Whether snuggled safely in the womb or cradled in our arms, mothers will, at many points, pause in awe at the preciousness of life. Moments when it’s impossible to take for granted the creation of a heart that beats, eyes that see, hands that will grab and squeeze us tight, and legs that are preparing to kick and run.
Then, there are the moments when many expecting mothers are knocked sideways by feelings of anxiety, dread, sadness, and confusion. A handful of conflicting emotions that arise in pregnancy might trample over the joy, excitement, and love that may be expected.
With all of the books, blogs, and social media accounts that can flood us with information on what kind of fruit our baby is supposed to resemble in size, what items we need to put on our registry, and the most popular baby names, there aren’t many that touch on the skills that will be helpful to manage an expectant mother’s growing anxiety. These anxieties might include how to move through the worry that the baby is ok, that those sensations we’ve never felt before aren’t any cause for alarm, how to breathe through the anxiety that comes when thinking about giving birth, or how significantly their relationships may change. Fear arises in all of the unknowns. For an expecting mother-to-be, the experience of pregnancy is a time of immeasurable change.
Incorporating mindfulness practices in pregnancy can drastically shift a woman’s experience into feeling more at ease in facing all of the changes that are to come. Mindfulness practices can help in grounding when one feels overwhelmed, or that they have flown away into worries of the future. They can bring peace, joy, and an increased sense of self-control to the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood.
We’ll start with the definition of mindfulness. Mindfulness, essentially, is the awareness that arises from paying attention in the present moment. The practice involves paying close attention to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations in your body.
Many times in pregnancy, mothers can jump to a worrying thought when a new sensation moves through their body. Thoughts like, “Is it supposed to feel like that?”. “Is this normal?”. Some mothers may lie awake in the middle of the night wondering what life will look like once their baby is Earth-side. When will they go back to work? Will they go back to work? Are they prepared for this financially? Will they be a good parent? When we invite the practice in, mindfulness can help us stop playing out possible scenarios and invites us to be fully present as things are here and now. Mindfulness helps with shifting the questions filled with worry to ones of curiosity and wonder.
We’ll lay out a timeline by trimester, touching on a few of the commonly talked about feelings that arise, some of the not-so-talked-about feelings and emotions, and a mindfulness practice that can be incorporated to support you in that phase of pregnancy.
At the beginning of pregnancy, a mother-to-be may feel excitement and nervousness in the change to come. There might be the excitement of sharing with friends and family and hearing the baby’s heartbeat for the first time. Moms to be will be taking in all kinds of information on pregnancy and childbirth. They may be getting through morning sickness and tiredness like they’ve never known before. This flood of new changes, feelings, and emotions can perhaps bring a feeling of overwhelm and decision fatigue. In moments when we’re alone, the overwhelm may feel particularly poignant and it’s completely normal. When we notice this, we can invite a mindful practice to bring us from a dysregulated state to one of feeling more grounded, clear, and at ease in our mind and body.
Grounding Practice for Prenatal Clients
- You’ll start by finding a quiet place to sit or lie down. Welcome yoga props such as blankets, pillows, and anything that will help you feel comfortable and safe. If you think you may fall asleep, you can set a timer for 10-15 minutes.
- Once you’re settled in, take three deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. On your third exhale, allow your eyes to close and your breath to return to its natural rhythm.
- Take a moment to notice how you feel. Notice the energy and quality of your thoughts. Notice any sensations you feel in your body in the present moment. You can take some time to scan your body from head to toe, noticing each and every sensation.
- Now, shift your attention to your breath. Notice the coolness of the air as you breathe in through your nose. The rise and expansion of your chest and/or belly. As you exhale, notice where your breath travels and how your body responds as you breathe out fully. Follow the flow of your breath throughout your body. Imagine it moving in all directions – north, south, east, and west. If it’s helpful in maintaining focus, you can count your breaths in a way that feels natural.
- If you notice yourself thinking or planning, know that this is natural and it is okay. Allow your mind to wander for a moment, inviting curiosity as you follow your thoughts. After a couple of moments following your thoughts, you’ll begin to welcome yourself back to the present moment. Notice the sensations of your breath. Notice where your body is in contact with the Earth. Notice the feeling of your body on a chair or your head on a pillow. The sensation of your hands on your lap, or on your belly. The active surrender of the body to support.
- Allow yourself time to immerse in the journey back into the present. Reconnecting with your body and breath. When you feel ready, you can slowly begin to blink your eyes open. Take a moment to acknowledge how you feel, now. Remind yourself that this practice is available to you any time throughout your day and throughout your pregnancy to support you in feeling grounded, calm, clear, and connected.
We have now reached a solid middle ground in pregnancy. Mothers may now be past the morning sickness, and (fingers crossed) not as tired. They may be starting to visibly notice changes in their body. At some point in this phase, they’ll feel the baby kick and move and hiccup for the first time. Depending on what they choose, they may have the experience of getting to see their baby move and grow in an ultrasound. This trimester is about continuing to navigate the physical and emotional changes they may be experiencing. This next practice invites a thoughtful body scan that can help them familiarize themselves with their changing body and support them in feeling connected to the baby and themself.
Body Scan Meditation
- Start by finding a quiet place to sit or lie down. Welcome blankets, pillows, and anything that will help you feel comfortable and safe. If you think you may fall asleep, you can set a timer for 10-15 minutes.
- Take three deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. On your third exhale, allow your eyes to close and your breath to return to its natural rhythm.
- We’ll begin to journey through a full body scan, strengthening the connection with your body, breath, and baby. Starting from the top of your head, we’ll work our way down. Allow your eyelids to be heavy, brow soft, and unfurrowed. Notice if your jaw is clenched. Give a little bit of space in between the teeth, let your tongue get wide and heavy in your mouth. Relax your shoulders, allowing them to lower away from the ears. Elbows and arms are heavy. Hands relaxed with fingers naturally unfurled. Feel your seat connected with whatever surface it’s resting on. Pelvis relaxed, legs heavy, and awareness of the soles of your feet connected to Earth, or perhaps feel your heels anchored to the ground if you’re lying down. If you feel any sensations in any part of the body, allow yourself to explore and get curious about what you’re experiencing. Remember we are in no rush or hurry.
- If you haven’t already, rest your palms on your belly, making gentle and loving contact with the baby. Feel the rise and fall of your womb as you breathe in and out. You may have the desire to silently speak to your baby, sharing words of comfort, love, and connection. Or simply just be together, relaxed and present.
- When you feel ready, slowly blink your eyes open. Take a moment to notice how you feel. Invite yourself back to this practice, often, to stay connected to yourself and your baby.
We have now reached the final stretch of pregnancy. Worries about labor and childbirth may begin to really take hold. Mothers may experience new sensations and a more limited range of motion as their baby continues to grow. They may also start to experience more difficulty getting comfortable sleeping and staying asleep. Many expectant mothers notice increased worries about how their relationships will change – with their partner and close friends. Many may also worry about their post-baby body, how they will recover after childbirth, and how they will learn to love their body when it’s a version they haven’t known before. A mindfulness meditation to support these common worries in pregnancy is one of Loving Kindness.
- Start by finding a quiet place to sit or lie down. Welcome blankets, pillows, and anything that will help you feel comfortable and safe.
- Take three deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth. On your third exhale, allow your eyes to close and your breath to return to its natural rhythm. Take a few rounds of breath to notice how you’re feeling, and any sensations you feel in the present moment. You can welcome your hands to rest on your baby, physically connecting with your breath and baby.
- Take the next few moments to imagine yourself sitting comfortably in your favorite spot. Picture yourself looking happy and relaxed. Send a message and feeling of love to yourself. Acknowledge your strength, courage, and all of the gifts you contribute to the world around you.
- You’ll repeat this, but with your partner or dear friend in mind. Take a few moments to imagine them happy, well, and at ease. Send them love, acknowledging their innate gifts and the joy they bring to your life.
- You’ll repeat this again, but this time imagining your baby, safe in your womb. Imagine them looking happy, healthy, safe, and at ease. Send your little one lots of love and kindness. Sending gratitude for the opportunity to be their mother.
- Then, return back to the image of yourself, sitting comfortably, happy, well, safe, and at ease. Witness yourself smile, connected to the abundance of love you both radiate and are surrounded by. Witnessing the love that connects you to all things.
- When you feel ready, slowly blink your eyes open and welcome yourself back to your present space. Take a moment to notice how you feel. Invite yourself back to this practice, often, to feel connected to yourself, your loved ones, and your baby.
Inviting mindfulness practices in pregnancy can benefit mother’s-to-be in so many ways. When we welcome ourselves to pause and notice, we teach ourselves that the meaning in life is found in the present. We aren’t dwelling in the past or focusing on a future yet to come. Instead, mamas-to-be can invite themselves to truly feel and explore the sensations that come with creating human life. To stay present in the wide assortment of feelings and emotions that arise when a big change is coming. Mindfulness, as well as yoga, reminds us, over and over again, of the wealth and abundance we have in the here and now.