First Trimester: Self-care
The symptoms of early pregnancy often come out of no where. One day you are fine and the next you are battling symptoms that frequently include extreme fatigue, nausea and aversions. It can be difficult to adjust to these abrupt changes. In the first trimester I emphasize self-care and the importance of listening to our body and its needs. For some listening to their body means a significant change of pace. This decrease in productivity can lead to feelings of guilt and a loss of self-esteem. We must recognize the internal productivity of pregnancy and learn to be gentle with ourselves. Treating ourselves kindly is the primary goal of the first trimester. When we master this skill in pregnancy it becomes so much easier to carry it through the many challenges of the fourth trimester and motherhood.
To prioritize self-care I recommend:
- Developing a evening self-care ritual, ideally 1 hr but at least 20 min, before bed.
- Essential elements: unplug from tech (except for readers if you like to read before bed), an expression of gratitude, deep breathing and muscle relaxation (stretching, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation meditations).
- Developing a short morning self-care ritual, 10-15 minutes that includes a mindfulness exercise.
The number one rule for the first trimester: Be gentle with yourself
Second Trimester: Strengthen Relationships
For many, the middle portion of pregnancy is a reprieve from the most challenging of pregnancy symptoms making it the perfect time to build up your tribe!
Building your tribe consists of 3 goals.
Quality time with your partner
Working on your relationship is an important focus of both the second and third trimester. Now is the time to savor your current relationship whether this is your first baby or your fourth. Spend time together without your phones. Go on dates and have fun.
Quality time with friends and family
When you have a baby you take a hiatus from your previous life. This means you will be spending far less time with those you love. Healthy relationships are mutual so make deposits in your friendship banks before baby. Spend time with your girlfriends. Listen to them. Show them how much you care. Having a new baby can be extremely isolating. Just when you need your people the most, your baby drains all of your resources such that fitting a phone call, let alone a lunch date can be a challenge. So while it is tempting to spend your free time getting ready for baby- remember your relationships need tending. Trust me. You are going to need all the love and support in the months to come. Text your friend you haven't talked to in awhile.
Seek out or deepen relationships with other moms or expectant moms
Having a tribe of mom friends is everything. If you already have a group of moms you lean on then you know just how helpful and rewarding those relationships are. If this is your first baby and you don’t have a close group of mom friends it is time to get out in the world a find some. Even if you already have a mom tribe consider pursuing new friendships with people due around the same time. It is so nice to have friends who are going through the same thing with you. Bonus- your kiddo will have a womb friend! Prenatal yoga, breastfeeding classes and mom support groups are great places to meet other expectant moms. There are also apps like Peanut that connect moms and websites such as meetup.com that mom groups use to organize get togethers.
Start bonding with baby
You baby is part of your tribe too! Although everyone loves the idea that after birth the heavens part and a miraculous motherly love shines down upon you, that is often not the case. For many women bonding with their new baby takes weeks to months. Starting around 16 weeks your baby can hear you. A nice way to start the bonding process in pregnancy is to add a bonding activity to your morning and evening rituals. You can sing your baby a lullaby, read a poem or a book- something that you can continue once the baby is born. Encourage your partner to engage in some of the bonding too.
Third Trimester: Prepare for Birth, Baby and Postpartum
I’m not a fan of the term “birth plan” because so much of what happens in labor is out of our control but being prepared for birth is very important. It’s time to start thinking about how you would like to manage pain in labor (breathing techniques, self-hypnosis, epidural, IV pain medications). Consider taking labor classes and hiring a doula. Women who have doulas have less cesareans and faster labors. Ask your Ob provider or hospital if they have a list of doulas they work with or classes they recommend to prepare for labor.
If you plan to breastfeed make sure you have the supplies that make it easier. Items such as nipple balm, nursing bras, breastfeeding pillows and electric breast pumps are extremely helpful. Ask your Ob provider to prescribe a breast pump so that it will be covered by insurance. Consider taking a breastfeeding class. Some doulas also offer breastfeeding and postpartum support. If possible, having a doula that can provide postpartum visits is wonderful.
You will need lots of help after birth. Ideally, you will have people who can come over briefly to bring food, do some chores, bring groceries and leave. It may be uncomfortable to ask especially if you aren’t used to accepting help from others. This is the perfect time to develop that skill and become comfortable asking for help. Being a one-stop-shop mom is incredibly challenging. Motherhood can be uplifting but it can also be overwhelming. What often separates these two is support. Your friends and family want to help- go ahead and ask. I also recommend women get a postpartum kit together at the same time they are packing their hospital bag. The ideal kit includes pads, over-the-counter hemorrhoid treatments, a donut pillow, transitional clothing (remember you will still have a belly after birth), nursing supplies, over-the-counter stool softeners, and pain medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Determine where and in what baby will sleep. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends baby sleeps in the same room as the parent(s) for the first year of life. They also recommend baby sleeps in their own bassinet or cradle with nothing but a mattress and fitted sheet. Identify a pediatrician for your baby. Make sure the doctor is taking new patients. Some pediatricians will meet with expectant parents before birth. Babies don’t need much in the first few weeks onesies, swaddles, diapers, wipes and burp cloths are the most important supplies.
The last few weeks of pregnancy can be very challenging. Sleep is often difficult. It is nice to stop working for the last few weeks before your due date if it is financially feasible. Starting maternity leave before birth can allow women to make up for poor sleep during the night with naps during the day. It also allows women to slow down and center before the upheavel of the fourth trimester. Remember that having a baby, even if it isn’t your first, is a monumental transformation. You will be a newly born mother and your identity will be forever changed. It is helpful to enter this period of transformation from a centered and solid position.
I hope you have found this helpful. I would love to hear your feedback!
Wishing you growth through pregnancy, birth and beyond,