How Pregnancy Taught Me to Be Selfish

Sometime mid-way through my recent pregnancy, I read a quote by Barbara Katz Rothman that said, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers--strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” I pondered this idea throughout the ensuing months leading up to the birth of my daughter, as well as the 3 months since her arrival. And while I couldn’t agree more with this statement, I think it’s somewhat limited. If birth is about making mothers, then surely so is pregnancy.

The 9+ months we get to prepare for motherhood is a time of intense reassessment and reordering of priorities and habits in order to welcome a new life into the world – I needed every day and then some. This process manifests in a variety of ways for different people, from nesting and preparing a nursery to rethinking career goals. (I even had a friend who thought that if she could just figure out the perfect haircut, everything else would fall into place!) For me, this necessary refiguring came in the form of self-care.

The first few months of my pregnancy were really difficult. I was heading up a major, hands-on project at work and battling extreme nausea throughout the day, every day, while trying to still hide the news from my colleagues. With a background firmly planted in the protestant work ethic, I’ve always taken masochistic pride in my ability to work long, hard hours with little compensation for the love of the job. But it soon became apparent that I would not be able to keep up my regular pace, and my healthcare provider informed me that chronic stress and overtiredness could adversely affect the baby growing inside of me. I decided I needed to make some temporary shifts in habit in order to get through this pregnancy intact.

The changes were small at first: I started leaving work on time, going to bed an hour or two earlier, cutting down on coffee and packing healthier lunches to eat on the go. My second and third trimester brought with them anxiety about the upcoming birth, and so I begin a meditation practice in the morning and at night before bed to calm my rampant thoughts and improve sleep. I started stretching and swimming on the weekends. I somehow found the discipline to close my computer after dinner and not check emails on my phone during the many times I woke in the middle of the night. I learned to sit still in the winter sun for half an hour. I took long weekend walks with my partner. As my belly grew bigger by the day, I started massaging myself with natural oils after allowing myself a long, hot bath. Where I used to be critical of what I saw in the mirror, I now thanked my body for the amazing job it was doing creating and carrying a new person. I breathed deeply.

Formerly I would have felt guilty for engaging in such luxurious, lazy pleasures. I had valued efficiency and productivity for so long that this new focus on self-care felt, well, selfish. But when guilt would creep in, I would be reminded that taking care of myself and taking care of my growing baby were one and the same. In short, being pregnant gave me the excuse I needed to care for myself.

These new habits accompanied me throughout the exhaustion of the first trimester, through the stretching and kicking of the middle months, and into the excitement and hip-widening waddle of the last stretch of pregnancy. And when the day finally came, my new attitude towards self-care helped carry me through an intense natural labor and delivery and allowed me to be slow and kind to myself during postpartum recovery.

Now, three months later, I’m surprised to realize that the “temporary” shifts I made towards self-care might not be so temporary after all, nor should they be. Sure, with a new baby, I don’t have hours a day to go to a spa, but I can carve out time for an extra-hot shower, take 5 minutes to meditate before bed, and rather than feeling the pressure to get things done, I can steal a guilt-free nap when the opportunity comes my way.

Ultimately, my new attitude towards self-care has not only helped me maintain my sanity during this time of huge transition, but is making me into a better mother as well. I’ve learned to be ok with mono-tasking and focusing wholly on my daughter/partner/self as needed. I now have the discipline to unplug from screens, phones and tablets for hours a day and instead play, read, and talk with my baby. The weekend walks with my partner continue, as do the healthy meals (for the most part), and learning to thank my body continues to have a profound impact on how I approach my new postpartum physique with its extra pounds and stretch marks. Perhaps most importantly, I’m giving my daughter a model of self-care to emulate when I’m no longer around to do it for her. I want her to grow up knowing that she deserves care, and so I have come to terms with the fact that so do I -- I’m somebody’s daughter too after all. As I look back over the last year, I see now that pregnancy not only taught me to care for a small baby, it also taught me to care about myself.

Heather Jones is a curator, independent culture and lifestyle writer, and Co-founder and Editor of the online arts journal CAS. She currently lives and works between New York City and Stavanger, Norway.

Mom life demands efficiency. Because while the amount of hours in the day are the same as before kids, now a sizable chunk of that time is spent caring for and loving on those little people. Compromises happen—and let's just be honest, the old beauty routine is one of the first things to get cut.

But, wait! You don't have to sacrifice putting on mascara or, worse, skipping the SPF. Instead, why not flip it, reverse it, and look at the bright side? Here's your opportunity to streamline your morning makeup routine. With some savvy skin care and beauty hacks, you can get your radiant glow on in record time.

Here are our tried-and-true hacks passed down from Motherly mamas:

1. Embrace multipurpose items

If the most pressing issue is limited time, consolidate multiple steps of your beauty routine with a multipurpose item. For example, instead of starting with a SPF moisturizer, followed by spot concealer and a blendable foundation, you can take care of all of that in one go with one of our favorites: Earth Mama's 3-in-one Lady Face™ Tinted Mineral Sunscreen. The beauty stick also allows you to easily fold SPF 40 into your routine, because Lady Face doubles as super-safe, clean sun protection. Even better? The sunscreen blocks blue light from those ever-present digital screens with a ray-scattering, non-nano formula.

2. Revive dried mascara

Especially after a sleepless night (#motherhood), mascara can make a major difference in how well rested you appear to be. If you realize your tube of mascara is dried out, don't write it off as a lost cause. Simply soak the sealed tube in warm water to loosen up the mascara — or add a drop of a multi-purpose saline solution into the tube. That should do the trick until you have time to buy a replacement. (But let's face it: You're a mom. It's okay if you're tired.)

3. Keep coconut oil handy

Coconut oil isn't just for the kitchen. From a DIY hair mask to an in-a-pinch lip balm or naturally removing makeup at the end of the day, coconut oil's cosmetic hack-list is long. For summer, we especially like adding a thin swipe of organic extra virgin coconut oil to the cheekbones at the end of the makeup routine for a bit of an extra glow.

4. Multitask while deep conditioning

If your hair needs a bit of TLC, consider applying a natural, paraben-free deep conditioner before doing chores around the house or even a short workout. By working up a bit of a sweat, the conditioner will set even better before you rinse off in the shower.

5. Start your hair care routine the night before

As you work to find your new normal morning routine, it can help to simply reschedule a task or two—like hair. If you shower the night before, get a jumpstart on your look by blowdrying, straightening or even braiding it for loose waves in the morning.

6. Even out your skin tone

Between multiple wake-ups during the night and wavering hormones, complexion issues can become a thing for most mamas. Thankfully, the hack for managing that is as simple as finding a great foundation that goes on smoothly and doesn't cake or crack through a morning of momming. Scope out the ingredient list for naturally nourishing components like coconut oil, shea butter or beeswax — and skip the stress (and the return process if the shade doesn't match) by going for something that easily blends with most skin tones.

7. Find brands your feel great about

As a mom, you might find yourself considering bigger life questions: Are my cosmetics safe for pregnancy and breastfeeding? Are they helping the world my children will grow up in? Can I trust the ingredients and mission? Pro tip: read the ingredients on all your personal care products, memorize the ones you want to avoid, and look for third-party certification to ensure the product is actually what it says it is. When you find a brand that walks the talk, you're going to want to be loyal.

8. When in doubt, go for a bold lip

With happy hours swapped for play dates, your daily routine may look a bit different than it used to. But who says you have to leave your personal style behind? If you've always been a fan of makeup and going a bit glam, keep going for it, mama! The extra 60 seconds it takes to apply lipstick or whatever else gives you a bit of pep in your step is well worth it.

This article was sponsored by Earth Mama Organics. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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