Having a baby
You’re growing an entire human, which is hard work. Taking time to rest and contemplate the journey ahead, connecting with your partner before your life gets turned upside down important. Here are my 5 top tips for preparing yourself to stay emotionally well in pregnancy and beyond.
Rest and gentle activity are your best friends in pregnancy. Magnesium is vital for the body to fully enter ‘switch off mode’ so ensure you either take a good supplement or check your daily pre/post pregnancy vitamins. Resting once baby arrives is also vital. Many cultures promote a 30 day hibernation period where family take over all chores and allow mum to be with baby. Sadly we don’t have this in our culture, however you can create a restful bubble in which to take time with your new baby. Both you and baby need to be in close contact for the next few months and your body needs to recover, so put your feet up, forget about dishes and give yourself permission to just be – it may feel indulgent but I promise you, the time will fly by and you never get that time back. Success doesn’t have to be measured by how quickly you get back on your feet, so unless you need to get out, be successful at resting and recuperating!
Ask for help
Your circle of support may be small or big, however it’s important to prepare your circle. In the later stages of pregnancy and post birth, you will benefit vastly if those around are prepared. Let them know in advance what you need and be specific. It could be washing, food, even sticking on the dishwasher for you. Every bit can help and people generally want to be helpful. If you find it difficult to ask, perhaps your partner can do this. Psychology Today has a great article on 7 ways to ask for help.
Boundaries boundaries boundaries
Boundaries are defined as ‘what is right for you and what isn’t right for you’. In the late stages of pregnancy this may mean having to say no; to plans, to house chores and to giving less energy to very emotional relationships. It may also mean keeping your upcoming labour a private affair. Once baby has arrived friends and family will want to come over and this can be extremely overwhelming. Having time getting in your flow can really help in those early days, allowing bonding and rest and remember baby isn’t going anywhere. You’ll need all your energy for the next stages of baby-life. Remember, whilst baby is very sleepy in those first few days, mum and baby are designed to be close and homebound. Setting your expressed boundaries early can really help.
Becoming a first time mum or growing the family and wondering how your new family will manage can feel really scary. Find people you can talk to; a group of women going through the same thing, or close family and friends who can listen without judgement and advice. Hormones and sleep deprivation play a huge role in your emotional worlds, but sharing and allowing your feelings will help you manage them and stop them overwhelming you. Seek professional help if you find you regularly feel overwhelmed, it’s a real sign of strength to take what you need, just as you have visited the midwife for your bodily needs.
Stop what you’re doing right now! Sit down, close your eyes, feel the chair supporting you, drop your shoulders, relax your jaw, take a deep breath in through your nose all the way to the bottom of your lungs, pause and breathe out slowly through your mouth, blowing away an imaginary feather. Push out all the oxygen from the bottom of your lungs and make the outbreath slightly longer than the inbreath. Repeat 5 times. If you’re feeling adventurous, make a low humming sound when you breathe out (this activates our ‘switch off’ system). It’s so simple yet when we’re fearful and stuck on ‘go’ we shallow breathe.
Deep breathing and consciously relaxing the body can help in many situations – sleeping in late pregnancy, having difficult conversations, in labour, when feeding baby both breast and bottle, soothing an inconsolable baby, even your first poo after birth! Get a breathing app on your phone!. Go ahead, give it another go now and notice how much calmer your feel. Try the Calm app for breathing exercises.
AUTHOR: SOPHIE MICHAELS
Sophie Michaels is a psychotherapist working with new mums in Finchley, North London. She works with adults and young people who struggle with their emotional worlds.