Keys to feeling empowered while expecting.
There are myriad situations a woman might find herself in when she discovers she has successfully conceived a child. She may have decided to begin trying only a few weeks prior. She may have been charting her basal temperatures and tracking her ovulation for months to no avail, deciding to enlist help from specialists before finally hearing the blissful sounds of a tiny heartbeat. Or she may find herself—after a few days of feeling “off”—staring at two pink lines in shock at the realization that her life now has a completely different trajectory than she anticipated it would when she woke up that morning.
No matter what circumstances lead to the moment of the discovery that you are growing a tiny human being and will soon become a mother, it is likely that at a certain point, some level of fear will enter the picture. Housing new life is no small task, and it’s normal—and actually necessary—for you to take a keen interest in details about your health and lifestyle that you might have been able to gloss over in your pre-baby life. But don’t let these concerns take hold and rob you of your self-confidence. Face your fears and empower yourself as you undergo the transformation that comes with motherhood.
Facts vs. feelings
A frequent refrain you’ll hear as you navigate pregnancy and plan for birth is to stay informed in order to make the decisions that best serve your personal needs. But while knowledge might be power, it isn’t always an antidote for anxiety. In fact, it could introduce new fears. In their book, The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: Keys to the MotherBaby Bond, Tracy Wilson Peters and Laurel Wilson explore the importance of acknowledging feelings of apprehension and not dismissing those feelings. “Becoming conscious is becoming self-aware, aware of our thoughts and emotions,” says Wilson. “Thoughts and emotions shape daily lives, affecting our health, stress levels, fertility and the growth of our babies. Studies show that our beliefs and attitudes have a direct impact on our overall health.”
The more in tune you are with yourself, the better you’ll be able to interpret the information you receive throughout your pregnancy, and make decisions based on what’s best not only for your body but also for your overall well-being. Wilson Peters explains, “Moving from the idea of ‘informed consent,’ which is a legal/ medical term that means you accept a procedure, to embracing the idea of being in conscious agreement or ‘harmony’ with every decision we make is crucial to the health of the mother-baby connection.” This mother-baby connection will bring a peaceful atmosphere to your pregnancy and equip you with the self-assurance to confront any prenatal worries you could experience in the next nine months.
Set up for success
Although there are a few people who seem to come by self-confidence naturally and effortlessly, the majority of us need tools to boost our aplomb and maintain a sense of conviction in our actions. Just like any other aspect of a healthy lifestyle, self-confidence is a trait that requires a certain level of discipline to maintain.
It might seem obvious, but it bears repeating: You are your best self when you are backed by people who love and believe in you. Wilson asserts, “Making the choice to surround yourself in loving, supportive relationships actually changes the brain, heart patterns and overall mental and physical health. The people in our lives transform us, for the better or for the worse. Choosing to be around people who contribute to your happiness and health will have a profound effect on your fertility and growing baby. We become mirrors of who we spend time with.”
Consider your relationship with your health care provider. Do you feel heard? Are your concerns taken seriously? If the answer to either of these questions is no, you might want to look elsewhere until you find a doctor or midwife with whom you feel comfortable. Similarly, who makes up your personal support system? Do you have someone you can ask your silliest and most embarrassing questions? Such a thing is not a luxury—it’s a necessity. If family or friends are not easily accessible, look for a pregnancy support group to lean on. Often you can find one through your local hospital or birthing center.
Work it out
Exercise takes on a new role in your life during pregnancy. It becomes less a means for sculpted abs and a trimmed waistline and more a gateway to ease of motion, better circulation and improved mood—all of which contribute to a presence of mind conducive to self-control and confidence. “Movement, whether for exercise or stress reduction, is integral to a healthy pregnancy,” says Wilson Peters. “It offers mothers the ability to tone their muscles and organs while reducing stress, which releases beta-endorphins and calms the mind.” Knowing your body is able to handle exertion and endurance can especially help quell fears surrounding the labor process.
Eat for two
You already know good prenatal nutrition is important for providing the building blocks for a healthy baby, but eating well can also boost your emotional health. If you are indeed what you eat, then it stands to reason that if you eat well, you will be well. The choice to focus on your diet should be as much a decision for you as it is for your growing baby. And how you view this maternity-induced modification in your eating habits can make a world of difference in the effect it has on your state of mind. Wilson says, “When expectant moms shift from an attitude of feeling burdened by healthy choices to seeing those choices as loving gifts for themselves and their baby, this positively affects their emotional state and in turn the health of the developing fetus.” Any time you frame your decisions as conscious, deliberate choices, you are reinforcing your active role in your prenatal health, which can only lead to increased faith in your abilities as an expectant mom and soon-to-be parent.