By Annie Meredith
During pregnancy you will go through change on all levels of your being more rapidly than at any other time in your adult life. The only other time your body and mind changed so swiftly and dramatically is when you were in your mother’s womb and during the first few years of your infancy and toddlerhood.
First pregnancy is a rite of passage, which takes you from the Maiden phase in your life to that of the Mother. Once this passage has occurred you will never be the same again, both in body and mind.
For some women the dawning realization as the pregnancy progresses that they are facing a major milestone in life, closing some doors and opening others, takes a lot of emotional and mental letting go and can be accompanied by regret, fear and doubt. These reservations will, in turn, trigger a lack of ease, leading to a number of classic pregnancy symptoms, such as morning sickness, discomfort and even aches and pains.
If this seems to be the case with you, it is highly recommended that you talk over some of your concerns with a professional practitioner specializing in a natural birthing approach, such as your yoga instructor.
Unpacking these concerns often simply involves recognizing that this is a major transition in your life that needs to be acknowledged. Many women find it useful to ritualize or mark this process with a special occasion with a loved person in their life, in recognition of the significance of this rite of passage. Setting aside a special time like this to focus on the importance of this transition in your life can help you to embark on this new phase from a position of awareness and joyous anticipation rather than feeling unsure about an uncertain future filled with unknowns, and regret over leaving a known and comfortable past behind.
By simply talking over what it means to you to shed the past you have known and to look into a future that is new and probably quite scary for you can bring to the surface fears and apprehensions that might otherwise stay buried, causing lack of ease. Through this simple process, many women discover that symptoms they were experiencing either reduce in severity or simply disappear in the atmosphere of aware expectancy that can follow such a process.
That is not to say that all symptoms are in the mind! The body has a momentous job to do in the next short nine months and will accomplish the task as well as well as possible given the state of health at the time of conception. That is why it is far better to plan a pregnancy to follow a period of consciously nurturing and supporting the body to a state of optimum good health. The healthier your body is at the time of conception, the healthier your pregnancy will be. After all it has a lot of work to do and many changes to accommodate a new life.
Hormones mediate these changes and on the physical level they bring about an increase in blood volume by up to 100% to allow for placental and foetal blood circulation and an increase in heart rate, liver metabolism, respiration and digestion and assimilation. All of these organ systems support maternal functioning but also provide the flow of the life force, by way of nourishment, oxygen and detoxification, into the growing baby via the umbilicus.
Hormones also mediate changes on the mental level for the new mum literally by actually altering the brain structure functionally and irreversibly, forever, to prepare her for motherhood. These changes, initially mediated by the hormones of pregnancy, are further activated during the birthing process and then reinforced by the bonding process and by daily physical closeness between mother and baby in early infancy and baby years.
In fact, during pregnancy the ‘brain morphing’ process involves clipping off some of the neural pathways of Maidenhood that will no longer be utilized. In the weeks just prior to birth, reshaping the brain to a ‘Mummy brain’ occurs by adding new neural-chemical pathways, constructing large networks of maternal circuits in a process known as ‘nesting’. Researchers tell us that a ‘Mummy brain’ is larger, more competent and has in-built mechanisms to increase risk-taking, grant courage and be more ‘on alert’.
In this way, Nature ensures that the new mother will be not only physically prepared for the task ahead of her, but also mentally prepped to ensure the best possible survival chances for the incoming baby.
On the emotional level too big changes are taking place in the Mummy-to-be, again mediated by the powerful effects of hormones. Intending mothers often feel a high degree of apprehension and fear that the baby may not be healthy or that they may not be able to manage the birth or motherhood. These fears are entirely normal and are a part of the preparation process that Nature has programmed into pregnancy to ensure that the mother is prepared.
As discussed above, late pregnancy brings much relief to the fears typical of the early stages, through brain changes that alter the neuro-chemical pathways bringing courage and an ‘on-alert’ readiness to face the unknown with agility and fearlessness. Many of the distressing emotional states of earlier days of pregnancy dissolve with this late stage brain re-structuring.
And what about baby and emotions? Because Mother and baby are sharing the same body they are also encapsulated in the same energy field. Emotions are shared too – what the mother feels the baby feels also, not on the conscious level, but as an energy flow, which directly affects the delicate growing organs systems of the baby. In fact, the mother’s emotions become part of the baby’s subconscious reality, embedded at the cellular level as the baby lays down her physical structure. In effect, the baby is like a sponge, soaking up the mother’s emotional ups and downs as a kind of energetic ancestral map for the future. It is now recognized that we carry not only the physical characteristics of our parents, but also the emotional tendencies, particularly of our mother. So it is evident that the mother’s demeanor during pregnancy has a profound influence of shaping the baby’s personality for life.
Pregnancy can be stressful – any time we are forced to go through major change registers as stress on the human BodyMind….and as we have seen pregnancy involves lightning-speed changes and being catapulted into a new life style, situation and depth of complexity with your current intimate relationship. The key to riding the wave of change with relative ease is to stay healthy physically, emotionally and mentally.
You can control your physical health through yoga and other gentle exercise, consciously eating well and getting plenty of sleep.
As far as your mental and emotional wellbeing is concerned, this is where women are challenged to let go of control and go with the flow, trusting that what Nature has programmed into baby-making processes will ensure the evolution of the species, not its devolution. Billions of women ahead of you have taken this journey – and survived. You need to be aware that encoded deep in the inner recesses of your being is faultless programming designed by Nature to ensure the best possible birthing outcome for you and your baby.
So here are a few tips on how to navigate pregnancy for the best outcome for you and your baby:
Listen to your intuition – it is your best guidance system and it is personally tailored to your own needs ad those of the baby you are making. YOU know best, even though you may never have done this amazing thing before.
Be selective from whom you take advice. There will be many offering you advice and in many cases it will be laced with fear, as women usually like to share their ’horror’ stories. Because fear is so infectious and you are exceedingly vulnerable when pregnant, make a decision to listen only to those who affirm your ability to know what is best for yourself, even your doctor and midwife.
Inform yourself with positive stories around pregnancy and birthing and mix with people who have an optimistic outlook.
Seek help to calm your emotional fears if you feel they are out of hand – your baby will be calmer and healthier if you cn mange to treat your emotional ups and downs with a pinch of salt rather than over-dramatising them.
And remember, you will get your body back so rather than bemoaning its expansion, marvel at its flexibility and adaptability and enjoy the experience…….
Copyright Annie Meredith 2011