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Where Pregnancy Begins - Body, Soul, and Baby




Excerpted from
Body, Soul, and Baby: A Doctor's Guide to the Complete Pregnancy Experience, From Preconception to Postpartum
By Tracey W. Gaudet, M.D., Paula Spencer

The starting place for a healthy pregnancy isn't a date, it's a mind-set.

A conscious pregnancy doesn't begin with your first trimester, last menstrual period, first prenatal exam, or a positive home pregnancy test. I believe that for a truly healthy, happy pregnancy, a different starting place is in order. I want to start with whore you are.

Do you know?

By "where you are," I mean in all the many different dimensions that comprise you: physical, emotional, and psychological-in your work, in your relationships, and in your heart and soul. They're all interconnected and relevant to your well-being. Where are you, as an individual, as you approach this new path in your life? A conscious pregnancy begins with developing awareness about yourself.

Welcome to the Fertility Pathway

Whether or not you are now pregnant, the fact that you've picked up this book indicates some interest in becoming a mother. And that's the real starting place of a pregnancy. You are at a time and place in a woman's life I call the Fertility Pathway. It's a season of your life marked by a distinct set of experiences and choices surrounding the active desire to have a child. A woman who is menstruating and does not hope for a child or is not pregnant is in the life phase I call Cycling. She has different experiences and concerns. You may go back and forth between Cycling and the Fertility Pathway more than once. Eventually you reach the Transition Pathway, which marks the shift out of your reproductive years and into perimenopause and then menopause.

My goal is to help you reframe the way you think about your time on the Fertility Pathway, planning and/or experiencing pregnancy and childbirth. In order to do that, you need to reframe the way you think about yourself.

Wait a minute, you may be thinking. I just want to know about fuming a healthy baby!

Of course you do. And I will tell you all about it. But first you need to appreciate this reality: Having a baby isn't all about the baby. It's also about you, and the relationship between the two of you.

The Reflective Inventory

When I first work with a new patient, I use an exercise I call the Reflective Inventory. It's basically a series of questions designed to help her take inventory of her whole self. You can do the same thing on your own. As a physician, I am not looking for "correct" answers; I am simply encouraging you to shift your attention to various important dimensions of your health and see what they bring up for you.

I've designed a home version of the Reflective Inventory to help you create a self-portrait of where you are right now. Ideally, you should do this exercise before continuing on with the tools and care plans in the following chapters, because the information you discover can inform all of your decisions throughout your pregnancy, from how to best care for yourself every day to how to work most effectively with your doctor.

You don't need to write anything down. This is an emotional exercise, not an intellectual one, and thus different from the forms you're asked to till out at your doctor's office, or the health and medical history your care provider takes. All you need to do is skim the questions and, without dwelling on them, give them brief consideration. This simple act will increase your awareness. I sometimes call the Reflective Inventory a "soul magnet," because it attracts bits and particles of insight floating around inside you and pulls them to the surface. Notice which topics seem to stick in your mind afterward; that's an indicator that you may want to spend time reflecting on them later.

Before beginning:

Find quiet time and space. It's easier to turn your attention inward when you feel relaxed and safe. There are several ways to do this. First, find a time when you're not likely to be interrupted. Let your physical surroundings help shift your attention, too, by going somewhere you feel comfortable, such as your peaceful back deck or in a favorite chair, where you can snuggle up under an old quilt. Most important, find such a space anywhere by making a mental transition from your busy day to a quieter place in your head. Get comfortable and relaxed. Use any relaxation technique that works for you; try experimenting with several if you don't already have one you use to center yourself. (See Chapter 4, pages 36-42, for some suggestions.) Yoga, meditation, or simple deep-breathing works well for many people.

Be honest. There are no "right" or "wrong" answers here. There are only your answers.

Dare to peer into the shadows. This exercise is meant to provide a snapshot. And to continue this metaphor, a photograph, technically, is light captured on paper. Without degrees of both lightness and darkness, there would be no image. The same applies to capturing a picture of where you are right now in your journey to motherhood. Both light and dark are part of the journey. When a woman tells me that she's "not afraid of anything" or "not worried about anything," or that she feels "nothing but joy and happiness" about her pregnancy, I have to wonder if she's repressing something. We all have fears and worries, especially about a great life change that is as full of unknowns as this one is.

Be aware of the "judging mind." That's the little voice in your head that editorializes your own thoughts and feelings. "You shouldn't think that way," it chastises. Or, "You must be a bad person if you do this or believe that." Simply notice that you are having such thoughts, recognize them for what they are-judgmental commentary-and set them aside. Just say, "Oh, there's that voice again." Then move on.

Understand that your answers change every single day. As a living, breathing human, you're not designed to live in static, robotic sameness. And, especially as a pregnant woman, you couldn't possibly. Every day will bring changes. That's why it's so critical to have an ongoing awareness when you're pregnant.

The Reflective Inventory Questions

Scan through the following questions and see what areas you are drawn to, and what answers come to mind. You don't need to respond to every single question. Remember, the purpose here is to bring these topics to the forefront of your awareness.



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