Pregnancy can be one of the most overwhelming seasons of life. Your attention is pulled in so many different directions with so many decisions to make: Where should I give birth? What do I want to include in my birth plan? Should I hire a doula? What color do I want to paint the nursery? Where should we register?
That, plus the world around you doesn't stop just because you're growing a baby. There's still your job to think about, your family, and your social commitments. Trying to keep up with a busy schedule while coming to grips with the realities of being a parent can send anyone spinning. The constant demands of life can be a perfect storm for stress and anxiety.
Tell me you can relate.
If I just described your life, finding a way to introduce mindfulness & balance into your pregnancy is a MUST. Regular mindfulness practices will provide you with tools to keep a positive outlook and a level head through the challenges of pregnancy and parenting.
What is mindfulness you ask?
It may sound a bit "woo" to some of you and if you've never practiced mindfulness before, I can definitely understand why. It seems obscure or even subjective, which it absolutely is for some. Essentially, mindfulness is the practice of staying present in the current moment by paying attention to your thoughts without judgment and without "fixing" them. Mindfulness is a technique that helps you slow down your ever-racing mind rather than letting it wander to a myriad of scenarios and possibilities.
Now that you know the definition, have you practiced mindfulness without even knowing? Most of you probably have!
Why Does Mindfulness Matter?
Pregnancy and birth is unpredictable. There are so many moving parts to this journey and each experience is so unique. Even with all of the books, articles, and different care providers sharing information, it is impossible to know exactly what to expect. This fear of the unknown can create intense anxiety and stress in many pregnant people and their partners. Additionally, there is so much societal pressure to do things "perfectly".
Planning a homebirth? You must be crazy.
Want a planned cesarean? You must be crazy.
Don't want to circumcise your baby? You must be crazy.
Planning to sleep train? You must be crazy.
There is SO MUCH JUDGMENT OUT THERE and it just makes life harder.
Simply put, mindfulness matters because your mental and emotional state in pregnancy matter, not only in relation to your health but to the health of your baby as well.
What Can Mindfulness Do For You?
1. Reduces Stress & Anxiety
Bring those stress and anxiety levels down with regular mindfulness practices. Doing so keeps your blood pressure at healthy levels and can prevent pre-term birth. Not to mention low stress levels improve your quality of sleep and your overall enjoyment of life.
2. Connects You With Your Body & Baby
Slowing down and tuning in helps bring your awareness to your changing body. Listening to your body's needs is incredibly important and will help foster intuition in birth and even once your baby arrives! Additionally, you can learn a lot about your baby's personality and activity levels by practicing mindfulness. This can come in handy when doing kick counts in your third trimester.
3. Mental & Emotional Preparation for the Birth
No matter what type of birth you're planning or hoping for, mental & emotional preparation are equally as important as the physical preparation. Being able to stay present and accepting that there are certain elements out of your control can help you "go with the flow" and address each new experience or decision with calm & clarity.
4. Encourages Regular Self-Care
This particular element is one we stress time and again. Why? Because it's one that so many of us struggle with. Focusing on yourself and engaging in regular self-care activities promote balance and wellness and translate into a more positive outlook on life. Additionally, the judgments we mentioned above are likely to affect us mentally & emotionally. Creating space for self-awareness and compassion allows you to observe your feelings and process them on a regular basis, making it less likely for you to store negativity and stress.
We'll share more about the various mindfulness practices next week, but for now, we encourage you to start exploring some simple breathing or meditative practices. Begin with 5 minutes a day and build from there. Take note of how you feel before and after as well as how it impacts your day or your week. We're confident you'll notice a difference and that mindfulness will provide benefits for you and your baby for months & years to come!