Monday, December 22, 2014

Mum Abroad 3: Mind Matters

Eat properly, drink lots of water, take your vitamins (or don't, if you really are eating properly...), and exercise. Stay healthy during pregnancy. But what about the mind? I believe a healthy mind is integral to a healthy pregnancy, and my doctor agrees.

"What are you doing to take care of your mind?" she asked. 

"Any form or depression or anxiety in the past?
"Let me know if you need a referral, it's good to work things out before they become major issues." 

Forgetful Pregnant Woman
there's a lot on my mind right now! (source)
Her midwife offers prenatal yoga, she does acupuncture (yes, my medical doctor believes in alternative therapies... just one of the reasons why I love her!), and the hospital has a parental support group. How great is that? 

While fortunately, I haven't struggled with mental issues, I do know that a baby is a major life-changer, and I've been developing my own mental health practice to prepare as much as I can. I am also glad to know that, should I find I need or desire professional help, my doctor will point me in the right direction and make sure I'm well cared for.

Firstly, I believe this baby is a gift from God to my husband and me. Praying for the baby, is, for me, very calming. A friend of mine is doing a a gender-specific Bible study, praying for the development of specific parts of her baby, and the unique challenges her little girl may face in the future. Knowing other people are also praying for our babies is also very uplifting. Having a spiritual support group is calming, helps keep us social, and gives us a forum to talk with people who share our values.

Every day I spend time relaxing and working on hypno-birthing techniques. After careful consideration, I chose this birthing method because it treats birth as a natural, non-medical event. Even if you're not sold on the pain-free birth (but seriously, who wouldn't want to at least aim for that?), the relaxation CD is worth the price of the book. I use it to relax after work or to fall asleep at night, and my partner and I use one track to help us focus on and connect with Baby. (More about hypno-birthing later.)

I go to a weekly yoga class to help relax the body as well as the mind, and to help me focus on my body and how it moves. It's at a physical therapy center, so classes, while open to everyone, are very gentle. I compliment this with a short yoga session at home, two to three times a week. I've had a very few episodes of "pregnancy brain", which I think is partly due to keeping my mind clear and focused with yoga.  

The breathing techniques from both yoga and hypno-brithing come in handy all the time - keeping nausea at bay, staying calm at work, when I get overheated on the subway, during "rehearsal" contractions...

There's a mother-coaching group I'm hoping to join in the new year, or at least visit for a couple of one-to-one sessions to talk about time management in this crazy season of life, and developing strategies to work out cross-cultural issues. And cultural issues there are! Talking through them with my husband before the baby is born will help us avoid conflict when Baby's here. 

Laying out clear expectations with my husband (he'll be playing an active roll in supporting me during delivery; friends are NOT allowed to show up at the hospital three hours after birth - they can visit us at home; if it's a girl, she will NOT get her ears pierced by nuns in the hospital) and trying to reach compromises (a Protestant baptism, a Catholic blessing; a few special "retro" baby outfits from his childhood but not the whole wardrobe; a new crib, but his old cradle) are helping us get to know each other as parents. 

My husband, family and friends play a large part in keeping me sane. I am so lucky to be surrounded by so much support. While many life far away, I make a point to keep in touch via Skype, Facebook, emails and blogging, as well as phone calls and mail. I can talk to them about my joys and fears, and even the little things like a cute set of wall decals I'm considering for the nursery, or silly things like what if Baby has my tiny head and Tall Guy's nose, or speaks English with a Spanish accent?? 

I avoid reading too many internet forums or blog stories (I avoid negative birth stories altogether, to keep a positive mindset) so I won't get worked up and worried about nothing. I have a few medical websites and books I trust; otherwise, I save questions for my doctor.

Finally, I write things down. I write in my journal to help me remember my first thoughts about the baby (overjoyed! so excited!), how friends and family reacted, the first time we saw Baby at an ultrasound appointment, the first kicks... I write lists of things to do, because I will never get it all done or even remember what I'd hoped to do otherwise. I pin things I like or need for the baby so they'll be easy to find again.

While I know I can't even imagine how things will change when Baby is actually here with us, by giving my mental health the same priority as my body's health, I know I'm doing my best to create a positive environment for Baby's arrival and preparing myself in the best possible way for this transitional time of life.

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