1. Fix up your baby's first room: Your body!
Your baby will spend the months until birth in the perfect room -- as long as you send the right room service deliveries. It's not just nutrients, although nutrition is critical because your body can only use what you feed it to grow your baby. Hormones, neurotransmitters, and the rest of your body chemistry matter too. When mothers feel emotions – positive and negative – their body chemistry changes accordingly. Babies experience all of these changes.
Female bodies are miraculous in their ability to nurture new life, from a tiny seed to the infant who will soon be in your arms. Amazingly, your body knows exactly how to do this. All you have to do is support it.
How to provide the best growth environment for your baby?
- Eat well and often. You're growing your baby, right now. Are you building her out of yogurt and sweet potatoes or coffee and danish?
- Make sure you get your vitamins, particularly folic acid and Omega 3 oil (from fish or plankton), which are essential for brain development.
- Eliminate toxins (alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, food additives). They're not good for you, but they're dangerous to your baby.
- Reduce your stress and increase your joy quotient. Your baby will feel it!
- Meditate and/or do relaxation exercises to keep yourself and baby healthy. This creates the best climate for your baby to grow, because it reduces stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and creates love hormones like oxytocin. It also teaches you to relax on cue -- a very good thing to practice before the birth.
- Sleep as requested by your body. You need it.
- Exercise appropriately. Sedentary women are 4x as likely to deliver via Caesarean section as women who did aerobics during the first or second trimester.
2. Choose the best way for your baby to enter the world, and who will support you through the pregnancy and birth process.
What kind of birth do you want? It's worth some serious thinking and research, even this early on. That will help you choose the doctor or midwife -- as well as the hospital or birthing center -- who can give your baby the best start in life.
Choosing Your Hospital or Birthing Center »
Choosing Your Doctor or Midwife »
Questions to Jumpstart Your Thinking about Your Ideal Birth »
3. Start Educating Yourself.
You're embarking on a grand and sacred journey, as old as human beings. There was a time when you would have learned a lot about this process just by growing up in a village, where women accumulated experience and wisdom and used it to help each other. While we miss that today, you have at your fingertips a global village. The resources online and in books could keep you busy 24/7, so don't obsess. Just focus on the basics, and let the rest go (which is also great practice for parenting.) Here are some of the very best resources to get you started. Click here to check out our favorite Pregnancy and Birth Books.
4. Start Preparing Yourself to Become a Mother.
The focus right now is all on the physical, but now's the time to start the psychological work of becoming a mother. That means asking yourself some questions: How do I feel about becoming a mother? Am I excited? Scared? Nervous about how I'll balance work, relationship and baby? All of the above? Whatever comes up for you, explore the answers. Remember that whatever you feel is normal, and worth reflecting on.
If you find yourself worrying, re-frame your worry as an opportunity to listen to your intuition and make appropriate changes. Re-frame fear as excitement about the future, even though you don't know exactly how things will unfold. Worries are a signal to us that we need to pay attention to something; pushing them away just raises your stress level. If you find yourself worrying about how to make a decision (Keep working outside the home? Breast or bottle? Home or hospital birth?) go back to your basic values and make your decisions from the clarity of what priorities matter most to you. Talk with your friends, your partner, even a counselor, if you find yourself worrying excessively, or just to work through your emerging feelings and concerns. Don't forget to reassure yourself by reviewing your many blessings and reminding yourself that things have a way of working out.
5. Commit to De-Stressing.
Hundreds of reliable studies show that everything you feel, your baby feels. Major stress in pregnant women is linked to some serious effects you just don't want in your baby, like more irritability, lower IQ, and attention/concentration problems. What about minor stress? Temporary, short-term stressors are fine; your baby is resilient. But if you are juggling chronic stress, such as a demanding job, that definitely affects your baby. Does that mean you have to quit your job? Not necessarily. Remember that stress is not what happens to us, it is how we respond to what happens to us. A regular mindfulness practice will definitely reduce the negative biological impact that your getting stressed out has on your baby. So will regular exercise. And maybe there is a way you can relate differently to your work?
6. Start connecting with your baby.
Your baby can't hear you quite yet, but many people think there is soul communication between mother and child that begins at conception. You don't have to believe that to begin connecting emotionally with your baby, though. Now is the perfect time to begin what will be one of the most important relationships of your life, by consciously embracing and nurturing your baby, emotionally and physically. Talk, sing, wonder aloud, visualize your happy, healthy baby as he or she grows inside you, is easily birthed, and flourishes through each stage of childhood. Make promises to love, protect, nurture, and accept your child for exactly who he or she turns out to be. And make promises to yourself, too, that you will never stop being there for your own self as you become a mother. After all, you can only give your baby what you have inside.