6 life lessons from my first 6 months of pregnancy

Hi love,

I am really excited and also a bit nervous about what I am sharing with you today. It is very personal and I know it has the potential to rub some people the wrong way.

I feel called to share my pregnancy story so far, because I strongly believe that the perception of pregnancy has undergone a somewhat damaging image change -namely, that it is a difficult experience with tons of discomfort and tedious pains by default.

I do not believe that this is conducive to any of us women and how empowered we feel in the first few stages of motherhood. (Another thing that’s wrong with our perception of pregnancy is what our bodies are supposed to look like while pregnant and after giving birth, but that’s another post for another time).

Pregnancy is a highly personal experience and so let me just start by saying that this article is solely a reflection of my experience and the lessons that I have learned so far that I think will be helpful for you as well; whether you are pregnant or not.

This is not a judgement of anyone else, nor is it meant to tell you how to go through your own experience. I deeply honor and respect everyone else’s choices.
 

Here goes my story thus far:

The last 6 months have been as eye-opening as the last 5 years altogether.

There have been many new and unexpected experiences, but if there is one overall theme that wraps it all up it would be that I love being pregnant.

                                  My husband and me at a friend's wedding (all the bridesmaids wore white ;)). 26 weeks pregnant.

                                  My husband and me at a friend's wedding (all the bridesmaids wore white ;)). 26 weeks pregnant.

I feel like I am watching a miracle unfold and when I look at myself in the mirror I sometimes have these out-of-body experiences, where I find myself in awe that I am actually growing a human being in my belly.

I don’t remember ever feeling more beautiful or proud in my body than in those moments when I can feel my little man wiggle around in his current belly residence. It’s amazing.

Personally, I have been lucky to have had virtually no morning sickness or fatigue, which I attribute largely to both my genes (none of the women in my family had either) and to the lifestyle I created way before I got pregnant.

The two things I did have had to pay more attention to are my blood sugar and my blood pressure since both have a tendency to crash and be low. This makes it easy for me to feel light-headed now that my body’s blood volume is increasing by 40% (crazy right?! I guess, you gotta get those nutrients to the babe somehow;)).

In fact, I fainted at the airport over Christmas because I was unexpectedly standing in one spot in a long line without having had lunch yet. Fainting in a public space was its own lesson in vulnerability and in not letting feelings of embarrassment take over.

While I do believe that the flow of pregnancy -AND the flow of LIFE- is influenced by our genes and physical make-up, I also believe that there is a lot we can do to support ourselves in having a blissful, beautiful, and rewarding experience; physically and emotionally.

I call this creating a fertile life, which applies to anyone regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or pregnancy status.



Here are 6 lessons from my first 6 months of pregnancy that apply to everyone; pregnant or not:

  1. You cannot resist change.

    This one’s a big one. Your belly will grow (so will your boobs, which in my case, is a welcome bonus;)), your hormones will fluctuate, your outlook on life and what you want will adjust, your relationship with your partner will reach a whole new level of vulnerability and intimacy, your friendships and what you have in common will take on a new face, and biggest of all: the way you relate to yourself and how you have known yourself will be expanded exponentially.

    These are changes that will occur whether or not you want them to and resistance will only pigeon-hole you further, creating tension in your body and uneasiness in your mind.

    Sometimes changes - I’m talking any changes in life that are largely out of your brain’s control- are scary and there can be moments of resistance or fear of losing yourself and who you thought you were thus far. If pregnancy teaches you one thing then it is the art of surrendering, giving up control where it’s an illusion, and trusting that everything will be fine.
     

  2. Food & nourishment matter more than ever.
    I focused on adopting a nutrient-dense, blood-sugar balancing way of eating and living before I ever got pregnant. At that time -about 2 years ago- I wanted to re-balance my hormones naturally (instead of taking more birth control pills per my OB) and support my feminine health holistically.

    The power of food became very obvious to me as my cycle and hormones regulated themselves naturally. I learned that what we eat plays a huge role in our hormonal, reproductive, and emotional capabilities (ex. Omega-3s are crucial for egg quality as well as our mood).

    I have kept up a balanced way of eating throughout my pregnancy while also focusing on supporting a healthy gut (hello probiotics and a happy microbiome) and optimize my digestion so that all the nutrients I eat can actually be absorbed and used properly by me and le bébé.

    I do believe that having started this way of eating way before pregnancy was instrumental in not only avoiding nausea (ex. B-vitamins -as found in red meat for example- have shown to reduce PMS symptoms as well as nausea during pregnancy) and fatigue, but also in keeping my mind creative, energetic, and joyful.

    This is true for any time of transition, growth, or expansion (aka always). A well nourished mind and balanced body will always support you in a positive way, enhancing your physical well-being, self-esteem, confidence, and energy!
     

  3. Stories are powerful because they build expectations.
    Have you ever noticed that people are obsessed with telling shocking stories?

    Well, when you are pregnant, there will be a lot of people who will want to tell you about their own dramatic experiences of pregnancy and giving birth.

    While I have a lot of compassion for other women’s stories, these stories - when told in negative and alarming ways!- are not helpful because they only foster fear and anxiety, which creates tension in the body and leads you to form negative expectations, thus losing trust in what you are capable of.

    It’s not like you can choose not to give birth once you are pregnant, so hearing these stories isn’t conducive to a calm, relaxed, and happy mindset.

    In our society, the number of painful and shocking stories offered far outweigh the positive ones (this very much includes certain pregnancy websites that seem to focus on telling you what kind of physical or emotional misery you are to expect each week).

    I have had to draw some boundaries when it comes to what and whose stories I listen to as well as what sources I get my information from.

    Thankfully, the women in my family (my grandmothers, my mom, my aunt) are great role-models who have all considered pregnancy a completely normal experience WITH (not despite) its ups and downs.

    Positive stories create positive expectations and, in turn, foster a calm and relaxed mindset that gives women the confidence and trust they need to navigate not only pregnancy and birth, but life at large!
     

  4. You don’t have to have it all figured out.
    “Figuring out” happens in the brain and when we try to figure out everything in advance, two things happen:
    1. we disconnect from our bodies, from our intuition, and from the present moment.
    And 2. we become attached to a certain outcome that may just not happen in the way we ideally imagined.

    For pregnancy this is obviously relevant because I truly believe that your body knows best: when you need food, when you need rest, when you need support from your hubby etc. Being in touch with your instincts is key in order to take great care of yourself.

    Secondly, you cannot have it all figured out because every pregnancy and birth are unique and different and there is no way to predict what exactly will happen. This became obvious to me when thinking about our birthplan.

    While it’s good to know what you want your birth to be like -natural, with medication, C-section, at home or birth center or hospital… - and you can do everything to prepare yourself for your ideal scenario, attaching yourself to one particular outcome might only increase your anxiety and result in panicky feelings when things do change.

    There are moments in life when you have to realize that there is only so much you can do to prepare and the rest is out of your control. Trusting that you did all you can and then releasing control and letting the process unfold is crucial in staying relaxed and remaining in a position to make informed decisions and course-corrections when they become necessary.
     

  5. Everyone is allowed to have their own experience.
    This one has been a bit hard for me to be honest, which is why this blogpost feels very vulnerable to me. At times I felt that I wasn’t allowed to talk about my pregnancy and how great I have felt throughout because I didn’t want to offend anyone.

    As I saw other women experience all sorts of pregnancy difficulties, I felt like sharing my own positive experience was like throwing their challenges into their face. I didn’t want to come off as bragging or insinuating that they were doing something wrong and so I largely kept to myself.

    I eventually realized that I wasn’t helping anyone by suppressing my own joy and so I decided that I, my husband, and my baby boy don’t have to feel guilty about experiencing pregnancy in our way. Of course it’s important to be sensitive toward those who are suffering but I also make sure that I get plenty of time with people who want to celebrate our experience with us.

    You can never know how others experience life in their own skin, but being in denial about your own experience and especially suppressing your own happiness doesn’t serve anyone. Surround yourself with people who want to celebrate and lift up each other mutually.

    ***Shout out to my beautiful friend, fellow coach, and new mommy Anna Goldstein who has been so amazing, positive, and strong throughout our joint pregnancy journey!
     

  6. Know what calms you down.
    This is a question my doula asked in the beginning of my pregnancy: What calms you down and relaxes you?

    For me, knowing information and understanding how things work in my body in detail is always what reinstates a sense of control and safety for me. Others may get more freaked out if they know too much and for them the solution may be to distract themselves or ask an expert to tell them that they are ok.

    For me, reading as much information as possible from positive, empowering sources about pregnancy and the science of birth has been instrumental in creating a feeling of calm, control, and trust in my body.

    The same is true for any other areas in life especially if anxiety is a topic of concern for you: figure out 3 things that make you feel calm, relaxed and in control. These will be tools you can come back to when anxiety builds up.

There is so much more I want and could share with you, but for now, I’d love to hear from you: which one of these life lessons did you resonate with the most? What is something you want to pay more attention to in your own life?

With all my  love and in gratitude for holding space for my story.

Caroline

Have a pregnant friend or colleague who may benefit from this post? Let them know you are thinking of them and share this post with them.


Caroline Zwickson

Caroline Zwickson has a M.A. in Counseling Psychology and is a Certified Women’s Health Coach focusing on natural pregnancy preparation, hormone balance & postpartum recovery for women who want to feel amazing in their own skin and birth happy babies.

Caroline integrates functional nutrition, life & wellness coaching, as well as positive psychology to guide her clients in creating joyful lives and fertile bodies. She skillfully helps her clients adapt to new food & lifestyle habits that are grounded in establishing physical and emotional balance and health so that they can make decisions that are truly based on their goals, desires and intentions in life, especially at the onset of a new era: motherhood. Knowing how to nourish yourself in a way that promotes hormonal balance and having a close, loving relationship with yourself is the best possible preparation for pregnancy and motherhood.

Through her own experience navigating hormonal imbalances after coming off birth control in her 20s, Caroline experienced first hand that the most important factor in achieving a healthy and fun pregnancy is how women prepare their bodies and lives before they conceive. Her approach to women’s fertility and motherhood is based on positivity and the firm belief that women have an immense capacity for creation and bringing joy and beauty to the world.

Caroline has been featured in The Huffington Post, MindBodyGreen, Your Bella Life, The Beauty Bean and Cafe Truth. She has spoken at companies like Martha Stewart Living, Yelp, AMEX, Twitter, and Charity Water. You can find out more about her at www.carolinezwickson.com and you can download her FREE workbook guiding you through her top 5 tools to help you conceive naturally.