Ultimate Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting Guide, Sister Lilian, NB Publishers, ISBN: 9780798171458
Naomi Meyer interviews Sister Lilian about her book Ultimate Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting Guide.
Sister Lilian, please tell our readers where your interest in pregnancy, birth and parenthood originated.
Well, it was quite a journey really ... It might have been at least partially in the blood, as my paternal grandmother was a well-known Eastern Cape independent midwife (one of the green-epaulette, direct-entry midwives of an almost forgotten era); but then, I initially loved working with old folks in my nursing career, but soon found that you have to keep taking a step back if you truly believe in “prevention is better than cure” – and guess where that lets you end up. Also, my personal and work experiences soon convinced me that the experiences of pregnancy, birth and parenting were crucial to an improved human condition. Lastly, I've always had a bit of a “natural” bent, and a mind that can't simply accept medicalisation of what is truly a life experience, not a “condition” or “disease”.
Your book Ultimate Pregnancy, Birth and Parenting Guide covers a myriad of topics. What are the most common questions you receive about these matters?
That's an easy and perennial Q&A :-): #1 sleep concerns; #2 feeding/eating concerns; #3 behavioural concerns (aka discipline); #4 health concerns.
Pregnancy is an intense time and can be really stressful. What is the most important advice you can give a pregnant mother?
To see the intensity for all the strength and positivity it encapsulates, and to not make the mistake of letting “intense” become “stressful”. Women and babies were built for pregnancy, birth and the time after, and if the primary midwife, Mother Nature, is heeded, 95% of times will be as intended – natural!
Even if you do everything right, some pregnancies simply do not work out: some people struggle to get pregnant, others have recurring miscarriages. Does your book touch on topics like these as well?
Yes, it does, though it also guides readers to see how often it is precisely we humans that start a roller coaster of mishaps, and we medical types that derail the experience with unnecessary intervention. All in all the “mom and dad market” and the so-called “health” fraternity conspire to make everything to do with reproduction “fearful”, and anxiety is the greatest enemy of a natural, physiological experience. By the way, the media have a lot to answer for too – I'm afraid they gullibly swallow the scare tactics and sell bad-news stories, instead of telling the true tale of birth – when all is said and done, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We need bravery and honesty and insight all around – couples, midwives, other health professionals involved in pregnancy and birth, and the media!
Is there really a right or a wrong way to give birth? Natural, at home, with or without pain medication?
“Right” is what works best under prevailing circumstances on the day; but more importantly, what is “wrong”? It's not that a C-section is always wrong, or vaginal delivery always right, but my answers above will give you the clue that it is when the natural way is intentionally (or thoughtlessly) derailed that we have such a sad indictment of the human condition! Ethics, common sense and intuition simply get thrown overboard!
Is there any way in which you can prepare a young woman (a) for the birth process and, more importantly, (b) for what awaits her after the baby is born?
Probably not perfectly, in the world we live in. However, the magic ingredient which can liberate the best experience for (a) and (b) is letting the oxytocin flow – the hormone of love and instinctive birth. All it needs is serenity, belief in physiology and a non-intrusive environment. It truly is in just about every single woman to be able to liberate her birthing and mothering mojo. We need more kind role models – mothers, aunts, friends, midwives – and fewer scaremongers who seem happy only when they disempower women from their limbic system – that's the “old brain” that is responsible for deeply instinctive processes like making, having and rearing babies.
Talking about the period after the baby is born: it is so difficult for a young mother to discuss matters with other people, as they always have their own opinions. What is your advice on dealing with this?
Find a trusted source of support and advice, always run everything by your heart, believe that you know best, because it is your baby, and sometimes just switch off, say whatever you need to and ignore the intrusive advisors, or get your partner to protect your privacy until you feel able to tell unwanted advisors to butt out of your business. Often they do mean well, but best is if they help you with practical matters and let you and your baby get to know each other unhindered.
Your book is aimed at the mother – with a few words of advice for fathers, too. But primarily, nowadays, do you still find that mothers do "almost everything" when it comes to parenthood? And even though this is not covered in your book, do you think that the mothers may find comfort in that even if the dad is overwhelmed at the beginning, he does become much more involved when the baby turns into a human?
It was quite a challenge being asked to write this book in so many fewer words than I usually do, and I'm sorry if dads are the inadvertent victims! Nothing can replace a good dad. Moms must take care not to exclude them, because they learn best on the job. Babies don't care if they dress them incorrectly or bath them in reverse order ... Babies learn so much from a dad's kindly but firmer touch, his lower tolerance of “nagging”, his deeper voice and “one look says it all” approach. But dads, Mom often does have more instincts about all things birth and bay, and being the main support act is the biggest thank you that you could possibly give her, and she will in turn reward you handsomely!
The gynaecologist-obstetrician can be a mother's most intimate ally – especially after they have experienced the birth process together. Do you visualise your book to be the mother's go-to guide during times of stress, fear and questions after the baby is born? Or what was your main aim or who was your ideal reader when you were writing this book?
I'm not sure I agree with your first statement – most obstetricians are specialists in complications and medicalised birth, and a woman's most intimate ally is her own instinctive birth “package” – and a sensitive midwife who knows that Mom should be centre stage, not the midwife, is the best ally she could have. This book primarily addresses the mom or mom-to-be, in the hope that her partner is as invested in learning about her experiences and supporting her through them; however, I have often heard of my past books that midwives and doctors find them just as useful, because they learn what moms really want to know.
What is one of your most memorable experiences during your years of practising as a midwife?
There are just too many to single out one! This is the only profession that I can think of that could give one goosebumps at every single turn of the road! 🙂
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