If you’ve had a baby, are carrying a baby, or even considered having children, then you can understand how truly special the pregnancy phase of a woman’s life is. It is a special time of expansion, maturity, and perfection. It is during this time that a woman has the potential to enrich her relationship to herself and her body. We have a chance to really learn about and respect our bodies – we were made for this, baby!
I wanted to share a few of the things that I found really helpful during our pregnancy with our daughter, Juliet. These are things that you don’t typically hear about in your doctor’s office or even in pregnancy magazines. These suggestions come from the heart, and are intended to inspire you to really enjoy this miraculous experience. But, as always, take what you need and leave the rest.
Pregnancy Journal – You can have a pregnancy journal for your eyes only, where you vent and journal any “stuff” that you go through during pregnancy, so you can look back and reflect on how far you’ve come and how pregnancy changed you in so many amazing ways.
Or, you can use your pregnancy journal to record the pregnancy and labour as a keepsake for you and your baby. Some things that you may want to record are:
- last menstrual period
- when and how you told people about your pregnancy and their reactions
- when any symptoms started and how you dealt with them
- crazy food cravings, moods, or dreams
- momentous times (ie. when you first felt the baby kick)
- information or thoughts after any appointments you have (ie. how you felt after you first heard the heart beat, measurements)
- any noticeable patterns in movement or kicking
- anything you want to say to the baby
- any thoughts or experiences that Daddy wants to write about
You don’t need anything fancy to write in – just a good old fashion pen and paper, or an unused notebook. But if you feel that you want a pretty journal to write it, there certainly are fancy journals out there.
Prenatal yoga – This is a great way to strengthen and stretch the muscles you’ll use during the pregnancy and labour. This type of yoga is especially useful when your belly grows bigger and you need some guidance on how to navigate your growing bump. It also is a time for you to relax, connect with your baby, and also connect with other pregnant women… And who knows, maybe you’ll make friends with women who will become your support network (ie. “mommy group”) in the months after you’ve had the baby.
Tea, tea and more tea – Make tea your best friend. You’ll be doubling your blood volume throughout pregnancy, so you’ll need a lot of water. Although many herbs are to be avoided during pregnancy, there are a lot of safe, gentle, and effective herbs for pretty much anything that can come up in pregnancy – Nervous? Drink chamomile. Nauseous? Try ginger. Low energy? Choose nettle. Feeling sick? Drink Echinacea. Looking for a nice warming tea? Go for rooibos. Tea is also a good way to keep your bowels moving, which may be a problem as your belly grows larger.
Making a ritual of sitting down with a cup of tea to write in your pregnancy journal is a great way to relax and connect to your baby. Raspberry leaf tea is a favorite among many expecting mothers to enjoy during the 2nd & 3rd trimester.
Talk to your baby – Read books, sing, rub, pat, or drum your belly… do whatever you can to establish a connection to your baby, for both yours and baby’s benefit. Your baby will recognize your voice and you may even find that baby will respond with some kicks and punches when you sing or read to him/her. Reading books, talking and connecting to baby is a great way for Dad to get involved too.
Snoogle – This is a pregnancy pillow that is good support for your neck, back, knees, and belly when you are resting or sleeping in bed. It doubles as a nursing pillow when your baby arrives, and can be folded up to either support your back or prop your baby when nursing so you’re not always using your arms. It’s more of a ‘nice to have’ than a ‘need to have’, but is certainly useful in more ways than one.
Belly butter – This is usually a blend of special butters, oils, beeswax, and herbs. Nourishing ingredients to look for are cocoa butter, shea butter, olive oil, vitamin E, chamomile, and calendula. It is important to look for organic sources of these ingredients since your skin is your largest organ, so what you put on your skin will be absorbed by you and your growing baby. Lather your favorite belly butter on your belly, breasts, inner thighs, hips, gluts, or any other areas that need some extra nutrients and elasticity to accommodate your new beautiful pregnant shape. Because belly butter isn’t a lotion or a cream, it can be a bit greasy so it’s wise to apply before bed and wear a shirt or use sheets that you don’t mind getting a little oil on. If you are one of many women who love sleeping naked, you can lay a super soft towel or sheet underneath you to protect your bed sheets.
Strongly consider breastfeeding – Breastfeeding is a great way for you to bond with your baby, nourish your baby, and keep yourself healthy. Find out if there’s a La Leche League group in your area. In my experience, this group of women, who gather once a month, are so grounded, wise, and supportive – a great group of people for a new mom to be around. However definitely don’t judge yourself if you choose not to breastfeed. There are many other ways to connect with your baby, and to keep baby healthy. The most important thing is to do whatever works for you and your family.
Perineal massage – This is typically started around 34-36 weeks pregnancy and is done to increase the elasticity of your perineum and prevent a tear during labour. However, you should not do this if you have an active infection or herpes sore on the vagina! And it is understood that this technique is not for everyone – there are other ways to support the perineum during labour such as having your caregiver place a warm compress to the perineum between pushes in the pushing stage of labour.
But if you’re interested in this technique, then read on…
It’s easiest to have a partner do this with you (and is a great way for them to really appreciate the beauty of your lady bits!), but it is possible to do it on your own – just get a large mirror handy so you can see where you are and what you’re doing. Start off by having well-trimmed nails (ideally not freshly trimmed because they can be pretty sharp), and give your hands a good wash. Sit comfortably in a semi-reclined position and have your knees out wide, with your feet planted on the bed or chair. Add lots of oil-based lubricant to your index and middle finger. (Use personal lubricant, vitamin E oil, coconut oil, or pure olive oil. Not baby oil, mineral oil, Vaseline or petroleum jelly.) Take some relaxing breaths and have you or your partner insert the index finger into the vagina up to the second knuckle. Firmly but gently press down toward the rectum and out to the side until you feel a slight burning or stinging. Hold this stretch for about 2 minutes, or until the tingling subsides. Continue taking nice relaxing breaths. Repeat on the opposite side. Do this slowly to allow time to relax. Now, slowly massage the area in a U-shaped fashion, moving your finger back and forth along the lower part of the vagina, gently pulling the tissue forward. Do this about 3 times, remembering to take nice relaxing breaths. During this time, it is helpful if the pregnant woman visualizes a healthy, progressive labour – envision the vagina gently stretching to allow the baby’s head to move through. You can also use this time to practice any relaxation and breathing techniques that you want to use during labour… Do this 4-6 times per week and you’ll notice that the more you do this, the farther you’ll be able to stretch to ‘feel the burn’ (some people call this “the ring of fire”).
As always, we’d love to hear your input… what did you do to make your pregnancy extra special?