Pregnancy and the Nutrition of Our Experiences
When we are pregnant, it is easy to think of feeding our bodies a diet rich in clean, healthy foods. We try to avoid processed foods for the most part, instead choosing whole foods to keep our own bodies strong and healthy, and to keep our absorption and digestion functioning well. The quality of water, foods and air that we take into our own bodies as mothers will contribute to building the cells that will form the organs, bones and nervous system of our child’s body, starting them out on the path that will be their life outside the womb. Our choices contribute to building the very bodies that babies will be born into. Awesome, yes? And it is not just food that we are digesting, assimilating and sharing with our unborn babies; we are also taking in and assimilating impressions from conversations with friends, from the movies that we watch and music that we listen to. Truly, pregnant or not, we are digesting everything that we come in contact with, the beneficial and not-so-beneficial. Let me offer a few examples: All of us can think of a conversation that we have shared with a friend that has made you feel wonderful after having. Your mind is clear and stress-free, if only for a short time. You feel more emotionally resilient, maybe even giving the guy who took your parking spot a free pass. You are buoyed by your good dose of friendship and if monitored like many studies have, you would also likely exhibit ideal heart and blood pressure rates for a certain period following. And most of us can also think of a scary or dramatic movie that has made your heart race a bit faster, or made your shoulders creep up around your ears, or made you feel “jumpy” and kept your imagination going long after the closing credits rolled. Or think to a confrontation with another person that left you without an appetite or with a “knot” in your throat. There are so many day-to-day examples of how we are digesting—or getting indigestion from—what we are taking in, food or otherwise. Again, awesome, yes? It is truly awesome that we have an opportunity to watch our physical reactions, and our mental and emotional responses to what we come in contact with; and to then choose what we want to avoid in the future and what we want more of in our lives. It is the blessing of responsibility at it’s very heart—-we are offered the blessing to respond. I would like to share with you some ideas and ways to bring more goodness into your life and your pregnancy. I share these from my own experience of pregnancy and labor. They may or may not suit you as well as they did me, but more importantly, I share them so that you may hear your own deeper wisdom of what does suit you perfectly. Your wisdom, your own perfect mothering wisdom, will always be your best guide. Above all else, foster your relationship and confidence in this. Keep good company. I try to keep good company as a regular practice in my life, but I felt this need even more clearly during my pregnancy with my son. Look to your friends who really bolster you during your pregnancy, and spend time together and take comfort in their company. When you see another mother who has a way with her children that you find yourself drawn toward, ask to spend time together so that you can watch and learn more about what she does, and more importantly what it sparks inside of you. Build your tribe. Find others, parents or not, who believe in and support natural pregnancy, birth and parenting. As a pregnant woman, you are an integral and sacred part of your tribe and greater community. Share freely from your heart in these circles; take what benefits you and leave what is not needed. Avoid people who provoke you negatively. Regularly mine and my husband’s plan for a midwife-supported home birth was met with concern and fear from others, both strangers and some of those closest to us. The sight of my growing belly sometimes provoked others to begin to share stories of births that reflected fear and negativity, again this was true for some who were close to us, and even strangers who would approach me at the market. You will find your own way, but my way became speaking up immediately with a kind, yet firm voice, addressing the situation as needed and stopping the harmful story at it’s start. I used humor too, depending on the situation, but the lightest touch possible always seemed best for any situation. Learning to skillfully protect your heart and mind now during pregnancy are skills that you will take with you into parenting. These tools will help you to stand for and protect your family. Respect your sensitivity as a gift of motherly wisdom. It is worth the effort, and usually it turns out to be only a small effort, to deflect much of the negative company in our lives. Enjoy nurturing movies, music and books. Always a romantic, I went even more bananas for Jane Austen during my pregnancy. I watched movies that made me laugh and made me swoon. I also read books featuring characters of strong, wise women. Ami McKay’s The Birth House, Sandra Dallas’ Prayers For Sale , and Willa Cather’s Song of the Lark are three books that I enjoyed during my own pregnancy. Watching birth-positive videos and movies are another great choice. Choose them based on your own heart’s desire for your labor and birth. Protect yourself from TV shows and movies that distort birth as unnaturally violent or a chaotic event. One physical cue that I looked for in myself was the sensation of more opening; if I felt more opening in my heart and within my body, then I went toward those things. I listened to music that held joy for me, and also to music that held a sacred rooting for me based on my childhood. A few of my favorites are Chants from the monks of the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos and music from Nóirín Ní Riain. Find what makes you laugh, swoon and roots you into your joy; then lavish all of your favorites upon yourself, for there is no better time than right now. Take time in the natural world. During my pregnancy, I felt more than ever that I was an integral part of the natural world. There was life within me and all around me; and this was a great comfort to me when I felt any moments of fear and questioning that came up around laboring and birthing my child. For me, hiking in the mountains rooted me in the natural world and soothed my concerns. The trees, lakes and the wind in my face all bolstered my confidence in the natural process of birth and my own place, and my child’s place, within it. Natural and wild places leave impressions that will benefit you and your unborn child. Wiggle your toes into beach sand, touch and smell clean soil. Take advantages of the natural opportunities that are around you, whether they are mountain trails, a sunset watched from an urban balcony or letting the rain fall on your face. Enjoy touch. My experience of touch increased tremendously during my pregnancy. Holding my husband’s hand felt even more wonderful, slipping into a salty bath felt divine and snuggling into bed with fresh sheets made me giggle. If this rings true for you too, take the extra breath of time to luxuriate yourself with simple pleasures. Touch and smell the ingredients as you prepare a meal, give yourself an oil massage after bathing to condition your skin and to keep at bay the itchy dryness that can come with an expanding belly. Choose clothes and fabrics that feel delicious against your skin and enjoy weight of your blankets on your body as you fall asleep. Take in beauty. We bring in and digest so much through our eyes. Taking in images and scenes that we find beautiful benefits us emotionally and physically. Visit places that your eyes enjoy: museums, parks and gardens, and bookstores are some of my favorites. Look for images of motherhood and babies that promote confidence and that foster your heart’s most sincere wish for your birth. I have a deep confidence in the dynamic between a mother and her unborn child, and also in the sacred design of the unborn’s internal environment. This confidence was strengthened through my personal experience of the slow and natural opening that a woman’s body goes through to accommodate a growing baby and all the supporting anatomy, and then further opening to partner with her baby in labor and birth. This is truly a journey of two, a dance of two, with each of you contributing movements to facilitate the labor and birth. Protecting your mind and your heart with simple daily choices throughout your pregnancy will deeply benefit you and your child before, during and beyond your own miraculous birth.