Pregnancy is more than just nine long months to get through, as we anxiously cross off days from our calendar. Pregnancy is a time to nurture and nourish our body, mind, and spirit, so that the soil our baby has been planted into, becoming the very ground of his or her being, is as rich, healthy, and peaceful as possible. Nourishing ourselves is caring well for our child, as everything we eat, drink, breathe, rub on our skin, even the thoughts and emotions we experience, affect the growth and development of our baby’s brain, organ systems, temperament, immune system, and health, all the way into adulthood.
It is also a time to think about, examine, and process how we ourselves were parented, as we prepare to parent our own children. Pregnancy and birth are so much more than just a physical process, managed by our chosen medical caregiver. It is a time of transition from being a single woman who can pretty much come and go as she pleases, into the role of mother, responsible for the life of another human being. It is a time not only of great physical changes, but psychological, social, emotional, and spiritual changes as well.
Beginning in pregnancy, a subtle paradigm shift begins to occur, when we realize that our choices now affect our unborn baby. As the months pass and our baby makes its presence known by way of our blossoming belly and the amazing feeling of his movements, something happens in the mind and heart of an expectant mother. She begins to take on more and more of a protective “Mother Tiger” persona. She also asks more questions, does more reading and research, and begins to learn to trust her intuition and inate well of feminine wisdom that lies within. She realizes, more than ever before, that growing, giving birth to, and parenting her baby, are processes in which she needs to find her own way, forge her own unique path. An awe inspiring change begins to emerge as she feels herself connected to generations of women, past, present, and future, who have birthed and mothered before her, and she draws courage and strength from knowing she belongs now to a strong, new
community of those women blessed to be called by that most wondrous and auspicious of names, Mother.
Even before her baby is born, an expectant mother begins to see the world through new eyes, her child’s eyes, as she realizes how the world will touch and impact her baby’s life. Suddenly things that didn’t seem to concern her or have much importance or bearing on her life, take on new meaning and potential. As her baby grows, and especially after he or she is born, she may find herself making completely different choices than she did previously, as a single woman.
Through research, education, talking with her doctor or midwife, childbirth educator, yoga instructor, doula, and others, she may learn that the development of her baby is impacted by her choices of food, drink, personal care products, chemicals she comes in contact with, and even how stressed or peaceful she feels day to day. She may then choose to eat only organic foods in order to avoid having pesticides and toxic chemicals reach her developing baby in utero. Reading labels will become regular practice in order to avoid genetically modified ingredients and various chemicals in processed foods. She may change her shopping habits and start purchasing food from farmer’s markets, natural food stores, or a CSA, (community supported agriculture). Perhaps she will cut meat from her diet, either completely or partially. These changes will help to cut down on pesticides in the environment, on oil and gas for long distance transport, and help create more demand for fresh, healthy, organic foods. Eating less meat will cut down on inhumane animal treatment for livestock raised on factory farms, and will cut down on methane and green-house gases in the atmosphere.
As she learns about the importance of the type of birth her baby experiences, which will impact the quality of her bond with her child, her relationship with her partner, and the start of their healthy family, she may make different choices about the kind of birth she wants. Now she knows it is best for her baby to have the least technological, most intervention free, natural, gentle, and peaceful birth and transition to the outside world. This will impact her choice of medical caregiver and her place of birth. It will also cause her to think about and practice more in preparation for a gentle birth experience. She may begin to learn and practice mindfulness meditation, and soon realize that it is so much more than simply a labor breathing and pain management technique. She will come to understand that being mindful will touch every aspect of her life and become a way of being actively connected to present moment awareness and life events. She may choose to adopt an attachment parenting style and skills as well. Mindfulness and attachment parenting will also bring more compassion, patience, joy, and love to her parenting, and help to raise more mindful children who realize their connectedness to all sentient beings. These will be children who will understand that they are not just separate selves who can do and have only for themselves. They will view the world through a lens of love, compassion, and interconnectedness, with a natural knowledge that our actions and our lives have an impact on those around us, and they must be sure their impact on others is good and loving.
She may choose to breastfeed, rather than bottle feeding formula, and to use cloth diapers rather than disposable. This will not only contribute to the healthy growth and development of her children’s brain, nervous system, and immune system, it will also cut down on packaging waste, and thousands of diapers that never decompose, but rather sit in the landfill for hundreds of years, releasing methane gas into our already overburdened atmosphere.
When making clothing choices for her baby, she will be careful to choose those made of natural fibers, such as cotton or bamboo. It will become important to her that the materials were sustainably grown, and the garments made by workers who were treated justly, and were fairly compensated with a living wage for their labor. This empowered mother will know that the choices of products she buys will not only create demand for better products, but also contribute to the creation of a more socially just world we all want for our children.
She might begin to recycle more and learn to live in a less materialistic and over consuming fashion. Perhaps she will begin to learn how to repurpose things, reuse, buy second hand, and barter and trade for goods and services, which all contribute to the ideal of a new, healthier, shared and gift economy. Our newly natural mother may even plant her own garden, or at least learn to do some container gardening of herbs and vegetables, which will ensure less pesticides and toxic chemicals in her family’s food. Perhaps she will start a neighborhood food coop, a holistic moms group, a babysitting coop, or a meal sharing group.
As our new mom learns more about how toxic chemicals, runoff and pollutants from factories and factory farms, and oil drilling and gas fracking, affect our water, air, and land, she may become active in working to protect clean, natural water and land sources. A new understanding of environmental degradation and sustainability could see her doing her part to defend the earth and working toward more natural, sustainable energy sources, such as wind and solar. She may become an activist, standing in the way of continued oil drilling that is devastating the earth and causing never ending wars. Political activism may become important to her, locally and nationally to ensure good choices by our elected officials. She will begin to connect the dots and see how all these things are intertwined, and how they affect her baby’s life. She will see the difference between a healthy environmentally sustainable, socially just, and peaceful world for her children to grow up in, or one in which the future of all humankind as a whole is in peril, and know that she must do her part to ensure that her child inherits the just and peaceful world.
It all begins in pregnancy with the way we care for ourselves in order to promote optimal fetal growth and development, carefully choose the best medical caregiver, practice and prepare for a gentle birth, and begin to develop our parenting style and the way we will interact with the world going forward. In this way we also model for our children a healthy, loving, socially just, compassionate, sustainable, and peaceful way of life for our children to emulate and adopt. And you thought all you had to do was get through morning sickness, and choose which outfits to put in your birth bag for your baby to wear home from the hospital. Every choice you make, from the time you learn you are pregnant, contributes to the health of your baby, and the creation of the world your child will grow up in. What type of world will your choices create?