Pregnancy is a beautiful moment in your life. Despite the nausea, the exhaustion, and the sudden shortness of breath that you get walking up a small hill—growing another human is simply magical. But with pregnancy comes stress, fear of the unknown, and the sudden realization that you may not have been living as healthy as you could have been. What is safe during pregnancy? What can I eat? How much can I work out? These questions can become a source of constant anxiety. To give my sweet little babe the best chance possible, I rely on mindfulness.
Now that I am pregnant with my second baby, I realize more than ever the importance of health. Not only do I have to make sure I am taking care of my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter and this sweet little guy growing inside of me, I have to remember to take care of myself. I won’t lie, this is really hard to do when you barely sit down all day.
I have approached this pregnancy with a mindful spirit and a lot more planning. How can I incorporate exercise that I enjoy and how can I make sure I am eating wholesome foods that keep me fueled throughout the day? To me, mindful pregnancy is more than being in the present moment: it’s also about being aware of the baby inside you. This means breathing deeply, moving and nourishing my body, and appreciating what it is doing for me. Planning helps me relax during the week and gives me a little more balance when I have to make healthy choices. Numerous studies show that pregnant women who practice mindfulness experience decreased anxiety and increased positive feelings like enthusiasm and resilience. So one may even argue that mindfulness is as essential for new mothers as doctor’s appointments.
To me, breathing in fresh air is extremely beneficial. Every morning, I stand on my back porch—usually with a cup of coffee in hand—and breath in deeply. Fresh air clears my head, wipes away the sleep fog, and mentally prepares me for the day ahead. Trying to stay in the moment and enjoy the blessing that pregnancy is, by listening to the wind blow through the trees and the birds beginning their sing-song. After getting my morning fresh air, I try to write a sentence of gratitude, or maybe just something to remember the day. This is really great when you are running around all day and not paying as much attention as you should.
Next, I think about food (what every pregnant woman is thinking about). When approaching your pregnancy as a vegan, you have to consider the nutrients your baby needs. Your prenatal vitamin helps get those vitamins in your system first thing. I also plan my week out every Sunday including breakfasts, snacks, lunch, and dinner. This has to include snacks that can be consumed in the car on the way to dropping my daughter off or taking the dog to the vet—so nothing fancy! Then I meal prep.
I try to get my fruits and veggies in wherever I can. Breakfast might be vegan banana pancakes with walnuts (with meal-prepped batter), or smoothies with spinach and flax. I carry individual packets of nut butter in the console of my car, which is easy to eat alongside of a banana or apple or just plain. That cashew butter is my Achilles heel! For lunch, I make large batches of quinoa and mix different Buddha bowls topped with fresh greens. Dinners are harder, since my husband and daughter are not vegan. I make sure to have roasted vegetables and beans on hand to fill me up.
I try to walk two to three times day, which is a luxury when you work from home. They aren’t long walks, usually only about fifteen minutes long. Sometimes I just take the puppy out into the field to run around. But in these walks, I not only get my blood flowing, but I get to breathe in the beautiful NW air we live in and clear my head.
Accompanying my walks, I aim to fit a gentle yoga class in at least twice a week. Gentle yoga classes in my area usually take place first thing in the morning, which doesn’t fit into my family schedule. So I go to different studios within a 20-mile radius and do a drop-in class. Yoga is great for stretching your growing body and for practicing your breathing techniques—when labor comes, you are going to need it! If you can find a prenatal class, it’s a great community opportunity to bond with other soon-to-be mommas. It is also a great way to take a moment for yourself and leave the stress of mom-life behind for an hour. Just remember to let your instructor know that you are pregnant if it isn’t a prenatal class, as some stretches and poses can put your baby in a stressful situation.
Making one-on-one time with my husband is equally important. Unfortunately, when you’re a mom, there isn’t a lot of time in general. Making sure to talk to him, laugh with him, and be silent with him helps me slow down and appreciate what we have made together. Without laughter with him, I don’t know how we would get through the stickiness of parenthood.
All of these healthy techniques are what I plan for myself, but planning doesn’t always mean it happens. It’s easy to get stuck on social media when the baby goes down for their first nap and you need to zone out. You also get tempted to hit snooze when you have been up all night with pregnancy insomnia. And so, I constantly have to be reminding myself to put my phone down, take a breath, read a book, chug a glass of water, and be present. Whenever I doubt my ability to be mindful, I remind myself that being a mom to one baby is hard. But being a mom to two? Chaotic! I have a luxury of time that I am not even aware of yet. The three walks I take a day are a blessing. So, when my daughter is throwing her food on the floor and the puppy is barking, I can turn away for a moment, take a deep breath, and realize how lucky I am.
In the grand scheme of things, pregnancy is a mere 10 months long. It might feel like twenty years, but it will go by in the blink of an eye. And before you know it, you will be holding someone whom you love more than you ever thought possible. And, they will look up to you, watch you, and listen to you. Embrace every day, love yourself, appreciate what your body has provided, and remember to take a deep breath of fresh air. They will remember that you were there for them—and it all starts with a little mindful pregnancy.
Photo: Jonathan Borba on Unsplash; Alina Forbes