Category Archives: Pregnancy

It’s Not All About The Nausea: Pregnancy As a Transformative Experience { Guest Post }

{ This guest post was written by my childhood friend Esther }

Before finding out about my pregnancy, I had been speaking with friends a lot about the idea of transformation, something that should “manifest itself both outwardly and inwardly”, and should “affect both its inner life and external conditions.”

Pregnancy, the most literal human example of transformation I could experience, inspired a kind of search. By engaging meaningfully with the ever-changing circumstances of our lives, we give ourselves the opportunity to transform. As I clocked the seemingly endless Google searches about pregnancy and thought of my own rite of passage into motherhood, I yearned to read about the spiritual dynamics of this transformation.

I read about the role of “mother”, which I was about to assume, like a candidate for a job might scan the qualifications they would need to bring to it. This beautiful description of motherhood resonated with me: “O ye loving mothers, know ye that in God’s sight, the best of all ways to worship Him is to educate the children and train them in all the perfections of humankind; and no nobler deed than this can be imagined.” Like a candidate, I wondered how I might be cut out for training a new soul in all the perfections of humankind.

Another quote from the same source states: “Although the bestowal is great and the grace is glorious, yet capacity and readiness are requisite…we must develop capacity in order that the signs of the mercy of the Lord may be revealed in us.”

So I asked myself: how might that capacity be developed?

Clearly there are many material preparations necessary for welcoming a new person into our family, but it was less clear how to make space for the spiritual preparations. In my search, I read chronicles of pregnancy that shared the more internal truths. Among these were Louise Erdrich’s book A Blue Jay’s Dance: A Birth Year and Beth Ann Fennelly’s Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother. Erdrich writes about the dual nature of birth, calling it a physical prayer: “Birth is intensely spiritual and physical all at once. The contractions do not stop. There is no giving up this physical prayer.” In order to become imbued with these new capacities required, sacrifice was in order, some kind of letting go, some kind of pain. This was a recurrent theme for me as I approached the due date.

In one of The Hidden Words, Bahá’u’lláh writes that we should hasten towards calamity, saying “My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy.” Early on in the pregnancy, I mused about death and about the nature of the pain and suffering that awaited both me and my child as they would enter this world. I wrote:

A good death. A good trial. Then you know. You know that God’s love is shown in a myriad ways. And that our love for Him is shown through our dedication to walking that stony path and slowly, gently, coaxing ourselves to love the very stones that pierce our feet. What are children but the very best of those stones? That allow us greater strength, perception and understanding? You are not something on my checklist, you are not something to show off or parade around. You are a soul that belongs only to God. You are not bounded or circumscribed by my limited understanding of life, you will go farther than me, you will be stronger than I. You are not a collection of blankets and toys and nappies and contraptions I don’t understand yet for bathing and entertaining you in future any more than I am the lines on my resume or the letters after my name. I never thought I was entitled to the miracle of your existence. And yet, souls enter and exit this world every moment of every day.

Erdrich describes labour beautifully, “thrown down, I rely on animal fierceness, swim back, surface, breathe, and try to stay open, willing. Staying open and willing is difficult. Very often in labor one must fight the instinct to resist pain and instead embrace it, move towards it, work with what hurts the most.” Another passage from The Hidden Words challenges us, “let it now be seen what your endeavours in the path of detachment will bring.”

There is something ominous and exciting about meeting our edge in this way. I wrote:

There is a sense of magic in this process. That something only grows because God wills it to. We move out of the way. We pull the veil from the incoming shaft of light, of life, we scratch at the grime that forms on our hearts. When I wonder and panic at my own limitedness, the smallness of my strength, I am forgetting this.

In The Seven Valleys, we read that the steed of the Valley of Love is pain. Many women describe being unable to recall the pain of labour. Beth Ann Fennelly describes it as having to do with the fact that “during hard labor, you go to a place beyond language. It isn’t so much that there are no good words to describe what you’re going through as there are no words. You’re a white wave in a white sea, without boundaries or cognition…we use the word ‘disembodied’ a lot, but truly it applies here because the body breaks free from the ego.”

After my son’s birth, I wrote the following:

There is no time, just light and dark, sleep and wake, a cycle and the feeling of being right in the very womb of life, a cave where miracles happen, where nothing goes as planned and the rolling rushing waves of pain cast the pearls of pure and goodly issue on the shores of life. And in giving in, we are made new. We are made new.

I’m curious to hear from others who (and I’m sure all of us have in some way!) have gone through moments that were particularly transformative. What were the material conditions and spiritual dynamics that allowed you to engage with that event or time? Is there a particular habit of prayer or creativity that allows you to reflect on this kind of process?

Based on an essay posted by Esther on Baha’i Blog.

The Woman Carries the Baby, The Man Does… Nothing? More Thoughts on Supporting the Partner of a Pregnant Woman

Nothing about the birth of my child was about the other person that had so much to do with it: my husband.  I have already discussed this matter previously, but I think it’s such an important topic that I have to bring it up again.

During labor, no one took care of my husband.  And the funny thing is that, because I could see how hard it was on him that I was in so much pain, I was worried about him—which made it all worse on me.  So ironically enough, but not taking care of him, the medical and nursing staff were undermining the person they were focused on—me.

It remained the same after the birth.  As one hospital staff after the other came into the room to check up on me and the baby, my husband was barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.  And when, in response to a question, I would tell the staff member that I had to consult with my husband, I was met with looks of surprise and even confusion.

Even now, a couple of months later, I find that people address all their questions and comments to me.  And when I consult with my husband, they are surprised, some of them even exclaiming: “But she’s your child!”

To them I try to explain that yes, she is, indeed, my child, but she is also his.  While I was the one that carried her for nine months, I didn’t fall because he was the one carrying me.  While I was the one that labored to deliver her, I was able to do so because he was laboring in his own way right beside me.  While I am the one breastfeeding her, he is the one feeding me.  He is just as involved and as sleep-deprived, reads just as many posts, articles, and books about parenting, asks just as many questions about what to do, and wonders just as much as I do on how well he is doing as a parent.  His heart clenches as much as mine when something happens to her, he worries as much as I do, he suffers right there alongside me when something is wrong.

And yet he doesn’t get any of the support that I get.

I’m not sure what the underlying assumptions to this pattern of behavior are.  They could be only positive—perhaps it is a sign of the respect we give mothers for what they go through.  There is definitely a lot of that, thankfully.

But I think there is also negative underlying assumptions, one of them related to the definition of what it means to be a man.  Being loving and nurturing, caring and supportive—it is assumed that the woman, and only the woman, has these.  The bills, the heavy items, and the logistics—all of those are given to the man.

The challenge seems to be that we have yet to overcome our constraining definitions of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be a man.  There is a lot to be said about this matter, and surely a short post like this one can’t hope to touch on all aspects of this complex matter.  But when it comes to how each one of us, as individuals, can address this matter, I think it’s quite simple, really.

Don’t forget about the father.

Ask him how he is doing.  Ask him how he is feeling.  Ask him what support he needs.  Make sure that this essential piece of the puzzle remains sane and whole.  Because both the baby and the mother need him, and no family can hope to achieve its full potential if all of its members are not functioning at peak capacity.

Live From the Delivery Room! Community-Building and the Birth of a New Member

One of the things about having so many friends who have been pregnant before me is that I have had the pleasure of hearing about their pregnancy, labor, and delivery experiences and what they have learned from it.  If there is one important, vital, underlying lesson I got from all of these experiences, it’s that under the umbrella of a healthy pregnancy, labor, and delivery experience is a lot of room for personal preferences.

Some of my friends are very community-oriented and took those around them in consideration when it came to planning for labor and delivery.  While a pregnancy is already fraught with quite a few delicate questions with regards to boundaries and personal preferences that can unintentionally offend the other, it seems that labor and delivery is a whole different ball game.

I wasn’t too surprised by the broad range of opinions about pregnancy, but was shocked at how adamant and sometimes downright aggressive opinions about labor and delivery were.  I’m not sure yet why it is so; but it does beg the question: are the way labor and delivery planned for restricted by a fear of being judged?

Yet again, while my sample population size is small and my techniques nowhere near rigorous enough to count for much in the research world, the mommies I reached out to with this question provided me with valuable insight into the question and a feeling that a large number of them would have, had they felt they could, chosen a labor and delivery experience different from what they went through.  I focus in this post on the ones that wanted to take into consideration the community the parents were living in.  That is to say, I am focusing on the experiences of parents who, just like my husband and I, are always trying to figure out how they can contribute to the tightening of the bonds of friendship within their communities.

The Open Party Home Delivery

The ultimate community-building event would be the idea of having a home delivery open to anyone who wants to come for a visit.  The mother and father would have a private room to go into as needed, they would have a midwife or doula taking care of them, and the rest of the house would be open to family, friends, and neighbors at all hours of the day.  Sounds crazy but as one person put it, during labor, she would have loved to have people around to distract both her and her husband since all they had to do was to wait through painful contractions—and might as well have had an ongoing party to go to.  This seems to be the perfect setup for extroverts who are comfortable having contractions in public and looking less than radiant.  It would also imply that those attending have to contribute—they can’t just come over and expect everything to be set up for them, they have to bring food and drinks and even leave some behind!

The Limited Party Birthing Centre Delivery

A birthing centre usually includes “living room” and kitchen areas.  Out of respect for the other families who are also at the birthing centre, the couple can’t invite everyone they know to come over.  But one of my friends mentioned how great it would have been to have someone—her sister, for example—be a contact person so that at all times, 2-4 people could come over with food and drinks just to hang out.  Again, it was felt that the distraction would have been well worth it, the food and drinks could have been shared with the other families who were also waiting for a delivery, and that it would have been a way to include family, friends, and neighbors in the process.  The parents would also still have their private room when they need it.  This seems to be a good setup for parents who are either extroverts or those who are a little more reserved extroverts.  It would also be a great setup for a couple featuring one extrovert and one introvert.

The Private Home, Birthing Centre, or Hospital Delivery with Digital Outreach

My husband and I have, amongst others, a group of ten or so friends who are all part of a common WhatsApp group.  Two of them, a married couple, had a beautiful little baby girl a couple of years ago.  They didn’t want people to come to the hospital while they were in labor and delivery except for their own parents.  But they wanted us, their closest friends, to be a part of the experience.  That’s when the WhatsApp group became the Labour and Delivery group and to this day, we all remember staying up all night just to check on messages from the parents, pictures we would send back and forth of our reactions and what we were doing when the baby was delivered, and the pictures of the adorable newborn baby that is now a part of our group.  The children of close friends are already very special and dear to our hearts, but this little girl has a particular spot in the hearts of this group of friends, and I think it has to do with this shared experience, even if was “only” a digital one.  This seems to be the perfect option for those who are extroverts or introverts, who don’t want to take any risk with regards to the unknown—what if people expect things that can’t be given, what about those who won’t respect boundaries, what if we change our minds about where the boundaries are set—but still want a certain group of people to be involved.  There are also those who post updates on more open platforms like Facebook or Instagram, which would suit the needs of parents who want to share even bit of the experience with everyone they know, rather than a small group of friends.

The Completely Private Delivery

Then there are those who just need to be alone in their bubble and go through the process together as a couple.  There are a number of my friends who mentioned that they wished they had been alone with their partner because they really wanted to focus on feeling every aspect of the experience and not have to answer questions from family and friends, however well-meaning they were.  They actually felt that having others around as detrimental to community-building—one friend mentioned how, in an act completely unlike her usual self, she told someone very rudely (she even used swear words!) to be quiet and get out.  Needless to say, that didn’t go too well!  This would be a setup perfect for those who are introverts or those who are concerned about the way they might act under the very unique and intense experience of labor and delivery.

Final Thoughts

Just like with so many other things in life, it seems that, again and again, there is a certain balance between personal preference and boundaries that needs to be struck when it comes to deciding what kind of labor and delivery experience parents want to have.  And I feel that ultimately, any option can be a community-building experience if it is done in a spirit of love and acceptance from both side—the parents’ and the members of the community.  After all, it is love that binds the members of a community and a true acceptance of their difference that strengthens their relationships.

The Woman Carries the Baby, The Man Does… Nothing? Some Thoughts on Supporting the Partner of a Pregnant Woman

Something has been troubling me over the last couple of years and, now that I am living through the experience of being pregnant, it’s hitting home hard.

While it’s true that physically, I am carrying our child, the emotional, mental, and spiritual weight of the responsibility is not only on my shoulders.  Even a good portion of the physical aspect of pregnancy is something that isn’t only mine to carry.

From the very beginning of this process—which began when we started reflecting on our potential role, some time in the future, as parents—my husband has been an integral part of it.  And while he doesn’t have the symptoms, the aches, and the pains associated with carrying a baby, these and more have taken a toll on him as well.

After all, he has been just as assiduous about eating habits (if not more…  how many a chocolate bar has he saved the baby and I from!), about exercising, about praying more, about meditating, about stretching, about preparing for the little one’s arrival, etc.  There isn’t a single thing I have done for the little one he hasn’t accompanied me in.  When the pregnancy affects me physically, he both helps take care of me while taking on as many of my life responsibilities as he can.

And yet, the overwhelming majority of people offer encouragement, love, and support only to me.

But guys…  My husband is also tired.  He is also concerned.  He is also going through a huge emotional, spiritual, and mental shift.  While I deeply and profoundly appreciate the love, support, help, and encouragement I have been getting, I worry a lot about my partner’s well-being, all the more that he is relatively so alone in this process.

I didn’t know if this was something unique to my husband or that if my gut feeling has been right all these years: that this isolation is something more common that we realise.  So I reached out on various online forums as well as to friends of mine.  Most women overwhelmingly agreed that it was a big, painful struggle for them to make sure their husbands were getting the support, love, and encouragement they needed during this time of their lives.

I am going to make a bit of a leap here, but please bear with me.

What if this situation is related to the current nature of conversations about gender issues: they are, put crudely, more often about man-bashing than about figuring out how men and women can work in all aspects of society as equals.  Viewed through this lens, we focus on what men don’t do during a pregnancy and punish them for it.

But this is wrong for a very simple reason.  While there are men out there who are, well, not the nicest people (to put it mildly), most men are kind, thoughtful, and, when they realise what women are going through, want to correct the situation.

Similarly, there are men who are not kind to their pregnant counterparts.  But most men really stand up to the challenge during their partner’s pregnancy.  And, to cast a wider net, most men, when given the chance, stand up to the challenge during a friend’s pregnancy.  I recently told one of my male friends about how the various aches that pregnancy creates; since then, he has been reading up on it and sending me and another pregnant friend links about what we can do to alleviate some of it.  It might not seem like a lot, but it’s already a lot more than he was doing, and he did it of his own volition as soon as he realised that pregnancy was a lot more than carrying extra weight.

What I am going to personally do about all of this?  I am going to begin by trying even harder to not get caught in the “men are horrible” discourse.  I think the good men of today have suffered enough because of the mistakes of the terrible men of the past and the less-than-ideal men of today.  Let’s stop punishing these gems further by taking steps to share our concerns and challenges with them, and let them surprise us again and again by how far they will go to make significant changes.

Another thing I will continue doing is to not only ask a pregnant woman about her well-being and that of her little one; I will make sure to continue asking about that of her partner’s, and even, if possible, take the time to talk to him about how he is doing and what support he needs.  After all, a pregnancy is about both the woman and the man; let’s start supporting them both equally.

The Community and The Baby Shower: Tightening Bonds of Friendship {Includes Free Printables & Pinterest Inspiration!}

When my husband and I were approached for the first time and asked if we were having a baby shower, we said no.  Although we both love babies and baby showers, it felt weird to plan our own.

When we were approached by family members and were told that a shower was being organised for us, we felt both excited about bringing our closest friends together and celebrating the new life about to come into this world and a little weird to be making a fuss about our own selves.

A Baby Shower is Not About the Parents

But then we realised that we were letting our egos speak up and make the shower about us.  Because ultimately it’s not at all about us—it’s about introducing, in a way, the baby to the community.  It’s about building the baby’s relationship with it’s aunties, uncles, and cousins.  And it’s about starting to adjust our relationships as we embark on this journey that is parenting.

When approached that way, planning for the shower took on a whole new turn.  We were lucky that the organizers were on board with this idea of a shower.  One of the things we decided to do was to make the organization as inclusive as possible, although it’s tougher to manage people than to just do things on our own.  But everyone who was approached was really happy and eager to contribute, and some went totally beyond what any of us expected.

Another thing we tried to do was to make the shower co-ed.  Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well—mostly because so many of the men already had plans, including child-related duties.  But each of them loved the idea and although I can’t say what, there might be a daddy-centric something or other coming up at some point in the close future (my husband does actually help me with these posts and reads my blog, so I’ll leave it at that!)

The Role of Gifts

One thing we did was to insist that gifts were optional and that we would welcome second-hand items, since many of our friends have children who have just passed the initial zero to six-month stage.  It was really sweet though—everyone still brought gifts and the only second-hand item we got is a beautiful, vintage outfit with sentimental value—basically something that is not really what we had in mind when we mentioned “second-hand”.  I think this reflects a couple of things.  For one, shopping for babies is fun!  Also, there is something special about a first child, and there is something special about buying it something new.  But most importantly, I think that buying something new for a baby shower is, culturally (for now), a way to show love.

We decided to make handmade thank you cards before the baby shower with a special homemade chocolate-orange-rice puff bark we are known for.  It was something small that we really wanted to do to give to our friends as they left the shower.  I think it took a lot of people by surprise to receive something.  It was our symbol of appreciation and love, and I think that, most importantly, it helps people remember that we do, indeed, appreciate them.

Final Thoughts

So what lessons have we learned about community-building and baby showers?  Not many, to be honest!  But sometimes it’s not about learning a lot.  Sometimes it’s about planting seeds and I have a feeling that perhaps a baby shower is just about that: planting the seed of contributing to the strengthening of a community through the introduction of a new member.

Pinterest Inspiration!

Check out the sunshine dappled inspiration for our baby shower on this dedicated Pinterest board!

Free Printables!

Since I don’t know yet how to put a download link on the blog, email me if you are interested in the printables that were created for the shower, which you can spot on this Instagram picture I posted.  I have generic ones available for immediate emailing, or can make you a personalised one upon request!

Pregnancy, Personal Development, and Community Building Some Initial Thoughts

While pregnancy is quite obviously related to the personal development of both the mother-to-be and father-to-be, it’s a little bit more difficult at times to see how pregnancy can be related to the process of building a vibrant community.  After all, how can such a personal and intimate experience be shared one’s entire community?

It feels like there are some boundaries that can’t and maybe even shouldn’t be crossed.  Some of the aspects of pregnancy are just for the mother to live through; others are just for the mother and the father.  Still others are just for the parents’ immediate family—the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  But that still leaves a lot for the community as a whole to be involved in.

For one, there is the joy of pregnancy.  Just like with engagements, there is a unique joy to the announcement of a pregnancy that spreads like wildfire within a community.  The tighter the community, the faster the joy seems to spread—even if said community is a world-wide one (thank you, internet!)  This is all the more interesting seeing that pregnancy isn’t unique as a state—how many millions of women are pregnant right now, how many billions have been since the beginning of time, and how many billions more will happen in our common history?  And yet every single pregnancy is unique as an experience, and the joy of a community at an announcement seems to be a reflection of its appreciation of the uniqueness of the experience and of the human being that will emerge (literally!) from it.

Another aspect might be the way people come together around a pregnancy to protect the yet unborn child.  I have been spoiled in so many ways since the announcement and it’s been quite humbling.  After all, however amazing the experience is and however miraculous the process, I am technically not doing anything more than taking good care of myself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I feel like being spoiled as a pregnant woman is a reflection of an innate respect for the miracle that is life, even from the most cynical of the bunch.  There is just something about the body of a woman being programmed to incubate a new life that touches something deep within us and that brings us together around the experience.

A third aspect seems to be the mental and emotional connections between parents and the parents-to-be.  I feel there is an immediate “light” of sorts that passes from those who are already parents to those who are becoming parents as soon as the announcement is made.  There is a special, strong connection over this (potentially) universal experience.  And sometimes there is nothing more to be said; you know that you have the other parents’ love and support just by that light in their eyes.

Pregnancy seems to be an amazing period of life not just because of the miracle happening automatically in my body.  It is also an amazing period filled with potentiality during which a community can become stronger through a tightening of bonds of friendship witnessing a miracle it might never get tired of—or be able to get tired of.  It’s been interesting being the recipient of this kind of attention; I think that previously, as the giver of this attention, I didn’t realise how much of a positive effect it can have on a couple expecting a child.  I look forward to seeing, hopefully, the positive effect on the community, and can’t help but wonder what role the parents-to-be can play in this regard.

This post is part of the brand-new
Friday Family Focused Feature
on Sahar’s Blog

Big News and The Launch of a Related New Family Focused Feature

Someone recently told me that the most important advice she could give my husband and I about my impending dive into parenthood was to be ready for a lot of changes.  Like so much of the advice I have received, it seems pretty obvious in theory, but still comes as a little bit of a surprising adjustment when it comes to practice.

Pregnancy has already been filled with adjustments as other priorities as well as new physical limitations (I can’t see my feet anymore!) have created a new reality in which I just can’t keep up with my old self.

And this is why the launching of this feature is already a week late.

You probably have guessed what the ‘big news’ is—which is commensurate with the size of my waistline.  As my husband and I have been preparing for the coming of a little one, we have been exposed to amazing advice, great conversations, and, already, some fantastic learnings with repercussions for both our personal development and our ability to contribute to strengthening our community.

So of course this new feature was kind of inevitable!

We—because this will be a joint effort—initially thought of integrating it into Tuesday’s posts on personal and community development.  Then we realised that there is just so much to discuss when it comes to parenting that overlaps all the other categories in this blog, from books to movies to music to products to personal and community development etc.—that either it would take over the entire blog, or we could create a whole new feature that would basically be a ‘specialised’ view of all the good stuff you are already used to seeing on this blog.

For the next three months we are going to give this format a try.  The rest of the blog will remain the same; Friday’s old, blog-centric content has been shifted to Saturdays, and Fridays will be dedicated to all things family related.  For now there is no set schedule within each Friday—we will be sharing, for now at least, whatever comes to mind or crosses our paths during the previous week.  But since I will be revising the editorial calendar every three months, whatever we learn about family related blogging on Fridays will make its appearance then and there.

I have been reading about motherhood for more than 10 years now, the time around which my friends starting giving me gorgeous nieces and nephews.  It enabled me to help my newly minted parent friend as well as introduce me to a whole slate of amazing parent and mommy bloggers.  My husband and I are excited to be joining their ranks, be it only for a day a week, and hope that we can help others are much as bloggers have and will no doubt continue to help us.

Image courtesy of Pregnancy Chicken.