Self-care, During the Pregnancy

There is nothing harder than carrying a baby you know will not live. It's so very hard and so very selfless. There are moments of pure joy and moments of devastating heartbreak. The amount of stress can be overwhelming at times. To people around you, there is no difference between you and any other pregnant mama. But you know differently. While your sweet baby is here now, they may not be tomorrow. It's horrific and painful in so many ways. Somehow, we do it. Our unending and unwavering love for our baby gives us the strength to keep going.

Many times, our focus is so much on our baby that we forget that we also need some TLC. Our babies need us to be healthy for them, and we also need to stay healthy for ourselves. Here are some ideas:

~Have your spouse/partner give you a foot massage and/or a back rub. My husband would rub my feet for about 20 minutes each night, the dear man. It helps keep you relaxed and also gives you time to talk about how you're feeling with one another.

~Warm baths (not too hot for baby!) with pretty soaps, bubbles, candles and soft music. Bodies go through a lot carrying around a baby. Water can ease some of the pressure and help you unwind. Music and candlelight just add to the experience.

~Pretty toes/nails. Personally, I don't recommend going to a nail salon, (too many harsh chemicals) so I figure, if your hubby is going to rub your feet anyway, you might as well hand him some nail polish to finish the job : ) I think it's also important to have something pretty in your life.

~Going along with the last suggestion, you can buy yourself something special. This can be anything. A new CD of your favorite band, a cute purse, a new piece of jewelry, a good book, a favorite candy treat, etc. Anything to reward yourself for being a loving and courageous mama.

~Take time to think about other things. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I often would realize that I had only been thinking about Samuel's situation continuously for days at a time. While I know there really is not much else with such urgency and importance, I do think it's important to give yourself time to mentally escape, even if just for a few hours. Watch a movie, read a book, watch a TV show, have a chat with a close friend, have a girls night out. Give yourself a break, you're doing a lot of work (emotionally and physically).

~Have a date night with your husband/partner. I think this is so important for both you and your spouse/partner. Major stresses like this can tear a relationship apart. Take time to keep your relationship strong. Having a night out gives you a chance to get "dolled-up" and out of the house*. Try your best to have fun plans. (No money for a date night out? Grab a board game, pick up a Redbox, go for a walk, make a picnic and head outside. You don't have to have money to make a fun night).

*This can be tricky. I was very emotional much of the time. I hated seeing other pregnant mamas because I was jealous of their carefree attitudes. Be kind to yourself. If it's too hard to go out, you can still get dressed up for a movie night and take-out at home. Do what feels best to you.

While you're out, talk about the things you used to talk about. What things brought you together in the first place? Share funny memories/stories.  Laughter can help relieve stress, it can bond you with your partner, and I imagine it brings happiness to your baby as well. Keep the conversation positive, if possible (I know, easier said than done sometimes). Once you're back home, you can talk about how you're feeling/doing in all this. Be open and honest with each other. Listen to how he feels. (Everyone handles this differently). Keep the communication lines open and strong.

~Get away. If possible, sneak in a weekend (or longer) trip to a hotel or bed and breakfast. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house for a while. 

~Eat healthy foods. Under stress, there can be the urge to use snacks and treats to cope. While I absolutely think the occasional ice cream or chocolate fix is necessary, be careful to keep your main food sources healthy. The weight you gain with this pregnancy will still be there when the baby is gone. It's so very hard to lose that weight when you're depressed and grieving. Eating healthy can help you level your mood and feel better about yourself. It's also good to give baby all the yummy nutrients he/she needs while they are here with us.

~Exercise. Take long walks or go swimming (a great way to exercise with baby), do yoga or get a pregnancy exercise DVD and follow along. As long as your doctor approves*, keep yourself moving. It helps your mood and keeps your body healthy. Plus, delivery is HARD work, you'll be glad you got yourself in shape for it. *Be sure to follow doctors orders!

~Make connections with people who understand. Get involved with a support group, join All That Love Can Do on Facebook (we offer both a public page and a private group), or get involved with the babyloss community online (Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope is a good place to start). Not many people understand what it's like for us. It's important to know you're not alone.

~Surround yourself with loving people. Going along with the last suggestion, it's important for you to surround yourself with loving people who care. There will be (unfortunately) so many people in your life who will say/do hurtful things. I'm going to assume they don't intend to hurt, but instead just don't know what to say/do. Know that it's perfectly ok to change who you spend time with. You'll lose friends and you'll make new ones. It's one really hard part of this. If you don't like the way someone is acting towards you and your baby, then don't interact with them. It's ok. You need to focus on your feelings and needs, not theirs.

~Seek counseling. Again, this is an important one. Find a counselor who has lost a baby or at least one who can really understand a major trauma/loss such as yours. You need a safe place to talk about everything with someone who will really listen and offer as much or as little help as you'd like.  My husband and I went during the pregnancy to keep our marriage strong and to help us cope. Now that Samuel's gone, I go once a week for help with the immense grief. It's been a lifeline in my darkest times. 

~Most of all, be kind to yourself. We often blame ourselves for our baby's fate. Many times, it's nothing we could have prevented. Avoid cutting yourself down or dwelling on what you could have done to prevent it. It's happening and all you can change is how you're going to respond. 

What are some ways you care for yourself during this pregnancy?

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