“Sometimes you have to step off the worn path, lay down with your eyes up to the blue sky, interlock your fingers behind your head and let the grass grow up around you.” -Leo Christopher

The beginning of pregnancy is so full of ideas and change. A new baby rapidly grows inside and a new mother is alive with racing thoughts. Preparation for this new little being begins early, sometimes in simply making room in one’s heart. Thoughts begin in the mother’s mind almost immediately after seeing those double lines; Excitement after trying for so long? Shock? How will this impact her life? Her job? Her relationship? Her family dynamic?

Soon she begins dreaming and planning for a physical space for baby, anticipating all the needs baby will have and what must be gathered and prepared. Eventually she will ponder labor: where, when and who will be present. Oftentimes in early pregnancy, she wants the whole village to be present for this day of celebration! She lays in bed smiling, feeling little thumps and bumps as she drifts off to sleep with thoughts of how the big day will play out and what that tiny face will look like all wrapped in her arms of love.

As pregnancy progresses these thoughts are changed many times over and action begins to take place solidifying what the mind is conjuring. So begins the physical work of preparation; organizing, acquiring all things baby, tracking down must have items, even painting rooms and assembling furniture. Many nights are spent researching products and gadgets, hunting and gathering to “build the nest” for this little person that’s coming. Add in vacation or a holiday season or even other children and most mothers collapse into bed at night exhausted.

I believe that perhaps the most important thing a woman can do in pregnancy is learn to slow down. The work of pregnancy is deep and whole. It’s easy to forget there are not just physical changes taking place…

Pregnancy involves a mixture of perfectly balanced hormones, chemically different for each woman. Mental shifts come in abundance and can range from morbid “what if’s” to ecstatic and impatient to meet this baby. The mind must process what the body is making space for and feelings can be overwhelming. It’s entirely possible to feel both so grateful and so terrified the other shoe is going to drop because life just can’t be this wonderful! Past traumas of all kinds can bubble to the surface, begging to be processed, needing attention, sometimes even to be scrutinized, and somehow healed or sealed and tucked away to make room for this new experience. Relationships with the other parent as well as extended family all must shift and oftentimes pregnancy is when new boundaries are made in the family, roles are modified and established. These shifts can be emotionally exhausting and even liberating at the same time.

Is your head spinning yet? There’s a cascade of changes going on in a pregnant woman! Much more than the bump.

Slowing down is so important. It allows a shift in focus that can drastically change, literally, all of the above. Self care is crucial. And it’s a habit that any mother or father will tell you is quite important to parental survival once the baby is born…AND as it grows through the stages of childhood. It begins even in the very first month of pregnancy.

Self care allows us as parents to be the parents we want to be in all those plans and thoughts and daydreams. Self care offers a demonstration to our children of an important life lesson. When we slow down it allows memories to be created, sacred moments that will last so much longer than any amount of “stuff” in a padded “nest. Somehow in slowing down, all the other things that need to be done seem to take care of themselves. We rejuvenate ourselves from the inside, which gives the mental fortitude to tackle those deep questions we ask ourselves, the emotional resilience and persistence to process the tough trauma parts of our past and the creativity to find solutions outside our usual box. We gain the confidence to delegate all those nesting jobs, or simply ask for help. We find the time to nurture ourselves and our babies. Labor thoughts can be changed from panic to plan and even the time to read and prepare for the one avoidable part of pregnancy (birth) can be found.

The best way to slow down is to start slow! Make an intentional pause in your day. I’ve added a list of my favorite ideas to start with. Let go of guilt. Take a deep breath and smile.

My favorite list of slowing down activities:

  • Go outside. It’s quite amazing what nature does for the adult human brain. Just sit. Or stroll.
  • Draw, color or write.
  • Soak in the tub.
  • Sip a favorite drink and read a book.
  • Do a couple yoga poses.
  • Take some really deep belly breaths.
  • Talk to your baby. Babies are very aware and crave relationship long before birth!
  • Take a nap.
  • Make a gratitude list.
  • Drink a glass of water. Add lemon.
  • Go on a hunt for your favorite affirmation.
  • Light a candle.
  • Make your favorite meal.
  • Buy flowers. For you.

Soak in how you feel after slowing down and make a goal to find that place more often. You’ll be better able to remember where you’re going and most importantly… why.

Randi Payton LM, CPM
The midwife growing Family Tree Midwifery