. It was so worth it though because we were able to be in a place that was familiar and where we felt confident to become parents. 

My pregnancy was a smooth and uneventful one. I had a very hands-off approach to the entire experience. I hired a homebirth midwife at the beginning of my second trimester who was my dream midwife. She would come to my house once every couple of weeks and talk with me for hours. She would answer any question I had and ease any worries that were bothering me. She was like a sister to me, and I still to this day have a very close relationship with her.

Having a midwife who understood me and my desires was a hugely impactful aspect of my experience.

Not all women are so lucky to have this experience, but I would like to add here that having a midwife who understood me and was on my wavelength was a hugely impactful aspect of my experience. I have known women who had prenatal care providers who did not respect their wishes and often made them feel powerless and out of control in their experience. 

This is the best way to end up with birth trauma and even with things as severe as postpartum depression. It’s never too late to change providers if you find yourself in this situation. Having a midwife who understands, supports, and hears you is the single greatest advantage I can think of in establishing your ability to have a positive birth experience. 

Writing My Birth Plan

The greatest thing I did to prepare for labor was to write out my birth preferences. This meant stating in writing my desire to have a natural, medication-free labor, I did not want to be checked or monitored constantly, and I wanted to be able to eat and move around as I wished. I wanted to birth in water, and I wanted absolutely no shots and delayed cord clamping for my son.

The greatest thing I did to prepare for labor was to write out my birth preferences. 

Your birth plan is a legal document that your prenatal care provider should agree to honor beforehand. When you’re in the throes of labor, you’re not in a state of mind to be making decisions about anything, you’re in an instinctual mode of being. Having your preferences stated beforehand allows you the peace of mind of knowing these choices have already been carefully considered and decided. 

It’s not so much where or how we birth our babies that’s important. It’s possible to have a positive birth experience anywhere. What’s important is that you the mother feel that you’re not having decisions made for you. Feeling respected, honored, and in control are the most important things that predict a woman coming out of her birthing experience feeling empowered rather than traumatized.

What Giving Birth Was Like for Me

I was blessed with a textbook birth experience, and I enjoy sharing my story for this reason. There wasn’t a single negative or traumatizing thing that occurred during the birth of my first child – it’s important for people to know that’s possible! I endured seven hours of active labor at home with my husband, and I waited to call my midwife until I felt my body begin to push for the first time. 

I used the Bradley method for dealing with the pain of labor which encourages women to relax their bodies and minds as much as possible during the pain of contractions. The more we surrender and the less we fear, the easier it is for labor to progress naturally. I found it very helpful to try to focus on the space in between the contractions rather than the contractions themselves. 

My contractions only lasted for 60 seconds and reached their peak in painfulness at 30 seconds. They came on like waves, and I allowed them to wash over me knowing I could melt into the warm, relaxing space in between if I could just make it to 30 seconds. We can endure just about anything for 30 seconds, can’t we? Moaning and vocalizing through the pain also helped me greatly.

There wasn’t a single negative or traumatizing thing that occurred during the birth of my first child.

Overall, my contractions were intense but manageable, much more so than I was expecting. Once my midwife arrived, she checked me and I was dilated 9 cm with a lip. She felt it was okay for me to let my body push and never instructed me to go against what my body was doing naturally. I appreciated that. 

She quickly filled the birthing tub, and I got in as fast as possible. Though the first part of labor was very painful for me, as soon as I got in the water, I no longer felt any pain! The pushing phase of my labor was entirely pain-free. After 45 minutes of pushing and praying, my son was born pink and screaming. I birthed the placenta three minutes later and didn’t need a single stitch. He latched with ease and our breastfeeding journey, which still continues to this day, began. I was elated. My beautiful boy had arrived. My world became much smaller and gentler. It was everything I had hoped for. I was a mother, his mother. 

Sometimes even the most confident and prepared mothers still run into complications with labor. I would like to state here that getting the birth you desire is in your control to some degree, but not entirely. Things can go wrong, and if things do deviate from your preferences, this is not evidence of failure on the part of the mother. We must strive to accept the circumstances of how our babies enter the world, whatever they may be. 

My Postpartum Recovery

Postpartum was joyous and challenging for me. I focused heavily on replenishing my body with the nutrients I needed to avoid burnout and even had my midwife encapsulate my placenta which I then took with my daily vitamins. I prepared for postpartum mostly by cooking delicious meals and freezing them. This way the burden of cooking was off me and my husband, and we still had nutrient-dense options that were convenient to prepare and enjoy for an entire month. 

The biggest hurdle I endured after my baby arrived was postpartum anxiety. I developed a deathly fear of all dogs out of the blue. I became convinced that all dogs were vicious and liable to bite or kill my baby. Even golden retrievers frightened me. It was very difficult for me to rationalize the anxiety because I would have heart palpitations and break down every time an unleashed dog came into my line of vision while I was out with my baby. This was something that lessened over time and has gone away as I have become more confident in navigating the world around me with my son in tow. 

I prepared for postpartum mostly by cooking delicious meals and freezing them ahead of time.

The responsibility of caring for such precious cargo can feel completely overwhelming, and that overwhelm can express itself as depression, stress, worry, and even rage. This is why it’s so important that we have a solid support network around us for the recovery and rebuilding of ourselves that must occur after birth. 

We must acknowledge that, for most women, the generational family units and tight-knit communities we once had to support us in this journey are a thing of the past. So hiring doulas, lactation consultants, asking for help, and screening our prenatal and postnatal care providers diligently is extremely important.

Closing Thoughts

Becoming a mother with intentionality and great care does, in my opinion, set you up for the best chances of being able to have a positive and grateful outlook, regardless of what your journey may look like.

I hope that by hearing my story in detail you can feel strengthened in writing your own. Each woman’s path to motherhood will be unique, though her destination to the greatest love, of mother and child, is the same. 

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