40 Weeks: A Reflection on Pregnancy
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Today is my estimated due date (EDD). I am officially 40 weeks pregnant! Where has the time gone? And why do I still not have a baby in my arms?! haha! Sometimes it feels like it’s taken forever to get to this point (especially this final month of pregnancy), but other times it feels like it wasn’t that long ago when I first found out we were pregnant.
Now that I have reached full term, I am looking back and reflecting on these 40 weeks of pregnancy. What I’ve realized is that it has taught me several key lessons about myself and about motherhood.
Lesson 1: A mother’s body is incredible. We should appreciate them more.
Society is so hard on us when it comes to our bodies. This causes us to be extremely hard on ourselves when it comes to our appearance. “We need to be a certain size, look a certain way, never get stretch marks, immediately be in your pre-pregnancy clothes after birth, etc.” It’s so unrealistic, but why do we secretly put that pressure on ourselves? Why do we allow ourselves to fall into that trap?
We all have been self-critical about our appearance at some point in our lives, but I have to say that I have never felt more beautiful or confident in my body than during my pregnancy. This is the time when my hips are supposed to open and get wider. It means that I’m comfortably carrying my baby and making a good pathway for his birth. It’s when my belly is supposed to be round. I don’t need to suck in. It means I’m creating a safe “home” for our baby to grow. My breasts (and nipples) are supposed to get big. They are preparing the perfect food to nourish my baby and help him thrive.
Women’s bodies are truly incredible. Of course there are moments–especially now at 40 weeks pregnant–when I can’t wait to “have my body back.” The swollen feet and legs, carpal tunnel, stretch marks, weight gain, etc. can be a lot to handle. But then I remember the miracle that I am a part of and that not every woman is blessed to have this experience. And I remember that it’s all totally worth it.
Lesson 2: Learn and practice self love.
Something that I’ve had to work on as I’ve approached the end of my pregnancy is self love. Yes, I’ve never felt more confident in body, but I haven’t loved every moment as I’ve watched it grow. (Especially when people stop to ask me if I’m sure I’m not carrying twins . . .) Like the day when I realized that I was getting stretch marks on my stomach. When I noticed them forming, I silently screamed in my head and began to freak out. The funny thing is I’ve always told my clients and other mothers, “Those aren’t stretch marks. They are your tiger stripes. They are beauty marks. They represent the woman and the mother that you have grown into today and the little miracle that you brought into the world.”
I truly believe this when I say this to my clients and friends, but why am I so supportive of them and their amazing bodies but not of myself? Why do I let mainstream media and vanity poison my own personal thoughts, but will completely defend the beauty marks of other mothers?
Truthfully, I think that it’s normal. I think we are all hardest on ourselves. It’s natural. But it’s something that we need to work on and change. We need to practice more self love. I now try to remind myself every day that this is a beautiful stage of life. It’s a stage that will only last for a little while with this baby. I remind myself that God and this baby chose me to be his mother and what a blessing that is. I remind myself that I should be so thankful that my body is able to grow and nourish a healthy baby and mommy. And I also remind myself that I am not only growing a baby, I am growing into the new me. A better me. A mother to this baby. And that is pretty awesome.
Lesson 3: The demands will only get more demanding.
I don’t know about you, but during my pregnancy I feel like I have sooo much to do to get everything right. In your third trimester you are supposed to:
- Walk/ workout regularly
- Hydrate — drink plenty of water
- Stretch daily
- Practice relaxation techniques — listen to relaxation tracks daily
- Do Kegels
- Do perineal massage or use an epi-no
- Take your prenatal vitamins and supplements every day
- Take gentle birth 3x a day once you hit 35 weeks
- Eat 6 dates a day
- Drink raspberry leaf tea
- Read ALL the books
- Go to yoga
- Take a good childbirth class, newborn care class, breastfeeding class, infant CPR class
- Eat healthy — stay away from sugar
- Nap when you can
It may not sound like a lot to some of you, but it actually takes out a huge chunk out of the day. By the time I get all of these things done, half of the day is over and I still have to work. Because I work full-time for my two companies I feel like I’m failing at completing all of these pregnancy to-do items. This is when the guilt sets in. Now I’m afraid that if I don’t have the birth I want it’ll be due to the fact that I didn’t make the time to do all of these things every day. I might think to myself, “Maybe you didn’t try hard enough. Do enough. You don’t love your baby enough because you didn’t make the time.”
Of course none of that is true. It couldn’t be farther from the truth because at the end of the day we are all doing our best. And when I look at the whole picture, I realize that this is just the beginning of my new life. My new job. Being a mom. 🙂 These are the demands that baby is making now during my pregnancy, but there will be new demands that I will need to adjust to and do once baby is here. And it will be even more demanding. So this is just a warm up! These things are preparing me now for what is to come and showing me that life is no longer just about me, work or what I want. Because very soon it’s about to change to:
- Changing diapers
- Soothing baby
- Getting baby to sleep
- Giving a bath
- Wearing baby
- Reading to baby
- Working out with baby
- Massaging baby
- Playing with baby
- Napping when I can
- Keeping baby alive as I care for myself — eating, bathing (when possible) and staying sane
And all of this will be done on very little sleep. I’m going to have to do this while continuing to work full-time, keeping my dogs alive, keeping my marriage strong, etc. But the good thing is I know that I am not alone. I know I am not the only mother who has all of this on her plate. And I know that I can always ask for help.
All of these demands are our new normal. Motherhood is a full-time job, but we also need to give ourselves a little grace throughout the process.
Lesson 4: Get used to the unsolicited advice and comments.
During your pregnancy you will hear everyone’s opinion about everything. I know I have. Even when I didn’t ask for it. You will hear about their pregnancies, their birth experiences (mainly bad ones), their thoughts on your pregnancy, what you should do, what you shouldn’t do and more. Some of it is helpful, but most of it isn’t. And what I have learned is that these unsolicited “words of wisdom” will actually never stop now that I am becoming a parent. Now I will hear all about how I should parent my child, comments about breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, sleep training, the “right way” of discipling kids, what to do and what not to do to have a happy and successful kid, and so much more.
Depending on what that person is saying, you can either take it in and apply it or completely dismiss it all together. It’s up to you. Just smile and nod and say, “Thank you for sharing.” I’ve been doing the same thing throughout my pregnancy. Ultimately you know what is best for your body, your birth, your baby, and your family. Listen to your gut and blow off the rest.
Lesson 5: The worrying has only begun.
Right now I’m stressing and worrying about whether I’ve done enough to grow a healthy and happy baby. “Am I eating good enough? Should I feel bad for not working out more? Should I do more squats? Eat more dates? Practice more relaxation techniques?” Every expecting mom wants to know that she has done a good job growing a healthy baby.
Then you start to worry about whether you will be a good enough mother when he/she gets here? Will you be patient? Have you done enough research? Have you prepared yourself enough? All of this worrying can be exhausting. But here’s a little secret . . . once you’re a mother–from the moment you become pregnant–the worrying never stops. Soon I’ll be worrying about whether or not my son is hitting his milestones, if he’s happy, if he’s healthy, safe, making friends, making the right choices, etc.
In the future I’m sure I’ll be up at night worrying about if he is safe at a party, if he is liking college, if he is getting his heart broken, etc. Worrying is part of the job. It makes you a loving and concerned parent. And if you weren’t worrying about your child and their well-being, I’d be worried about you.
Lesson 6: Try to be patient and appreciate every moment.
Throughout my pregnancy there was always something that I was excited about and couldn’t wait for. For example, reaching the second trimester so we could tell family and friends, finding out the gender of our baby, and now it’s waiting to meet our baby. Each milestone gets more and more exciting and each one becomes more and more difficult for me to be patient. Especially when you feel like you’ve been pregnant forever and want to meet your baby sooo badly. But patience is key.
I know that in the future there will be other things that I can’t wait for. Like when my son first smiles, his first laugh, when he can sleep through the night, when he can sit up, then talk and walk, etc. But we have to stop and remember to enjoy the journey. We need to learn how to be patient and not rush through life waiting for the next milestone to happen. Not every day is going to be perfect–that’s for sure–but these are the moments (pregnancy and motherhood) that we will look back on fondly and at times miss. So enjoy every step of the way and soak it all in. Because before we know it, it will be gone in a flash. I’m reminding myself this now as I am 40 weeks and still pregnant. This is the last time it will just be me and my husband–the two of us. I need to stop rushing through this stage of life and be patient and appreciate it for what it is. 🙂