The female body is absolutely incredible, emotionally and physically our bodies do a lot for us around the clock. As my body is working in over-drive to develop a tiny human I am focused on being more intentional about honoring it and taking proactive steps towards a healthier, happier well-being. The goals I have set for myself you may too find helpful, not only for pregnancy but also for women who are hoping to conceive and mothers who are giving every bit of themselves to caring for their children.
EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING As women who are thinking about or trying to conceive a baby, growing a baby or raising a child, our emotional well-being is one of the most important practices for our overall health yet is (at least for me!) the easiest to neglect. We are constantly thinking about others before ourselves and taking on some pretty dense emotional weight. My goal for emotional well-being is to slow down more often through meditation and journaling. Meditation however, is a very challenging task for me, as my mind seems to be non-stop busy (oh, yours too?). How do I find the time? How do I find stillness? No but seriously, how do I meditate? I recently found Expectful, took advantage of their 14 day free trail, and I was sold. The app provides guided meditations, in 10 or 20 minute lengths, that focus on where a woman is at mentally in their journey to conceive, different trimesters of pregnancy, and on into motherhood. There are extensive topics from mediations that focus in on breath, relaxation and focus and also mediations that focus on releasing expectations, gratitude, trusting the body, and connecting with your partner. They have thought through every facet of the journey and it is as if someone is there to hold your hand, connect with you, and take you through the detailed (and sometimes messy) emotional process of the motherhood journey right there at your fingertips. This has been hands-down one of the best discoveries I have made for myself this pregnancy and I do plan to continue using the guided meditations afterwards as well.
NOURISHING FOOD As a vegetarian for nearly 9 years now I’m forced to be conscious about everything I eat, so while this goal comes a bit more naturally to me than it’s still challenging to maintain while I’m so hyper-focused on feeding Buddy around the clock. Actually just the other day I failed to eat a substantial breakfast, had my blood drawn, and then I ended up nauseous and sick in a Target bathroom stall with Buddy in my arms (insert face palm). That was eye-opening for me as I reflected on how many days in that past week I had skipped a meal or did not prioritize a substantial meal for myself. It’s an extra step for me to plan my daily meals as well as Buddy’s but after the rude awakening at Target I know this is a must for the remainder of my pregnancy. I plan many of my meals using recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest or using my favorite cookbooks, if you are curious to see what I make. They aren’t always the healthiest or cleanest meals by any means but my personal healthy eating philosophy at the moment is to make homemade, vegetarian focused dishes that include as many whole ingredients as possible, and that seems to work best for my body.
ORAL HEALTH Okay, did I throw you a curve ball with this one? I actually cannot speak to the importance of this enough, as odd as it sounds. Here is more than you probably ever needed to know about me, but I promise it serves a point: I have been avidly taking care of my teeth and gums my entire life, yet I have had terrible tooth and gum health. It didn’t seem to matter how often I flossed or brushed my teeth, I always had cavities and gum issues… until about 4 years ago. My dental hygienist recommended I start using a Waterpik water flosser (which I used as a tweenager when I had braces but I honestly thought its sole purpose was removing food from wired-up mouths). Since I've always found traditional flossing challenging I decided to give the Waterpik method a try. After q few days of using it, I quickly became obsessed with it. A couple of years later I read Alisa Vitti’s book Woman Code (which is a MUST READ for ANY woman, whoever you are, it will absolutely blow your mind!) who even spoke about how important oral health is for fertility. I then became religious about using my Waterpik when we wanted to begin starting our family. Flash forward to my last pregnancy, a time when women are often riddled with gum issues and gingivitis (something about the hormones). I continued to use my Waterpik (I have the Aquarius® Professional Designer Series Water Flosser in black) and during my 6-month dental check-up my hygienist commented on my outstanding gum health and how surprised she was by it. Actually, to quote my hygenist, if I may, “Your gums are actually healthier than mine!” WHAT? Yep.
Here is my deal with my Waterpik water flosser and oral health. I use my Waterpik every night after I brush my teeth. It only takes a minute and I am always astounded by what comes out of my teeth and gums even after I’ve brushed with my electric toothbrush. It makes my mouth feel so clean and refreshed, I truly can’t go a night without it (and I just got my hands on a cordless Waterpik water flosser so I can now use it when I’m away from home too). In general I have come to learn that oral health is actually way more important than I think most of us give it credit. Think about it, all that stuff that sticks around in between your teeth and gums, even after you brush, eventually comes out (or not and then you have tooth decay issues but that's a different soap box), and where does it all go? Straight down into your body! We spend so much time thinking about all the things we put into our bodies, and yet some of the worst stuff is coming from our own mouths. It’s pretty crazy. Throw a baby into the mix and that gunk is not only heading into your vital organs, but your baby’s as well. My goal this pregnancy is to maintain my strong oral health using my Waterpik water flosser every night, even when I’m tired, the benefits are totally worth it.
NAMASTE I’m the furthest from a “yogi” as one can be. As much as I have always admired the practice and those who do utilize the benefits of yoga, it is not something I previously practiced all that often. During my first pregnancy however I wanted to connect with other expecting mothers and find some guided accountability for my physical health, so I joined a local prenatal yoga class. What I ended up learning in the class though far exceeded my expectations for the weekly gathering. It was such a fantastic experience that as soon as I found out I was pregnant the second time I contacted my yoga instructor once again to get on the waitlist (she was the second person after my husband to find out I was pregnant- that’s how important it was for me to get back into my prenatal yoga class).
By attending my weekly prenatal yoga class I connect with other expecting mothers, stretch my overworked body, take time to be present with my body and baby, prepare my body and baby for labor and delivery, and practice essential breathing strategies that were critical during my first labor and delivery with Buddy. My goal here is to prioritize this time for my body and my growing baby at least once a week as I prepare to welcome our next bundle. If you live in the Oklahoma City area and are expecting, Mamaste Yoga is absolutely amazing! Many cities do offer some type of prenatal yoga classes but if not, Mamaste Yoga has a podcast that you can download for free in iTunes and practice the strategies in the comfort of your own home.
PHYSICAL HEALTH Within the first week of my pregnancy with Buddy I went on a brisk 4-mile walk and had a tiny amount of spotting afterwards. Coming off the coat tails of a miscarriage I was very sensitive to any signs of miscarriage and essentially called off all physical activity for the remainder of the pregnancy (until about 32+ weeks) as a precaution. Everything following that spotting ended up being fine as Buddy was ultimatley born a happy, healthy baby, but it still scared me enough to be something I didn’t want to see again. This time around I’m approaching my physical health more intentionally and I’ve set the goal to get some type of physical activity 5 times a week. Be it a 2-mile walk, a trip to the gym, prenatal yoga, or even an outing where I am on my feet a bit more than usual. I realized last time that towards the end of pregnancy, physical movement helps a lot with the aches and pains and helps the body prepare for labor.
In addition to getting my heart-rate up, I'm also focused on improving my sleep and getting more of it when I can. I recently shared some of my current sleep essentials that have dramatically improved my sleep situation (including the addition of some amazing bedding from Tomorrow Sleep -see this blog post for a discount code for $100 off). My goal for improved sleep through my pregnancy is to get into bed by 10pm with my phone left behind in another room. It helps when you have a great book to read, or a guided meditation and some lavender essential oil diffusing too.
I hope these goals can encourage and support you. I am far from doing each of these things perfectly, which is why they are goals. Each week I approach these 5 things intentionally and even if I don't meet the mark, I am keeping them in the front of my mind and effort which is one way I am saying, to my body, "you are important".