Having a baby marks a monumental change in a woman’s life. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first child or your fourth. It is an adjustment both physically and emotionally, never mind the changes to your day-to-day routine. If this is your first child, the adjustment can be more difficult, because it’s so drastic.
You undergo a drastic shift in your priorities and expectations, and you might even experience a shift in your values, which can be difficult for some couples to navigate. You can experience a veritable roller coaster of emotions, ranging from naked fear to exhilarating excitement and joy, and everything in between. Some women find they don’t feel anything at all, at least at first. Do not feel discouraged, it is okay to not feel anything at first as being pregnant can take some time to sink in.
Keep Your Mind Right
Part of mentally preparing for a baby is keeping your mind and thought life on a positive track. It can be easy to fall into anxiety over the unknown. Especially as your body goes through so many changes, and you hear war stories from other moms about their experiences.
It’s important to keep perspective. Someone else’s experience is not yours. Do your research on what is best for your body during this time, trust yourself and your instincts, and keep your thoughts positive and affirming. Try meditating each day and saying out loud a few affirmations that help you feel strong and capable.
Try a Daily Journaling Habit
Writing how you feel each day is a great way to get your thoughts out of your head and down on paper. Journaling is especially helpful to empty your brain of thoughts that might be causing you anxiety or fear. It’s normal for women to have some concerns and anxieties around being pregnant, preparing for labor, being a new mom, and a good parent.
More often than not, once your worst fears and scenarios are written down on paper, you can see them more clearly. Writing down some of your biggest worries helps you clarify where they are coming from so you can resolve them. Some common fears new moms battle might be:
- Wondering whether your baby will be born healthy
- Wondering if you’re cut out to be a parent
- Wondering how much life will change when the baby’s born
- Wondering if you can even afford to have a baby
- Wondering if it’s safe to have a baby in an uncertain world
- Wondering if having a baby will change your relationship with your partner
These are natural concerns every woman faces, so it’s good to address them. Talk with friends and family, talk to your parents, take advantage of new mom support groups. This way you have an outlet to share your fears about which birthing options is the best, or what are the must-have baby items you need to purchase. The key is not to let them dominate your thoughts.
Write Letters to Future You and Baby
Writing letters can be a great way to release emotions you might be dealing with as your delivery date approaches, and motherhood becomes more real. Mentally preparing for your baby requires some intentionality. You can write letters to yourself to open later down the road, during different stages of your baby’s first year. Use them to remind your future self of what a great mom you are and how much you have been rocking it so far.
You can also write letters to your baby as a way to express your excitement and love. These are cherished thoughts and feelings you can save and give to him or her as adults, perhaps when they have a child of their own. Write letters about what being a mom means to you and your hopes and dreams for your little one as they grow into adults someday.
Document Your Body Changes
There’s no denying that pregnancy changes you dramatically. Hormones are surging. Bones, muscles, and ligaments are stretching, changing, and adapting as your body prepares to carry a child to term and birth the child into the world. Your breasts get bigger; you gain a little weight, and you might notice a few stretch marks appear as your skin stretches as your belly grows.
Some women notice other, more subtle changes as well. Changes in skin and complexion, hair texture, face shape, and even shoe size as your feet spread and widen during pregnancy to help support you and baby properly. Do a body check from week-to-week and document these changes so you can remind yourself often of how amazing your body is.
Don’t Shy Back from Asking Questions
One aspect of feeling emotionally safe and secure is being well-armed with knowledge about your health, about pregnancy, and your options as a mom-to-be. Don’t be afraid to get second opinions or see another OB-GYN if you don’t feel your current one is the right fit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions when you are unclear on something. Remember that your doctor is there to assist in your pregnancy, but ultimately you are the final say in how things will play out.
Just be careful of getting caught up in information overload. It’s useful to arm yourself with knowledge. However, don’t let it paralyze you from making necessary decisions about your health and your approaching labor. As well as, and don’t let it spin you off into irrational “What if?” scenarios no one can accurately predict.
Remember Who You Are
Have fun, remember to be silly and incorporate some intentional “care-free” time into your schedule. Being a new mom comes with a whole host of new emotions, worries, and stressors. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that now you have to be responsible and take life more seriously, as you will be changing yourself and your home to prepare for the baby’s arrival. That may be true, but it’s also important to have fun and not forget who you are. Just because you become a mom doesn’t mean you aren’t still you. You are simply unveiling a new facet of you.
Don’t get so lost in being a new mom that you forget to let all the other facets of your personality shine forth too. Why not go on a little “babymoon” with your significant other or a gal pal before the baby arrives? Try someplace new or go somewhere that brings you nostalgic memories. Just make sure you take the opportunity to relax and rest and forget all your cares for at least a couple of days.
Allow Yourself to Feel Grief
Some women experience a sense of loss of their old self and identity when they become a mom. You are no longer just a woman; you have the label “mom” permanently attached to your identity. It’s okay to feel a sense of loss over that person you used to be and go through stages of grief as you become the new person motherhood fashions you into becoming. It’s okay to feel sad that you don’t have quite the same level of freedom you once did and to mourn the things you may have to sacrifice for motherhood. Don’t let responsibilities of baby proofing your whole house, or buying strollers, make you feel any less of the woman you are. All of that is you becoming a parent and learning to put another life ahead of your own.
Even the best-laid plans go awry. When you’re preparing for baby delivery, it can be hard if something happens that forces you to change an aspect of your baby’s birth. Maybe you have to have a c-section unexpectedly, and you didn’t want one. Maybe you end up changing your mind about that epidural, and then feel guilty that you didn’t stick with the natural birth you envisioned. The truth is that pregnancy and labor can be unpredictable.
You can make a birth plan. You can do your best to take care of yourself and be healthy for your little one, but at a certain point, you have to let go and let the process happen in whatever way is healthiest for you and your baby. Sometimes that means being flexible and making changes to your plans, and that’s okay. The main thing is safely delivering a healthy baby. How you get there is a lot less important than just getting there.
There’s no denying that having a baby changes you on a fundamental level, both physically and mentally. Emotionally preparing for a baby is vital for fully embracing motherhood, and the new experiences headed your way.