By Mandy Loh
Have a bun in the oven? Excited yet nervous about what the future holds when two becomes three? It’s natural to feel anxious, but the good news is, the nine months of pregnancy is a great time to sit down with your spouse and have meaningful conversations about certain key issues. Being on the same wavelength with your spouse will help to ease the transition to parenthood, and makes parenting much more enjoyable..
So what do you need to talk about? Here are some suggestions to start you off:
1) About the birth itself – birth plan, pain relief options and more
Many women may not realize just how useful it is to have a birth plan, to decide beforehand on issues such as whether you would like to have a natural birth or caesarean delivery. It is also useful to discuss whether epidural is preferred as a pain relief option during delivery.
Mr Kenny Toh, Founder, Institute of Advanced Parentology explains that “these are highly personal matters, and it would be good for the expectant mom to take some time to speak to friends who had been through childbirth, read up more about the various options, and consult your obstetrician.” Discuss your preferences with your spouse, and come up with a written plan by the third trimester of pregnancy.
Because when it comes to D-Day (delivery), the husband has the responsibility to ensure his wife’s wishes are met!
2) Responsibilities in the first few weeks after birth
New parents might have their hands full in the initial weeks after baby’s arrival, so it is important to plan ahead. Consider whether you might like to have additional help in the house, such as your parent/in-law, a relative or a confinement nanny, to take care of the newborn, as well as the new mom, who has to recuperate from the rigours of childbirth.
It is common for new parents to feel exhausted, and unsure of how to handle a fragile newborn, so it is definitely helpful to have experienced hands guide the way. However, it would be wise to also bear in mind possible differences in opinions with the caregiver, who might hold strong views on certain childcare issues.
When this happens, Kenny shares that the couple should respect elders’ opinions. But that does not mean the couple is obliged to follow every piece of advice (especially when it doesn’t make sense). “Stand up for what you believe in, and tell the grandparents to let you do the parenting. They had done their part, now they should let you do yours.”
Wives should also talk to their husbands about how involved they would like them to be. It is beneficial to set realistic expectations of the roles of each parent and share the load. For example, husbands should also help to attend to the physical needs of the newborn (eg: feeding and bathing), so as to give their wives a chance to rest.
3) Deciding on Parenting Philosophies
Walk around a bookstore or a library and you would be able to find rows upon rows of parenting guidebooks. In this day and age, we suffer from information overload, rather than a lack thereof. How does a couple make a decision on how to approach parenting?
Kenny believes that “a guiding principle is to focus on the well-being of the child, rather than who is right or whose method is better. In other words, pay close attention to what the child needs, rather than how we think the child ‘should’ be raised. A newborn has very basic needs – food, sleep, comfort, love etc. Seek to meet those needs first, and the solution will come naturally.”
With this principle in mind, Kenny is confident that couples will be able to resolve conflicts on differing parenting approaches or opinions that may arise along the way.
He adds that ‘parenting philosophies’ are grounded in values, which are typically moulded by family background and exposure to various external influences. He advises couples to be open about examining and discussing differences in values, as they will have an impact on the parenting approach. .
4) Deciding on childcare arrangements/ future work plans
One of the most important issues to discuss as parents-to-be, would be childcare arrangements after maternity leave ends. While there are a multitude of possibilities, it all boils down to how comfortable you are as parents in utilizing these options, such as:
(i) getting your parent/in-law or relative to be the primary caregiver
(ii) hiring a domestic helper/ nanny to care for the child at home
(iii) putting your child in infant-care
(iv) putting your child in the care of home-based nannies (paid service)
(v) having one parent stay home to care for the child
Once again, this is a highly personal decision, and it would be good to weigh the pros and cons of each option extensively. You should try to agree on the option to take before baby is born, taking into account your parenting philosophy, budget and career options.
Lastly, while conversations with your spouse are useful in helping you prepare for the exciting parenthood journey, there is no need to over-prepare and plan to the last detail. Parenting is a lifelong journey that offers many opportunities for learning and sharing along the way.
Kenny advises that sometimes it is useful to take things “one step at a time, space out discussions and leave room to simply enjoy the process.”
I Love Children would like to thank Mr Kenny Toh, Founder, Institute of Advanced Parentology, for his contribution and advice.