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Editor's Note: While this article is written for the pregnant woman, the advice and suggestions are mostly valid for everyone - pregnant or not.
To ensure you’re not constantly in the “trying to keep my head above water” mode, allow yourself to rest as often as possible. When you’re feeling depleted, scared, or overwhelmed, and you just want to curl up in your bed — do that. Let yourself escape into sleep, or a book, or whatever your instincts are telling you to do.
If you feel like to-dos pile up every time you rest, determine what can be handed off, at least for the time being. Ask your partner, family member, or friend to help out with housework, ask a colleague to temporarily take some of your workload, remind yourself that missing a workout in favor of rest is not going to derail your fitness. Give yourself permission to pause.
Moving your body is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety and keep your body healthy. But my favorite thing about movement is that it causes endorphins to release. Endorphins are your body’s natural pain relievers and can be up to two hundred times more powerful than morphine. This hormone blocks your brain’s ability to receive messages of pain from the sensory nerves, improves your mood, and can be passed through the placenta to baby. The more you move, the more skilled your body becomes at producing and releasing endorphins, which could cause more of these pain relievers to help you out during birth.
If you don’t currently have an exercise routine, talk with your care provider about safe options. Walking, swimming, and prenatal yoga are typically safe and effective choices.
In addition to movement, what you eat has a significant impact on how you feel during pregnancy and beyond. Your care provider can help you determine if you’re lacking in certain nutrients and need to eat more of a particular type of food or take a supplement. And because heartburn is an unsavory bedfellow of pregnancy, aim for eating six small meals a day, instead of three big ones.
When stress, anxiety, or fear start taking over, dissolve them by focusing your attention on your breath. Envision peace, clarity, and courage flowing in with each inhalation, while fear, tension, and stress flow out with every exhalation. You emit a brightening glow with each breath, until you find yourself enveloped in healing energy. Let this energy enter every nerve and cell of your being — grounding you and filling you with a deep sense of calm.
Prepare Your Home
As you’ll likely be spending a lot of time in your home once your baby arrives, you want it to feel like an oasis. One of the first steps to crafting this oasis is evicting all clutter. If you don’t love it or regularly use it, donate or recycle it.
From there, fill your space with fresh air by opening windows when the weather allows, and placing air-purifying plants in your room (in a location baby can’t reach when they become mobile). NASA found that the peace lily, spider plant, florist’s chrysanthemum, red-edged dracaena, and English ivy all do wonders at removing toxins from the air.
As good lighting is also crucial, let in natural light during the day and use lamps in the evening, as they create a more soothing energy than overhead lighting. Placing three lamps at three different levels is ideal.
Finally, go through each room in your home and ask yourself, “How do I feel in this space?” If the answer isn’t “amazing,” brainstorm how you can enhance the space. Do you need to rearrange the furniture? Invest in attractive storage solutions? Paint the walls? Get rid of some focal points you hate looking at? Investing time in this project will help ensure you feel calm and clear (at least most of the time) when stuck at home.
Turn Your Environment into a Sanctuary
Any location...can be transformed into an environment filled with a sense of safety, calm, and joy by nurturing your five senses in that space. You can do this by making a list of your five senses — sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch — and then listing ideas on how you can support each. For example, you could collect a few soothing prints to hang in your birthing room, in addition to some battery-powered candles; create a playlist with your favorite sleepy-time music and guided meditations; purchase an essential oil diffuser and a few of your favorite scents; pack a bag with coconut water, honey sticks, and breath mints; and find a cozy robe to wear during birth.
I also recommend creating a sign to hang on the door of your birthing room that says, “Please knock gently, and enter only when invited in.” This helps ensure you have control over who comes in and out of your space.
Maintain a Strong Voice
You can stay empowered during birth by making it clear to your care provider, during a prenatal appointment close to your due date, that much of your comfort during childbirth will depend on their ability to listen rather than pressuring you into anything.
In the absence of a true emergency, they should honor your birth preferences, give you ample information about any interventions they recommend and what the alternatives are, and provide time and space for you to make your final decision in privacy. In addition, be super clear about not wanting to hear any fear-based language or tactics.
Suppressing fear-induced emotions infuses life into them, often causing a manifestation of depression or unpleasant physical symptoms. Here is a plan to liberate the emotions surrounding your fears so they can have their moment and then go bother someone else.
Meditate on the various elements of your life (e.g., friends, family, career, body, home, upcoming childbirth, etc.) and any fears that may be attached to them.
Write down the fears. If you’ve made it this far, tremendous progress has already been made. Fears hold the greatest power when they exist without you recognizing them.
Choose the fear that’s causing you the greatest struggle and move through steps 4 and 5. There’s no need to move through your entire list of fears in one day; be gentle with yourself, creating time for rest in between fear release sessions.
Set a timer for ninety seconds. Now close your eyes, visualize the fear, and allow the emotions attached to it to be expressed. Let yourself notice and experience the emotions and any accompanying physical sensations moving through you — let go of resistance and judgment toward the fear. Hold the intention that the emotions attached to the fear will be flushed out of you by the time your alarm chimes.
(The fear you’re working with may still be triggered after this exercise — that’s normal, just give yourself the ninety seconds again to rerelease any attached emotions.)
Now that you’ve released the emotions attached to the fear, examine the fear objectively and decide whether it is:
a) Completely outside your control, and able to be fully released by doing the ninety-second-release work anytime it comes up: There is no benefit in stewing over a potential outcome you have no control over. For example, I was really nervous I’d go into labor when stuck in traffic. As I had little control over when labor would begin, and I couldn’t just stop driving, I did the fear release every time this concern popped up.
b) An issue you need to educate yourself on: Knowledge gained pushes away uncertainty and invites in confidence. For example, I was so fearful of testing positive for group B strep (an infection caused by a common bacterium — often found in pregnancy) that I educated myself on what it actually is (not as scary as I thought), and what my options would be if I tested positive. When I did test positive, I felt calm and prepared.
c) A fear you need to talk through with another person: Honest communication fosters peace, harmony, and connection. For example, if you’re fearful of how your romantic relationship will shift after birth, share these concerns with your partner.
Do the work, mama. Just do it. When you release the emotions that hold up your fears, and you release the fear of them poking their heads up again (which they may do), you live from a space of love and trust, versus suffering and doubt.
Do It daily: Every morning before you get out of bed, clear any negativity that may have made itself known as you slept by closing your eyes and envisioning any and all fears, doubts, or stressors being pulled from your mind, body, and spirit and collecting in a bubble floating in front of you.
Then, deeply inhale, and as you exhale imagine the bubble being blown away from you and picked up by the wind. Imagine it being pulled so far out on the horizon it becomes a minuscule dot that pops and dissolves everything the bubble carried. Now smile, open your eyes, and claim your fresh day.
©2021 by Bailey Gaddis. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission, New World Library, Novato, CA.
www.newworldlibrary.com or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.
Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
by Bailey Gaddis
In this comprehensive new book, doula and birth educator Bailey Gaddis offers frank girlfriend talk and expert advice about pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood. During her own pregnancy, Bailey had many unanswered questions she felt were too taboo or embarrassing to ask. To help other women have a more informed, less cringey experience, she went on to train as a birth professional, and her work has inspired this book.
Bailey consulted with medical experts and psychologists to ensure accurate answers to the featured questions, and she presents her sought-after expertise to you with thoughtfulness and humor. Her accurate, nonjudgmental answers to even the most embarrassing or scary questions will help guide you through pregnancy and the first weeks of motherhood with greater calm and confidence.
Click here for more info or to Order This Book. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Bailey Gaddis is the author of Asking for a Pregnant Friend and Feng Shui Mommy. She is a childbirth preparation educator, birth doula, hypnotherapist and a regular contributor to media outlets including Working Mother, Fit Pregnancy, Pregnancy and Newborn, Cosmopolitan, Woman’s Day, Disney’s Babble, and more. She also volunteers for a program where she offers in-home support to parents of newborn babies, specifically single mothers and those with babies with special needs.
Visit her online at BaileyGaddis.com.