By now, for most, the glamour has worn off. The hormonal high and natural glow have been replaced by sleepless nights, aches and pains, and a dangerous lack of patience with all those people who keep asking, “You haven’t popped yet? Wow! You look huge!”
Welcome to your final weeks of pregnancy. Unless you’re one of the fortunate few, a good night’s sleep is almost impossible to come by. Your belly is tight, along with your back, legs, and various other body parts that are tender from the added weight. And your loved ones are walking around on eggshells because you’ve got this wild look in your eye that says, “Let’s get this thing going!”
So how can you regain some calm in these tiring final weeks? Breathe easy, because there are countless suggestions for helping take the edge off before the big day arrives. Don’t know which will work for you? Try them all and remember that these are the final days you have to yourself before your world is turned upside down.
Portia Stewart of Lenexa, Kan., found herself tired and oh-so-anxious at the end of August, as she and her husband awaited their son’s big appearance. Because it was Stewart’s first child, she was eager to hear advice on passing the time with some degree of sanity. One of her coworkers suggested Stewart try a prenatal massage – and she hasn’t looked back.
“Sitting at a desk all day at work nearly kills my back,” Stewart says. “So I started visiting a massage therapist – a registered nurse trained in prenatal massage – after getting my doctor’s permission. It’s wonderful. Can I say that again? Wonderful. I’ve gone twice a month for the last few months, and it’s done wonders for my back. It’s also a great little meditation.”
Stewart tries to clear her mind of all thoughts and worries and enjoy the scents and sounds. “My therapist plays calming music and dims the lights, and she uses scented candles and massage oils that are safe for pregnancy,” she says. “I try to imagine my baby. I think he likes it, too, because he’ll kick a bit initially and then settle down and become very restful. She massages basically from head to toe and spends a lot of time with my back, but she also does this light effleurage on my tummy that’s so calming. My husband always says I look much more rested afterward.”
Another of Stewart’s favored spoilers is a regular pedicure. “When I started growing my tummy, it was just plain hard to reach my feet anymore,” she says. “And it’s sandal weather! I’ve had several pedicures now, which include great foot rubs. It’s also a confidence booster when you feel like your feet look pretty.”
Pre-pregnancy, Stewart always had a keen sense of style, and she says it helped immensely that she was given the freedom to continue to look cute even with a belly bump. “My husband encouraged me to buy as many clothes as I needed,” she says. “I kept it reasonable and looked for bargains, but ultimately I felt better-having lots of variety. I don’t have to stand in the closet and agonize over the fact I’ve nothing to wear. Besides, it’s hard when you’re walking through the mall and you see the perfect pre-pregnancy outfit – one you normally would have bought but are now afraid won’t fit after the baby comes. If you buy the right pregnancy clothes, you can still feel good, and it doesn’t hurt too badly when you have to walk past that outfit you really wanted.”
Prenatal yoga and walking also ease some of Stewart’s back discomfort and help pass the time in a helpful, healthy way. Using a DVD, she’s able to do yoga regularly without having to leave the house. “I started doing it in my first trimester, but it really started helping once the back pain kicked in,” she says. “That way I never went to bed stiff. Also, my husband has a co-worker who told him that walking encourages the baby to come, so he’s been dragging me on lots of walks with the dog. I don’t know whether it’s true, but I do feel like I’m staying in better shape than if I followed my natural inclination to fall on the couch this evening and veg out in front of the TV. And it’s nice in these last few weeks to have some special time with my husband every evening.”
While Stewart admits she doesn’t quite sleep through the night anymore, she does claim to sleep better with the help of a pregnancy pillow. The few times she’s slept without it her hips have suffered. “I didn’t realize how much it helped as my pelvis stretched to have that pillow between my legs,” she says. “The one bad thing [is] you end up feeling like you and your spouse are sleeping on different continents.”
The pregnancy pillow is not the only purchase that’s made a difference. Stewart has several chair options at the ready in her cubicle, depending on what her body requires at the moment. “I use my yoga ball and I have a back-up chair with a massager, and the variety helps my back,” she says. “I also try to take short walks and take the long way around the building. The best days are those where I’m never in one position for long.”
The final advice that keeps Stewart’s smile sincere? Quite simply she strives to keep busy. “Seeing I’d hit the due-date month has nearly driven me crazy,” Stewart says. “But I know that my busy schedule has kept my calendar watching to a minimum.” So try to keep your schedule filled, and, rather than focusing on your due date, focus on smaller, more controllable goals – be it a dinner date, a meeting at work, a wedding, or some other event.
This is advice that Antoinette Kuritz believes in firmly. She swears by staying active either physically or, if the activity is limited by doctor’s orders, mentally. “Stay productive,” she says. “Producing a baby is a passive activity and thus does not totally fulfill the need for productivity. Finally, enjoy the process. Instead of bemoaning the discomfort, revel in the process. Like smile therapy, it works.”
What also worked for Kuritz was staying hydrated, which helped keep her cool and comfortable in those final days. “We tend to ignore the importance of water, but 6 to 8 ounces an hour really does help keep all systems working, including our natural cooling ability,” she says. “Loose clothing, putting your hair up, and indulging yourself with a relaxing shower a couple of times also help.”
But the most important advice Kuritz received about pregnancy came from her first obstetrician who said, “Pregnant people are normal people.”
“If you take that to heart from the beginning of your pregnancy, and live your life normally, your expectations of yourself will set you up to go through the process more easily – including the last few weeks,” says Kuritz.
Still, finding yourself beleaguered and on edge? Debbie Mandel, a stress management specialist and author of Turn on Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind, and Soul (Busy Bee Group, 2003), offers the following list of calming advice that may mean the difference between a smooth final few weeks and countless days of aches and annoyances:
- Distract yourself from the discomfort by getting involved in something you love doing. Focusing on others helps pass the time and makes you feel good.
- See positive friends who make you laugh, or, if your patience is short, watch comedies to lighten your mood.
- Get pampered: a pedicure, a great haircut or some exciting new accessories.
- Practice autohypnosis to relax your mind while repeating to yourself a loving, serene message. Hint: Always visualize the same, secure, happy location.
- Go to a place that has positive energy and you’ll tend to absorb it. What locale makes you happy? This could be a walk on the beach, a park or a museum.
- Eat complex carbohydrates to elevate your serotonin levels.
- Listen to upbeat music.
- Don’t do too much and get overtired.
- Feeling hot? Massage a cooling leg gel on your feet, ankles and calves – better yet, let your partner do it! Or put some cool water in a misting bottle and revel in the refreshing mist.
- Start journaling your feelings, experiences, hopes, etc. Your children and future generations will see it as an important legacy.
- Create a soul collage: Cut out photos, magazine art, pieces of dried flowers, etc., and paste them on a sheet of paper. See what feelings and themes you create and what they reveal about you. This is a great time to get in touch with your identity.
- Knowledge is empowering: Read books about delivery and childcare.
- Make it a point to do something outside the house every day – even if it’s a short walk or window-shopping!
- Above all, focus on what you have, not what you don’t have. Rehearse the finish line in your mind.