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Tips for New Moms: Surround Yourself with People Who Make You Feel Safe

Choosy moms confide their strange new ways of thinking in people who make them feel safe. They are especially choosy when it comes to medical professionals and friends. They also cultivate with spouses a milieu in which they don't feel overexposed or vulnerable.

Getting the Bedside Manner You Want
Find doctors and/or midwives who fill pregnancy and childbirth with warm, personal, and communicative encounters. Ask your friends for recommendations. For those of you taking other routes to maternity, nurture a similarly comfortable stance with case workers, attorneys, birth moms, and surrogates.

If you don't feel comfortable with the person who will deliver your baby, consider hiring a doula, a trained coach who can be with you at home and at the hospital throughout labor. (Most doula fees are nominal considering the value they bring, and they often offer sliding scales or payment arrangements.) The doula's job is to calm you and your partner, to help you feel more in control of this important event, and to make sure you, not just the baby, emerge healthfully from the birth experience.

Prepping Spouses and Partners
John Gottman, Ph.D., the nation's premier marriage researcher, believes a spouse's empathy with his wife when she becomes a mother is the single most important indicator of their future marital happiness. If your spouse came with the factory-installed level of male sensitivity, he may not grasp the breadth and depth of your feelings on his own.

Weeks before the birth, you may, for example, want to share with him your tremendous fear that he, and a roomful of people, may see you poop a little in the process of pushing the baby out. Once you talk about your discomfort, you may decide he and his seven brothers and sisters should be shooed into the waiting room once the pushing starts.

On the other hand, this talk may be the signal your husband requires to become the champion of your dignity in the delivery room. There, he'll discreetly wipe the poop away, so as to make you feel comforted in the hour you show your most awesome physical power.

Finding Pregnant and Postpartum Confidantes
I learned the hard way how important it is to find mommy confidantes of the same ilk. At a Pampered Chef party full of naval officers' wives, I blurted out to groups of women that early motherhood had shaken me to the core and pushed me close to the brink of madness. The moms I could trust were the ones who yanked me into a corner and started spilling their wine and their guts. The ones who laughed uncomfortably and segued into saying they were born to be mothers, made me cry all the way home, and wake up in the morning wanting to write an expos?bout "Mommies Who Lie."

Rather than fall into this trap, start out when you're expecting and share ice cream and inexplicable tears with another pregnant and hormonally deranged friend. It's important to try a couple sound checks in the gulf that sometimes exists between strangers-about-to-be-friends. Try "Check, check, are you disturbed by the amount of goop coming out of your vagina?" Or, "Testing, testing, I sometimes wish this pregnancy was all a crazy dream."

If she doesn't flinch and she can go on to gluttonous enjoyment of her ice cream, make her your regular confidante. It's likely you've found a friend to see you through a million more jubilations and frustrations once your babies come out into the world to play. The two of you can find playgroups that fit your personality, or shun them altogether for your own fellowship.

From What No One Tells the Mom by Marg Stark. Copyright © 2005. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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