By Leilani Daniels // Photographs by Kisa Koenig
So you’re pregnant and want the very best for you and your baby. Of course you have many questions, but with the vast and varying amount of information online, in print, and in opinions, knowing where to turn can be overwhelming. As you consider the logistics and all of the new life changes, there are three elements that will help you ease into the incredible experience of parenthood with confidence.
The Three E’s of Childbirth:
I like to pretend the three E’s are a three-legged stool that needs to be built. Your baby’s arrival is the seat, and evolution, education, and economics are the legs.
In the early 1900s, families transitioned from having home births with a midwife to birthing their babies in hospitals. With this evolution, control of the birth shifted from the women to the physicians. Families began following hospital protocol and mothers-to-be were encouraged and/or required to take a childbirth class offered by the hospital. With best interests in mind, pregnant women attended these classes without their husbands or partners (they were not welcome and were treated as interlopers). Pregnant mothers sat through grueling hospital lectures, were given little background on their bodies and the pregnancy process, and were forced to listen, and sometimes watch, videos that portrayed intimidating childbirth experiences. Women left the class with little understanding of pregnancy and birthing’s effects on their body and their babies.
Thankfully, yesterday’s philosophy has evolved. Today you can have your baby with an obstetrician, midwife, or with the help of a doula (a birthing coach). You can deliver at a birthing center, in the hospital, or, in some states, at home. You can choose to have an epidural or spinal anesthesia. Or you can choose nonmedical forms of pain relief like labor comfort measures or coping strategies that use breathing and hands-on exercises. You can write a birth plan to help determine your baby’s birth story (barring no medical complications). And you will feel a sense of confidence knowing how to take care of your baby and yourself after birth.
Education is knowledge, and the more you know, the less stressed you will be. Gaining information on your options allows you to talk in-depth with your partner, your practitioner, or your doula about the choices in your birth plan.
Today’s parents-to-be attend childbirth class together in a safe, positive, and diverse learning environment, one where respect for diversity is taught, modeled, and experienced. These classes support all types of births, offer unbiased, scientific research on both medicated and natural births, and teach coping skills to both partners. Today’s classes provide a non-fear-based philosophy that focuses on the needs of the family, adding clarity to the chaos. The general goal of childbirth educators is to listen, guide, and prepare families for a confident and educated first, or second, birth.
And while childbirth classes are key, remember it takes more than just one class to successfully prepare you for your baby. Read articles and books to gain perspective on different philosophies. Interview your medical help, visit the hospital or birthing center you want to deliver in, and meet and decide on the support people who will impact your birthing experience.
I know, grasping this aspect pales in comparison to choosing colors for your baby’s room; however, awareness of “baby economics” cannot be overstated. This very important item is often overlooked.
Educate yourself on the economics of having a baby:
Read and review the fine print in your existing health insurance policy. Determine the type of plan you have (i.e., private insurance, an open marketplace plan, Medicare, or CHIP) and confirm your pregnancy and childbirth coverage. If you feel like you need more coverage, shop for a different policy.
If you don’t have insurance, research your options. But before you do, contact a broker to learn how the Affordable Care Act will affect pregnancy coverage. The ACA requires all plans to provide for preventive obstetrician services. That means most treatments and tests are paid for. Maternity and pre-existing conditions are also covered with new health plans.
Set a realistic budget for planned expenses. Start with the basics and prioritize. Find a good car seat, crib, and a changing table, and then wait to buy other necessities. And while it’s always a good idea to buy your car seat new, other hand-me-down items can be purchased at garage sales, through community websites, and at secondhand stores.
Research tax credits for new families. Ask your CPA about the Child Tax Credit when you file your yearly taxes. If you qualify, this credit reduces your tax bill dollar for dollar by issuing a credit of up to $1,000 per child. And don’t forget child care expenses. Look into a flexible spending account through your employer or take a child care credit on your tax return.
Research your employer’s policy on paid maternity leave and negotiate, if possible. Even unpaid leave is an enormous gift to a new parent, but you may need to request it in advance to qualify.
As you prepare for your baby to arrive, take time to suss out your own personal E’s. Think about how this process will evolve for you, what knowledge you’ll acquire, and how prepared you will be. With a firm awareness of the three E’s and ample planning, you’ll segue into this amazing, life-changing event with a sense of confidence, calmness, and positive energy.
Local Resources for Expecting Families:
Childbirth Education Classes:
→ Childbirth Education of the Tetons, Teton Valley, ID
→ The Birth Center at St. John’s, Jackson
→ Madison Memorial Hospital, Rexburg, ID
→ Teton Mammas, Jackson, email@example.com
→ Childbirth Education of the Tetons Newborn Group
→ The Birth Center at St. John’s Lactation Support, Jackson, 307-739-7572
→ Madison Memorial Hospital Lactation Support, Rexburg, ID, 208-359-6761
→ JH Perinatal Advocacy Project