Nearly five months ago when my husband and I found out that we will be having a baby, I looked around for pregnancy iPad applications related to babies, pregnancy and birth. As my search for more holistic information packaged in an application did not yield a great range of options at the time, we decided to go for ‘What to Expect’ which is based on a book written some thirty years ago, known as America’s pregnancy bible, ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’. The book is known as ‘one of USA Today’s 25 most influential books of the past 25 years’, and apparently it’s read by about 93% of American expecting women.
After some research, I decided not to include this book in our reading list because, frankly, I was not particularly inspired by what seemed like an average American birth story. In addition, some best-selling book reviewers ranked this book in terms of how it will make the reader feel as ‘zero-for empowered’, ‘5-for healthier’, ‘2-for happier’, and ‘1-for prepared for birth’ (rankings based on 5 stars). I decided to go for other options instead.
Nonetheless, we downloaded the app as I really wanted to have something that would visually show us each week what mysterious things were happening inside my body, and help us start getting to know the baby. Watching a 3-minute video quickly became a little Friday morning ritual for my husband and I, and over the weeks we have found it quite entertaining to discover the latest news from ‘in there’ and what size the baby is going to be this week (each week the baby’s head-to-butt length is described by comparing it to a fruit).
I think that it is naturally easier for women to be present and connect with the babies early on as we get to experience the changes in our bodies and emotions. Therefore, our little weekly ritual was also intended to add new insights to my husband’s perspective and help him feel more connected to our growing baby. It has been really enjoyable to watch his interest grow from unconvinced expression of “you-mean-this-little-dragon-is-my-child?..” to now feeling my bump many times a day and talking to the baby through my belly button.
I will admit that I have not used the app for anything else more or less since the very beginning. I felt the majority of articles and tips presented in it are quite uninformed and even misleading. Very few of their dietary or otherwise guidelines resonated with my beliefs, and I found myself off-put by constant encouragement to stay in close touch with ‘your medical professional’. It made the whole pregnancy process seem entirely dependent on external advice rather than any reliance on woman’s own empowered intuition.
Each week the app shared an update on ‘common symptoms’ that women were likely to start experiencing – usually describing various ‘ailments’ in a somewhat humorous but convincing way and constantly suggesting to look out for more serious implications which needed to be discussed with ‘your practitioner’ or solved through ‘light’ medication.
So early on I stopped reading these ‘common symptoms’ and decided that I just wasn’t interested in getting convinced that I should be experiencing them. And I haven’t. (This is identical to how every time while visiting Lithuania around Christmas we find everyone sick with flu and yet leave without being affected by it. This is probably mostly because we don’t watch the news and anti-flu advertisement campaigns trying to convince us that this is a good time to get ill.) Instead, I present my list of top 10 less-talked about pregnancy symptoms.
1. Feeling connected and never alone
Since the early beginning of the pregnancy I have absolutely loved the surprising thought that I am never alone. I keep experiencing the feeling that my body, mind and emotions are all deeply connected and overlap with those of a new human planning to join our planet. Even cravings for particular food or needing to rest more to me seem like an influence or suggestion coming from someone other than yet at the same time inseparable from me. Pregnancy is an amazing time to feel connected!
2. Finding new place in the family tree
I have really enjoyed how my pregnancy seems to have triggered so many fascinating conversations about our family, distant relatives, and birth stories from other generations. This has been the case during all the meetings with my family members, but also with the family of my husband. It has been really interesting hearing our moms share the stories about our births, and reflecting on changing generations and contexts. Pregnancy is a great time to put our experiences into this bigger picture extending in both direction towards the roots of our families and also into the future generations to come.
3. Bringing joy to others
I love how sharing the news about the baby has brought such an outpouring of joy from our family, friends and even random strangers. It’s incredible how babies manifest this positive welcoming energy way before they arrive. Before getting pregnant, I used to think it was quite rude how people just go for the pregnant women’s bellies without asking for permission first. I now think it’s really funny because my belly seems to have become public property, and I have had people I hardly know touch or even kiss it while congratulating me. Pregnancy seems to unleash the joy in others that simply cannot be contained!
4. Feeling loved and looked after
This is another ‘side-effect’ of pregnancy that I have really enjoyed. I have found that showing up with my bump immediately makes everyone so gentle and loving towards me. And I am not just talking about my husband who has wrapped me in his love and care for nearly 4 years since we met. I mean people actually wrapping me in blankets when it’s a little chilly outside, or nearly missing their lunch break in search for a particular meal that I might enjoy on that particular day. Perhaps something gets triggered subconsciously in us that we look after the moms carrying the continuation of our species, but I love it none-the-less.
5. Shifting focus and priorities
I really like that human pregnancy lasts for quite a long time – a good portion of a one-year cycle. Although I am sure that some would agree that nothing can really prepare us for the surprises of parenthood, I think the months leading up to the baby’s arrival are such an incredible opportunity to reflex on our lives and make conscious changes that will ultimately enhance the entire family’s well-being. Over these months I have really enjoyed the transition and the shift we are making as a couple towards this new experience. Pregnancy truly offers an opportunity to fine-tune what is really important.
6. Witnessing the magic of body’s wisdom
Observing how my body has been changing during the pregnancy has been absolutely fascinating (presently, I am in awe of my belly button beginning to turn inside out!). And it is even more incredible to think of all the magical processes that are happening at high speed and precision to not only continue keeping me well and healthy, but also to make my body the perfect environment in which our baby can develop. I recently watched a pregnancy yoga video which suggested a beautiful mantra that really resonates with me “I honor all that my body is doing to nurture, nourish and support my growing baby”. Amen!
7. Getting to know own self and partner in a new way
I think that pregnancy not only gives us time to evaluate our priorities and prepare the environment for our children, but also gives us space to rediscover new and long forgotten parts of our being and begin the transformation to parenthood. The last few months for me have been incredible in terms of self-awareness (including many of the experiences and discoveries that I have shared in this blog), but also I am really enjoying getting to know my partner in this new light. It’s a wonderful new dimension that I look forward to exploring even in more depth when the baby makes her appearance.
8. Opening up to softness and emotional intelligence
When I was little, I used to find myself somehow embarrassed that my mom could hardly watch any film without getting teary-eyed. Over the years, however, I have acquired a similar capacity to the point where I find two dogs running into the sunset somehow touching. Being pregnant, however, seems to have brought an extra dimension to it all. I find myself so overwhelmingly moved by the smallest (and sometimes weirdest) things – like cheesy Latin American pop music or my husband’s rendition of ‘la cucaracha’ song. It’s also been a time of a lot of emotional clearance, opening up of and healing the parts of me that I had forgotten about.
9. Experiencing the awesomeness of being awake
Throughout my whole life I have been blessed with the gift of uninterrupted sleep. Being pregnant has changed that because I have lost count the number of times I have woken up between 3 am – 5 am over the last few months. And I love it! I find it so beautiful that nature starts preparing us for the times ahead when the baby will need our attention at night, but also night time is an amazing time for reflection, writing or simply getting things done. I found out that one of my favourite authors Dr. Wayne W. Dyer used to have the same experience of waking up at night and wrote many of his books during that time. How gorgeously the famous Persian poet Rumi wrote in one of his poems about the magic of being awake at night:
“The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!”
10. Diving deep into dreams and intuition
Finally, I have loved the way pregnancy seems to have brought a new dimension to my dreams and heightened the intuitive capacities. I keep a dream journal where I write down the dreams that feel very vivid or important, and I found myself reaching for it a lot during the early pregnancy. There is also a new category of dreams about me meeting, birthing and feeding the baby, which I find very revealing, in terms of my fears or hopes. I have always thought of myself as intuitive, but over the last few months it feels like there is even more depth to it – I listen to my body’s cues more intently, information and people that I need are easy to find. And that little nagging need to know ‘what to expect’ seems to have disappeared leaving me filled instead with curiosity and trust.Tags: empowerment pregnancy
Dearest Asta, As I read this post, I kept responding with a resounding Yes! I am inspired to dig out my pregnancy journals from three decades ago to revel in the minutiae of the days/weeks/months of pregnancy. Thank you for your heartfelt insights.