By: Kellie Edwards
How many times have you read books or blogs that give you this advice?
It’s huge. Information overload! And hard to sort out the fact from the fiction: food you can and can’t eat, safe exercise, preparing for the “perfect” birth, how to get better sleep during pregnancy, enjoying your pregnancy (including how to avoid unwanted advice haha!) how to get pregnant in the first place … the list goes on … and on.
You are a mother who wants the best for your growing child
It took me a long time to get pregnant. I get it. You are hungry for information. You want to do all that you can to have a healthy body and mind and you also want to make sure that you don’t do anything to harm your baby. I did too. I cared deeply about becoming a mother.
Thank goodness! This is no small matter, starting a family – and the more research that is done, the more we find out that what you do way before you get pregnant does have an impact on your child.
Now, some of that we can’t control. There are genetic influences and choices that your own grandmother and mother made that will have some influence on the start your child has in live (epigenetics is the place to find out more about this).
But there is an awful lot we can do to nourish and calm ourselves and create the optimum environment for our babies to flourish.
If there is one thing everyone agrees on, it is that reducing stress before conception and throughout your pregnancy is a top priority
It’s a crazy busy world we live in. We often seem to be rushing from one goal to the next, one commitment to the next. Is this the best environment for a baby to grow?
Our culture constantly invites us to do more, be more, achieve more, try harder, push through the limits and buy the next thing. It’s not our fault if we get caught up in all of that.
And it’s no easy task to see it for what it is and make a different choice for yourself and your baby. But this go-go-go doesn’t lend itself to the nurturing, soothing environment for life to grow.
Are you willing to make a change?
A therapist once said that he has seen many anxious children without anxious parents, but not many anxious parents who don’t have anxious children.
Unfortunately not only are emotions contagious (how often have you been upset and all of a sudden so are the people around you?) but so is stress. Born and unborn babies are like sponges for the good and the bad and not surprisingly, stress can make it harder to conceive in the first place (with or without IVF), with a recent study finding that women who reported feeling more stressed during their ovulatory window were approximately 40-percent less likely to conceive during that month than other less stressful months.
The good news of course is that if you take steps to reduce stress, you may increase your chances of falling pregnant and once you do, maintaining those good practices throughout your pregnancy will continue to support both you and your baby.
How can I reduce stress? Mindfulness works a treat
There are some obvious things you can do like rushing less, introducing moderate exercise (preferably in nature which boosts both mood and health) and eating more whole, unprocessed, fresh foods.
It’s a great idea to take stock of your own coping skills and “healthy habits” too: how well do you manage your emotions? Can you let go of worries and concerns and restore a sense of calm and relaxation? How well do you sleep?
Mindfulness. As a psychologist and mother, this is one of my favourite coping skills of all time. It not only reduces stress but improves health and well-being too.
And research shows it works better than non meditation based stress management approaches – I am not surprised.
Mindfulness is more than a quick fix. (I have some of those too – I call them stress busters – that work in the moment fast, when you need them) If you value lasting change, higher well-being and a pathway from surviving to thriving, mindfulness can help.
So what is good for your baby is also good for you!
How mindfulness can change your family life
And the benefits go beyond actual conception and pregnancy and into your new life as a mother.
Mindfulness is not another set of instructions on how to be a perfect mother. Far from it. It’s a profoundly reassuring and soothing investment in your own health and well-being which opens the possibility of:
- Greater fulfilment in mothering.
- Inner strength and comfort in difficult times.
- Greater connection to your child and yourself in good times and bad.
- An ability to stay balanced and have greater flexibility in how you respond and how quickly you recover from the frustration and unpredictability of mothering.
- Better sleep and lower stress.
- Less worry, and freedom from anxiety about imperfection.
- Confidence in your ability to set nurturing limits.
A Chinese proverb says, “One generation plants the seeds; the next enjoys the shade.”
What you do now benefits your children too. Children are reporting higher levels of stress and anxiety than ever before. They are not immune to the influences around them and the pace of life and demands on them are ever increasing. If you master these skills, you also set your child up to manage stress well. What a gift.
Do it yourself mindfulness?
Some options are “do it yourself”, trial and error (like books, blogs and YouTube videos) and some are more supported and guided. Evidence shows that being supported by a mindfulness teacher does get better results – so do check the credentials of the teacher you choose so that you are confident you are being guided well.
Classes – Online, Face to Face and individual Coaching
For many people, learning mindfulness can feel like a series of mistakes. Starting small, and punctuating your day with a number of shorter practices can help, as can joining a small class like the ones I facilitate in Melbourne, where you can practice with others who are learning and get feedback from a qualified teacher.
There are also online options for those who can’t get to a regular class or prefer to learn in the comfort of their own home (eg www.flourishtime.com).
If you prefer individual support to develop mindfulness, this is available too – if it is by a psychologist then Medicare and health care rebates may apply.
A Taste of Mindfulness Right Now:
I often start people off with some kindness based practices which are easier to learn and instantly soothing – and I also recommend taking time to pause … and just close your eyes, … taking three slow gentle deep breaths … before moving on with your day.
Let me guide you through one short practice now – one that you can do in just a couple of minutes which gives you a taste of mindfulness and the difference it can make.
Take a moment to find a comfortable but upright posture and slowly close your eyes, if that is comfortable for you to do so.
Tune in to your breath and perhaps take a deeper breath or two until you feel reasonably settled and can follow your own natural breath in and out.
Now tune in to any sounds coming to you from outside the room – what can you hear? Don’t go out looking for anything in particular, just let the sounds come to you … and then let them go again
Now … what sounds you can notice coming to you from inside the room – just listening, no need to judge … just be curious about what sounds you notice inside the room.
Now, tune in to your body. Slowly and gently scan your body from head to toe and if you notice any obvious signs of tension, gently invite them to soften, and relax just a little.
Now as we come to the end of this mini practice, you might like to take a deeper breath or two and when you are ready, gently open your eyes.
In our mindfulness programs, we experiment with a number of different practices so that you can leave with a range of options in your tool kit, that support your well-being and resource you for the journey. I hope you’ll join us.
Kellie is a Psychologist and Mindfulness teacher and runs individual and group mindfulness programs for conception, pregnancy and parenting, both online and face to face in our local area.
Register interest here: mindfulness4mothers.com/contact/