Read an Excerpt
Nurturing yourself During Pregnancy
Your journal or paper, and a pen.
Bubble baths, country music, historical novels, solitude whatever makes you feel contented and cozy.
The courage to set limits and say no.
When to Do It:
- When you are worn to the bone but it would never occur to you to cancel your third cousin's visit from out of town or to miss the wedding of a colleague, or to leave work before 10 P.m.
- If your idea of being good to yourself involves tax receipts, Lean Cuisine, and reruns of Punky Brewster
- When pregnancy has physically forced you to take it easy, but you can't relax because you feel too pressured by everything you should be doing.
- If creating an enjoyable, enriching, exceptional pregnancy sounds grand.
What Is It?
The kernel, the gist, the essence of nurturing yourself during pregnancy is treating yourself as if you were in the womb. Believing you have the right to be cared for by others, to be supported. Understanding how frightening and exhilarating it can be to open yourself to the new identity growing inside you: the identity of you as a mother. Grasping that you're in the midst of one of the biggest life transitions you will ever experience, and at the end of this transformation you are going to be called upon to do more giving than you ever have done and for an extended period of time (motherhood is about endurance). If you're not good to yourself now, if you don't take time to replenish and enjoy yourself, how are you going to do it after the baby arrives? For veteranmoms, it is already difficult to find time for yourself. But it is going to be exponentially more difficult after you add your new baby to your life's equation. So although you feel you should be putting all your focus on helping your first child(ren) adjust, some time and attention must be given to you too.
If you don't fit the traditional picture of motherhood, your need for self-nurturing multiplies. Single, married but unsupported by your partner, lesbian, disabled, older: all of these realities can leave you feeling exposed and craving support. For example, strangers will ask about your pregnancy, always assuming you have a happy husband at home. When you don't, you may feel forced to explain, lie, or feel defensive. Older or disabled women may experience people judging them, in effect saying, "How dare you be pregnant!" Even when you are comfortable and happy with your choices, this can be wearying. Women who have struggled to become pregnant may feel "on-stage" or fragile. Women carrying twins have an increased need for nurturing. You all must take especially excellent care of yourself now because you face so much additional pressure.
For Whitney Kershaw, mother of Ian and Lily, pregnancy was the first time her life became her own. She has been a professional actress, dancer, and singer since she was eight, always being told what to do and always being asked, "So, what are you doing next?" With her first pregnancy, she felt, "Finally, I didn't have to prove myself, because it was obvious what I was doing. I became valuable for me, not for what show I'm doing, or what award I won." For Whitney, nurturing herself became her way of life. She gave herself the gift of spending most her pregnancy "doing everything I had never had the time for. I finally believed I deserved to take care of myself. Before I got pregnant, I didn't feel worthy. [This from a woman who has danced on Broadway and starred in a IV series just so you know that beautiful, talented, accomplished women struggle with the belief they are not worth self-care.] My pregnancies were a peak time in my life because I went with my body rhythms, I did what I wanted, I felt wonderful because I was doing good things for me."
Jodie, mother of Livingston, reported a similar experience. "I made time three times a week to attend exercise class no matter how crazy work was. I would have never taken the time before. Pregnancy made me take better care of myself. I felt absolute clarity for perhaps the first time in my life. You can feel strong, healthy, and empowered. Every bit is so unique, you only have this one time. The most important thing is to be present."
I hope this chapter, this book, will help you create similarly wonderful, centered, playful, true-to-yourself feelings throughout pregnancy and motherhood.
What to Do:
What I Wish Someone Would Have Told Me
I wish someone had told me, when I was pregnant with my first baby, to take it easy Loll in bed. Go to three movies in a row. Read lots of books. Do only what you want as much as possible. Celebrate your freedom. This may be your last time for many years (gulp). So repeat these phrases to yourself as often as possible: take it easy. Enjoy this time; it may never come again. Write these words down and carry them in your purse or briefcase. It helps to be reminded.
Wrap your arms around the unknown. So many moms I interviewed said, "If I had only known what the whole thing was going to be like, especially labor, I could have relaxed. I wouldn't have been nearly as uptight, worried, afraid, ambivalent." (Take your pick.) I once led a group of women on a high ropes course (a series of balancing elements on ropes suspended forty to sixty feet in the air that you walk through wearing a harness attached to steel cables). Many of the participants felt fear, sometimes all-consuming, until they zipped down a pulley to the ground. Then they said, "That wasn't so hard. If only I had known." Don't dismiss your fear, but remember: you have faced the unknown before. You can handle it.