Mindfulness is a simple practice that can bring more calm, clarity, and relaxation to your daily life. Notice that I said simple, not easy. Before we dive into how mindfulness can help relieve anxiety and worry about the upcoming birth of your baby and support you as you transition into motherhood, let’s first talk about what “mindfulness” means.
Mindfulness is a practice that seems to be riding on the coattails of yoga. Yoga has become extremely popular in our western society, with mindfulness and meditation coming right up behind. They are similar and complimentary practices, all benefitting us mentally, physically and emotionally. Mindfulness is usually referenced when discussing awareness of ourselves and our actions. It is the practice of focusing on the present moment and our thoughts, feelings, emotions and physical sensations in that moment. One of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness is while eating a square of rich dark chocolate. It’s a nice introductory practice and a great excuse to eat a piece of chocolate! (Guided practice included at the end of the article.) You can practice mindfulness while eating, exercising, playing with our kids, making love, walking in nature—and the list goes on. The more you practice being mindful, the easier it will become and the more benefits you will receive.
There isn’t a hard-and-fast rule about practicing mindfulness; it really is just about increasing your awareness of the present moment and your relationship and reactions to what is happening in that moment. It’s not about “making your mind go blank” or breathing in a specific way; it’s about noticing. Heightened awareness. We often go through life on autopilot. (Like driving from point A to point B and not really remembering much about what you saw or how you got there.) With a mindfulness practice, we turn the autopilot off and attune our senses to what is happening moment-by-moment.
Mindful Mama-to-be: How to create a mindfulness practice that will support you as you transition into motherhood.
So how does this relate to pregnancy, birth, and motherhood? When you are pregnant or already a parent, you are no longer just one person worrying about yourself and your own needs, wants and desires. Your life is now about yourself and your child (or children). From what you eat, to how and when you sleep, and where you go and what you do, your actions now affect yourself and them. And this can be exhausting and overwhelming. This is where mindfulness comes in. I’ve included a mindfulness practice into my self-care toolbox, and I talk about it in my recent book, Pure Nurture. As a parent or mom-to-be, you must practice self-care in order to be the best you can be. If you are depleted, agitated or exhausted, you will not be as patient, loving, supportive or healthy for those that depend on you most. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily life will allow you to ride the waves of life and the bumps in the road more smoothly. Something physically and psychology happens when you are more mindful. Your brain literally changes for the better, helping to relieve stress and aid in dealing with adversity in a calmer, more relaxed way. If you’re interested in the why and how of this research, Mindful.org has several articles and more information.
As you prepare for the birth of your baby, you may be experiencing some worry or anxiety about the unknown. How will the birth go? Will the baby be healthy? When will labor begin? What will it be like when I bring my baby home for the first time? Etc., etc. There are so many unknowns when it comes to the birth of your baby. Practicing mindfulness during pregnancy can support you amid the uncertainty and help you to remain calm, confident and relaxed. Here are a few ideas to support you during this special time:
Mindful Mama Practices:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation:
Take a few deep and relaxed breaths in and out through your nose. Notice how your body is feeling, starting with your feet. Work your way up your legs, relaxing the muscles as you go. Relax your hips, pelvis, glutes, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, back, neck and all the muscles in your face, including your jaw and tongue. As you consciously relax all of your muscles, continue to breathe in a deep and relaxed way. You have just practiced mindfulness.
Positive Birth Visualization:
Take 3 deep breaths in and out through your nose. Next, close your eyes and imagine the location where you would like to give birth. Notice who you want to be there with you. It’s only those that bring you joy and help you to feel loved and supported. You are safe and loved. Your body is strong, yet relaxed, and you feel confident and ready to meet your baby. *
While you practice this visualization, you will be experiencing all of these positive emotions in the present moment. Filling your body with affirmative thoughts and feelings allows you to maintain a state of ease and helps you to be freer from anxiety and stress.
(*Note: No matter how much you prepare, your birth will be unique and there is no way to know exactly how or when it will happen. This exercise is to be used as a guided visualization to help you stay calm and relaxed during your pregnancy and leading up to birth and delivery. At the same time, it’s important to educate yourself about the many ways birth can unfold. Being prepared to release your expectations and follow a different path as labor progresses (if needed) can help prevent later distress. In the event of a traumatic birth, or if you are pregnant and have had previous difficult birth experiences, there are resources out there to help you.)
As you move throughout your day, notice all the things you feel grateful for. The smallest things can be noticed, such as your soft bed as you lie down to sleep. The birds chirping outside your window. Your morning breakfast. Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to create more ease in your life. When we focus on all that is going well and all that we appreciate, there is less room for worry or fear. As you move through the rest of your day today, focus on all the things that you feel grateful for, big or small.
As you notice the more minute aspects of your life on a moment-by-moment basis, you are practicing mindfulness. You can try one or more of the ideas above, or just simply notice your breath as you are driving your car, standing in line at the store or preparing dinner. It really is that simple. It may not be easy at first. In fact, the hardest part is remembering to be present and to notice. The more you practice, the easier it will become. And the easier it becomes, the more positive impact it will have on your life and your health—physically, mentally and emotionally. And as a mom-to-be and as a new mom, that is invaluable.
A Mindfulness Chocolate Practice (From Pure Nurture: A Holistic Guide to a Healthy Baby)
Choose some chocolate—either a type that you’ve never tried before or one that you have not eaten recently. Any kind will do, but the important thing is that it is a type you would not normally eat or that you do not often consume.
- Open the wrapper and inhale the aroma.
- Break off a piece and look at it. Really let your eyes drink in what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny.
- Set it on your tongue and close your mouth. Try to hold it on your tongue and let it melt, noticing any tendency to suck at it. Chocolate has over 300 different flavors. See if you can identify some of them.
- If you notice your mind wandering while you do this, simply notice where it went off to, and then gently bring it back to the present moment.
- After the chocolate has completely melted, swallow it very slowly and deliberately. Let it trickle down your throat.
- Repeat this with one other piece.
*Disclaimer: Affiliate link below.
Kristy S. Rodriguez, pre- and postnatal wellness expert and advocate, is the owner and founder of Pure Nurture, LLC, a business devoted to educating and inspiring women to nurture and nourish themselves through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. As a Holistic Health Coach and Registered Yoga Teacher specializing in pre- and postnatal wellness, Kristy works with individual clients, as well as teaching classes and workshops, both in person and online. Connect with her at [email protected] or on Instagram and Facebook.