When I was pregnant with Gray, I was blown away by the number of folks who reached out to us and offered positive guidance. More often than not, I hear women discussing the unwanted advice they’ve received during their pregnancies– strangers on the street who feel it necessary to say, “You shouldn’t be drinking that coffee; it will hurt your baby.” (Meanwhile, the expectant mother is holding a cup of decaf…) Other times, it’s a parent or in-law that decides to compare and contrast their past pregnancies with your current one, as if they are all the same. No exhausted woman who is plagued by morning sickness likes to hear someone brag, “Oh wow, you’re throwing up seven times a day? That’s too bad. I never got sick, had heartburn, or experienced trouble sleeping. Little Johnny was perfect in every way.” Brad and I got lucky, in that we rarely received comments such as this. Instead, we were extended kind and gentle support… even from people we didn’t know! Which brings me to my guest post this week.
Right smack dab in the middle of my pregnancy, in the throes of nausea and fatigue, I got a little surprise in the mail in the form of a book: The Greatest Pregnancy Ever. It was sent to me by authors/pregnancy experts, Laurel Wilson and Tracy Wilson Peters, and I appreciated their subtlety. They didn’t force opinions on me regarding how to raise my child, or tell me how to get over my pregnancy woes. They offered my sanity a nurturing helping hand– a spiritual support of sorts. Tracy wrote an inscription in the front of my book that read, “Jenna, Wishing you the greatest pregnancy ever. In light, Tracy.” The words in light struck me. They were such reassuring feelings from someone I’d never met, and I was grateful for that. It made me feel like there were other folks out there rooting for my child and I to succeed together! The book was a warm and wonderful reminder to relax and cultivate an early bond with my baby. Instead of entertaining my type-A desires to ignore the nausea and get things done around the house, it inspired me to indulge my need for quietude instead. These ladies encouraged me to embrace my motherly intuition and to connect with my daughter on an emotional level, even before her birth. I’m so pleased they’ve agreed to write a guest post for The Cradle Chronicles, and I hope you enjoy the read!
Baby University – Class Starts During Pregnancy
You are your child’s first teacher. From the moment of conception, babies are enrolled in the university of life. Every experience a mother has during pregnancy is designed to teach her baby about the world he will soon encounter. All of the information babies receive from their mother in the womb serves as a special lesson plan for adapting to their new world. Mothers are teaching their babies about their world throughout pregnancy, via special molecules of emotion. This is the basis for the bond between a mother and her baby and is the beginning of the school of life.
Contrary to popular belief, the mother baby bond begins well before birth. This bond starts early in pregnancy and is made possible because the placenta acts as a highly advanced communication device between the two. When a mother experiences an emotion or feeling, messenger molecules pulse through her body. These molecules are designed to communicate information to the mother’s body systems, but they also communicate to the baby via the placenta. For example, if a mother feels anxiety or stress, her heart rate increases, her adrenaline spikes and she moves into a state of fight or flight. Her body begins producing cortisol, the stress hormone.
When mothers have stress during pregnancy, babies are stressed, too. The March of Dimes reports that chronic stress in pregnancy can lead to health problems in the mother, such as preterm delivery, high blood pressure and other medical issues. Unrelenting, chronic stress in pregnancy can lead to a baby who cries more, sleeps less, and is anxious. Unfortunately, many mothers today are chronically stressed. They live their lives constantly on the go, jumping from task to task, engaged in activity from sun up until they drop into bed in state of exhaustion well past sun down. This environment of stress impacts a mother’s ability to sleep, increases her risk of developing postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, and decreases the blood flow to the placenta.
On a positive note, when a mother has joyful, loving, and compassionate emotions, it helps contribute to a healthier womb environment. Less stress leads to healthier development for babies. This unique communication between a mother and baby is how the baby’s emotional intelligence is created. When a mother has a loving thought, her baby experiences love. When she feels joyful, he encounters joy. When she is angry, he perceives anger. It is an amazing process designed to give babies the opportunity to develop a healthy emotional life that matches the emotional tone of his new family. This emotional tone is his way preparing for and coping with his world, known as the EQ, or emotional quotient. Today it is recognized that a healthy EQ is more important for long-term happiness throughout a lifetime than a high IQ.
So what is today’s mom to do? With the increasing pressures of today, how do we lighten our load? The good news is that it’s actually quite simple to help the body relieve stress. Below is a list of proven techniques that ANY pregnant mother can use to relieve the effects of stress:
- Yawn. Yes, yawn. Repeated yawning resets the brain, releases “happy” hormones and helps the body process cortisol. Ever notice the need to yawn when it’s necessary to pay attention but just can’t find the energy? Yawning is like a natural, gentle boost to the brain.
- Move! Take a 10 minute walk, swim for half and hour, dance to music in the living room, take a prenatal yoga class! Movement improves circulation, releases beta-endorphins and releases stress!
- Smile and laugh. Have friends over for tea and giggle! Watch a favorite funny movie. Do things that increase happiness. Laughter is one of the best antidotes for stress.
- Nap. Get at least a minimum of 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep at night. Having just one 10 minute nap a day helps everyone deal with stress better. Getting the brain into the delta state of relaxation allows for body rejuvenation and improved immune functioning. Take an eye mask and mp3 player to work and, during break-times, rest deeply for ten minutes.
When pregnant mothers realize that they are their baby’s first teacher, it can empower them to make better choices. These choices can include practicing stress reduction techniques, developing healthier relationships, eating healthy foods and practicing conscious decision-making. Mothers have the power to change the world when they choose to teach their babies lessons of love during pregnancy. For more information on how to increase the mother baby bond and reduce stress during pregnancy, read The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: Keys to the MotherBaby Bond.
Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CLE, CCCE
Tracy Wilson Peters, CCCE, CLD, CLE
Thanks so much to Tracy and Laurel, for lending their expertise to The Cradle Chronicles this week!
Until next time… Peace, Love, & Dirty Diapers,
Jenna von Oy
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