There's a common side effect of pregnancy that isn't mentioned in the magazines, baby books, or prep classes. Sure, you already know about nausea, swollen feet, leaky boobs, and — if you're really lucky — a little case of hemorrhoids.
But there's also something bigger you can experience as a result of moving into this new stage of your life — and it's rarely talked about. It's called losing your identity. During pregnancy, we can forget to pause and remind ourselves that the most important thing is to put ourselves first.
As a lifestyle coach who works with women daily to rediscover what they're all about, it's been vital for me to practice what I preach in my own pregnancy experience. I know that the most powerful thing I can do during pregnancy is to work on myself — to be the woman who honors herself, knows her value, and takes care of herself. I aim to be the model of unconditional love for myself first, knowing that my baby will follow suit.
Here are five key ways to maintain your sense of self during pregnancy:
1. Pinpoint what matters most to you.
Identifying core values is a useful exercise for anyone, in any stage of life. But it's also extremely important during pregnancy because your values are going to be challenged a lot from family, friends, outside parenting sources, and general commentary.
It'll seem like you're being pulled in many different directions to deviate from what you thought you knew. Being clear on your top values helps guide you in the decisions and experiences of pregnancy in a way that's more powerful than the books and media.
2. Integrate the many different parts of you.
What are your various roles? For example, you might identify as a friend, wife, entrepreneur, team manager, or community member.
It can be very tempting to brush other roles aside and make mother the main one — but who you were before you were a mother is also important and can empower you to move into your new role.
My suggestion is to physically write down all the roles you have and also list why those roles are important to you. Decide how you'll dedicate time to them each week, even while exploring new roles.
3. Create a personal mission statement.
A mission statement is your bigger why — your proclamation of who you say you are and who you see yourself becoming.
In the case of pregnancy, it's common to start formulating your sense of self around your ability to be a mother. A mission statement creates the space for you to expand beyond that. It's like your North Star — it helps you stay on track.
4. Focus on your health.
You've heard many reasons why it's important to stay healthy during pregnancy, but let's look at it from a different angle.
Your baby is also going to depend on you, for a lot. So with regard to fitness, you have the chance to create reliability and accountability in how you relate to your physical body. Creating healthy habits solidifies your commitment to self-love. And your baby will pick up that energy in the womb.
5. Affirm your awesomeness.
You're probably already affirming your baby through conversations during pregnancy. Don't you think he or she will feel it more when you're doing it for yourself, too?
Continuously acknowledging how amazing you are puts you in that space of loving yourself first. When you're that abundant — clear that the ultimate unconditional love comes from within you — then you can magnify that love with your relationship with your baby.
All of this can be addressed in a realistic, sustainable way that empowers you in your sense of identity. I know this because I've experienced it and worked with others on these exact steps.
So yes, read the baby books, go to the classes, and talk to your mommy friends. But also remember to take time for you as you prepare to bring another magnificent human being into the world.