This post was written by Alex Phillips, Co Founder of Saint Belford.
I’ve written this for mums-to-be in the hope that it will encourage a generous dose of self-kindness, self-love and self-care when you need it most.
Pregnancy took me by surprise. I did not expect to be hit with a tidal wave of emotions and be tested in the way that I have, but I’m grateful for the lessons and the self-awareness it has showered me with.
I’m sure the next 14 weeks will bring with it a few more lessons. And motherhood will be a completely different story. But, for now, here’s what I’ve learnt over the last 26 weeks.
These are the messages I desperately needed to hear during my first trimester.
The sooner you surrender to the needs of your body, the less you’ll struggle.
How do you surrender?
By giving your body what it needs, when it needs it. No questions. No judgment.
If that means taking midday naps, asking your partner to bring you food and putting your to-do list on hold, so be it.
I was couch bound for a large chunk of the first trimester, and my only regret is not showing myself the kindness I deserved from the very beginning.
No amount of Netflix could distract me from the nausea or the anxiety that followed, but what made this period worse was my reluctance to let go. I was slow to relinquish my responsibilities as a business owner and partner, and truly surrender to the needs of my body.
Speaking to myself kindly and showing myself compassion didn’t magically cure my nausea, but it certainly lifted the weight of expectations and guilt stemming from not “pulling my weight”.
Trust me, you can’t overdose on self-love during this time.
Self-care looks different, and that’s okay.
You would think being a strong advocate for self-care would make this transition into pregnancy a whole lot easier. Wrong.
I had grown accustomed to a certain type of self-care—the type that was empowering, made me feel stronger and kept my independence intact.
My pregnant body required a completely different formula—one I wasn’t entirely comfortable with.
Naps. Netflix. And a lot of hand holding.
Of course, I had used this recipe in the past, particularly when I was feeling burnt out or emotional, but it was using it every day for weeks on end that triggered a lot of mental discomfort.
I felt lazy because I couldn’t tick off my daily habits or commit to anything. I struggled to exercise and I certainly wasn’t eating “well” on account of the nausea. I felt utterly undependable and the traits of this pregnant woman was someone I didn’t recognise.
The reality is, what you need when you're pregnant isn’t always going to be consistent with your pre-pregnant identity. Your habits, routines and rituals may change. And that’s okay.
Your body is performing a miracle, and to continue performing that miracle, your body might require a different prescription. Trust that your body knows what it needs.
At the end of the day, self-care is about honouring and respecting your physical and mental needs, even when they don’t quite sync up with your self-image and goals.
Ask for help.
You’re growing a human. Give yourself permission to ask for help and accept it when it’s offered.
I remember thinking—I’ve reached my (self-imposed) quota of asking for help.
Here’s the reality. There is no quota. Your loved ones want to help. Let them be a part of this magical journey. And let go of the guilt.
I was fortunate to have my partner remind me (whenever I hesitated accepting help) that I was growing a human and therefore cooking dinner, cleaning the house or running to the supermarket, even if it was for the third time that day was “no big deal”.
I hope you have someone to remind you. If you don’t, tell yourself.
Write it on a post-it note and stick it on your mirror:
“I’m growing a human and that’s more important than anything on my to-do list.”
Use affirmations to reframe and refocus.
Feeling nauseous (nearly every hour of the day for three weeks) was tough on my mind and body.
Throw in the overwhelming fear of miscarriage and abnormalities, and you’ve got a recipe for mental agony.
It’s during this time that you need to channel your inner strength and harness the power of your thoughts to calm your mind.
I started using affirmations and mantras to ease my anxiety and it truly transformed my pregnancy.
The fear didn’t completely vanish but having affirmations and mantras to reframe and dilute those fears helped me immensely. It gave me my power back. It helped me focus on a brighter future and practise some gratitude instead of sinking deeper into an anxious state.
These are the affirmations that got me through those rough moments.
To get through morning (all day) sickness:
Every wave of nausea is a reminder from bub that he or she is growing inside.
To ease any physical pain:
Strong in the mind, strong in the body.
Calm in the mind, calm in the body.
This would also be my cue to take deep breaths and use my exhales as a way of calming my body.
To ease my anxiety:
I am healthy, strong and resilient. Therefore, my baby is healthy, strong and resilient.
It’s hard not to ask the women around you a thousand questions, especially when you are going through pregnancy for the first time. We all want to know exactly how it’s going to unfold, but as I’ve learnt, everyone’s story is different.
Your mum’s story is your mum’s story.
Your friend’s story is your friend’s story.
Your story will be your story.
What you want to avoid is setting expectations based on other people’s pregnancy anecdotes only to feel defeated when you’re unable to meet them.
Accept your body and show it some love instead of berating it because it’s not living up to your expectations.
Let go. Surrender. And take all the deep breaths you need.
From one mama-to-be to another, I hope you feel supported, loved and cared for throughout this magical journey.