The most primary relationship we have is with ourselves. As a mother, my health, calm, and patience comes from how I nurture or mother myself. Actually, rather or not you are a mother, mothering or nurturing yourself is essential. It is the only way to cultivate the soil of your life so you are healthy, vibrant, and feel alive.
Mother's Day gives opportunity to reflect on motherhood and to introduce Aphrodite Project. Birthing and pregnancy is very dear to my heart: I spent 14 years of my life bearing children, I experienced happily water birth, hospital birth, and home birth. Each was fantastic, monumental, and taught me about myself.
But, what I did not realize then, and know now, is how very lucky I was in having one healthy pregnancy and birth after another.
Aphrodite Project provides women support in pregnancy and postpartum that is desperately needed. The United States is in a health crisis that few are aware of or speak of: the rate of pregnancy related death is rising in the U.S. while decreasing 44% in the rest of the world although we spend more on healthcare. We are at the bottom of the list when compared to other developed countries.
Many studies are now being conducted to find out why. The general agreement in the research is echoed in a Harvard University study which asserts that the main contributing factor is the chronic stress women live under which weakens the entire body making pregnancy an extraordinary challenging environment for maternal wellness.
So by dissolving stress and building wellness within the body, your chances of a healthy pregnancy and birth dramatically increases. The practices we focus on at jolie are also the recommendations for creating better maternal outcomes. Aphrodite Project takes these practices and adapts them to pregnancy to help women create better results for themselves.
My request to you is to take a look at aphroditeprojectbirth.com. Even if you are not in that stage, you will find useful tools. But even more, please join me in connecting childbearing women with the site. It is a growing treasure trove of support.
P.S Please feel free to share this to anyone who needs it.
Hydration is more important during pregnancy than in normal life (the exception here is when you nurse - you need even more water. The water is going into amniotic fluid, increased blood volume, the baby, and ridding the body of toxins and waste.
Drinking 8-10 cups of water is the Mayo Clinic recommendation. You can best gauge if you have enough by the color of your pee. It should be pale yellow.
Your 8-10 cups can be water, decaf tea or coffee, milk, nut milks, green juices, herbal tea, flavored drinks, seltzer. Sodas do count as hydration, but the sugar, sugar substitutes, and additives in them are not good for baby or mom. Fruit juices should be taken in moderation. They contain a lot of sugar which can cause excess weight gain and insulin resistance which leads to gestational diabetes.
If water get boring, add fruits or herbs to the water or a splash of fruit juice.
Mantra is a Hindi word which means sacred message. In English, we use it to mean words which we repeat over and over to shape our thinking and outcomes. They are sacred in that they do shape how we think of things, set expectations, and very often determine outcomes.
Words are extremely powerful. I am reminded of Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death.” We want our words to speak life: if what we say becomes reality, we only want to say what we want to be. So our words are the sacred messages of what we want to be. That is a mantra.
While we are pregnant and beyond pregnancy, we use our words to create the experience we want to have. So early on begin with your pregnancy mantras.
Likewise, begin to be aware of what you say. Do not say anything you don’t want to happen. For example, if the baby is kicking a lot say, “This baby has spunk,” or “This baby is a fighter.” Do not say, “This baby is such a pain.” If something seems not right in the pregnancy, seek medical assistance, but all the time in your internal dialogue with yourself expect the issue to be dealt with and the most positive outcome.
The key to using a mantra is to say it often and to stick with it for at least a week or more:
I am grateful for myself and my baby
My body is strong. My baby is growing stronger every day.
I am mindful of everything I put in my body to nourish me and my baby.
I believe in myself. I know how to do this.
My baby is safe inside me.
All things are working for me.
I love myself. I love my baby.
Baby, I welcome you.
I trust my body. I trust my wisdom.
I am connected to all my ancestors who birthed before me. They surround me and help me.
I allow myself rest.
I accept all my emotions
Journaling during pregnancy records your experience. It also helps you sort through your feelings. During pregnancy a lot can come up. It is best not to push away your thoughts or emotions. They are surfacing so that you can process them and either learn from them or release them.
Starting with the premise that all emotions are welcome journal your feelings. This may be hard. I was told growing up that my feelings didn’t matter; I was too emotional; you can’t wear your feelings on your shirt sleeve. I learned to repress my emotions. I am here to tell you every single one of your emotions matters and needs to be paid attention to.
In journaling your feelings, notice what they may be telling you. Perhaps there are experiences from your past that need to be processed. There may be life scripts that you have that need to be rewritten. For example, if your script says you cannot take care of anything, it is time to rewrite how you do take care of things and people. You may feel ambivalent about the baby, that’s okay - there are ways to connect throughout your pregnancy.
Past sexual experience may surface now. Know that you are safe in this moment and that this is an opportunity to work through past trauma.
Journaling is important too because it is one of the safety valves that releases stress from the body. Feelings have to be expressed - they need to move out of the body by journaling, talking them out with a friend, or movement (dance is a great way to move emotions.)
Worry is poisonous energy which turns things bad. It doesn't feel good, it doesn't taste good, and it's not nourishing.
The first trimester is a roller coaster. You may not realize you are pregnant for part of it. But, all is well. No need to fret over what you did, didn’t, or might have done before conception. Your body is a marvelous mechanism which was already protecting and nourishing the little developing baby inside.
This is the first step in Aphrodite Project - dispense with worry. Worry is essentially sending negative, smothering energy into a situation. Yuk!!! We want to train our body, through our mind, to expect the best outcomes, the best health for our baby, and the best for us.
When you find out you are pregnant it is time to begin saying as frequently as possible “I am nurturing the baby inside. My body knows what to do.” Let this be your mantra. Write it down, post it on the bathroom mirror. Put it in your wallet. Stick it on your car. You can print it out here.
Your positive mindset will make your pregnancy amazing. People are able to heal themselves from diseases like cancer with their mind. The book Mind Over Medicine by Dr. Lissa Rankin documents how the mind can heal. We can use this power to wrap our pregnancy in safety and ease.
To learn more about using mantras, read the article on How to Meditate and What is a Mantra.
Rest is your focus during the first trimester. Nothing will help you at this point more than sleep. The hormone progesterone is the slow down hormone and it is in high gear now. One of its effects is that it makes you very tired so you will sleep more.
Remember when you were growing, you could easily sleep 10-12 hours. You body is now growing again. During the first trimester, the body is expanding the uterus, creating the placenta and umbilical cord, making another human being, increasing blood supply, creating specific hormones for pregnancy.
Allow yourself as much rest as possible. Use catnaps throughout the day. Eleven minutes is a perfect nap to allow your hard working body to reboot. Try to get to bed early - by 10 pm or earlier. On days when you can, sleep in as long as possible. Make a practice of scheduling appointments after 10am to allow yourself more sleep.
This is a great time to also begin a nighttime routine to help you sleep better. Here are some suggestions to maximize your sleep.
For some, morning sickness becomes worse until the 20th week and for a small number of moms it will continue throughout the pregnancy. This condition is called hyperemesis gravidarum. It is not dangerous, but you should carefully monitor your diet with your healthcare provider to make sure you are getting all the necessary nutrients.
It is helpful to keep a log of what you eat, how much, and were you able to keep it down. This will give a clear picture of what you are consuming. Also, it will aid in pinpointing any sensitivities. Noting the time of your meals is helpful also.
I unfortunately experienced this in all of my pregnancies. To help yourself thrive despite it, get plenty of rest, stay well hydrated, and eat nutrient dense foods. Also, upping your self care, exercise, and spiritual practices will keep you focused and positive as you move toward your birth.
Constipation in pregnancy is caused by the slowdown of your digestive system during pregnancy. Resolving constipation will make you more comfortable and prevent hemorrhoids.
Morning sickness is the result of the hormonal shift in your body. The good news is that it’s a positive pregnancy sign, the less good news is that it is part of your body’s adjustment.
Here are natural ways to manage morning sickness:
Don’t beat yourself up or try to push through. Know that this is part of pregnancy for the time and shift your schedule to give yourself extra time in the morning.
Lemon and Peppermint Essential Oil
Put a few drops on a tissue and breath the smell in when you feel nausea coming.
Sipping water throughout the day will keep you hydrated which reduces morning sickness. Try seltzer water too. The bubbles help calm the stomachs of some women.
Ginger provides nausea relief.
You can buy wrists bands to relieve motion sickness which also work for morning sickness. One brand is Seabands.
You can also apply pressure to the same acupressure point on your wrist yourself. Here is how to find it: Palms up, place your first three fingers of the opposite hand on your inner wrist. Apply pressure for 10-20 seconds with your index finger between the two tendons.
Have protein and fat when you wake up. Cheese, nuts, nut butter, unsweetened dried coconut, scrambled eggs, yogurt are all good- the protein and fat will give you sustained energy without swings in your blood sugar which can trigger nausea.
Take 25 to 50 mg twice a day. B6 helps relieve vomiting and nausea.
If nausea is keeping you from eating, please talk to your doctor or midwife. Give them a clear list of what you have been eating including quantity. Also, record frequency of vomiting.
Your main goal is to clean up any bad habits. The focus of pregnancy eating is packing in nutrition - the building blocks of your body and your babies. You actually do not need any more calories than you already consume, but those calories need to count.
1st Trimester Eating Goals
More information read:
Eating for Two
Begin or deepen your commitment to a daily quiet time with Spirit - this is God, the Creator, the Universe, Allah, Jesus, Buddha, Nature, Goddess … whatever entity you identify as the source of all and larger than you.
Aphrodite Project is all inclusive and pushes no religious philosophy. For simplicity, we will use the term Spirit or God throughout the site.
Three Practices of the 1st Trimester
Mantras for the 1st Trimester - see article What is a Mantra?
Month 1: Baby, I welcome you.
Month 2: My baby is safe inside me.
Month 3: I allow myself to rest.
Self Care is essential at all stages of your life, but ESPECIALLY during pregnancy. Carrying a child is a sacred task that demands everything from you. You have to be strong to do it. We make ourselves strong by caring for our body, spirit, and mind. One key component of this is self care. When you are pregnant self care is not optional.
Each trimester you will have an Aphrodite Project Self Care Program. Taking care of you will make you healthier, lower stress, and help your body make the baby. Stress interferes with normal pregnancy. Aphrodite Project Self Care Program encourages you to do activities that reduce stress - this puts you on the side of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Print out weekly program here.
8-12 hours daily, see article Sleep the Magic Elixir for more info on sleep
Use Lavender Oil
You can put it directly on your wrist or on a cloth. Breathing in lavender oil will calm you and relieve nausea.
Begin each morning with lemon water to get you on the road to hydration. The lemon will settle your stomach and prepare your digestive tract to absorb nutrients. You should aim for 10 cups a day. Click here for the article on Hydration.
Commit to taking a bath with 2 cups of epsom salt twice a week. Perhaps Sunday and Friday to get you ready for the week and the weekend. For more on the benefits of baths see article Relief by Bathing.
Begin this practice 5 minutes a day to destress you. You can meditate at any time during your day. Simply be still and focus on feeling your breath move in and out of your lungs. You don’t have to do anything else. Don’t worry about thoughts. Just breath. If you can slow your breath down. That’s it. For more on meditation see the videos and recordings. There are many meditations to choose from to guide you throughout your pregnancy.
In the evening, not before bed, spend a few minutes journaling. Write three gratitudes and then write about your feelings, your questions, and your day. Visit the journal pages for a template you can print out. See Journaling article
During the first trimester you will:
Embryo implants in uterine lining
Heart begins to beat
Baby starts to form
Face, fingers, and toes begin to form.
Hair and fingernails are formed
Internal organs - kidneys, liver, lungs are forming and the heartbeat is getting stronger
The uterus is stretching
Baby is about the size of a pea
Baby grows to the size of a prune - about 1.5 inches long.
Your uterus has grown from the size of your fist to that of a grapefruit
Baby is moving more and begins to suck and have facial expressions
Key Hormones of the 1st Trimester
Estrogen - encourages growth, stimulates the uterus to stretch, begins the enlargement of milk ducts so your can nurse your baby, improves circulation, increases your sex drive, and can heighten emotions
Progesterone - iis key in building the uterine lining and inhibiting contractions so the baby can implant and the placenta can form well. It is also signalling the mom’s immune system that the baby is not a foreign invader. Progesterone also slows digestion down so you extract more nutrients from your food and causes tiredness. See article on Constipation.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) - stimulates the empty egg follicle to produce estrogen and progesterone until this function is taken over by the mom’s body.
During the first trimester:
Nausea and vomiting signal the beginning of morning sickness although frequently experienced in the morning it can continue into the day. The nausea brings with it loss of appetite. If you are not up to eating much, it’s okay. Eat as much nutritious food as your nausea allows - a hormone relaxin is changing the lining of your intestine to extract more nutrition from your food to help you and baby. Also, you may always feel full or bloated due to the slowdown in your digestion.
You may also have some spotting during the first 12 weeks. It can be caused as the baby implants into the uterus. This happens to 25-40% of women. Your doctor or midwife, with a vaginal ultrasound, can verify that everything is okay if you have concerns.
Toward the end of the first trimester your morning sickness should begin to fade. For some women, it will totally subside; for others, it will lessen as they move through the second trimester.
The end of the first trimester brings with it increased energy.
Eating for two sounds like you need to eat for two people when pregnant. It’s said as a carte blanche for pregnant women to eat anything they want. It’s not true.
It is far from the truth. In pregnancy you need ONLY 250 more calories than you normal caloric intake. Here is a few things an extra 250 calories will get you:
1 grande Iced Coffee Macchiato from Starbucks
1 chocolate chip Clif bar
2 cups of 2% milk
1 ¼ cups of plain white rice
1 McDonald’s plain hamburger
2 ½ bananas
4 oz of steak
A side of guacamole from Chipotle
(I tried to find a Dunkin Donuts donut, but nothing under 310 calories.)
Choose one of these, and you are calorically where you need to be. No gorging, no seven meals a day, no fried chicken, no dessert with every meal.
What “eating for two” really means is that we have to get all the nutrients to fuel, repair, and grow our body and the baby inside. So when you sit down to eat, ask yourself is this food nutrient rich? Is it something my grandmother recognized as food? How far from the source is it?
We want food dense in nutrients, not calories necessarily. Eating foods our grandmothers ate is a good rule of thumb in looking for real food. Food that comes directly from an animal or the earth with minimal processing is another good rule of thumb.
Meal time Checklist - follow this rubric for healthy eating. Each meal should contain:
Food grandmother knew
Foods only 1-2 steps from the source
Julia Erickson, the founder of Aphrodite Project, is a wellness authority who uses food, meditation, and movement to create extraordinary health and wellness. Julia's practice is focused on helping women thrive and heal from chronic disease. She is also mother of seven.