Practicing Mindfulness During Pregnancy and Early Motherhood
by Ann Douglas
It’s impossible to overlook the physical changes of pregnancy. But, as dramatic as those changes may be, the invisible transformations you experience en route to motherhood are every bit as far-reaching.
The months before birth represent an opportunity for tremendous personal growth and development—an opportunity for you to become more in-tune with your body, to prepare for the challenges of labor and birth, and to start thinking about the type of relationship you would like to have with your baby.
Here are some practical things you can do to make the most of this truly transformative time.
Try to spend a few minutes in quiet reflection every day connecting with your baby and appreciating the miracle that your body is performing right now. Allow your worries to drift away. Train your brain to be fully present in the moment—a skill that you will find invaluable in savoring the joys of motherhood.
Think about all the miraculous processes that are taking place within your very own body right now. If you haven’t always practiced body acceptance up to this point in your life, this would be a great time to start. (You might even want to adopt this phrase from birth activist Karen Brody as your personal pregnancy mantra: “My body rocks!”)
Talk to other mothers who have made this journey before you. Ask them to share their best advice about pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood; and to recommend the most helpful community resources (birth centers, lactation consultants, La Leche League groups, mom and baby groups) and information sources (books, websites, videos).
Adopt a learning mindset. Welcome the fact that you feel like you still have so much to learn about the journey ahead. Let that trigger a hunger for new knowledge about birth, babies, and beyond.
Practice mindfulness. Learn what it means to be mindful—and introduce the elements of mindfulness into your life as a pregnant woman and, eventually, a new mother. Being mindful involve
- being fully present in the moment (as opposed to obsessing about the past or worrying about the future),
- being nonjudgmental (accepting and having realistic expectations of yourself and others),
- being emotionally aware of your own needs and the needs of others (which, in turn, allows you to be more responsive to your own needs and the needs of others),
- managing your own emotions (which reduces the likelihood that you will overreact when you are frustrated while increasing the likelihood that you will act with your big-picture values and goals in mind),
- practicing compassion for yourself and others (which keeps your focus on the process of parenting over the long-term rather than how well things went on any particular day).