The 2019 LamazeLive! conference is happening in Pittsburgh, PA on April 11th through 13th, 2019. At this event, perinatal professionals will be gathering in order to connect, learn and re-energize with our colleagues. Plenty of contact hour opportunities for certification renewal are available and an exhibit hall full of vendors with new and interesting products are waiting to be explored. The LamazeLIVE! format means that presentations are fast-paced, dynamic and jam-packed with information that is important to you and the families you work with. Early-bird registration ends March 8th, so don't delay in signing up so you can save on costs. Register today!
Virtual attendance is totally possible if traveling to Pittsburgh is not an option for you. Please consider signing up for the virtual portion of the event. LamazeLIVE! can come directly to you wherever you are. More info on attending virtually here.
Throughout the next weeks, Science & Sensibility will highlight some of the scheduled presenters and provide a sneak peek into their chosen topic. Today we meet Britta Bushnell, PhD, who will be presenting the keynote "Transformed by Birth: Preparing Parents for the Life-Changing Experience of New Parenthood." Dr. Bushnell is an award-winning childbirth educator, celebrated speaker, author, mother, and specialist in teaching audiences revolutionary new approaches to childbirth, relationship, and parenting. Lamaze International is very excited to welcome Dr. Bushnell to our event.
Britta Bushnell: The impacts of social media are complex regardless of the area of influence being discussed. Birth and postpartum are no exception. Images of new parents glamorously dressed and coiffed while parenting a newborn are one-sided and make having a new baby look like nothing more than the acquisition of a really cute new accessory. Such lopsided portrayals are a disservice to expectant parents. But similarly, depictions of birth and/or parenthood as an incredibly challenging slog through the mud aren’t wholly accurate either.
Social media tends to give the impression that birth and parenting are either glamorous and joyful or challenging and chaotic. I’m not a fan of any portrayals of birth or parenthood that take a dualistic approach. What parents need is the understanding that many experiences can be true at the same time. There are moments that are joyful and moments that bring us to our knees…and sometimes, these happen in the same day or even the same hour! This dichotomous range of reality is difficult to convey on social media.
Additionally, social media content is mostly self-selected. Expectant parents are often hopeful as well as fearful—filling their social media feeds with beautiful images that support the idea of what they want their postpartum experience to be. In doing so, they reinforce the fantasy that such a reality is possible since they have social media “proof.” When their parenting life (likely) pales by comparison to their curated fantasy, new parents can be wildly ill-prepared, shocked, or even traumatized by their postpartum reality. How individuals curate their social media feeds influences whether social media increases their concerns or minimizes them, but either way, it narrows expectations of what postpartum and new parenthood will be like. Narrow expectations create greater opportunity for disappointment when reality does not measure up.
SM: What are two things educators can do to help prepare families for postpartum without scaring them or increasing their concerns or fears?
BB: First of all, I believe we need to stop vilifying fear. Fear is a normal part of life. Why are we making fear such a bad thing? Having concerns and fear is normal when facing such a huge thing as giving birth and becoming a parent. Of course, it’s scary! A little bit of fear is actually a good thing—it puts us into action, makes us think about what we need to know, and makes us think about what we need to feel safer. Expectant parents need a bit of this to help them make choices and awaken themselves to the truth of being a parent. Parenthood can be hard, really hard! I don’t believe professionals should promise otherwise. Pacifying expectant parent’s fears with well-meaning promises or empty positivity does nothing to help individuals become ready to face the realities of parenthood.
What parents need is honest conversations and expanded expectations. Rather than narrowing expectations, professionals need to help new parents develop skills to thrive in a wide range of possible situations. We need to help expectant parents become parents—people who keep going even when they don’t know what to do, ask for help when they are unsure, try something different when at first it doesn’t work, and who understand that difficulty, hard work, uncertainty, lack of control, and imperfection are a fundamental part of the process of parenthood. We need to help parents become better at navigating all of these. To do this, we need to help parents cultivate openness and resilience, as well as courage in the face of all that birth and parenthood can be.
SM: Do you think that awareness is increasing amongst perinatal professionals and health care providers about the fragile, impactful postpartum period or are we still not seeing one of the elephants in the room?
BB: I’ve worked in the field of birth for almost twenty years. During that time, I have seen a huge difference in how the postpartum period is addressed, talked about, and even understood. Culturally speaking, there are more conversations coming up about postpartum mood disorders, which has reduced a little of the unhelpful stigma that used to keep some new parents silent and suffering privately. More people are aware of the physical and emotional healing needed after the birth of a baby, regardless of the method of delivery. More parents want to honor the special and quiet time after the arrival of a baby by staying home longer. All of this has improved since I started in this field. We’ve come a LONG way. And, we still have a long way to go. There are many steps that still need to be taken. Among other things, I would like to see postpartum preparation and parenting classes become as commonplace as taking childbirth classes. So, in direct answer to this question, it is both—awareness is increasing and we are still in a room with a lot of unseen elephants!