Written by Kate Tietje, Contributing Writer
When you're pregnant, especially in the beginning, ordinary life may be difficult. When you have a job, other kids, or any semblance of a life, you can't just take time off! Many pregnant women feel the need to keep pushing ahead, keeping up with their responsibilities, and pretending (as much as possible) that they aren't exhausted and sick. But you know what? That's really not the best plan.
We recently announced that we are expecting baby #4. Yes! Modern Alternative Mama is finally (almost) a mother of many. :) At about 11 weeks now, I'm feeling pretty good. But I've also made up my mind that this time around (and it's only taken me until number four), I am going to take care of myself the way I should.
If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of others. Remember that.
How Can I Take Care of Myself?
It almost sounds paradoxical. "But I have so much to do! The kids need me to cook and clean and do laundry and help them with their homeschooling, and my husband needs me too...." True. And that won't change. But if you're not taking the time to rest, and eat, and refresh yourself, you won't have anything left to give them, physically or emotionally. You'll crash.
Worse, by pushing yourself, you could hurt your unborn baby. Stress isn't good for pregnancy. I had plenty of it in my third pregnancy, with my husband undergoing heavy metal detox the entire time and working quite a lot, plus keeping up with my older two. After that experience, I promised myself I wouldn't ever be pregnant again when I was that busy and life was that stressful. It isn't worth it!
Pregnancy is a temporary time in your life but it's just so necessary to put yourself first, as much as you can. Slow down and be okay with that. Maybe you don't get as much homeschooling done, your house isn't as clean, and meals are slap-dash affairs. It's okay. Give yourself permission to be "less than perfect" right now. You won't look back on your life and say, "I wish I'd pushed through the stress and had a cleaner house," but you might look back and say, "I wish I'd rested and enjoyed my kids and my pregnancy more."
No, Really, How?
Okay, I know. What you want is the practical. You've been given permission to take care of yourself, but what does that really look like? If I can do it, while raising kids who are 4 1/2, 3, and 1, (including beginning to homeschool this year) and running my blogs, and supporting my husband (whose detox is still not done), then you can too. :)
I tend to buy a lot of fresh fruit, nitrate-free lunch meat, cheese, sourdough bread, etc. when I can't cook. I can give the kids each a banana and a sandwich for lunch, or some leftover chicken and cheese cubes. They can even get this themselves half the time! My oldest can safely use a butter knife to cut up fruit or cheese for them, and I can certainly sit and supervise this. It doesn't have to be fancy, it doesn't have to be a "real" meal -- it just has to be food they can eat (and you too!)
Ask for Help
We have a local group where moms post if they need help or if they can help others. People from the group will come and help you clean, watch your children, or bring you meals. Maybe you have a church group or some friends who can do this. Don't be afraid to ask! When you're past this stage, you can return the favor.
Get Your Husband on Board
Husbands are usually good about this, but sometimes they need you to communicate with them about what you're feeling and what you need. Men are not known for their mind-reading abilities. :) I warned my husband around week 7 or so that the next couple of weeks would be the hardest for me, and that I would need extra help doing the dishes, getting dinner on the table, and keeping the kids entertained. He took them to the playground for a couple hours each night, which gave me some time to rest (and work on my blogs), as well as wearing them out so they weren't wild for me the next day. He also often did a load of dishes in the morning before leaving for work. These were not things that he "normally" did, but he did them because I let him know I needed some extra help for a couple weeks.
Take Advantage of Energy Bursts
If you're feeling good and have energy, do something! Bake a triple batch of meatballs and put them in the freezer for easy meals later. Do some grocery shopping and stock up on bananas or other easy snack options. Take the kids out to a playground for awhile. Organize the next few days of your homeschooling lessons. Use the energy you have to do something that is going to make your life easier on days you don't feel so well.
Ask the Kids to Step Up
Young kids can do more than many of us realize. My 4-year-old routinely carries her laundry basket upstairs and puts her laundry away. She empties the silverware from the dishwasher (she'd do the rest of it, too, but she can't reach to put the plates or cups away). She's learning to sweep the floor. She can fetch me a diaper or an outfit for my 1-year-old (so can my 3-year-old). Both my older two can pick up their own toys, run dirty clothes to the laundry, set dishes on the counter, etc. Both can get simple snacks out of the pantry or fridge. When I'm not feeling well, I ask them to do these things for me. I sit and coach them. They're usually quite proud of themselves for being good helpers!
These are great ways to be able to move slower while you're pregnant. But there's another issue....
Image by Frank de Kleine
How to take Care of Yourself
How do you actually take care of yourself? What does that look like? Moms seem to do it so rarely that we forget what we need!
Eat When and What You Can
I pretty much blew my food budget in the first month, because there were certain things I didn't really want to eat (read: was averse to, and you don't mess with pregnant women and their aversions), and certain things I craved. I personally crave fresh foods while pregnant, so being newly pregnant in August was awesome because everything was in season!
Buy what sounds good to you and eat it. Even if it's expensive, even if it's not the healthiest thing ever. Try for healthy (see my book Healthy Pregnancy Super Foods for ideas), but don't stress yourself out. Eating something is better than eating nothing. A good pregnancy tea can also help curb morning sickness and give you the nutrients you may not be eating now.
On days when I just laid on the couch and didn't get up, I actually felt worse than when I mixed moving around with lying down. I'm not saying you need to take a 3-mile walk or anything, but at least get up and wander around the front yard or fold a basket of laundry. If you go outside, the sun (and the vitamin D it provides) may make you feel better too!
You'll feel better if you move around for 5 or 10 or 15 minutes. Sit back down when you're tired. But definitely move sometimes.
Take a Bath
Make sure it's not too hot, but take a nice warm bath. Add some magnesium chloride flakes to that bath. Most pregnant women (most people in general) are deficient in magnesium, and this can exacerbate morning sickness. I had to be very careful to take a bath or a foot bath with magnesium chloride every few days to ward off the worst of the morning sickness. But it worked. You can add a couple of drops of essential oils, too, if you like, but make sure they're pregnancy-safe.
Take Your Vitamins
Some of you are cringing at just the mere thought. Typical prenatal vitamins often make women feel worse, not better. In my third pregnancy, I couldn't swallow pills to save my life. I tried exactly once and well, it didn't go very well. But listen: vitamin deficiency (B vitamins, as well as magnesium) has a lot to do with morning sickness.
You don't have to swallow a big pill to combat that, though. In fact, I'd recommend against it. Most supplements are difficult for your body to break down and have very low absorption rates anyway. Instead, trying using a liquid herbal multivitamin. I make my own, but if you're already pregnant and don't have the time for that, Trilight Health makes one too (and they're not paying me to say that -- I really just used their product a lot!).
This made a huge difference for me. The liquid is sweet and easy to take, and gave me a powerful boost immediately. I could feel a difference within minutes. And if I didn't remember to take it at night, I really noticed the next day! I felt much, much worse. It was so huge to me that I recommend it to everyone now.
Eat Sour Foods
Low stomach acid can affect some women and that can exacerbate morning sickness, too. There were a couple weeks where I craved sour -- vinegar, lemon juice, etc. Squeeze lemon juice into some water and drink it. Make a salad and add extra vinegar to it (or just top with vinegar of your choice, real olive oil, and a bit of sea salt). Indulge the 'sour' because it really will help.
My 1-year-old was still co-sleeping when I found out I was pregnant. We quickly cleared out our "library" and put a crib in there for him, and began the process of moving him in there. It took a week or so (I don't let my babies cry), but eventually he was only waking once per night. Until he simultaneously went through a growth spurt, got two new teeth, and a cold. Oh well...we do what we can! Some days I laid down and napped with him if I was really tired.
Since the 1-year-old sometimes sleeps in until 8:30 or 9, while my older kids get up at 7 or so, I would sleep on the couch in the playroom until the baby got up. I was with the bigger kids in case they needed me, but I got a little extra rest. Go to bed early, nap if you can, and steal sleep whenever possible. It's worth it.
I found I had to break out the maternity clothes at 9 weeks this time. Nine weeks. But the day I did, I found a super cute and super comfortable pair of capris. I was no longer uncomfortable in my slightly-too-tight pants or too hot (since my shorts hadn't fit for awhile).
If wearing maternity clothes, even when you are weeks away from looking pregnant to anyone but yourself helps you feel better, do it. If you want to wear yoga pants all day, do it. Whatever helps you feel comfortable! And if it's summer and you want to turn down the a/c because you are just so hot...do that too. :)
If you can take care of yourself, you'll have more energy and enthusiasm to give to those around you. This time is fleeting; you will not be pregnant and sick forever. With the help of those around you, and your own focus on moving more slowly, you can take care of yourself and others and get through it. Enjoy it, too!
Modern Alternative Pregnancy
Next Monday, we're launching a brand new blog! It's called Modern Alternative Pregnancy, and it's a resource for all things natural pregnancy -- fertility, pregnancy discomforts, care providers, what's normal and what's not, preparing for labor, birth, postpartum recovery, and breastfeeding. We have an amazing team of contributors, including many birth professionals. You can follow us on Facebook, and we hope you'll join us for the site launch! Our first month's theme is "Informed Consent," because we believe strongly in women having all the information and making the decision that is right for them.
**I am not a doctor or medical professional. I'm sharing my recommendations above based on my own research, and what worked well for me. I suggest that you use this as a starting place for your own research and/or bring this information to a health professional if you have any questions.**