That got me thinking. I'd already posted before about my perspective on my parenting past. I have no regrets, only experience. But what if I had made different decisions because I had access to different information? What do I wish I had known "back then" that I know to be true in my heart now?
One of the benefits of experience is that you have the luxury of knowing what you would do differently if you had a magical time machine. If I could go back in time, I would make different decisions for myself. But alas, I cannot. What I CAN do is advocate for all parents to educate themselves before making a decision and make an informed decision that feels right in their heart.
I had originally wanted to do one list of short, concise facts. But....well....I'm a little wordy. So instead, I will do a series of the things I wish I'd known before embarking upon the parenting journey. The parenting principles that I believe should be followed, no matter what decisions you make as a parent. Let's kick off with the first parenting principle I wish I'd known:
1) Don't Wait Until You're Knocked Up to Learn About Pregnancy
Most little girls grow up and imagine what it will be like when they become mothers. It is astounding how many women go into a pregnancy without having any more knowledge than generalizations from friends and family or little blurbs from a high school health class book. Yes, you will gain weight with the pregnancy. Yes, you will have cravings. Yes, you will feel the baby move. Yes, some women have pre-term labor, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, and other complications.
But beyond this, what do you know? Do you know that following specific nutrition guidelines can greatly decrease the risk of these complications in a normal, healthy pregnancy? Most OBs only look at appropriate weight gain for their patients, not their nutrition. For many midwives, it is standard for them to discuss nutrition with their patients, even typically providing a chart or checklist to ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrition to have a healthy pregnancy. Most of these are based on some variation of the Brewer Diet.
Did you know that The Brewer Diet can reduce morning sickness, promote blood volume expansion and tissue building (handy when you are growing a person that needs their own tissue and blood), nourish the placenta, provides adequate levels of protein to decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia, etc. Certain foods help build strong amniotic membranes, lessening the risks of preterm labor and other complications.
Malnutrition, especially if the mom is worried about putting on extra weight, can cause a host of complications. This includes a malnourished uterus that is not strong enough to push at full capacity (resulting in a more difficult labor), an under-nourished placenta that does not create as much of the hormones that loosen the pelvic ligaments (again, more difficult labor), and inadequate nutrition for the liver to provide the proper clotting mechanisms during delivery. This last one is a big factor in postpartum hemorrhage. If you clotting malfunctions because your nutrition is off, it only makes sense that your uterus will not properly clot during delivery and a hemorrhage is possible.
If everyone focused on proper nutrition during pregnancy, can you IMAGINE how much lower the complication rates would be?!
For me personally, if I had monitored my nutrition during my pregnancies with Sassy and Diva, I probably could have avoided those nasty iron pills. That is not to say that iron pills can be avoided by all, just that I could have avoided taking them if I had followed a balanced diet tailored for the needs of a pregnancy. And if I avoided taking the pills, I could have avoided all the unpleasant side effects that came with them, most notably constipation. Bleck.
With each pregnancy, I did change my eating habits and tried to eat healthier, but I did not follow any specific nutrition plan. The only thing my OB and most pregnancy books focused on was "appropriate" weight gain. I was never asked what I was eating, how often I was eating, etc. Just the occasional blanket reminder to "have a balanced diet."
But I can't help but wonder: If I had been following the Brewer Diet with Sassy, would we have experienced the shoulder dystocia? If my pelvic ligaments had been able to stretch a little better because of better nutrition, could the dystocia have been avoided? And that one event had a butterfly effect on my next birth. Diva's birth was an induction at the suggestion of my OB because of the dystocia with Sassy, hoping to avoid a repeat dystocia.
And nutrition is just ONE aspect of perinatal education. But it is so important that it should really start before conception. Following a diet like the Brewer Diet while trying to conceive will help to ensure that your body has all the nutrients needed to sustain the pregnancy from beginning to end.
So, in my humble opinion, the First Parenting Principle is to educate yourself BEFORE your first pregnancy. Doing this will cause a ripple affect, making it so much easier as you go through the actual pregnancy. You will be better equipped to go through the pregnancy if you already know as much as you can beforehand.
Do your own research. Find some books or medical studies. Go ahead and sign up for a perinatal class. And please note, a true perinatal class is likely not one that is sponsored by a hospital. Many hospital childbirth classes have so much that they have to squeeze into a short amount of time, including *hospital policies*, that a lot of valuable information is left out. Continuing with my nutrition example, the only thing my hospital childbirth class discussed about diet and nutrition was....wait for it....appropriate weight gain.
So find a class that focuses on the ENTIRE experience in depth: pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. In today's modern world, the resources are really limitless. Books, perinatal classes that meet, online perinatal classes, methods of education that are self-based with workbooks and CDs or DVDs, etc. If you do some basic education before your first pregnancy, the experience will not be as "unknown" and you will not feel overwhelmed by trying to cram all that research into a few months to make your birthing decisions.