February 17, 2016

Holistic Pregnancy & Beyond

Pregnant lady at sunset on the beach

I was blessed with a beautiful pregnancy. It was a truly special and sacred time of my life. Today is a bit of an unusual post, as I have decided to look back on the nine months of expecting our baby and the first few months of his life, in order to share with you thoughts and inspirations on wellbeing during and just after pregnancy. But first and foremost, I must say that every pregnancy is absolutely unique, and what might have worked for me might not suit you. If you want to try something new, always make sure to check with your health practitioner that it is fine for you to do so. I have written this article drawing upon my very own experience of pregnancy, but remember that yours might be very different. That said, enjoy the read and I would love to hear your feedback in the comments.



Food
Since we’re on a food blog, let’s start with the food topic, shall we?

The first trimester can often be a wild ride with nausea and morning sickness kicking in. These are sometimes the first signs you may notice, letting you know that you are pregnant. Food aversions may develop; you might not feel like eating anything but still be starving hungry at the same time. I only experienced mild nausea, and I found the best remedies were to eat regularly throughout the day and in small quantities, as well as drinking ginger infusions. For a few weeks, I couldn’t bear the thought of eating certain fruits and veggies such as avocado or beetroot, but I was absolutely craving bread and cheese. So, without over-indulging, I gave my body what it was telling me it needed. Envies for a certain type of food can actually be the sign that you have a deficiency in certain nutrients and it can be helpful to get professional advice, to make sure you provide your body with all it needs for you and your growing little one.

A glass jar in the grass

Throughout the rest of my pregnancy, I was rarely in the mood for preparing elaborate foods so I stuck to simple wholesome meals (hello stir-fries, salads, frittata, one-pot dinners) and stuck with the rule of little + often as I would find it difficult to eat large portions at once. Smoothies made perfect snacks, especially during the summer months. I made sure to charge them with super-foods (e.g. spirulina, wheatgrass, maca, baobab powder) to get an extra supply of essential nutrients. However, I found fresh fruits on their own slightly hard to digest and preferred them in their compote or baked version (e.g. compote, baked apples).

Superfoods in spoons

Pregnancy is often a time when you will be advised to take food supplements (e.g. iron), and it might be perfect timing to consult a naturopath, in order to get these prescribed. I took pregnancy-specific food supplements as well as an oil blend rich in omega 3 and 6.


Exercise


Lady practicing a breathing exercise

If you don’t have any specific restriction, exercising during pregnancy can help a lot with overall wellbeing and prevent minor ailments (think tired legs, back aches, etc.). The key is to find a suitable activity and be very gentle. I would certainly not recommend taking on a new strong sport activity during pregnancy, and some sports are definitely a no-go, but I found that a daily mindful practice of any the following was very enjoyable and kept me fit throughout:

Walking: although I reduced my pace as I got heavier, I walked everywhere. It was the perfect opportunity for taking time for myself and connecting with my baby. Walks in nature, especially by the sea, were the most enjoyable;

Yoga: I practiced yoga daily all along my pregnancy and it was one of my best allies to prepare for the big day. I started going to pregnancy yoga classes from month-4 and met other expectant mums. Yoga helps the body relax and prepares it for labour, through the practice of asanas (postures), pranayama (breathing), meditation and relaxation. It also improves physical and emotional well-being through being in a supportive, caring environment;

Swimming: in the summer, I regularly went swimming in the sea. When floating, the body feels totally light, a nice change to the heavy feeling back on land. If preferred, check your local swimming-pool as they might offer prenatal swimming classes;

Cycling: very leisurely bike rides are also a lovely way of getting around, especially on cycle lanes. I however wouldn’t go cycling in heavy traffic in cities while pregnant.

Lady relaxing on a yoga mat


Beauty Care

If you haven’t already adopted 100% natural body care, pregnancy is the time to do so. Any chemical present in the beauty products you use, are able to travel into the womb through blood. It is therefore perfect timing to have a good sort through of anything from toothpaste to shampoo, make-up to sun-cream. Say goodbye to chemicals and artificial products and hello to organic and natural ones. Why not having a go at making your very own, and therefore know the exact content of what you’re using? My favourite beauty care ritual was to massage my body in organic unrefined coconut oil. I also found cocoa butter fantastic against stretch marks.

Pregnant lady on the beach at sunset

Before baby arrives can also be the opportunity to take precious me-time and creating self-love rituals such as warm baths or self-massage, leaving you glowing and relaxed.

Finally, drink plenty of water: a good old trick to help preventing haemorrhoids, constipation or bladder infection, and a healthy skin!


Nesting


Pregnant lady in the sun

My number one advice for overall wellbeing during pregnancy would be to take plenty of time for sleeping and resting. Do it while you can, as chances are it will be much harder to find time for this once your baby has arrived. During the first and third term of my pregnancy, I had afternoon naps practically every day, and was therefore able to carry on with other daily activities for the rest of the day, without too much fatigue. Your body is working hard at growing your baby, so give it the love and rest it requires!

Preparing your home for the arrival of your child can be incredibly exciting, and once again, why not look at natural and hand-made options for creating a cosy little nest. I had planned on taking on knitting while pregnant but this never happened! I was however not short of creative ideas for getting our home ready for our baby.


Celebrating


Lady with a flower crown

Pregnancy is a gift and certainly something to celebrate. Growing a little being in your belly, is truly magical! All the while I was pregnant, I felt very special and was lucky to feel supported and cherished by those around me: my husband, mother and grand-mother, aunts, cousins, friends, etc.

It’s time to gather your tribe and have a little ceremony organised for you!

With a bit of help, we organised a beautiful blessingway ceremony when I was seven-months pregnant. The love and energy of the women who shared this very special moment with me will certainly remain with me forever.


Preparing for Labour


Pregnant lady in the sun

The anticipation of the birth experience can be stressful and terrifying. It is something so wild and unknown that it can be easy to feel a little bit overwhelmed by the idea. What I found was that getting prepared was the best remedy to transform the stress into excitement and something to look forwards to. A big notion for me was that one of ACCEPTANCE, and knowing that whatever would happen on the day was what was meant to be.

A few tips which I found useful:

•I created a set of affirmation cards, which I used both during pregnancy and during labour and found incredibly powerful (I later stumbled upon this beautiful set online, which I absolutely adore).

•Luke and I attended birth preparation classes of a special kind: haptonomy is a technique that involves the future mum and dad as well as the baby, and is about establishing communication between the three of them and developing a relationship of love and tenderness as well as a sense of security and autonomy. There are plenty of birth preparation methods out there, so check out which might suit you and your partner best.

•During the last month of my pregnancy, I drank raspberry leaf tea on a daily basis, which is said to help soften the uterine cervix, and practiced pelvic floor massage to prepare the perineum muscles for childbirth.

•I bought a special blend of organic essential oils to apply on the lower back during labour, and found it to be calming on the day.


Beyond Birth – 4th trimester


Mum carrying baby

Congratulations on the arrival of your baby!

The first three months after your baby’s birth are often referred to as a fourth trimester, and rightly so. I found it to be about the amount of time required to get our bearings, and starting to getting used to our new life. Although it is so very wonderful to finally be with your little one, it is a period of time that can also be incredibly challenging both physically and emotionally: hormones playing up, lack of sleep, recovering from the birth, breastfeeding, etc., can all be factors that leave you overwhelmed and exhausted. To cope as well as possible with it, I’ve gathered a few tips that I’ve learnt along the way:

Nourish: 
oYou will very likely feel very hungry after giving birth and food provided at the hospital can often be processed and unappetizing. Make sure you take with you a selection of favourite healthy and delicious snacks and easy to take away foods (think energy bars, fresh and dry fruits, banana bread, rice cakes and nut butter, etc.);

oIf you’re able to, prepare a selection of meals ahead of the birth and freeze them. The first few weeks might be a bit chaotic in terms of finding time for cooking, and it is so comforting to know that you have wholesome meals at the ready in your freezer;

oAsk for help! If anybody around you (friends, family) ask how they can help, why not ask them to cook a meal for you?

oAfter giving birth, favour grounding foods such as root vegetables or whole meal grains, which will help with recovery: soups, stews, curries, dhal are the perfect type.

Soup in a mug


•Nurture:

oIn the first few weeks of your baby’s life, it might be difficult to find time to do things as simple as having a shower! However, make sure you take time to do so. Trust that your partner/mum/a friend can look after the baby for anything from 30min to 2hours and take a little bit of time for yourself to have a shower or a bath, put some make up on or give yourself a little self-massage. It is important to remember that to be able to look well after your baby, you need to look after yourself too. You will feel only so much better for it.

oSleep! Nights can be short and constantly interrupted during the first few months, and sleep deprivation will soon creep up. One of the best advices I received was to sleep when the baby is sleeping – one of the cornerstones for post-partum recovery!

oAs weeks go by, you will be able to start creating rituals both for you and your baby – these will provide reassurance to your little one over time and will be memories to cherish for you both.

oDon’t hesitate to ask for help to people around you, as in most cases they will be delighted to do so. And if the cleaning or laundry doesn’t get done as often as you’d like to, don’t fret about it, and simply come back to focusing on what really matters: enjoying each precious moment with your baby.

Finally, it is easy to become a bit overwhelmed because of conflicting advice you’ve received or because the situation is not as you had imagined it should be, but remember that as a new mum, you’re doing the best as you can, and you are doing a great job, whatever others might think or say. Listen to yourself and to your baby and have faith in what you’re doing :)


Recommended Reads
A few books which I have thoroughly enjoyed reading throughout my pregnancy:
Sacred Pregnancy: a Loving Guide and Journal for Expectant Moms, Anni Daulter
The Yoga of Birth, Katie Manitsas
Yoga et Méditation Pendant la Grossesse, Mell Campbell
Attendre Bébé Autrement, Catherine Piraud-Rouet & Emmanuelle Sampers-Gendre

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