Before I got pregnant, I remember thinking that I wouldn’t actually be a mother until the day my baby arrived. I truly thought that my life wouldn’t change until I had my baby. Nothing could have been farther from the truth. Not to mention learning that pregnancy was actually 10 months, not 9 months! I’m an active person, I teach yoga, I run two businesses and I didn’t envision myself slowing down much, if at all. Pre-pregnancy I saw this as a virtue.
I learned right then that the notion of being a supermom starts from day one and it makes me sad.
Sad because I watch women push themselves throughout their pregnancies, ignore their body’s cues, work themselves to exhaustion and then wonder why it feels like a train hit them after delivering their babies. It would have been easy for me to create this for my pregnancy.
I am fairly certain that if someone told me what pregnancy would be like, it would have been pretty much impossible for me to understand. Truth is, I think the reality of expecting a baby is a knowledge held beyond the parameters of the mind. That being said, I’ll do my best to outline 5 things that I have learned from expecting a baby. I also want to acknowledge that every pregnancy is unique. Making your pregnancy your own is far more important than anything I have to say. My intention is to provide a message that hopefully gives you permission to soften into this chapter of womanhood.
- Pregnancy is an opportunity to deepen your listening to your body
Seems obvious, but as a culture we aren’t the most embodied (connected with our bodies). We especially don’t want to be in relationship with the body when it signals discomfort or slow down. During pregnancy I made it a constant practice to examine my habitual activities and slow down enough to recognize my body’s cues. Ultimately this lead to me exploring how my activities contributed to my sense of identity and “happiness.” I learned that so much of my identity was wrapped up in “doing.” This even included my self-care “activities.”I learned to listen, let-be and in doing so I discovered a lot about myself. When morning sickness and exhaustion made their appearance, I focused on letting-go of my agenda and giving myself what I needed. Please don’t mistake this as enjoying these experiences. However, we can choose to practice acceptance even when life is uncomfortable. When we accept what is we actually suffer less. Even though it was sometimes a challenge to let my body be my guide and let that inform my daily activities, I did it. I accepted that my body was building a baby and there were times that morning sickness, exhaustion, physical discomfort were a part of that equation. In listening to my body I learned that I would still be me without my vigorous- asana practice, without trail running, pushing and constantly going.
- Pregnancy brings the opportunity to explore habitual ways of being
I accepted that pregnancy was a brand new experience for me, so why not bring Beginner’s mind. Beginner’s mind means stepping into the unknown like a child. We welcome new experiences, choose to be curious and this allows us the potential to create something different. If you are willing to shift your perspective to trying something new then letting go of old habits- having a beer every night, eating sushi, staying home on a Friday night -aren’t forms of deprivation at all. I did not make these decisions from a place of fear or because someone else told me. I weighed the options on a day-to-day basis. I asked myself what would best serve my baby and me. Most days I found it really wasn’t a big deal to live without a few “creature comforts.” If you’ve ever gone on a spiritual retreat, most ask you to do the same and there is good reason. If I couldn’t be happy without a certain food or drink for a temporary amount of time, then for me, that dependency was worth exploring. Deciding to not have a beer, a turkey sandwich, engage in vigorous exercise or social activities was an opportunity to make space for something else in my life. I ate new foods. I chanted more regularly than I had before. I strengthened my meditation practice. Most importantly, I explored my relationship with my habits and remembered who I was beyond them.
- Pregnancy can help you learn to relax
How are you supposed to deliver a baby if you cannot relax your mind and body? The most important thing I learned in the birthing process was to get out of my own way. There is little to no room for control, agendas, fear and ego in pregnancy. The baby cannot pass through if your muscles and your mind are tense. Pregnancy slowed me down. When I started laboring, I understood why. Post-pregnancy I hope to still give myself permission to take a bath first thing in the morning, enjoy a leisurely cup of tea and sit in my horse’s pasture peacefully watching her eat grass. These moments I brought with me into the delivery room. I now hope to relax into the moments with my newborn that will feel like pure chaos or when I don’t know what to do. I envision throwing my arms up in the air and finding the same surrender I learned in the tub, with tea, amongst the horses and in giving birth.
- Pregnancy teaches that everything is temporary
If we get identified with the circumstances of the moment then we forget this very important lesson. During pregnancy I truly noticed that everyday was different and so was I. This is always true. However, it certainly is easy to acknowledge this universal truth when you wake up and your maternity clothes from yesterday suddenly don’t fit or the breakfast that you loved for the last week now makes you sick. Weight gain, temporary! Birth, temporary! Living without riding my horse, temporary! It was such a potent practice and something I will keep in the forefront of my mind as I move through the upcoming life changes that a new baby brings.
- Pregnancy is easier when you focus on function instead of the feeling
After you’ve identified what your body is communicating (feelings/sensations), shift your attention to what your body is doing (function). Feelings do communicate information. This helps us figure out what we need from moment to moment. But too often we get identified with what we are feeling and we let feelings determine our state of being. There are times when there is nothing “to do” with a feeling or sensation, but accept it. I found this especially true during pregnancy. Having discomfort is not an excuse to be a miserable person and there are times that despite our best efforts, discomfort will contribute to becoming a miserable person. What is important, is that we remember we always have a choice as to where we place our attention. Shifting our attention can shift our mood. I found it helpful throughout my pregnancy to notice the feelings/sensations as they arose and determine if there was anything needed. Then I’d continually shift my awareness to the fact that my body was building a baby and how incredible that act was.