Prioritizing what is important is focusing your attention on the bigger things and spending less energy on the smaller things. Whether something is big or important is completely subjective. You have to decide what is important to you and your partner. Prioritizing what is important will keep you out of feeling overwhelmed. It is easy to burn yourself out trying to learn about every aspect of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Learn how to decide what is important and get tips to keep from getting sidetracked and overwhelmed with too many decisions.
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Picking Your Battles
Picking your battles came up in the episode on autonomy with Deb Flashenberg and I have been thinking a lot about it since. I don’t like the terminology of picking your battles because that implies that you are giving up on some things or conceding. To be clear, I am a huge fan of Deb and all of the work she does on her podcast. I have no criticism there and I am glad this came up when we talked. Instead of calling it pick your battles, let’s call it prioritizing what is important.
Prioritizing What is Important
Prioritizing what is important is focusing your attention on the bigger things and spending less energy on the smaller things. Whether something is big or important is completely subjective. You have to decide what is important to you and your partner. Not what is important to your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, or anyone else. There is no one size fits all for pregnancy and birth and your preferences will be different in some ways from anyone else.
Having Strong Feelings
If you feel very strongly about something it is important. If your partner feels very strongly about something it should also be important to you and vice versa. How you feel or how your partner feels is valid, even when you don’t agree on everything. There is a past episode on when you and your partner disagree that goes into more detail in navigating those sticky situations. As you learn more you may change your mind about those things you felt strongly about and that is okay. There are very few decisions that you are stuck with and cannot change.
Finding out you are pregnant is exciting but it can also be overwhelming. If this is your first pregnancy there are a lot of unknowns and the more you learn, the more you will discover you don’t know. When I first found evidence-based information for pregnancy it was like opening Pandora’s box. As soon as you dive into the research on one subject, it brings up more questions on other topics. You can easily get stuck in a never-ending cycle of trying to learn about everything and stressing out over every decision, big or small.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back. Take a break from listening to podcasts or searching for things on Google. Cutting back on your information consumption and focusing on something else can be a refreshing break from information overload. That could mean relaxing with Netflix, getting outside and away from your phone or computer, or enjoying some quality time with your partner.
Focusing Your Attention
Nine months is a lot of time, and it may feel like a short amount of time to learn about everything on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting. You do not need to have all of the answers right now. If you just found out you are pregnant you may want to focus your attention on the things that apply to you right now. Find out what foods you should be cautious about during pregnancy and don’t spend time right now learning about vaginal exams which wouldn’t even happen until late in your third trimester. If you come across info that you will want to consume, later on, flag it to revisit at a later date when it will be relevant. Getting overwhelmed early on will burn you out and have you throwing up your hands and giving up later. Pace yourself and focus your attention on the things that are relevant right now.
Avoiding the Rabbit Holes
It is so easy to start going down rabbit holes and driving yourself crazy. Usually, this starts with a simple Google search. Next thing you know you have spent way too much time reading message boards, articles, and blog posts. You have more questions than when you started and you still don’t have the info you were originally looking for. Sound familiar? I have a few tips that help me from spiraling down into wasting too much time looking for info.
Limit Your Time
Parkinson’s law is the idea that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If you give yourself a time limit to look into a particular subject you are less likely to waste a lot of time searching endlessly, and more likely to finish your task within the allotted amount of time. If you want to find out about whether it is okay to drink Gatorade. Give yourself five minutes to look into it. Don’t get sidetracked with reading about sugar, trying to find out if you are getting enough electrolytes, and what the potassium requirements are during pregnancy. Set a timer or look at the clock and find your answer and get out of there. For more complex questions or issues you may want to give yourself a bigger block of time to look into it.
There are endless sources of information on the internet that range on the spectrum from evidence-based to completely false. You need to find the resources that you can go to for trusted information. This limits your searching and information consumption from the entire world wide web to one or a few sources. Thank you for the honor of allowing me to be a resource of information for you.
Your doctor or midwife should be your top resource for questions. Keep a running list of questions in an app on your phone or jot them down to keep track of things that come up in between appointments. When you do have a visit with your doctor or midwife refer to your list. There is no such thing as a stupid question.
Below are a few places I look to first for information:
I refer to the recommendations released by big organizations within the medical community. While everything is not always evidence-based, these organizations set the guidelines that most practitioners (specific to each organization) tend to follow. They tend to be a good starting place for information and a reference to the most accepted policies:
ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) is the largest membership organization for OBGYNs.
ACNM (American College of Nurse-Midwives) is the professional organization that represents CNMs (certified nurse midwives) and CMs (certified midwives).
AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) is the largest pediatrician organization
Choosing Your Doctor Midwife
The biggest driver of your prenatal care and birth is your doctor or midwife. Choosing your care provider is perhaps the most important decision you will make early on. If you are unhappy with your current care provider you can change to someone else. It will be easiest, and you will have the most options, the earlier you are in your pregnancy. Most care providers have some limitations on when they will take on a new patient. Remember that you hire this person to be on your team. You should feel comfortable with them, and confident that they will support you. Spending a little more time finding the right provider early on can prevent a lot of wasted time later if you are not getting the care you want or are having trouble getting answers to your questions.
Navigating Policies and Standard Procedures
All care providers and birth venues have policies and procedures to guide their prenatal care and birth practices. It can be challenging to go against the grain on policies and procedures. The key to this is working with your care provider, not against them. The BRAIN acronym is a great tool to use for interventions or procedures. BRAIN stands for:
- What are the benefits?
- What are the risks?
- What are the alternatives?
- What does your intuition say?
- What happens if you do nothing?
By communicating with your doctor or midwife you will get a lot further in getting what you want than you will be butting heads. There may be room to opt-out of a standard procedure or an alternative that you have not considered. Remember, your care provider is on your team and you will get closer to your ideal birth by working with them.
Preparing For Your Newborn
It is easy to get wrapped up in pregnancy and birth, but you also have to prepare for your baby which involves stocking up on a lot of products ahead of time. From diapers to pacifiers there are a lot options and it can be tough to find the right products. If you have considerations about safety or environmentally friendly products this can add a whole other layer of complexity. A few tips to narrow down your search and limit the time and frustration on finding the right products:
Use third party websites that rate products:
For skincare products like bubble bath or diaper cream the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website is my go-to resource.
Even if you are not buying products on Amazon the product reviews can be helpful in comparing brands or items.
Consumer Reports is a great resource for evaluating everything from humidifiers to strollers and car seats.
Ask friends who are parents for their recommendations.
Find brands you know, like, and trust and stick to their lines of products.
If you are still finding yourself overwhelmed, spend more time on the big purchases, like a mattress or a car seat. Spend less time on small inexpensive things, like bottles or pacifiers. With access to quick shipping or a Target or Walmart nearby you can pick up anything you need on short notice later on. As long as you have diapers and a car seat to get your baby home after they are born, you will survive. All of the other things may be convenient and make things easier but humans have survived for a very long time with organic cotton swaddles or fancy baby carriers.
Actionable Steps or Questions to Ask
If you are still not sure how to decide what is truly important here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- Will this matter in the future? In three months will you look back and regret or even remember this?
- Can you change your mind? Is this a permanent decision?
- Can you delegate this question or research to someone else? Lean on your partner or a friend or family member for help.
Often we put a lot of focus on something only to discover later that it was not as big of a deal as we thought.
Dialing in Your Birth Plan
A powerful tool for focusing on what is important is creating your birth plan. This is an exercise that you will need to include your doctor or midwife on because you want with their support. Keep in mind that your preferences may change as your labor unfolds and that is okay. It is not a list of demands. It is your plan for the way you want to bring your baby into the world and the key preferences that you want your doctor or midwife to support.
Keep your birth plan to one page. There are a couple of reasons for this recommendation. First, it will make you narrow down the things that are really important. Second, if you give a copy to a nurse or a care provider who you have not worked closely with throughout your prenatal care, it will be much easier for them to read it and understand that these are the key things that are important to you. If you hand someone a five-page birth plan they are less likely to work with you to make sure your preferences are respected.
If you are having trouble getting started with writing your birth plan you can get a free copy of a birth plan I used for my son. My preferences may be different from yours, but it could be an example of how a birth plan could be structured or worded. You can also get the Your Birth Plan book which is a step-by-step guide to creating and writing your birth plan. It has short chapters on everything you could include in your birth plan with the pros, cons, and evidence. Plus, there are sample plans for everything from home birth to a cesarean, and a template you can download and customize.
Your labor and birth is a fluid situation that may change from your original plans. The power of creating a plan is to be prepared and on the same page as your doctor or midwife and to prioritize what is important.
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