I think there’s a purpose behind the nine long months of pregnancy. This time is vital for introspection, reflection, setting boundaries, and discovery. As I’ve said so many times before, birth is not an act of the body, it’s an act of the soul and the mind and the will.
Yes, I have a checklist of the things that I need to discuss with clients...and worksheets for them to fill out if they’re “paper people”. But, in order to serve my clients well, I need to go further, deeper. So, over the months, we talk on the phone discussing everything from diapers to spirituality. I often ask couples some unusual questions to help them uncover how their life experiences may affect them during the birth and postpartum. Usually, the deeper we go, the greater the understanding, resulting in a much more positive emotional experience for everyone.
If we skim the surface in our phone calls or visits, or if clients don’t share honestly with me, or give me only SOME of the pieces to the puzzle - then the house of cards may fall down and a challenging birth and postpartum period may result. I can only work with the information that is given to me.
So, thank you to all my clients who take the time to build a bridge of earned trust. Thank you to those who hear me, to those who share openly and honestly with me, their partners, their families, and friends. Those who share without masks or guilt or shame find that the process of pregnancy and birth can take them to a whole new level of living.
So, here are just 10 of the questions that I may ask over those nine months. Some might appear unusual, but there’s a method to the madness:
- What kind of an suitcase packer are you? Do you have games to see who can take the least amount of stuff in your MEC duffle? Or do you always end up paying for overweight luggage? (This question is not just about what you pack!)
- How long does it take for you to make decisions - on your own, and as a couple? Did you take 10 years to decide to get married? Or do you often kick yourself for being too impulsive?
- How much guilt do you take on in life? Do you think you’ll be able to be pragmatic and avoid “mother guilt”? (We have enough guilt in the world...)
- Would you ever consider going on standby? Would you be okay with the wait? If three flights were cancelled, would you just “roll with it” or feel like you were being tortured by the wait? One dad described waiting for labour as: “Sitting at the gate, waiting for a standby flight to Auckland. You know New Zealand is beautiful, and you’ll love the trip, but you have a love/hate relationship with the flight - you might even get to the point where you want to jump out of the plane - but it’s all worth it!”
- As a couple, how do you think you would you do on “The Amazing Race”? Would you be the “bickering couple” or the “couple who accepts any challenge happily”? Would you spur each other on to better things, or do you think you’d give up?
- When you’re on a big ride, or hike, or in competition, how to you respond before the endorphins kick in? What strategies have you come up with to cope with your known response? I whine initially, but my husband encourages me, lets me go slow, then cheers when my endorphins kick in.
- What kind of family boundaries do you have? What family issues are swirling around you as a couple? Would you be able to say “We’re on a baby honeymoon...and we’ll see you in two weeks”? Or would your families’ actions become the talk of your small town? (One couple went “underground” at week 2 postpartum, because they had been bombarded by family visits, and the new mother/baby connection had suffered as a result. Going “underground” helped them to claim their autonomy as a new family.)
- What was your role in your family of origin? What was your partner’s role? How do you plan to reconcile the differences as you become parents yourselves? (One client realized that her actions as a first-born, and her husband’s actions as the “baby of the family” required discussion prior to the birth of their first baby...and looooong walks on the beach.)
- What has been your greatest emotional challenge in life? How did you cope? How has it changed you? (One client said being thrown into the shark-infested waters of the Indian Ocean made her face her fears. Another said writing her bar exam taught her to take life “lightly”. Another said her battle with cancer at age 19 had changed her “from a lamb into a warrior”.)
- What have I missed? Is there an elephant in the room? (Though I’m not the family physician or midwife, I do need to know, in advance of labour, if a client has a clinically diagnosed fear of giving birth. That happened in 1990...and it’s a long story... )