by Dr. Christine Sterling, M.D., FACOG
Is it going to be tonight? Was that a contraction? At the end of pregnancy we are always a little on edge. We tell our little one, “We are ready for you!”
But what does that mean— to be “ready for baby?” As Dr. Cassidy, PhD points out, “What people usually mean when they say they are ready, is that they have all the items they need, such as diapers and swaddles.”
What parents discover on the other side of birth is that this is not true preparation. Babies are a big business, and for good reason. There are a lot of pain-points that products can address with a newborn. In a consumer society, we have been lead to believe that preparing for baby = purchasing products. We have forgotten the most important tool we have. We have forgotten ourselves.
I believe that to be truly “prepared for baby,” we must prepare ourselves. We must prepare our Mind, Body and Heart.
Parenthood is a lens through which you see the world, a lens you cannot remove. You are not just going to be a mom to your child. You are going to be a mom, period. You will awaken to an entirely new world. Your previous way of navigating life— with goals, tasks and a predetermined direction will not serve you the same way. In fact, many times our achievement oriented brains have a hard time adjusting to the unpredictable evolution of our children.
Here are some things you can do in pregnancy to help you ease the transition (if possible have your partner do this along with you):
Start practicing the 3Cs of Overcoming Overwhelm: this practice is a tool you use anytime you feel overwhelmed with emotion or stress. It’s important that you do these steps in order.
Calm Body: breathe deeply, scan body and release tension.
Center Mind: most of the time we are overwhelmed it is because our mind is in the past or the future. The first step of centering yourself is bringing yourself into the present. Remind yourself of basic facts— “I am sitting on a chair, in my room. At this moment I am okay.” Some people also find expressing gratitude helps to bring them back from overwhelm
Connect Heart: Tell someone how you are feeling. We don’t reach out in hopes of having them fix it for us, but instead to turn our pain into human connection. When a friend comes to you and says “I’m having a hard time.” You offer her encouragement. You tell her how much you love her. And the next time, when it’s you who is struggling, she is the one you turn to. She has taught you that you can be vulnerable with her. Connecting your heart transforms your pain.
2. Start an introspective practice: There is a little voice that lives in quiet of your mind. When challenges arise, particularly in parenting, that voice is your most important guide. When you journal, pray, meditate or simply ponder you access that voice and deepen your connection to your inner wisdom. Start using that muscle now and it will be ready for you postpartum.
I have a simple strategy for preparing your body for birth and healing postpartum. Ask yourself—
Birth is the most drastically transformative experience your body will ever go through. Birth is your Grand Slam. When you are making chooses about how to spend your time, or what food and drinks to consume, ask yourself, “Would Serena Williams do this before a big match?”
Serena would not be running errands all over town. She would be hydrating, eating nutritious foods, and maximizing sleep. You want your body to be well cared for and rested for the big event.
Another crucial but often overlooked aspect of preparing for birth and postpartum is LOVING our body. Cutting-edge science is finally catching up with something most doctors and healers have long known— positive thoughts about our body help us heal. At the end of pregnancy, the discomforts often get the best of us, and we end up in engaging in negative thoughts about our body. For step-by-step instructions to increase your loving thoughts check out my Body Love Ritual. Love your body and it will love you back.
Listen, no 9 month pregnant women is sleeping 8 hrs straight overnight (if you are please message me, we all need your secret sauce). But that does not mean we give up. Poor sleep at the end of pregnancy is associated with longer labors and increased chances of a cesarean*. To maximize sleep disconnect from devices at least one hour before bed and try to go to sleep at the same time every night. The hour before you go to bed is the perfect time to do your Body Love Meditation!
*Lee, Kathryn A., and Caryl L. Gay. “Sleep in Late Pregnancy Predicts Length of Labor and Type of Delivery.” American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, vol. 191, no. 6, 2004, pp. 2041–2046., doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2004.05.086.
Consider having some meals prepared for postpartum. The 2 food elements to focus on for your postpartum nutrition are protein and fiber. Protein is the building block of our tissues and your tissues have a lot of healing to do. Give them what they need. Fiber is important because constipation is not your friend after you have a baby. Fiber pulls water into your gut creating nice soft, you guessed it, poops that don’t require pushing. Girl, trust me on this one. For more on preparing meals for postpartum check out this amazing article from a Registered Nutritionist and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Healthy Freezer Meals for New Moms
Look up the breastfeeding resources in your area and know where you are going to turn should you experience challenges. La Leche League is a great place to start.
Have your postpartum healing essentials all in one place, ready to go. If you need some help knowing what you will need check out my Ultimate Postpartum Kit Checklist.
This is the most seriously neglected aspect of postpartum preparation. Our connection to other people is an essential vitamin. During the 3-4 months after delivery, known as the 4th trimester, our new baby takes the vast majority of our attention. We have less time and energy to devote to others. To deal with this inevitable neglect, make deposits in your relationship banks in the months and weeks leading up to baby.
Send the text to the friend you have been thinking about.
Grab the cup of coffee with your college roommate
Go on date nights with your partner
Take your other children (or nieces and nephews) on individual excursions
A robust support system is the secret sauce of postpartum recovery. Every time we reach out to someone in our life to spend time, offer encouragement or let them know we are thinking about them, we strengthen the net beneath us that will catch us if we fall.
In this guide I’ve taught you how to prepare your whole self for the 4th trimester, addressing your Mind, Body and Heart. I’ve taught you the 3Cs to Overcoming the Overwhelm and the “What Would Serena Do?” method for preparing our body. We’ve also discussed the impact of positive thoughts on healing. If you need a little step-by-step to increasing these positive thoughts check out my Body Love Meditation.
I love you so much precious momma! You are going to be an amazing mom. I’m here to help.
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