Pregnancy and recovery are a time of huge emotional swings. The variety and pace of the shift in emotions can be scary. By scary I mean unfamiliar.
Up until this point we may not have experienced the rush and waves of emotion. Any emotional changes during menstruation are just a preview of what a woman can experience when with child or postpartum.
But, looking at the waves of emotions as something simply unfamiliar to us allows us to be in them differently. The change in perspective allows us to not need to control, escape, apologize, repress, or be ashamed of being “emotional.” We can look at what they may be telling us. Even in pregnancy, and I would say particularly in pregnancy, emotions signal it is time to step back to look at what we need.
Pregnancy emotions reveal:
Need for community: allow that you cannot do everything you use to do and you shouldn’t be doing everything you use to do. It is a time to nurture you and the baby. Asking or accepting help will make you stronger during this time.
Rest is necessary: juggling all the balls in the air while creating a new human is exhausting. Tearful outburst often signal it is time to rest - quite literally, take a nap, sit on a bench while your other children play, say no more often.
Fears about the process or being a mom: Here the meditations within Aphrodite Project are super helpful at calming and reassuring you that you are more than enough to go through this process and you can be the best mom to your child regardless of what you experienced.
You need to speaking: Sometimes the emotional roller coaster is because we do not let those around us know how and what we are feeling. The bottled up emotions seep out of us in the form of moodiness, frustration, snappiness, impatience, and disappointment. Not speaking to those around us can also make us feel isolated. You do not need to have a big sit down, but begin to just say what you are feeling and thinking when it comes. Just starting where you are, you will experience a lot of relief.
By become curious about the emotional waves of pregnancy and postpartum, we find our way out of the wave and learn how to create a better life for ourselves. This lesson will spill over to all areas of your life, and help you be a better woman and mom.
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.
As a reminder: 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 3rd Trimester
Mantras for the 3rd Trimester - see article What is a Mantra?
Month 7: I accept all my emotions.
Month 8: My inner voice speaks wisdom. I’m listening.
Month 9: Baby, you will come with perfect timing.
A big problem is that when we sense something is not right in pregnancy, childbirth, or postpartum, we alert medical caregivers who do not listen. Healthcare advocates report a gender bias where doctors listen to men more seriously than they do to women. We see women are often ignored, but black women’s complaints regarding pain are dismissed at a greater rate than white women.
When asked about this in a CBS interview, Dr. Neel Shah, a professor of obstetrics at Harvard Medical School, and a practicing physician said, “This is going to be hard to hear: we believe black women less when they express concerns about the symptoms they’re having, particularly around pain.”
Looking into cases of medical mismanagement, moms and dads speak up, but are not heard quickly enough. Not being heard quickly enough results in near death experiences and, unfortunately, mortality. Please watch here for to understand this more deeply https://www.cbsnews.com/news/maternal-mortality-an-american-crisis/
So what do we do?
1. Vehemently Trust Your Instinct
It does not matter that your concern was dismissed, do not shut up until it is thoroughly looked into.
During pregnancy, and especially during birth and after birth have 2-3 people who are dedicated to advocating for you. Here you want people who have as much medical knowledge as possible and the most demanding personalities. Someone who loves you, but is shy or a strong rule follower is not the person to choose.
3. Remember This is Your Life, Your Baby
The doctor cannot feel your pain. Do not minimize your pain. I recommend being very clear about the pain and stating that it is not normal.
Toward the middle of your pregnancy you start to feel amazing. This energy inspires you to do, do, do. In this energized state we want to get things done and often feel that we can do them better, quicker, and more satisfyingly ourselves. Although that may be true, this is the time to practice receiving.
Receiving is the art of allowing others to do for you, accepting the care and attention of others, and comfort in being cared for by another. Mastering this art now will make the last trimester and postnatal life so much easier and less stressful. Perfecting the art of receiving will provide space to nurture yourself and baby making you both healthier..
Allowing another to help you requires strength and a deep appreciation for yourself. (If you feel like you have neither, fake it - it will come.) Strength to let go of the need to prove yourself. Strength to open yourself to another. My daughter likes to say, “In conscious vulnerability, there is intimacy.” Choosing to allow others to do for you strengthens the bond you have with them.
Abandon the idea that your worth comes from what you do - you are worthy, appreciated, and love because you are - because you BE. You were created by God, God created you specifically. You are not an accident, you were not haphazardly thrown together. You are God’s gift to life. You ARE, therefore you are to be appreciated, loved, and valued - all of us should. Believing this is great, but the action which demonstrates the belief is more profound: being able to receive from others is a deep affirmation of all that you are.
On a practical side, when you receive from others, there is less on your plate and you can spend your energy growing baby and caring for you. On a spiritual side, you greet the world with an open hand and heart. When our hearts are open, we can receive more of the good the Universe has to offer.
Ways to begin to receive:
Get a prenatal massage
Imagine you are a princess, and the massage therapist is giving you your royal massage. Take it in like a queen.
Let it Come
When people open doors, ask to carry something for you, make space for you, give their seat to you - accept it.
Plan a date and allow your partner to choose and do everything for you: your partner will pick out your outfit, decide on a place to go, choose your meal for you. This exercise of giving up control will help you see how much you’ve grown in receiving or how much more you can grow.
Yin yang is the balance between rest and activity. The balance of doing and being is what we are aiming to make our habit during the nine months of gestation so that it will be second nature when baby arrives.
Our work becomes more fluid when we have rest interspersed. Caring for our newborn will be easier when we balance it with rest. Pregnancy will fly when we allow ourselves rest and restoration time.
During your pregnancy following the Aphrodite program you will learn this balance. It will make your pregnancy easier, it will lower stress related complications, and it will allow your body to repair from the wear and tear of life and pregnancy -- and you will get things done with more ease and speed.
When you noticed you are too hurried take some time out for evaluation. Ask yourself:
I love the Ted Talk by Shonda Rhimes on play (another word for rest). I watch it frequently when I feel I need to refocus. Watch it here https://www.ted.com/talks/shonda_rhimes_my_year_of_saying_yes_to_everything?language=en
You can have sex when you are pregnant. Your libido changes throughout your pregnancy - for most women it is highest in the second trimester. Sex will help you connect with your partner, relieve tension, and pleasure floods you with good endorphins.
Let your intuition guide you in sex. If you sense discomfort, try something different. However, do not fear that it will hurt baby - amniotic fluid and the cervix protect the baby. After an orgasm, you may feel Braxton Hicks contractions which are completely normal. If you have light spotting after sex, it is most likely from small blood vessels in the vaginal canal and cervix. The blood supply to your pelvis increases with pregnancy and the tiny capillaries can sometimes break. If bleeding seems unusual, see your caregiver.
If you are at risk of preterm labor or are on bed rest, check with your medical advisor before having vaginal or anal sex.
Pregnancy is as much a physical as well as a spiritual experience. There is a lot of trust and many unknowns to sort through. The Book of Questions, a section of your journal pages, helps you do this.
In the Book of Questions you write down questions you have - practical questions as well as spiritual questions.
Here is a sample excerpt from my Book of Questions to help you understand.
Will my labor be fast?
Should I get my hair done before labor?
Did I choose the right birthing coach?
Will I know what to do?
Is Jacob the right name?
Will I want to go back to work?
As you see the questions can be various and there is no need for an answer. In forming the question, I am opening up myself to receive the answer and I am offering a type of prayer to receive the answer. As your pregnancy progresses, you will be shocked how the answers will come naturally and with ease.
Begin to talk to the baby if you haven’t already. She knows your voice and can hear it. Tell baby about your life, your day, your happiness in caring for her. You can also sing nursery rhymes and tell stories to your child. Begin to connect your child to the community and family by telling stories of your past - you are welcoming this child into a place of love.
This is a great time to direct your pregnancy mantras at you and baby. To understand what mantras are read “What’s a Mantra.”
“You are growing with ease.”
“I welcome you and nourish you.”
“I love and protect you.”
“Everything is provided for you to grow healthy.”
As you use mantras and speak to baby, place one hand on your belly and another on your heart. Visualize the love connection between the two of you. Visualize what it will be to meet this child. Allow yourself to be aware of the acts of love we do daily with our hands. This same love is felt by baby as you rest your hand on your belly.
In the 1st trimester you began a daily quiet time. If not, refer back to the article here.
As a reminder: 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 2nd Trimester
Mantras for the 2nd Trimester - see article What is a Mantra?
Month 4: I welcome and nourish you
Month 5: I love and protect you.
Month 6: You are growing with ease.
Meditation is the dissolver of stress and worry. It benefits your baby by creating positive endorphins that calm the baby and flood it’s developing nervous system with happy hormones. Meditation reduces your body’s stress load. It helps you fight off colds and infections. It will also prepare you to deal with the sensations of labor. Meditation is also a powerful way to connect with your baby during pregnancy.
Meditation is a cornerstone of the Aphrodite Project. It produces many health and destressing benefits to mom and baby with very little effort and no cost. You need only 10 minutes a day.
How to meditate:
You can meditate anywhere and in any position. Begin by being aware of your breath. Do not worry about your thoughts - let them come and go as they please. Focus on your breath. Place one hand on your heart and another on your belly.
Take a moment and focus on your baby. Send love from your heart to your baby - sometimes it helps to see a white light connecting your heart to the baby.
Now with each breath, say in your mind or out loud.
“My body is strong. My baby is growing strong.”
Allow the words to sink in. Feel them strengthening you and your baby.
Continue this for five or ten minutes. When you are done think of three things you are thankful for in your life. Well done!
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.
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.
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.