Being pregnant has a strange duality to it. Your life—the principle parts of it—stay the same. Social invites keep hitting your inbox. Work doesn’t wane. You still have the same commitments, meetings, and to-dos. So this big difference in your life can feel, well, small. It can be hard to be present and connected to the baby growing within you, when you’re so overwhelmed with your changing body and world.
That is, unless you’re being intentional about giving this life crucible your attention. As a first-time mom, I’m learning as I go. Now in the second trimester, at six months along, I can relate particularly to this quote from Tracy W. Gaudet, M.D., and Paula Spencer in Body, Soul, and Baby: “Pregnancy is so all-enveloping that it leaves little space for focusing on the life change.”
“It is happening within you. It is you.”
The connection between unborn baby and carrying mother is one we give airtime to, but that can be difficult to feel without developing tangible ways to foster that connection. Here are a few ways I’ve become more present to my pregnancy and brought it to the forefront of my days:
01. Change passwords to include your due date.
Nov52014! When I worked at a magazine in Times Square, I had to change my passwords every ninety days. Because of this, I would use them as a way to bring attention to my goals (POETRYseries0824), my friends (laurensinl0ve), or my family (getwellGPA). Now that I’m pregnant, it’s a beautiful way to remind myself of the change happening within. When I told my mom, she said she had already changed hers to grandma, as well. So it’s an active way to engage yourself—and anyone in your inner circle—with your transformative phase of life.
02. Do body checks once a week.
In Body, Soul, and Baby, the authors recommend scanning your body once a week. This widens your focus from more than your growing bump. It’s about your whole person: considering changes in your complexion, your posture, your face shape, your freckles, your breasts, your vulva, and your legs. I’ve discovered changes in my body I wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.
Professor Joan Raphael-Leff, author of eleven books and lead on Psychoanalytic Research at the University College London, builds on this phenomena by explaining, “In pregnancy, there are two bodies, one inside the other. Two people live under one skin … When so much of life is dedicated to maintaining our integrity as distinct beings, this bodily tandem is an uncanny fact.” And our changing physicality is not to be missed.
03. Create bedtime rituals.
It’s all about routine—even for moms-to-be. Carving out a predictable time of day (even ten minutes) to connect with baby can be soothing. This way you’re not anxious to find time throughout your day and know you can expect it before bed. I’ve started singing “Twinkle, Twinkle” to our daughter as a small way to feel like I’m communicating with her. It’s also whenever I’m at rest that she’s moving around, so I can focus on her movements when nothing else is going on. Other options include having your partner read a short block book to you and baby, doing breathing exercises, and saying your potential baby names aloud to your baby.
04. Write letters to your baby.
This is both a cathartic and enduring way to document your state of being. Choose a notebook and write a letter each week or month, so they’re all in the same place. My best advice for journaling and letter writing is not to be precious with your words. Let it flow. That way you don’t put if off, waiting for the just the right words. A few prompts to get you started may include:
What does motherhood mean to you?
What advice have you gotten from women in your life that you hold dear?
How do you hope baby approaches the world?
What features/traits do you hope baby gets from you/your partner?
Describe the sounds that baby hears as you go through your day.
05. Celebrate milestones.
There’s this misconception that you’re not “pregnant enough” in the first half of pregnancy for certain things: getting a seat on the subway/bus, doing prenatal yoga, or making a to-do about your halfway mark. Don’t subscribe to that. Honoring the growth your baby is making is a healthy way to remind yourself that you’re going through a major life event. Gaudet and Spencer agree, noting, “As much as childbirth is a major event for the body, it’s also a transformative event for the soul. Just as significant as your own birth and your own death.” These are a few ways to revel in your big occasions, but pick your own and follow your personal inspirations.
First Heartbeat (8 weeks): Dance to your couple song at home or catch a romantic movie
Second Trimester (14 weeks): Get a prenatal massage to calm muscles
Gender Reveal (18 weeks): Gather your inner circle and have them open tiny cards or cut into a colorful cake
Halfway Mark (20 weeks): Go out to an upmarket dinner
Third Trimester (28 weeks): Have photos taken of you to capture your growing bump and glow
Birth (40 weeks): Order delivery from your favorite restaurant
Consider these five ways to stay present during pregnancy as the inner equivalent of dressing the nursery and making a registry. It’s how to emotionally and spiritually prepare for the arrival of your little one—which is just as important as how to logistically plan for it.