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Sweet Anticipation is dipping the stick, holding your breath, and looking closely again before showing your husband. It's lying still for the ultrasound, searching for the nebulous profile of your baby and asking, "Is everything okay?" It's a sigh of relief when you're told that it is.
It's the excitement of announcing the news and seeing the look on your mother's face when you tell her she's going to be a grandmother. It's the prospect of giving life that came from your love. It's imagining who this little person inside you will be. Will she look like you? Will he have his dad's eyes? What is her soul's purpose?
Sweet Anticipation is touching your belly, enchanted with tiny hiccups and kicking. It's suffering with nausea, heartburn, and gas. It's wasting days reading lists of names, double-checking and making sure none are forgotten. It's picking out colors for the nursery, buying a crib and a rocking chair. It's swooning as you fold each terry sleeper. It's crying over sappy TV commercials and counting the days.
Count Your Blessings
Annie and Rick were married in an English-looking chapel in the countryside not far from Seattle. Just prior to the ceremony, the minister asked if they would like a blessing for children included. Annie nodded yes and gave her soon-to-be husband a questioning look. Rick sheepishly nodded affirmatively and the short blessing was added: "And, when it is God's will for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord, bestow on them, if it is your will, the gift and heritage of children, and the grace to bring them up to know you, to love you, and to serve you."
Two weeks later, Annie had a spurt of energy. "I got up at the crack of dawn, picked buckets of blackberries, went home, made jam, then slept for seventeen hours. Three weeks after the wedding, I took an early pregnancy test and sure enough, just as I suspected, I was pregnant."
Marriage, pregnancy, and childbirth are indeed blessings with profound obligations. If you've ever held a cooing baby in your arms, you know the blessing of an innocent, smiling baby. But not everyone knows the blessings of pregnancy and childbirth. Those special blessings are known only to women, particularly women in the last half of this century, as birth control became available. Unlike women in generations before us or women in third world countries, we can, with comparative ease, plan how many children we want and regulate the timing of them. We're fortunate to be able to make choices about having children based on personal preference; our grandmothers and great-grandmothers, who often had six to ten pregnancies, were at the mercy of their fertility. You, on the other hand, have a wide array of choices and the good fortune to have an abundance of information at your fingertips and modern medicine to assist in ways you choose. Those are just the beginning of the advantages you can partake of.
Having a baby at the end of the nine-month journey is miraculous of course, but sprinkled along the way is ample good fortune, and, if you are willing to look past the side effects, you'll surely find the windfall. You're participating in the grandest of missions—in partnership with the Almighty, you are creating life. You are part of the divine process for the continuation of life. When you think of your pregnancy in this way, you realize what a precious gift has been bestowed upon you.
Pregnancy is a wonderland of mystery. From the fertilization of an egg with a sperm comes the genetic makeup to form a one-of-a-kind human being. Sex and eye color are determined from the start, and, before you ever feel anything, your body is making all kinds of precise adjustments to house the tiny cargo. By eight weeks the embryo has fingers and toes, hair and ears.
Pregnancy moves you from one stage of your life to another—from being a wife and career woman to also being someone's mother. It gives your life new purpose, adds richness and texture to it. So much is happening so quickly, from hearing the swish of a heartbeat, getting a black and white glimpse on the ultrasound, to being kicked in the ribs; there's never a dull moment.
Despite all its aches and pains, pregnancy brings evidence of the Divine's functioning in our human existence. If you pay close attention to what is going on within you, you won't be bored when you're expecting. Start by noticing your thoughts and feelings—perhaps keep a journal in which you record the changes in your body and what emotions those changes stir within you. As you open to your thoughts and feelings, you will gain a deeper understanding of yourself—that in itself is a blessing. And as you make the inquires into your own emotions, thoughts, hopes, dreams, and fears, you garner the strength and skill to muster the effort that pregnancy and childbirth require of you.
Celebrate the Good News
After two years of fertility treatments, Margo and Sam had given up on having a baby, so when Margo learned she was expecting, she was stunned. She left the doctor's office, walked across the street to a pay phone, and called her husband. "Don't ask questions, just meet me as soon as you can at the sandwich shop," she said. "I'll be waiting for you." Hanging up, she immediately headed for a toy store, bought the biggest teddy bear she could find, tied blue and pink ribbons around it, plopped it in the chair across from her, and waited for her husband. Passersby gave her knowing glances, but she didn't mind; her heart was singing lullabies.
Sam couldn't break away from work for over an hour; he couldn't concentrate and wondered what his wife was up to. The first thing he spotted when he finally walked into the restaurant was the teddy bear, and, as he joined Margo at her table, he was careful not to let her see how annoyed and embarrassed he felt. "What's up?"
"I've started a teddy bear collection," she replied.
"Is that what you called me down here for?"
"I wanted to know if you'd help me pick one out each month until our baby gets here."
"What are you talking about?"
"I'm buying teddy bears for our baby!"
When he caught his breath, he took her hand, exclaiming, "Let's get out of here." They sat in their car hugging, laughing, and crying, while Sam kept asking, "Are you sure?" When Margo convinced him that it was true, he took her back to the toy store and he bought the second teddy bear—then they went to her parents to announce the news.
Be sure to celebrate your pregnancy. By celebrating, you're recognizing a major life experience, and you're affirming the joy that accompanies the news. Whether you decide to announce your pregnancy over a festive dinner with relatives or choose first to celebrate quietly with your husband, place your emphasis on what it means to you to be part of a family. At the end of nine months, you'll have a new little family member, so this is an appropriate time to talk about what family means to you. When you celebrate with your husband, friends, and family, you're not only sharing your happiness, you're including them in the process. You're inviting them to give you support and courage as you begin to ready yourself to give birth and to parent this child. As a mother to be, you need an abundant supply of support and nurturing from others so that you will be filled with love and able to pour that love into your baby. Offer a simple prayer of affirmation: I am thankful for life growing inside my body, for my husband, my family, and my friends.
Every couple needs to celebrate in their own way. Don't feel you have to immediately tell the whole world, if that doesn't feel right. Toni and Brad waited twelve years to have a baby and were cautious about celebrating too soon. It wasn't until the ultrasound at sixteen weeks assured them of a healthy boy that Toni could relax and live it up with a gourmet lunch including Grandma-tobe Patricia.
Commemorate your pregnancy any way you wish. Shout it from the treetops, call your friends, send letters, hang a banner from your door. Alec and Crystal planned their pregnancy, but, when the doctor confirmed it was twins, they walked around in a daze until they'd adjusted—then they called everyone they knew. Crystal said, "I couldn't stop smiling," Alec said, "I was so proud, I wanted everyone to know."
This is your special happening, and whether this is your first, second, or fourth baby, it's natural to share the excitement. Declare the good news, savor every moment, and you'll feel positively alive.
Vow to Treat Yourself Gently
Whether you're a few weeks' pregnant or in your ninth month, make a promise to treat yourself kindly, compassionately, and with tender, loving care. Whenever you feel less than glorious, give yourself a gentle word instead of berating yourself. Stop comparing yourself to others or to the imaginary perfect mother-to-be in your head. Your pregnancy is unique, and, although you may have heard of a woman in her eighth month running a ten-kilometer race, or of someone in her seventh month who still looks cute in a swimming suit, remind yourself that the continuum of experiences is vast. Some of your experiences will be similar to your friends', others very different. Comparing your pregnancy and your feelings to other women's will only lead to discouragement. Remind yourself that your unique experience is exactly right for you to grow into a loving mother. As you're gentle with yourself, your baby will absorb your kindhearted ways.
What does it mean to treat yourself gently as a mother-to-be? It means recognizing that from the moment of conception your body is in a state of flux. It is going through tremendous physical changes, and you're likely to feel out of balance as you adjust. In the first weeks of your pregnancy, your body is preparing to function as an incredible life support system for your baby, and, in the final weeks, your body shifts again as it prepares for birth. There are the noticeable changes everyone can see as your tummy protrudes and you wear maternity clothing. Then there are the subtle fluctuations no one except you notices—your skin's itching and flaking, your underlying fears of labor pains, and your doubts about your ability to handle all the challenges. Treating yourself gently means that you take it easy on yourself, and, even if you don't know exactly what that means, you agree to experiment until you find what gives you comfort.
If you need to go to sleep every night at seven o'clock, go ahead. Try not to lay a guilt trip on yourself because you're feeling anxious or moody. Pregnancy brings with it out-of-control feelings; you're bound to feel afraid or apprehensive. Fear is normal, so be gentle with your fears by going slowly and not blaming yourself for feeling anxious. Be merciful to yourself. The needs of your unborn child are intimately connected to your taking good care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Harshness and self-criticism have no place in your pregnancy, and as you learn to show tenderness toward yourself you'll be able to show compassion for the confusion and fear your partner or other children may be experiencing. Caring for the people you love—including your unborn child—begins by kindly caring for yourself.
My child looked at me and I looked back at him in the delivery room, and I realized that out of a sea of infinite possibilities it had come down to this: a specific person, born on the hottest day of the year, conceived on a Christmas Eve, made by his father and me miraculously from scratch.
Put Yourself Front and Center
Annie took an early pregnancy test, but she didn't tell Rick that blue meant yes. She kept it to herself and mulled it over privately, "I'm sorry for this early deception, but this pregnancy had to be mine for awhile," she said later to Rick. "I needed time to sort things out and absorb how being pregnant would affect my life. I wanted to handle the business details of my life, how my pregnancy would affect my schooling, my end of our finances. I wanted to think about it alone first." Annie was taking care of herself first, which is an important consideration for every pregnant woman.
Putting yourself front and center means treating yourself with consideration and taking into account your special needs first and foremost. What do you, the mother-to-be, need in order to be content and at ease? Right now that is what matters most. Bette, for example, got heartburn whenever she ate a full meal, and, even though dinner was a special time for her and her husband, she felt better when she ate frequent protein snacks throughout the day. She explained to Adam that although she wouldn't be eating big dinners she didn't expect him to change his routine for her. He said, "I'm glad you're taking care of yourself, because, when you do, you're taking good care of our baby."
You might be like Abbey, whose morning sickness lasted all day, or Sally, who says, "My morning sickness comes around two-thirty, so I keep a large supply of rice cakes and saltines in my desk at work, because, when I feel dizzy, I need crackers right away." Think of all the ways you can make yourself more comfortable. At work, Jessica put a stool under her desk so she could put her feet up, and at lunchtime she took a snooze on a blanket in a nearby park. Remember that pregnancy can be disorienting. Moms-to-be say as their body changes, the center of gravity shifts and they're clumsy, "I bump into things, break dishes, and spill on myself every time I eat." Pregnant life is topsy-turvy. Things that were once appealing often take a back burner. By her third month, Colleen, an artist known for her abstract nudes, couldn't pick up a brush without painting a baby. Maggie, a computer analyst, surprised herself when all she wanted to do was shop for yarn and knit baby sweaters.
Pregnancy is all consuming. Your thoughts and energy are on babies, families, and the changes in your body, so don't expect yourself to concentrate on the newspaper, the stock market, or politics. World events are boring in comparison to bringing in new life. That's okay. Don't deny yourself the perks of being pregnant. Your hormones are out of whack, so you're entitled to change your mind. Just because you signed up for the mommy's exercise class doesn't mean you have to show up everyday. You can play hooky without guilt. The other moms will envy you, wonder where you got so much courage.
Putting yourself front and center means listening to what your body and soul need and want. If you don't feel like jumping out of bed with morning sickness to do a load of laundry before going to you work, indulge yourself. You don't have to do it all. You will survive, even if the beds don't get made or the house doesn't look immaculate.
Excerpted from Expecting Baby by Judy Ford. Copyright © 1997 Judy Ford. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Foreword by Ame Beanland
Preparing Heart and Soul for Your Baby
Count Your Blessings
Celebrate the Good News
Vow to Treat Yourself Gently
Put Yourself Front and Center
Sit Down When You're Tired
Invest in a Name Book
Rise Above the Physical Glitches
Cherish Your Baby's Father
Increase Islands of Togetherness
Treasure Your Baby's Movements
Experience the Wonder of Waiting
Plan a Simple Nursery
Aspire to the Highest
Sing Lullabies, Listen to Music, and Dance
Indulge Your Cravings
Arrange for the Birth Day
Plan a Blessing and Buy Cigars
Enjoy a Little Baby Talk
Pamper Your Body
Prepare for the Nesting Urge
Let Him Care for You
Cut Down on Obligations
Appreciate the Miracle
Shape Your Parenting Philosophy
Seek Reassurance for Your Fears
Tune into Your Intuition
Steady Yourself for Tests
Reflect on Motherhood
Meditate on the Path You've Chosen
Rekindle Sexual Passion
Reach Out to Your Sweetheart
Cook Him Something Tasty
Try Some Beauty Tricks
Breathe, Breathe, Breathe
Think Glorious Thoughts
Let Your Partner Do It His Way
Console Yourself with Tea
Give Attention to Your Dreams
Keep a Possibility Journal
Remember What Really Matters
Take in the Spiritual Lessons
Willingly Make the Sacrifice
Grow with Virtues of Pregnancy
Surrender to the Process
Treat All Your Children Lovingly
Contemplate Your Priorities
Rest in the Afterglow
Address the Baby Blues
Willingly Embrace the Transformation
Let Yourself Be Radiant
Respect Your Ambivalence
Ask for Guidance from Your Girlfriends
Renew Your Relationship
Allow for Moodiness
Give Yourself Permission to Be Needful
Receive the Help That's Given
Be in Harmony with Your Baby
Lavish Yourself in Laughter
Indulge the Unpregnant You
Surround Yourself with Light
Join a Class
Schedule Time for Seclusion
Get Ready for Labor
Immerse Yourself in Stillness
Rejoice and Welcome Your Baby
Share Your Childbirth Story
Pledge Yourself to Parenting
Accentuate the Love
Prayers of Affirmation
About the Author