Pregnancy is a special time for women and families. It’s a normal and natural process, but it also can feel mysterious, magical, and challenging. The changes in a woman’s body, and the development of a fully formed baby from two tiny cells is an incredible process. It is many things, but “easy” is not a word I would use to describe it. Although it may be perfectly normal and easy for a woman’s body to produce a baby, it isn’t usually easy to the mother herself. The physical discomforts and emotional changes during pregnancy, and the physical and emotional feat of giving birth are both challenging and rewarding. The ultimate reward, of course, is the new life brought into the world– a treasure beyond description.
Each trimester brings its own unique challenges. During the first trimester, many women experience nausea, food aversions, and fatigue, often quite severe. These discomforts can make it difficult for women to continue with their usual daily tasks, such as work, childcare, and chores. At the same time, during this first trimester there is usually very little to “show” for all of that. It can feel like a weeks-long case of the flu, rather than the beautiful beginning of a new life.
This is where a positive and focused mindset can make all the difference. I am currently 8 weeks pregnant myself, and I have found that having a positive mantra has been helpful. Rather than groaning and complaining and obsessing over the discomfort, I acknowledge it and reframe it. It is good to remember that nausea and fatigue are signs of a healthy and strong pregnancy. (That being said, women who don’t experience nausea can have healthy and strong pregnancies as well!) It is also good to remember that in most cases, this stage is temporary and will pass when the second trimester arrives. My mantra has been, “This is a strong and healthy pregnancy, and this part will pass.”
While keeping a positive and peaceful state of mind, I also acknowledge my discomfort and practice self-kindness. This means respecting my limits, asking for and accepting help, and taking care of myself. Right now, my limits are high. I am not able to contribute much to household chores, which I usually consider one of my main jobs as a homemaker. I also find myself very limited in my ability to play with and entertain my toddler, which of course is my full-time job as a stay-at-home-mom. I find that I require a lot of rest, and I’ve been taking it easy by doing only the bare minimum and allowing others to help. Most of the help comes from my husband, who is an understanding and helpful partner. I’ve also hired a babysitter to play with Cody a couple of times per week. We are limited in our budget, of course, so on the days when it’s just me and Cody, I remind him often that I need to rest and I do my best to play with him from the couch or floor.
Maintaining a healthy diet during this stage is also not just challenging for me, but impossible. I find that I am unable to eat most foods, let alone highly nutritious foods. During this time, I eat anything I can, and remember that my nutrition before and after these short months is perfectly able to overcome this period of a lower-quality diet. I accept my needs as they come, and treat myself with compassion rather than guilt.
With all of these challenges, I accept that I am doing my best and that there is no shame in that. I reject mommy-guilt (and wife-guilt, and health-guilt, and any other kind of guilt!) in favor of self-kindness. I remember that this is a relatively short phase in our lives.
Pregnancy is a time of many changes, and accepting those changes with positivity and compassion allows this time to be more peaceful, joyful, and even transformative. It’s not always easy, but it is one of our incredible abilities as women, and in many ways it is an amazing gift to be able to bear life. Let’s treat ourselves kindly during the journey of pregnancy!