Chill, Mama: Relaxation and Stress Relief for Pregnancy in a Pandemic
There aren’t many things in life that feel more uncertain than pregnancy and birth...unless, of course, you happen to be pregnant during a pandemic.
Many of the prenatal rituals we’ve grown accustomed to--like attending regularly scheduled in-person doctor’s appointments, gathering for baby showers, having a team of birth support with you in the hospital or birth center, and visits from family and friends (postpartum too)--are no longer possible. So, along with all the changes that are happening in your body, both physically and emotionally, these changes in what’s possible in our homes, families and communities can feel overwhelming and extremely uncomfortable.
However, there could be an upside to all of this.
One of the best strategies a woman and her partner have to prepare for a new baby is to slow down. In our typical day to day, this seems almost impossible with many of the mamas I know often working right up until their due date. Beyond work, there’s the hustle of getting a baby’s room ready, the desire to complete various work and life projects before the big day, and the urge to make all the plans you can before you’re at home with a newborn. All of this can be exhilarating but it can also be, quite frankly, exhausting, especially during a time where we should be protecting our energy for all that is to come. When we give ourselves the opportunity to slow down, the chatter in our minds starts to calm, a sense of overwhelm begins to relax, and we find more ease in our day to day. We’re also much more likely to take care of ourselves when we’re not pushing so hard.
This quarantine is giving many pregnant and postpartum mamas the opportunity to rest and nest in ways that haven’t felt this accessible in a very long time.
To that end, here are my go-to strategies for being a Relaxed and Renewed Quarantine Mama:
Cook for now and later: Not only do you want to be fueling the body with nutrient-dense food for you, your baby, and the monumental act of giving birth, but you will be over the moon to have things like soups, stews, and muffins on hand in your freezer when you are at home with a newborn and too busy adjusting to your new life and loving on your baby to deal with making a meal. Moreover, cooking helps us get grounded by focusing the mind and calming frayed nerves. I highly recommend the book The First Forty Days for both yummy recipes and healing postpartum wisdom.
Make your home feel like a sanctuary: Since home is the only place to be right now, let’s make it feel good. Not only for everyday, but also for labor. Home is actually the ideal place to labor, because when a woman feels safe, nurtured, and supported in her birthing space, her body can relax and she can #birthwithconfidence. Nobody knows how long their labor will be but unless there is an emergency, it is always more comfortable and beneficial to labor at home, and then head to the hospital when she’s further along in “active labor.” So, use this time at home now to clean, declutter, and beautify with fresh flowers, aromatherapy, candles, crystals (if you’re into that sort of thing!).
Date at home: During quarantine, none of us can pop out to our favorite restaurants for a romantic night out, but that shouldn’t stop you from creating a connected vibe at home. Make plans to cook together, dance, talk about what’s coming up for each of you emotionally, and even get a little playful (everything has been so intense lately!). Savor the precious time where it’s still just the two of you (for first time parents) with no interruptions. As a birth doula, I could always tell which of my couples seemed to be emotionally and energetically connected during a birth, and that connection goes a long way towards supporting a woman in labor.
Develop a mindfulness practice: This is my number #1 recommendation to everyone right now, but especially mamas. Now is the time to begin or deepen a meditation or breathwork practice. In the current climate, we need all of the centering and grounding we can get and you will definitely need these tools once you become a parent. If you are starting from scratch, no worries! Keep it simple and begin with 3 minutes a day as even a small amount of time goes a long way towards feeling refreshed and renewed.
My staff and I at Mama’s Wellness Joint are offering tons of great (online!) mindfulness classes and workshops to help get you grounded in your body, nourish your nervous system, and connect to your breath. This is so important for pregnant women especially since the breath is the life force that will bring your baby into this world.
For today, I wanted to offer an easy breathing technique I call Full Body Breathing, which anybody you can do right now, no matter your experience with mindfulness:
Sit up tall in a comfortable chair, cushion, or propped up in your bed
Bring one hand to your belly and one hand to your heart
Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling out of the mouth; imagine your hands are magnets for your breath
Next, lengthen both the inhale and the exhale, extending each out to a count of 6
Make sure the body and the jaw is relaxed (in labor you always want your shoulders, jaw, and hands relaxed so it’s good to begin that awareness now)
You can always change the count if you want to go deeper (inhale and exhale for 8, for example) or if you want to dial down the intensity (try breathing in and out to a count of 4)
Continue for 3 minutes or more a day
So often we look for answers from external authorities and the outside world and, understandably, that need can be stronger than ever during pregnancy. However, I truly believe that as women we carry an innate wisdom and inner strength that guides us to birth the way our bodies and our babies want. I invite you to use the uncertain but spacious time of quarantine to create extra personal space and look within. You just might finally have more time to practice trusting your intuition, your breath, and your body, so that the experience of childbirth feels empowered, miraculous, and magical.
Paige Chapman is a yoga teacher, birth doula, self-care mentor, and the owner and founder of Mama'sWellness Joint in Philadelphia. She has been teaching yoga for over 17 years and upon moving back to Philadelphia from NY and San Francisco, was inspired to open Mama’s Wellness Joint in 2012 as an all-inclusive urban sanctuary. Over time Paige has discovered that her greatest passion is nurturing women and giving them the tools to live at their highest potential. She has had the great pleasure of supporting thousands of pregnant women at MWJ and now connects more deeply with her ladies to regain clarity, inner balance, and personal power through private mentoring sessions along with her virtual experience Radiant One. You can also connect with her through her sought after MWJ Getaway Retreats. Through her offerings virtually and at Mama’s Wellness Joint, she hopes to offer a temple of healing, love, and support to her Philadelphia community and beyond.