*Author’s Note: please do share your feelings with your healthcare provider. Every woman is different and sometimes we need a trained eye to know if we could use some help outside of ourselves. There is so much support, you deserve to receive it and feel taken care of.
You know what really gets my goat?
Telling pregnant women they need to be zen all the time. Ya know, for the baby.
When we’re pregnant, there is overwhelm of every sort: from hormones, moods that can range from elation to desperation in the span of mere minutes, decision overwhelm, fear of the unknown, total body transformation, and the complete awe and responsibility of growing a new life.
And then there’s the future prospect of actually shaping this new life’s experience into something that hopefully is pleasant and without us getting in the way too much.
So when I hear, “Be calm, you must be relaxed and positive all the time for your baby,” I sort of want to slap that person in the face. It just feels toxic and unfair—let alone unrealistic.
I personally spent way too much time during my pregnancy worrying that I was going to “ruin” my baby because of a depressed first trimester and a lot of unresolved anger working its way out of me.
I mean come on, what kind of awful mom feels anger a lot during her pregnancy?
A valid mom. A normal mom. A mom who needs to heal.
I wish I had known then what I do now.
Telling someone to be zen all the time—it’s totally unrealistic.
I mean, I get it. I do agree that our babies absorb what we put into our bodies, physically and emotionally.
But in my eyes, and from what I’ve seen and experienced through working with a lot of pregnant women, when we’re afraid to acknowledge and feel those dark, scary emotions, we repress them. They fester. They get stuck. They can lead to resentment, to depression, to illness. And most certainly to discontent and unhappiness.
Our emotions arise for a reason. They have something to share with us about what needs to change or where we need to shift in our lives, or perhaps it’s just an old block releasing.
I actually have the belief that pregnancy is one of the most healing aspects of our life. Not necessarily flowers and roses, but the deep, lasting healing that can be a little ugly and also feel totally freeing.
In the yoga classes I teach, I tell students that the hips are like the attics of the body—we hold a lot of junk there. So practicing deep hip openers is like spring cleaning for the body. It’s a chance to breathe into those places and find release, and to come away feeling renewed.
Sometimes we release laughter, sometimes sadness, and just about everything in between (sometimes anger at the teacher for putting us into a pose in the first place, am I right?).
As long as you’re not hurting yourself, these poses can be a way of releasing blockages and spent energy in the body. The breath being the cleansing agent.
And when we’re pregnant, our hips are literally expanding! We have two hearts beating inside of us. The potential for release and healing is unparalleled. I tell the women who come to my prenatal yoga classes, wouldn’t it be nice to think of all this emotion we feel during pregnancy as a cleanse of sort?
Instead of letting it overrule us, we can think of it as the greatest spiritual awakening available to us. We are shedding years of pent up energy and emotions and literally opening up to new ways of being. We are letting parts of our past go, shedding layers and gunk, so that we can be truly present for this new life of ours that will soon be in our arms.
How sad would it be if we denied or repressed that?
I also don’t believe that dwelling on any one emotion serves us. A mindfulness practice allows us to become the observer and take a step back. It feels really good when we can feel balanced in our emotions, because what results is a serene peacefulness that we all deserve to feel.
But ignoring those emotions? Feeling badly for having them? That’s complete rubbish.
If I could provide every pregnant women in this world with one gift, it would be the gift of valuing your emotions.
Because when we can let our emotions flow, we can let them go.
So if you are feeling badly about not being this blissed out, super-happy pregnant woman everyone expects all the time, read my article “The Spiritual Surprise of Being Pregnant,” and know you are not alone (I wrote it as I entered into my second trimester).
And if you are feeling stuck in any particular emotion or have trouble releasing them, I urge you to try a couple of the methods below (hint: it’s all about opposites):
- Nadi Shodhana: alternate nostril breathing. This style of breathing balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It balances our masculine and feminine sides, our giving and receiving. If you’re feeling unbalanced and aren’t exactly sure why, I encourage you to give it a try! (As a sidenote, I believe this breathing technique in its original form is perfectly safe for pregnancy, as long as there is no holding of the breath in or out.)
- Yoga nidra: this practice is all about exploring the inner places of ourselves. Plus, it is the yoga of sleep, so it is über relaxing, which every pregnant woman needs. It also helps us find sleep. It’s been said that one hour of yoga nidra is like three hours of REM sleep because of how restoring it is to our bodies. I recommend finding a meditation app that has guided yoga nidra or searching for it in a studio near you.
- Talk to your baby about what you’re feeling: Have a little faith in this new human of yours. They chose you for a reason. Not to be different, or perfect, but to be you! I found that when I explained to my baby what I was going through, and assured them it was not their fault (I still do this with my two-year-old), it helped me find immense relief. Sometimes I even asked my babe to help me navigate through it, and I found the resolve I needed. Start the example of honesty, vulnerability, trust, and respect for your little one now. It’ll set the precedent for a lifetime to come.
- Practice this yoga nidra inspired meditation: Take three to five deep breaths, breathing into the left side of the body first. Wiggle your fingers and toes if it helps. As you inhale, feel your whole left side expand. As you exhale, feel your whole left side relax and let go. Repeat for three to five breaths on the right side. Practice breathing into the left and right sides of the body, like a pendulum swinging back and forth between the two, until you find that perfectly balanced and harmonious place within.Now bring to mind an emotion you’ve been experiencing as of late. Not good or bad, just whatever comes to mind. Breathe into that emotion fully as you inhale. Let it flow. Notice it. And then as you exhale, begin to let it go. Repeat until you’ve felt it release.Now, if possible, bring to mind the exact opposite emotion. Once you’ve found it, breathe it in with your inhale. Let it flow. Now breathe it out with your exhale, and let it go. Now, just as we breathed into the two sides of the body, we’ll breathe into the original emotion and its opposite. Back and forth between the two, like a pendulum swinging. Do this until you feel balanced.Take a few deep, cleansing breaths, from the tips of the toes to the top of the head. Imagine this beautiful energy running through you, cleansing and healing, feeling totally vibrant and alive.
May we all hold the space for each other to process our emotions, heal, find freedom, and come back to the goddesses that we were born to be! Namaste, mama!
Bonus: What to do when our Relationships get Tough.
Author: Jessica Cartwright
Image: Unsplash/Andre Adjahoe
Editor: Travis May
Copy & Social Editor: Catherine Monkman