Ups and Downs
While others may accompany you along the road to motherhood, in many ways pregnancy is a solitary journey. It's impossible for anyone -- your partner, your friends, your family -- to fully understand and appreciate what you're feeling. The first kick, the first time your jeans won't zip up, and the first contraction are indescribable, intensely personal experiences.
Here are some steps that will help you honor experiences like these and get in touch with your thoughts, emotions, and desires at each step of your journey.
Ups and Downs
Two things in the world you never regret: a swim in the ocean, the birth of a child. -- Mary Gordon
Embarking on pregnancy is a lot like stepping into the ocean. You approach the mercurial water and slowly wade in, never sure when a wave will knock you down.
Sometimes you'll keep your head above water, swimming along with swift, sure strokes. Other times you'll surrender, letting the waves wash over you.
Give yourself to the powerful ebb and flow of nature and to the rhythms of your own body.
Affirmation: I can go with the flow.
When two sets of blueprints -- one from the father and one from the mother -- are followed, a unique product results. In your case, by one chance in 400 million, that unique product was you. -- Alan F. Guttmacher
Sometimes people are casual about conception. After all, babies are born every second; what's the big deal?
But when you stop to consider the millions of perfect connections needed to form a child, you realize the miraculous nature of pregnancy. Every part of your child -- heart, lungs, fingernails, eyelashes, and so on -- requires a different blueprint. At every step everything must go just right in order for this unique product, your child, to come into being healthy and whole. Clearly this child is meant to be.
Affirmation: My child is a miracle!
...[S]ome fathers are lost in what is still largely a woman's shuffle and end up feeling forgotten, left out -- even jealous of their wives. -- Arlene Eisenberg, Heidi E. Murkoff, and Sandee E. Hathaway
Today, many expectant partners are fully involved in pregnancy. Some couples even use the phrase We're pregnant! to announce the good news.
But regardless of your partner's level of involvement, your friends and relatives may focus their congratulations and attention to you. This can make your partner feel irrelevant. It's common for expectant partners to feel overlooked in all the hoopla surrounding pregnant women.
Your partner deserves to be acknowledged. Encourage your partner to offer opinions, accompany you to prenatal appointments, and express feelings, hopes, and dreams. Set an example for others by honoring the importance of your partner's role. You're not the only one expecting this baby!
Affirmation: I'll treat my partner with respect.
Look, having a baby is very big. You don't want to make people envious or anything, but everything else is peanuts. -- Jack Nicholson
Okay, so you feel a little superior. And a little sorry for people who haven't experienced the wonders of pregnancy and parenthood.
There's just no way to make anyone who hasn't been through it understand how "big" it is to have a baby. And even if you could, you wouldn't want to make others feel bad about what they're missing.
There's no reason to avoid friends who are having trouble conceiving or who have decided not to have children. Do your best to be sensitive to their needs. But remember that their support may be limited. Make a point of seeking out other expectant and veteran mothers with you whom you can really carry on about what a big thing this is.
Affirmation: I can share my pregnancy without compromising my friendships.
Loss of Control
I feel invaded by an alien from another planet. -- Expectant Mother
Do you feel as if your body is no longer your own? As if you woke up one day to discover an alien being running your life?
It's natural to feel both wonderstruck and resentful at the constant presence and never-ending demands of your unseen child. You eat a brownie and provoke a riot. You try to sleep, only to be kicked again and again. If it seems as if you've lost control...well...you have.
Surrendering to your baby's needs is one of the spiritual tasks of pregnancy. You learn to give up control and give yourself to something bigger and more compelling. Sometimes it's easy; sometimes it's a struggle.
It's okay to feel resentful. You have lost a lot. But you've gained a lot more.
Affirmation: I accept that my baby is running the show.
There is nothing which we receive with so much reluctance as advice. -- Joseph Addison
It's hard to know how to react when your best friend repeatedly warns you of the dangers of medication during birth, when your partner lectures you on prenatal nutrition, or when your mother sends you the latest study on the dangers of daycare.
You don't want to be rude. But nine times out of 10 you don't want to hear it, either.
What can you do? First, consider the source. It's one thing to listen to straightforward, respectful opinions from your partner. It's another thing to mutely accept unsolicited advice from family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers with agendas that have more to do with their issues than your welfare.
Don't be afraid to take a stand when you need to. Simply say, "Thanks for your input, but I'd rather not discuss it."
Affirmation: I'll decide what I do and don't need to hear.
During the first trimester of my wife's pregnancy her weight stayed the same and I put on 10 pounds. -- Lawrence Kutner
Couvade is a heavily documented, seemingly inexplicable phenomenon in which expectant fathers experience pregnancy-like symptoms. According to various studies, 10 to 65 percent of fathers-to-be complain of nausea, heartburn, insomnia, weight gain, and even labor pains.
A partial explanation may be found in the timing of couvades, which typically appears around the third week (when the reality of pregnancy sinks in) and resurfaces near the end of the third trimester (when birth is near). Perhaps couvade is a physical manifestation of emotional reactions to imminent fatherhood.
Whatever its cause, the existence of couvade is a reminder that expectant fathers are profoundly affected by pregnancy.
Affirmation: The father of my child deserves my attention and respect.
If pregnancy were a book they would cut the last two chapters. -- Nora Ephron
The third trimester of pregnancy can drag on and on. It may seem as if you've been pregnant forever. You may find yourself counting the days to your due date, anxiously awaiting your first contraction. Who'd have thought you'd ever look forward to labor?
You may be ready to stop being pregnant, but that doesn't mean your baby is ready to be born. Your baby would most likely survive if he or she were born today, but the last several weeks of pregnancy are critical. During these weeks your baby's lungs grow strong, his or her brain cells develop rapidly, and your baby gets antibodies from you that protect him or her from infections as a newborn.
When your patience wears thin, envision meeting your baby 10 weeks from now -- perfectly formed, healthy, and ready to live outside your womb.
Affirmation: The homestretch is vital for my baby's well-being.
...[N]ever give in, never give in, never, never, never, never... -- Winston Churchill
It's hard to imagine surviving the rigors of childbirth. While you're pregnant, you may wonder how you'll get through such a physically demanding experience; after your child is born, you may find it impossible to believe you have, in fact, gotten through it.
But you will get through it, because you don't have any other choice.
During labor and delivery, you'll simply do whatever is necessary. Somehow -- by sheer will, determination, and focus -- you'll give birth to a baby and live to tell the tale. Forever after you'll be amazed and proud of your stamina and strength.
Affirmation: I have what it takes to get through labor and delivery.
And when our baby stirs and struggles to be born It compels humility; what we began Is now its own. -- Anne Ridler
Though you've gone to great lengths to have a healthy pregnancy, you may feel humble as you realize the greater forces of nature at work in your baby's development. Rocking the baby in the still of the night, you may feel humble as you come to understand that a unique and amazing being has been placed in your care. Sending your child off to kindergarten, you may feel humble as you accept that, no matter how protective you are, your son or daughter is vulnerable to life.
You recognize the paradoxes of parenting: Your child is of you, yet he or she is an entirely separate person. You are your child's protector, yet you can't always keep him or her safe. You can cradle your child, but you must remember that his or her fate is out of your hands.
Affirmation: I humbly accept the role of guardian.
Reprinted from Reflections for Expectant Mothers: 40 Weeks of Daily Meditations by arrangement with Simon & Schuster. Copyright 2002 by Ellen Sue Stern. All rights reserved.