Ubiquitous prenatal gadgets tempt pregnant women at every turn as the market is saturated with ever-changing options for mommy, daddy, and baby. Stroller technology alone is enough to baffle the mind- maybe next year we’ll see an organic, Tempur-Pedic option for some ungodly amount of money that recycles used diapers which will make the Orbit seem old school.
Advice from sisters, mothers, friends, and countless strangers streams in as our bellies expand, solicited or not. Somehow even when seasoned women talk about their choices and experiences in pregnancy, labor, or motherhood there is often a tinge of pressure. The subtext, consciously or not, might be urging the budding mom-to-be to, “be like me” or conversely, “I have so many regrets, don’t do what I did” or the feedback might even be paradoxical, “You should do what I did even though I don’t feel great about the choices I made. I wish I knew what you know now”. Of course these loved ones (or even the strangers on the street) don’t intend on creating insecurities, often contributing to anxiety or even egging on feelings of overwhelm and depression. Nevertheless, some pregnant women report having an uncomfortable sense of dis-ease in their psyches as they traverse this transformative time in their lives.
Pregnancy is an opportune time for culture to invite women to focus on the developing baby in utero- to slow down and create space for prenatal bonding, reflection, and moments of wonderment. Instead there is often societal chatter about what to buy, how to decorate, as well as inherited concerns about how to lose the “baby weight” even though baby has yet to arrive. All of these factors contribute to externally focused desires. A mantra missing from mainstream society is one of trust- trusting oneself and carving out time to get familiar with feelings associated with prenatal parenting. Who am I as a woman, a mother-to-be, a partner? How does my childhood impact how I see and understand myself? Are issues lingering from my family life that might be worth attending to now, before I blaze a new path of parenthood? What kind of role model do I want to be for my child? If I find myself concerned about enduring postpartum struggles, how might I bolster my internal resources now so that I feel more centered when baby is in my arms? Though these questions might stimulate a variety of complex feelings, the benefits of exploring these emotions during pregnancy will strengthen your core, subsequently engendering a more mindful childhood for your baby. In-depth psychological investigation is potentially a lifelong preventative investment, paying dividends along the way.
Research reveals that perinatal and postpartum mood disorders are often linked to: strivings for perfection, unexplored and often unrealistic expectations of control, anxiety and depression during pregnancy, prior history of depression, family history of depression, ambivalence around issues of mutual dependency, helplessness, history of early loss, trauma, or abuse, previous bouts of postpartum depression, obstetrical complications, and lack of social support. The prognosis for postpartum blues and depression is directly tied to the swiftness with which one addresses the symptoms. In other words, responding to internal uneasiness straight away could make a world of difference. Taking steps to deepen your understanding of who you are during this monumental milestone- pregnant and on the precipice of parenthood- can harness confidence and promote grace.
Here are some psychological meditations for cultivating a conscious pregnancy and postpartum period, with baby in mind:
-Be connected. Being present, being attuned to your body, your developing baby, and your breath can cultivate embodied awareness. Try to take time each day (even if it’s only for 2 minutes) during pregnancy and beyond to notice your when you are feeling present and when you are distracted.
-Be true. Sentimentality around pregnancy and parenting can make moms-to-be feel alienated. Some women don’t necessarily feel overjoyed by all of the elements of pregnancy or postpartum changes. If you’re not 100% excited all the time, that’s okay. Be who you are. Take time to reflect on what you truly feel, what your gut reactions are, and what feels right for you along the parenting path. For those of you who thoroughly enjoy pregnancy or who want to be a full-time stay at home mom, be true to those feelings. Honor what is deeply you.
-Be bold. Step into uncharted territory within. Mindfully wonder about your enthusiasm, your fears, your identity, your personal history. Challenge yourself to rest in uncomfortable places internally. Ask for help when needed.
-Be curious. Attachment and bonding during pregnancy and in the early moments of your child’s life sets the framework for your relationship with your baby and their relationship with the world. Cultivating curiosity while your baby is developing in your body through noticing prenatal movements, talking or singing to your baby in your belly, or touching your baby “bump” as you acknowledge this burgeoning life within can create a sense of connectivity. Reflect on attachment relationships in your family of origin and consider addressing issues that might be pulling at your heartstrings. Wonder about how you might nurture your relationship with your child similarly and differently than what you remember experiencing in your childhood. Consider the subtleties of bonding and attachment which might be as simple as gazing into your babies eyes, or narrating your actions or thoughts as you transition baby from one activity to another, or making weekly visits to your psychotherapist while pregnant to explore unhealed challenges that might inhibit the flow of attachment.
-Be generous. Making sure you feel soothed, balanced, or attuned with yourself might be just what you need to help stave off postpartum challenges. Taking care while pregnant may plant seeds of mind-body health and wellbeing. Some fortifying steps to take could include: psychotherapy individually or with your partner, meditation, massage, yoga, acupuncture, thoughtfully considering your birth wish list, or pondering who you might want supporting you at your baby’s birth.
Being present with yourself in pregnancy will help you to be present with your child in parenthood. With the aim of fostering a dynamic bond with your baby, examining your internal landscape during the prenatal phase can yield increased clarity and space for connecting with this new addition to your family.
Emotional wellbeing is something we can endeavor for throughout pregnancy. As far as whether or not the next generation of strollers has a built-in ipod and solar panels is something we can leave up to the stroller gurus.
Follow Jessica Zucker, Ph.D. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drzucker
Resources for Birth and Pregnancy
Watch Ina May Gaskin speak on the Human Impact of Hi-Tech Birth.
American Pregnancy Association. The American Pregnancy Association is a national health organization committed to promoting reproductive and pregnancy wellness through education, research, advocacy, and community awareness.
Association for Prenatal and Perinatal Psychology and Health. APPPAH illuminates the life-long impact of conception, pregnancy and birth on babies, families and society. APPPAH’s mission is to educate professionals and the public about, and advocate for, the life-changing discoveries made in the area of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health.
Birthing the Future. The mission of Birthing The Future®, is to gather, synthesize, and disseminate the finest world wisdom about birthing and the care of mothers and babies from pre-conception to the first birthday.
Cesarean Statistics for Your Local Hospital. Find C-section and VBAC, vaginal birth after Cesarean, rates for your local hospital.
Citizens for Midwifery. The goal of Citizens for Midwifery is to see that the Midwives Model of Care is available to all childbearing women and universally recognized as the best kind of care for pregnancy and birth. Citizens for Midwifery also endorses the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative™.
Coalition for Improving Maternity Services. The Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS) is a coalition of individuals and national organizations with concern for the care and well-being of mothers, babies, and families. Our mission is to promote a wellness model of maternity care that will improve birth outcomes and substantially reduce costs. This evidence-based mother-, baby-, and family-friendly model focuses on prevention and wellness as the alternatives to high-cost screening, diagnosis, and treatment programs.
Doulas of North America. Pardon us for bragging, but we are the oldest, largest and most respected doula association in the world. Our founders are among the foremost experts on doula care, and DONA International certification is a widely respected measure of quality and professionalism. We are an international, non-profit organization of doulas that strives to have every doula trained / educated to provide the highest quality / standards for birth and/or postpartum support to birthing women and their families.
Midwives Alliance of North America, MANA, In 1982, the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA) was established as a professional organization for all midwives, recognizing the diversity of educational backgrounds and practice styles within the profession. Its goal is to unify and strengthen the profession of midwifery, thereby improving the quality of health care for women, babies, and communities.