How to Have a Calm and Connected Pregnancy When Life is Crazy Stressful by Freya Latona
Like most things I write, I composed this in the middle of a particular experience. I guess it’s my way of taking a moment and rewiring my busy mind. Right now, I’m a week away from my third trimester, and life has delivered a big, stressful deal – along with writing freelance for work, my home is now a building site as work commences on a long awaited renovation. I’m at home, juggling builders, two confused and anxious dogs who have lost their yard, very dirty floors, lots of machinery noise (not the writer’s best companion), and my pregnancy. My midwife appointments, which I pay to have at my house, to eliminate as much stress as possible, are now almost impossible to have privately, without burly builders seeing through the windows and machinery noise interrupting the tender sound of my baby’s heartbeat on the doppler. My neighbors are cranky about the interruption. I can’t shower until the late afternoon when the workers pack up for the day. Going to the loo is a tentative affair – I often find a builder waiting outside the door to go himself when I unlock it. Suddenly, planning a baby shower seems an impossibility. Out the window is my ability to cocoon into myself and nap; connect with my son’s movements throughout the day; and try and maintain my sense of peace as a first time pregnant woman already feeling a little wobbly.
All pregnant women desire their pregnancy to run as smoothly as possible. There are a whole host of things we may need to do to maintain our calm each day as our hormones ebb and flow and change, often rapidly. We want to be in an ideal frame of body and mind, constantly, if we can. We want to be calm, feel connected to our growing baby, limit stress and big changes in our lives, have plenty of time to cook nutritionally optimal meals, exercise, meditate, take childbirth classes of our choice, visualize a positive labor and birth, feel as fresh and revitalized as we can so as not to flood our bodies and babies with stress hormones, connect in with our partner before the crazy-keeping-alive-a-newborn phase starts, and have plenty of time to get all the newborn stuff we need before the big arrival – cots, prams, nappies, onesies, dummies, the list never ends. And yet, it is oh so common for all or some of the three trimesters to be periods of exceptional stress and change, whether it’s due to a full work schedule; raising other crazy children; a pregnancy related illness; a last minute reno (guilty); or an unforeseen shock to our entire lives, such as a family member’s death. When it rains, as they say, it pours.
To protect my own sanity, I’ve consulted the advice of renowned pregnancy and birth educator, Nadine Richardson, who has also been a doula and yoga teacher for over twenty years. Nadine is the creator and CEO of She Births, the world’s first and only birth education class with proven scientific results of better birthing outcomes, as published in the British Medical Journal. In essence, Nadine’s advice to pregnant women seeking a calm and connected pregnancy boils down to two main principles:
Practice yoga to deal with stress
Throughout the years of She Births, Nadine has identified that the main desire of pregnant women is to feel calm and connected to their baby. “The yoga room is often the one place that women feel those two things. Even if we look at the effects of doing two hours a week of yoga, we see measurable results.” According to Nadine, doing yoga is taking “that moment to unplug from the world. Yoga is this haven for feeling positive about the process of change because yoga is so much about adaptability. When you come to yoga, you cut through the repetitive negativity that we’re all infected by in our minds. We all have to find a practice to take the needle off the record track, to quiet that endless loop of stressful thoughts in our mind, and come back to the simplicity of the breath.”
If yoga classes aren’t your thing, Nadine suggests other activities that allow women to get into their body, whether that’s walking, swimming, or even hobbies and activities that allow you to focus your brain on a simple and fun activity you enjoy, such as cooking or playing with the dog. Whatever we choose, how and why we do it matters. If we are walking, or even doing the ironing, Nadine suggests turning off the podcast playing through our headphones: “When we do simple, repetitive, boring things like ironing or walking, our mind goes into a natural autobiographical state and does this self-reflection on all the things we need to do to move onto the next stage in our lives; so when you walk, or do a pleasurable task, you need to let the mind go into its own self talk.”
Ideally, we should take the time to practice this body and mind release daily, even when pushed for time: “Daily practice is a devotion to yourself; a way of honoring yourself. It also becomes a practice for preparing for motherhood. You’ll find that once you’ve had time being in your body or giving yourself space, you’ll be so much more positive or more productive”
Talk to your baby to connect
If we are feeling a sense of guilt for not taking enough time and space to connect with our growing baby, Nadine suggests a simple, achievable and natural exercise we can come back to whenever we need: “Converse and talk with your baby. I really think that when you come into your body and you’ve had a really stressful day, you can come back and talk to your baby, and say honestly, ‘I’m really sorry I’ve had a stressful day.’ Dialogue with them in a meaningful way. I suppose it’s a form of self-talk for us too, and our babies are far more intelligent than we realize.”
“It’s a really important thing to do that you can keep doing after they are born. I think it makes toddler taming easier. There’s a vibration to what you’re saying and they’ve got more neural pathways firing off in utero and as a newborn than any other time in their lives.” We can also connect with our baby through the instinctive method of touching and rubbing our pregnant belly. “Women who stroke their bellies are innately soothing their baby. It’s been studied and shown that women who stroke their bellies while pregnant have children with greater self-esteem than those who don’t touch their growing belly. If you can’t live in the perfect world without stress, then go inside and create the perfect relationship. Be a mum now, consciously.”
Nadine offers a free 15 minute meditation here on how to have a calm and connected pregnancy.