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How Pregnancy Taught Me to Be Selfish

An expecting mama realized that pregnancy was the perfect time for self-care.

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.

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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.

These are the best bath time products you can get for under $20

These budget-friendly products really make a splash.

With babies and toddlers, bath time is about so much more than washing off: It's an opportunity for fun, sensory play and sweet bonding moments—with the added benefit of a cuddly, clean baby afterward.

Because bathing your baby is part business, part playtime, you're going to want products that can help with both of those activities. After countless bath times, here are the products that our editors think really make a splash. (Better yet, each item is less than $20!)

Comforts Bath Wash & Shampoo

Comforts Baby Wash & Shampoo

Made with oat extract, this bath wash and shampoo combo is designed to leave delicate skin cleansed and nourished. You and your baby will both appreciate the tear-free formula—so you can really focus on the bath time fun.

Munckin Soft Spot Bath Mat

Munchkin slip mat

When your little one is splish-splashing in the bath, help keep them from also sliding around with a soft, anti-slip bath mat. With strong suction cups to keep it in place and extra cushion to make bath time even more comfortable for your little one, this is an essential in our books.

Comforts Baby Lotion

Comforts baby lotion

For most of us, the bath time ritual continues when your baby is out of the tub when you want to moisturize their freshly cleaned skin. We look for lotions that are hypoallergenic, nourishing and designed to protect their skin.

The First Years Stack Up Cups

First year stack cups

When it comes to bath toys, nothing beats the classic set of stackable cups: Sort them by size, practice pouring water, pile them high—your little one will have fun with these every single bath time.

Comforts Baby Oil

Comforts baby oil

For dry skin that needs a little extra TLC, our team loves Comforts' fast-absorbing baby oil aloe vera and vitamin E. Pro tip: When applied right after drying off your baby, the absorption is even more effective.

KidCo Bath Toy Organizer

KidCo Bath Organizer

Between bathing supplies, wash rags, toys and more, the tub sure can get crowded in a hurry. We like that this organizer gives your little one space to play and bathe while still keeping everything you need within reach.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Research indicates that family vacations are essential. They make our, kids (and us) happier and build bonds and memories.

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Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

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