I am a perfectionist. As a professional actor and voice instructor, I find myself obsessing over perfectly memorizing my lines, practicing that tap combination one more time, pounding out the harmony of a song at the keyboard one last time. I do this to the detriment of my own well being; a fact that I have known, yet have chosen to ignore, about myself since high school. I focus on my craft while I ignore that grumbling hole in my stomach or that old, nagging knee pain flaring up, or the fact I have pulled yet another all nighter and rehearsal starts in 2 hours. The show must go on, right?
Pregnancy changed all of that. During our interview with Jen, she made a statement that stood out more than the rest: My pregnancy can be what I envision it to be, and it all begins with MY well being. As a person who has never put her well being high on the list of importance, these words played in my head over and over again. Pregnancy was my opportunity to finally put my focus on a trait that I have chosen to ignore about myself for over a decade. I believe my decision to focus on my well being helped guide my husband, Joshua and I down the magical path of an effortless pregnancy and an empowering labor and delivery. We can now share our love and happiness with our beautiful, happy, and content daughter, Gemma.
I know all pregnancies are unique. Reflecting on my own journey, I would like to share a few things that I believe helped me to have such a wonderful pregnancy experience in the hopes that one of my statements might shine brighter than the rest and help lead you on your unique perfect pregnancy journey just as Jen’s statement did for me.
Talking to my belly. From the moment we got a positive test result, I put myself in the mindset of Gemma already being in our lives. I chatted with my belly about everything. I spoke to it about my vision of a smooth pregnancy and labor, and I found myself constantly thanking my growing Gem for listening and playing along with my vision. I told her all about the food I was eating and shared my hopes that she, too, would grow to love all of the foods with which I nourished myself. We chatted about music and theatre. We constantly listened to music together due to my job as an instructor at the School of Rock, and we talked Shakespeare as we helped my husband work on memorizing his lines for the work he was doing for the Southwest Shakespeare Company. Joshua talked with my belly as much as I did. He would lay his head by my belly button and tell our little one about his day, his excitement to finally be able to meet her in person, and remind her to be good to her Momma while she was on the inside. Doing all of this talking instantly made Gemma a reality to us. It helped Joshua and I keep our new budding family firmly in the forefront of our minds and we found when we finally got to meet Gemma for the first time, it was as if she was a long lost friend we hadn’t seen in years. We already knew her and she, us. We instantly forgot what life was like without her in it; the transition into parenthood felt so natural and I feel that all started with talking.
Staying physical. Before getting pregnant, I had made the decision to get back into the shape I was in when I spent 5 days a week in a dance studio. I had gotten myself in the groove of eating extremely healthy and pushing 3 times a week to make my workout just a little bit more intense. When we got the news that we were expecting, I knew I would have to alter my intense routine. To be completely honest, it took me a couple of weeks to accept this new reality. I had just gotten myself into the best shape of my life and I thought all of my hard work would just go away because all women gain and gain and gain while they’re pregnant and then have trouble losing it, right? I refused to accept that. Instead, I thought of different ways to stay active. My line of work made moving easy. Helping kids learn how to perform a song and not just sing a song allowed me to dance through my work day. Not only did this keep me active, but as my belly grew, I focused on adapting my movements to those I thought would be good for helping my little one fall asleep in my arms. I envisioned holding her while I bounced and swayed; I even began beating the rhythm of the music on my belly. Now that Gemma is here, I am able to do just that; lightly pounding drum rhythms on her lounging pillow, bouncing, rhythmic swaying, and dancing with her in my arms washes away all of her cries and helps her drift into a beautiful, peaceful calm, and eventually to sleep. Along with this, I also treated myself to a prenatal yoga class every week. This practice not only helped keep me centered, but it, too, made me feel incredibly empowered. It is incredible how accomplished and powerful I felt doing modified push ups in downward facing dog and holding a warrior pose during my third trimester. Yoga was a weekly reminder that I did, indeed, have the power to handle whatever labor had in store for me.
Finding time for me. Along with helping me stay active and fit during my pregnancy, yoga also helped me to stay focused on my inner self. More importantly, it helped me feel and understand how good it was for me and baby to enjoy relaxing together. I soon found myself dubbing Tuesdays, the day of my yoga class, as “me day.” Tuesday is a day off of work for me, so I used this day as my opportunity to practice relaxing. During my morning and midday, I took time to do things I enjoy doing. I worked on knitting projects while I talked to my belly about the different stitches or needles I was using. I caught up on my stack of books that I’ve been meaning to read and would include my belly on story time. I love doing both of these activities but forgot to find the time to enjoy doing them; my focus was always on physically doing something instead of sitting down and enjoying the stillness of focusing on nothing but knitting or reading. I also learned the amazing feeling of a peppermint tea infused bath. I brewed a nice big batch of peppermint tea and added it to warm bath water and would just soak and relax until the water cooled down too much. Heaven. Pregnancy helped remind me that it’s okay to sit down and spend the afternoon doing a relaxing activity versus always needing to be up and about doing something. In the evening was yoga. That was my time to focus on being physical and to go inside myself to gain a deeper connection to my little one growing inside of me. I once confused relaxing with being lazy; Tuesday helped me understand the difference between the two and soon became my favorite day of the week.
Eating. As aforementioned, by the time we got the news I was expecting, I had completely changed my eating habits. I had gotten used to reading labels, eating whole foods, exploring new fruits and veggies, and I felt great; I didn’t have to change my eating habits all that much other than remembering to actually snack throughout the day and adding more whole grains back into my diet. I’m not sure if it was will power or my already established diet, but eating was not what is portrayed in movies and TV for me. I had no cravings, I never found myself looking in the fridge for a midnight snack or wanting to consume an entire pizza…nothing. I simply grazed all day on foods I was already eating: seeds, berries, nuts, veggies. I really focused on not allowing myself to stray too much from my already established eating habits. I did treat myself to the occasional bowl of ice cream or order of french fries, but I never allowed myself to get out of control. I did this by thinking a couple of years into the future when my little one would be eating solid foods. Would I rather give my child a bowl full of berries or a bowl of ice cream? A frozen pizza or grilled chicken and veggies? I kept the image of my little one asking for beautiful, colorful, fresh whole foods in the forefront of my mind along with telling Gemma all about the foods on her menu for the day as I cleaned, cut, and cooked. I also found ways to rethink “junk” food. I embraced the recipes Jen provided to me in her information packet and goodie bag. Avocado chocolate pudding and energy balls became staples. Frozen blueberries became my favorite treat. I turned eating into a longitudinal experiment. By continually fueling my body with yummy fruits and veggies, will Gemma desire the same things? What berry will be her favorite? Will she choose avocado chocolate pudding over cake? Only time will tell, but I can’t wait for the day she climbs on my lap and steals my bowl full of berries.
Accentuate the positive. “(Always Look On) the Bright Side of Life” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian as well as the Broadway musical Spamalot, “For Now” from the Broadway musical Avenue Q and “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie were my theme songs throughout my pregnancy. These songs helped me remember that everything that could happen throughout pregnancy was temporary. I was able to find laughter in my new difficulties. Joshua and I would giggle as I had to find new ways to get out of bed. No sushi for 9 months? “Look at the bright side of life!” My postpartum sushi feast was the greatest meal I have ever had. Waiting made everything taste that much better. Can’t reach your legs to shave? No worries! No need to spend money on razors for a while.
The work of labor was “only for now.” I truly think this mantra helped keep my labor easy. I was able to cook a beautiful breakfast, play card games, sing and dance and put the finishing touches on the blanket I made for my Gem while I worked through my contractions. “Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.” I sang these words over and over during labor. It helped me remember I had an awesome birth team helping me through the end of my long journey and kept me feeling positive and determined even when I had the urge to give up because I was so utterly exhausted. Now that Gemma is physically in our lives, we have continued this frame of mind. Sleep deprivation is only for now. Yay, it’s time for another installment of “How Do We Help Gemma Stop Crying!” By continually working at accentuating the positive, Joshua and I have been able to settle into our roles as parents with smiles on our faces.
I was able to manifest the pregnancy I have always hoped for. I didn’t experience any of the things I knew to be pregnancy and labor from movies and TV and the countless horror stories I have heard from women for years. I had no morning sickness or fatigue, and swelling didn’t hit me until my last month of pregnancy and even then my swelling was very minimal. I didn’t ever have the desire or urge to consume everything I saw. I had no cravings or food aversions, nor was I ever awoken in the middle of the night with the immediate need to eat. I never experienced dramatic mood swings. As a person with an already sunny disposition, I can honestly say that being pregnant actually made my smile a little bit bigger, and that smile has only gotten bigger now that Gemma is here. I was able to work until the day before I went into labor. I never had back pain or the “pregnancy waddle”. My pregnancy was a beautiful experience; one I hope for every woman to have.
I look at my beautiful Gem every day and feel empowered by my pregnancy journey. I gave birth to a 9 pound 6 ounce redhead in a pool of water in my own home after 24 hours of labor with no pain medication. I now know that because of this magical journey I had, I can do anything. I molded my pregnancy into what I wanted it to be, labor made me feel like the most powerful woman in the world, and Gemma has brought nothing but more joy and happiness into our lives. I feel that all of the steps I took to focus on my well being have been passed on to her; her disposition is just as happy and sunny as ours. The universe has given us a truly wonderful gift in Gemma. To all who read this, my mother blessing is this: Envision the journey you want. Keep that image in your mind. Stay open to the beauty in yourself and all around you. Live in the beautiful light you create for you and your little one. Let the negativity you are confronted with melt away like water off a duck’s back. Welcome to your magical journey.,