It’s easy to let the excitement and anticipation a new baby translate into a checklist:
But, what about mental prep? Emotional prep?
It’s so easy to get swept up in the newness of it all. I remember wanting to read every resource I could get my hands on. I wanted to know exactly what to expect. I wanted to know how best to prepare for motherhood. The internet makes it easy to become engrossed in information... rather than being reflective or introspective.
But what if we thought about meditation as being just as important as taking prenatal vitamins?
Meditation is a powerful, affordable way to reduce stress. A great 2019 study followed 10,000 women pre and postpartum. They determined that perceived prenatal stress is linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes like:
They also discovered the stress experienced during pregnancy can predict how stressed mothers feel 2-7 years postpartum!
Stress is also a big generator of fear, pain, and anxiety. A Harvard study discovered that you can’t think deeply about anything when stressed.
But combatting stress sometimes can be stressful. Where do you even start?
Start with two minutes of meditation a day.
Think of meditation as a momentary pause. It gives our brains time to quietly process ourselves and the world around us. Our brains need meditation like our bodies need water.
So many people picture a flowing robe, incense, and a chorus of Ohhhhhms. But meditation can be so many different things.
You don’t have to have a meditation room or colorful ground cushions.
My favorite place to meditate is while sitting in my parked car, just before I get out to run an errand. I set a timer for a few minutes and I’m just still. It helps me set my intention for why I’m there, establish how I’m feeling, and create a sense of awareness.
Funny story… one time this backfired on me!
I was sitting in my car meditating before volunteering at a workshare farm. Suddenly I hear a tap on my window. I open my eyes and there is a fire truck parked in front of me. A fireman (in full garb) was tapping on the window saying “Mam—are you OK?” I rolled down the window and said, “Yes, sir, I was just meditating for a few minutes as I wait for the farm gates to open.” He said “Oh. Someone called us that a lady had passed out in their car.”
I must have been suuuuper still!
Despite this experience, I’ve kept up my routine.
Over time, it’s yielded a sense of peace and resiliency to life’s unexpected jolts.
I love this feature about powerful women in the mindfulness movement.
I especially relate to when Mirabai Bush says,
“(I) think back early days as a student of male teachers and notes, we didn’t see any models of how you brought a female awareness into how you’d do these practices. Such awareness is crucial, of course, to bring these teachings into everyday life.”
For Bush, the change came when she had children.
“For me that was my biggest growth—being pregnant and then being a young mother. There is nothing like it for keeping you in the moment, without judgment, in a loving way. Being a mindful grandmother is so cool. Really knowing how to listen, and tuning in to those little open minds.”
I don’t think you have to be still to achieve a calm mental and nervous system state.
It might be one of those meditation myths.
Personally, when I’m still is when my mind tends to race. I think this is the case for many women. My mind tends to reach a peaceful state when doing simple, repetitive tasks with my hands.
I’d love to do a study comparing brain scans of men and women doing the traditional “meditation pose" (legs crossed and still) vs. repetitive tasks like sanding, knitting, etc.
The main goal of meditation is to calm your autonomic nervous system. A really powerful way of doing that is to focus on your breath. Breathing deeply puts your body in “rest and digest” mode. This your parasympathetic nervous system. This allows you to be more relaxed. It allows your body to function outside of a high-stress zone.
Shallow breaths use your upper respiratory muscles closer to the neck and shoulders. This makes your body think you're in fight or flight mode. It sends cortisol and stress hormones throughout your body. Your breath may also be a contributing factor in why your neck and shoulders feel chronically tight, knotted, or sore.
I love what lawyer Rhonda Magee says about mindfulness:
“Mindfulness is the balm for that extra layer of suffering, wounding and harm we may be experiencing or causing others.”
Think of it like this: the more mindful you are, the less your body experiences symptoms of stress.
Remember that anxiety and fear are just as contagious as an actual virus.
Mindfulness the cheapest, most accessible form of preventative, natural medicine.
Seriously, though... there are so many meditation benefits. I can’t think of a better gift you can give your child than the benefit of a calm nervous system. And the ability to be your most aware, clear-minded, gratitude-filled self.
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