Many of my clients are seeing my body change, and looking suspiciously different, and so I’m coming clean.
This 37 year old woman is with child, and now in my second trimester of pregnancy!
I’m very happy about this, and nervous, and curious about the experience of being a mother, and of course, I felt the need to share my experience with my readers and any other to-be mom out there.
Pregnancy, in a word, is about surrender.
It’s not much different than any other health condition where you must:
- Listen your body and a bunch of its new rules
- Follow a diet of which you don’t have the manual, and stop doing a bunch of things you really like
- Implement these new things, even though you don’t always want to, for the hopes of something good to come
It’s been interesting to experience this journey as a naturopathic doctor, and being that I work with so many women in pregnancy and postpartum as well as with their babies, it is truthfully so different to experience it from the inside out.
I realized something important in how women and cared for and nurtured not only physically, but emotionally through the growth of their babies.
New moms are given lists of do’s and don’ts to follow, and in no uncertain order:
- Take iron
- Take a multivitamin with iron
- Take an omega supplement
- Eat as many fruits and veggies as you possibly can
- Exercise 30 minutes 3 – 4 times weekly
- Take up a new exercise régime
- Stop drinking, stop smoking, don’t do drugs
- No raw meats
- No unpasteurized dairy products
- Don’t jump (?!) or do anything jarring that might move the baby around
- Don’t get a massage until 2nd trimester
The list goes on…and doesn’t it all seem to be a lot? It is!
The lists of restrictions and be amazing! be superhuman! are truly too much. Women are now afraid to not only to do the right thing but the wrong thing, and there is a lot of pressure to do it all right. In pregnancy, this is a lot of pressure, when a woman is feeling perhaps tired and emotional and unwell.
With the added risk of miscarriage in first trimester, many women have anxieties and worries they are carrying alone. Few people asked me in my appointments how I was feeling emotionally. That’s a shame. I talked a lot of it out with my husband, my friends, my family, and I feel very lucky to have such a great support team. Talk to your posse, whomever they are.
A few pieces of sagely things I learned that have helped me immensely, and if they help other families expecting a child, wonderful!
- If you need rest, rest.
- Ask for help. Lots of people are happy to help you and be kind at this time. Don’t be afraid to ask.
- Cravings paint a picture. Indulge them a little.
My first trimester cravings were salty meats, cheese, grapefruit, and strawberries. Interestingly, if you break it down nutritionally they represent protein, iron, sodium, calcium, vitamin C, and folate. Not such bad choices for a growing fetus! I went with it. Yes, greens were not in there ;) They’re making their way back into my diet now.
- Sugar and carbohydrates mean two things — you’re tired and need more rest, and your body needs more carbohydrates (the good ones). Allow yourself the carb treats in moderation (unless you have gestational diabetes) and eat the good stuff too (brown rice, sweet potato, squashes as examples)
- Folate — 800 mcg is the standard to support brain health and development. You can find this in your prenatal, but if you can’t stomach your prenatal, there is folate on its own.
- Iron — this is needed, but not for all women, and not in all forms. I, for example, don’t need iron (I have very high natural iron for a woman). For many women who do need iron however, it can be very constipating. There are many liquid iron supports that can be easier to absorb, like Floradix, Liquid Iron by Douglas Laboratories, or Spatone that you may want to take separately if you can’t stomach the iron in your prenatal.
- Fish oil/Non-fish omega supplements — Yep, these really do help with your baby brain.
- Probiotics — These can be important to build up immunity during pregnancy for you and your baby, however the strain type can be very important to support or reduce the vulnerability to certain conditions (eczema as an example). Some probiotics can also cause constipation which can be unbearable.
- Constipation — I’m writing an entirely separate blog post as there is lot to consider and support!
- Exercise is wonderful, but again, listen to your body. First trimester most women feel either incredibly fatigued or incredibly nauseous. If you can only walk a few days a week, do that. I walk and do a prenatal bootcamp and yoga once weekly to keep me in shape, or some free weights and a pregnancy DVD the other days when I feel up to it. Not every week is successful, but some are great. Move where possible.
- It’s okay to feel emotionally topsy-turvy. One second you’re excited, the next second terrified, the next second elated…and it’s all hormones shifting up and down. Allow yourself a good cry, get a therapist if you need to…wherever you are in your pregnancy is the right place to be. It’s your experience, no one else’s.
- Unsolicited advice is just that. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself again that you’re doing your best, you’re doing great, and it’s okay to do your health your way! Take the good advice and store it for later, and everything else just bless and release ;)
Surrendering to my experience has been humbling, and I’ve developed more compassion for myself, and others. We are all doing the best we can, and pregnancy is no different!