Going through pregnancy can be one of the most enthralling, challenging, uncertain, joyous and daunting times of a woman’s life. And for first-time moms experiencing pregnancy (myself included), daunting doesn’t even begin to cover the rollercoaster of emotions that happen. One moment, you feel totally prepared and thrilled for the new journey you’re embarking on. The next, you’re in a tailspin of worry after hearing about that friend of a friend’s labor horror story. But thanks to Lori Bregman’s new book, The Mindful Mom-to-Be, pregnant mamas (and their partners) have a resource that is empowering, enlightening and refreshingly uplifting to quell any anxiety.
Bregman, a pregnancy coach, doula (someone who supports a woman and her partner through labor) and founder of The Rooted for Life Pregnancy Program based in Santa Monica, Calif., focuses on each stage of the process—from pre-pregnancy to post-partum—and incorporates her unique blend of coaching, healing and mindfulness for creating a healthy, happy pregnancy. LivingHealthy spoke with the author about her new book, Mindful Mom-To-Be set to release August 4th, her advice on becoming the best parent you can be (both during pregnancy and after labor) and some of her favorite pregnancy tricks (read on for her renowned “Breggy’s All-Natural Belly Butter” recipe).
LivingHealthy: I can see why every woman would want you as her pregnancy coach. Your insight and advice in this book is incredibly motivational and empowering! What inspired you to pursue the path of becoming a pregnancy coach and doula?
Lori Bregman: My background’s in healing and spiritual coaching and I was doing prenatal massage. I was seeing these women who would tell me all they were going through, so I started putting together remedies for them and helping them with emotional coaching. I started realizing they needed extra support. After the remedies and doing some healing and bonding work with the baby, they felt so much calmer, and the happier they felt, the better the pregnancy. I took the doula training as a natural extension and started taking people through the whole journey. I originally wanted to open a pregnancy center, but I became the pregnancy center to support their mind, body and spirit. I want to empower them to make choices that are right for them. That’s my big thing. There’s often so much projection from other people for how you should do certain things in pregnancy, but everyone is different. I try to stay very neutral and non-judgmental in my approach.
LivingHealthy: What sets The Mindful Mom-to-Be apart from other pregnancy books out there?
Bregman: I think this book is a combination of my Rooted For Life program and my doula practice. I take clients on a journey. I don’t just show up for birth. It’s about giving you the tools. A metaphor I like to use is that before you’re pregnant, you’re a caterpillar, and when you’re pregnant, you’re in the cocoon—you’re transforming into becoming something else, growing wings, becoming a butterfly. Everything in this book is helping you birth that part of yourself. Everyone’s wings and transformation are different. It’s not just about the baby; it’s about the transformation of the mom. It’s an active book to take some time to do some inner-work on yourself that’s going to help you build these wings to help you fly better as a mom.
LivingHealthy: When would you recommend women start a "pre-pregnancy" lifestyle to prepare for motherhood?
Bregman: It’s good to get your mind and body ready three to six months before getting pregnant. But it’s never too soon or too late to start! Some people don’t have time to prepare, but ideally—in a perfect world— a good six months, I’d say. It also depends on how you were before. If you were living unhealthy and really wanted to be mindful about it, you may need a little longer.
LivingHealthy: I love the mindful themes, journal exercises and meditations that you include for each month of pregnancy. Why are these so important?
Bregman: Most modern women today are multitasking. We have so much going on, and it’s hard to unplug. Pregnancy is such a miraculous time. You can do so much to create a relationship with that child while they’re in the womb. You can become so connected to that baby, so that when the baby comes, being a mom is like second nature because you’ve already done so much bonding. It doesn’t take a long time—it can take five minutes a day— and grounds you while establishing a connection with the baby. I think you can get so carried away with fear, but mindfulness keeps you in the pregnant moment. You can remind yourself, ‘right here, right now, I’m pregnant. My baby is growing, my body is healthy.’ Staying more in the moment won’t get you so caught-up in the fear of ‘what if.’
LivingHealthy: There are so many terrific remedies in the book—from belly butter to lactation smoothies. Do you have any favorite pregnancy remedies in particular?
Bregman: The belly butter for sure. People love it. And you can do a baby-bonding exercise when you apply it. As you apply the butter, really feel your belly and give gratitude for your body. Say out loud, ‘I’m month five. This is what’s going on with my baby right now —like the teeth buds are forming or the bones are hardening.’ Or just saying, ‘Hi baby, I’m so excited to meet you. This is how my day went.’ Take the time to talk with your baby, feel your body and this miracle that it’s doing right now. You can even put the butter on your breasts and give gratitude for them being able to produce milk or on your hips in gratitude for them being able to give birth. Being focused on that gratitude and connecting just changes everything. It’s a great ritual to do.
[See below for the belly butter recipe].
LivingHealthy: You offer great suggestions for foods to eat each month that will optimize the mom and baby's health. For women combating morning sickness, how can they get the most out of what they're able to eat?
Bregman: Everybody freaks out about not eating healthy at first. But especially if you’ve prepared a little beforehand, your baby will pull from your body. So that’s a good reason to eat healthy before you get pregnant. Sneak vegetables in where you can. For women who have morning sickness or food aversions, that’s part of why I created my pregnancy smoothie, which sneaks in greens. I also don’t go crazy changing someone’s diet. If white bagels are all they can get down, I’ll suggest switching to whole-grain bagels and adding almond butter. If all they can eat is pasta, I’ll have them make brown rice pasta and add broccoli and organic chicken breast instead of white pasta and butter. Instead of soda, do sparkling water with a splash of pomegranate juice. There are little tweaks like that to make your diet healthy without going crazy. And you still have time to make up for it and eat healthy once you feel better.
LivingHealthy: You mention how "parenting yourself" is an important component on the journey toward parenthood. What are some ways we can be better parents to ourselves?
Bregman: This is a big thing. If you don’t take care of yourself and fill yourself up, you’re going to lose yourself in this child—and it’s totally normal, you go into what I call ‘the baby bubble.’ But the better you can take care of yourself during pregnancy, the better you’re parenting the child within. By doing things to calm and relax you, by doing the mindful meditations, not only will you feel better, you’re helping the baby. Some people think that if they take care of themselves, that’s being selfish. But when you’re depleted, you’re of no service to anybody. It’s something you’ll forget as a mom, which makes it so important to lock in when you’re pregnant. We take care of our children, but we don’t always do the same for ourselves.
LivingHealthy: You talk about getting in-tune with your "mother's instinct." Why is it important to do this even before the baby arrives?
Bregman: As a pregnant woman and as a new mom, everyone will be telling you the way it should be done. But that baby inside of you is as much apart of you as your internal organs. I also believe that children pick and choose their parents, so you already know each other on a spiritual level. Tuning into your instincts is ‘mother knows best.’ If a pregnant woman says something’s not right, I really listen to that. Especially through labor, you can’t think your way through it. You just have to be intuitive. The best births are when you get out of your head and feel your way through things. And if you parent from that way of getting out of your head, you’ll be so much more in-tune with your child. Don’t worry about what the books say. I’ve been doing this for 14 years and have helped hundreds of women through pregnancies and births and none have been the same. There isn’t one right book or one right way for everyone. But the more instinctual you can be during pregnancy, the easier time you’ll have tuning into that child and their needs.
LivingHealthy: Speaking of labor, what are some of your go-to techniques for women experiencing fear?
Bregman: It’s normal to feel fear. At some point, everyone in pregnancy experiences fear. There’s fear of the unknown, fear of pain, fear of whether you’ll be a good mom. I suggest clearing it before birth by talking about it. Whose fear is it? Really educate yourself. We fear what we don’t know. Birth is completely unpredictable, but you can educate yourself and trust the process. I think birth is a great metaphor for what’s coming. It’s the unknown. It’s the ultimate adventure, and it’s hard to prepare for something you don’t know but get to the root of where the fear is coming from. Sometimes, it’s your own birth. I’ll always ask people, ‘What was your mother’s birth with you like?’ If they’ve heard the story of their mom’s labor with them being so painful or so long, that might be part of it. It’s also about your mindset in knowing you were made to do this, your body was designed to do this and your baby knows exactly what to do. If you have fear around pain, try a different mindset—think of each contraction as getting you closer to meeting your baby. As far as fears about being a mother, you are the perfect mother for this child. We all have motherly instincts—it’s just learning to tap into them. It may take some time, but you’re going to figure it out. This child didn’t come to you by accident.
LivingHealthy: What are some ways the partner can practice mindful parenting throughout the pregnancy?
Bregman: If there was any negativity going on in your relationship beforehand, adding a child will only add salt to the wound, so the more you’re on the same page the more you can patch up and find healing. Getting on the same value system and making your relationship stronger will only make the baby feel more secure. It’s never too late. A lot of people don’t talk about the way they want to parent or their values or traditions before they have kids, and it’s really important to be on the same team before the child arrives.
Breggy’s All-Natural Belly Butter Recipe
(Reprinted with permission from the author)
Ingredients: 2 glass jars organic coconut oil, 1 cup raw organic cocoa butter, ½ cup raw organic shea butter, 1 bottle (0.5 ounce) liquid vitamin E oil
Directions: Melt the coconut oil by placing the jars in hot water in a large pan on the stove until the oil liquefies. Pour the liquid coconut oil into another pot. Add the cocoa butter, shea butter, and vitamin E and stir until melted together. Pour mixture back into the coconut oil jars. You will have some extra that you can put into an additional glass jar. The mixture will harden when it cools. Keep one jar in a cool space (such as under the sink) and use it regularly. Store the remaining jars in the refrigerator so it doesn’t spoil. Belly Butter will keep for a few months.