After week 28, you have officially entered the last trimester of your pregnancy…and the upcoming birth is beginning to feel REAL. There is no denying the large belly hanging out in front, the increased trips to the ladies room. Challenges with getting comfortable to sleep. Read below to feel strong and empowered heading into the home stretch of being preggers.
Stay Active. Although you are carrying around an extra 20 or so pounds at this point and it is much easier to get out of breath going up a flight of stairs, your cardiovascular system needs you to keep moving. Muscles and joints appreciate movement as well and staying loose and flexible heading into birth is a must! Prenatal yoga feels great in the last few weeks of pregnancy as it is gentle on joints yet challenges stamina which is required during the labor process. Going for walks is another way to move without straining the body at this stage. Try taking the stairs to help keep the hips open. Sitting on a birthing ball (exercise ball) can also help gently open the hips and pelvis and support pelvic alignment as your approach the end of the pregnancy.
Slow down. Wait, doesn’t this advice contradict the first step? No, you can stay active (probably not running any marathons at this point) and slow down simultaneously. Keeping moving, but at a slower pace. Take time to listen to your body’s needs and respect your new limits. It can be mentally uncomfortable for women that are used to moving and shaking and getting sh*t done to switch into a lower gear, however, nature requires it for the optimal health of mama and baby. Your body is working so hard to MAKE and CARRY a baby that is not logical to expect the late-term pregnant body and mind to function as it did before. As with any life change, things are different and adaptability to what is new will serve you not only for the rest of the pregnancy but even more so as a new mama. Adaptability is an important life skill that pregnancy and motherhood help to fine-tune at lightning quick speed.
Keep on top of mama self-care. Although you may be feeling slightly overwhelmed with the additional responsibilities that come along during the third tri, like setting up a nursery, identifying the best car seat, and picking out a stroller, it is of the utmost importance that you maintain the self-care regimen created at the beginning of your pregnancy. Especially if you are still working and need to wrap up loose ends at your job prior to maternity leave, be sure to schedule in time for your health and well-being. Get your weekly chiropractic adjustments, fit in your prenatal yoga class, and receive a relaxing prenatal massage. If this is your first pregnancy, you will have the most time and resources to practice self-care for the foreseeable future, so take full advantage of it!
Childbirth education takes top priority. Although you may have already been reading up about the impending birth, now is definitely the time to do your research and create your birth plan. Ideally, you are already receiving support from your birth team (i.e. birth provider, doula, maternity chiropractor, etc) so you feel educated regarding important decisions impacting the type of birth you want to create. Additionally, any book written by Ina May Gaskin, midwife extraordinaire, will enlighten you to normal birth culture and help you trust the innate intelligence within your body in its miraculous ability to birth. Identifying a childbirth ed class that matches your personal philosophy is helpful in preparing you AND your partner. When your partner understands his/her role in supporting your ideal birth outcome, they know how to best serve your needs.
Plan for the fourth trimester. Although your life postpartum may feel like a thousand years from now, it is right around the corner. Caring for a newborn is such a challenging endeavor, including the sleep deprivation, that it is difficult to make plans those first few weeks after delivery. Although there will be inevitable changes required in the moment once your baby is in your arms and as you continue to progress down the motherhood journey, preparing for support is vital. After giving birth, your body, mind, and spirit need time to recover and every new mama needs help. Assigning specific tasks to your partner, mother, sister, friend, or even postpartum doula, can allow you to rest in bed with your brand-new bundle of joy and fully bond skin-to-skin. Your job now is to feed your baby and sleep while your baby sleeps (making sure to consume enough calories to make milk to feed the baby). Not laundry, not cooking, not cleaning, not walking the dog. Have a plan in place for your support team so that the household jobs are delegated and your meals are ready to eat with minimal work on your part. Nourish body, breastfeed the baby, change diapers, sleep, repeat. That includes minimal exposure to the outside world. Don’t worry about social media posts or returning phone calls to discuss baby’s arrival. Just focus on you and baby.
Those first three months are the fastest AND slowest time of your life. Savor every single moment!
You birthed a baby!? How amazing. Take a moment to reflect on the creation you made and the miracle of birth. Women have the opportunity to transcend consciousness and receive massive spiritual growth during an empowered birth. No matter what your birth story may be, now you are on the other side of your pregnancy and life will never be the same again! The first few weeks of your post-partum period may be some of the most challenging yet also the most rewarding (funny how those two tend to go together). Learning how to take care of your newborn whose needs are demanding yet simplistic all at the same time, takes practice, patience and perseverance. Read below for the top five tips that will help you feel supported during the first few months after baby arrives.
Ask for help, often. New mamas need a tremendous amount of support and our current American culture does not automatically create the communal support that is present in other cultures as well as what was present for our ancestors. Traditionally, women were shown by the other women in their tribe/family, that the only duties required of them after birthing a baby were to rest in bed with the baby, nurse on demand, and nourish their own bodies. Nothing else. No housework, laundry, cooking meals, replying to work emails, hosting friends, etc. All of her energy was conserved for healing her body, producing and feeding milk to her baby, and truly connecting with her precious new bundle of joy. Scheduling help from your partner, friends, family, and even a post-partum doula can help you delegate those other tasks and allow you to simply bond with baby.
Speaking of bonding with baby, what does that even mean? It means that you are fully present in connection with your babe. Since babies are unconcerned with the past and the future, they are wonderful teachers to us in how to be fully present. Not thinking about what happened five minutes ago or wondering what needs to be done tomorrow on their to-do list. Just completely in tune to what is present. When you take a moment to feel into their thoughts, it helps to ground mama to this beautiful state of consciousness called presence. What a blessing to have such a pure soul in front of your reflecting this deep, spiritual lesson! Research shows us that mamas that are able to breathe and bond with their baby experience less post-partum depression.
Skin-to-skin is part of the bonding process. Besides the emotional bonding that is occurring when you get present, now is the time to keep baby right next to your skin as often as possible. Not only is this practice helpful for baby to regulate their temperature, heartbeat, and other vital stats, but your microbiome, otherwise known as the microbes found on and in your body, is shared with your brand-new being whose environment was mostly sterile in-utero and therefore, needs an opportunity to replicate friendly bacteria necessary for normal physiological function. As science has informed us in the past few years, this microbiome is essential for many different processes in our body, including our immune system health, and that specific microbes are unique to specific families. That is why your baby needs skin-to-skin time with both its mama AND its daddy. Avoid frequent bathing of yourself and your baby, especially the first couple weeks of life, so that the microbiome is rich and fertile, like nourishing soil for baby’s roots to grow healthy and strong.
Mama self-care. As the whirlwind of having a newborn in your home begins to settle, make a plan for your self-care. Maybe that means scheduling an appointment with your chiropractor for your postpartum check-up (and making sure to get bring in your newborn for a wellness check-up at the same time). Maybe a massage or facial is needed. Maybe lunch with a good friend who knows how to bring a smile to your face. Think about what may help you feel good as you recover from the birthing process and emotionally shift gears as a mother of a newborn. Make sure to prioritize things that help with physical recovery and a positive emotional state.
Your partner needs love, too. Most new mamas are stretched so thin with caring for their new baby that having any extra ounce of energy to give to dad may feel impossible. As your partner is still adjusting to his new role as daddy, the intense stress of having a newborn and the lack of sleep can potentially strain even the strongest of relationships. The massive amount of change, increased responsibility, physiological depletion from newborn care, and increased financial expenses can cause both mama and daddy to stop communicating and that break down in communication can lead the way to misunderstandings. Take a second right now to silently thank your partner for all of the ways he has supported you and your baby. Feel the gratitude. Then, make sure you share it with him. Men need to feel appreciated and letting him know that he is doing a good job as a new daddy can go a long way in giving him the acknowledgment he needs to continue to show up as the paternal caretaker in your family.