What Is It?
"In their purest sense, words not only describe reality and communicate ideas and feelings but also bring into being the hidden, invisible, or obscure," writes Deena Metzger in Writing for Your Life. Being pregnant can toss us into feelings, dreams, and primeval fears like never before. It is a time ripe with insight. But these insights can easily flit through our brain, not developing, staying fuzzy, fading away. It also allows me to create a document of a very significant rite of passage, a reference point for future growth. But because pregnancy feels like a time you should be making a record that in itself may make you not want to. The intense fatigue may make you say, "Keep a journal? You have got to be kidding me." Don't feel guilty if the very idea of writing debilitates you. A journal is not a diary. You certainly don't have to write everyday or record how well you are doing eating your leafy green vegetables. Write when you want to, about what you want.
Gaining a Handhold
How many times have you heard yourself saying or thinking, "I can't believe I'm pregnant!"? Even a planned pregnancy leaves you humbled with the enormity of the event, the sheer incomprehensibility. Friends who are parents ominously whisper, "Your life is going to change forever." You may feel as if you are approaching a cliff, and someone is going to run up behind and shove you off, and you have no idea when this will happen or how far you will fall. Exploring these feelings in writing can make this radical adventure conceivable.
Place your writing materials close by. Lie down with your hands on your belly and breathe deeply for a few minutes. Let your mind wander around the phrase "being pregnant." When a few thoughts are flying around in your mind, pick up your journal and write everything that occurs to you. Don't censor yourself because "mothers-to-be aren't supposed to feel this way." Next free associate with "What would make this pregnancy more real for me?". Record these impressions too.
Read your list. Are there any actions you would like to take? For example, when I asked myself, "What would make this pregnancy more real for me?", I came up with: buying a maternity outfit, visiting a baby clothing store, and watching a birth video. Do something concrete to help you comprehend that the cells multiplying inside you will soon be your daughter or son.
Childbearing and Personal Growth
Write what comes to mind in response to the statement "Childbearing offers women great opportunity for personal growth and transformation." Do you think this is true? Or utter self-help bull? Does the idea intrigue you? If you could, how would you like to grow or transform yourself during this time? Write a paragraph or make a list.
Conversely, how would you like to not grow and to not transform? It is equally important to recognize what you are not willing or ready to change, or what you hope will remain the same. Pregnancy is a time of such great change, sometimes it feels good to focus on what is not going to change, at least if you can help it. Even if you know you will have to change certain aspects of your life or personality, like exercising every night or becoming more patient, acknowledge now that you don't want to.
An On-Going List
Inside the front or back cover or in a specific section of your journal, compose an on-going list of everything you wish to remember about your pregnancy. This is a great tool to use when you are too tired or busy to write much. Create an index of words to trigger your memory and function like an album of emotional snapshots, later helping you recall the feelings and moments that matter. Nothing is too small or big to list. For example:
First food cravings - turkey burgers, apples, and sweet pickles
Very irritable - felt bad that I took it out on Mom and Dad
Baby first moved on December 18th
Had a powerful dream - saw the baby's face above me
Questioned my mother about my delivery - loved how strong she was
Started having heartburn
Chris and I visited pediatrician - felt like parents for first time.
Part of taking care of yourself during pregnancy can include reveling in your story, concentrating on you to strengthen your own sense of self.
What is your birth story? Gather all the details you can - talk to everyone, starting with your mom, your father, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, anyone with a version to tell.
What five stories about your birth and childhood have been imprinted into stone - the ones that are retold on your birthday, at family get togethers, on holidays? Make a brief list. My list:
- Mom in labor and a train on the tracks. Dad going crazy with worry. A joke that he wanted her to crawl under the moving train.
- When I waved at Dad from the bassinet in the hospital the night I was born.
- When I hemorrhaged after my tonsils were taken out and almost died.
- Running away from home (all the way to the end of the front lawn).
- Giving a speech at 6th grade graduation ceremony.
List ten moments in your life you are most proud of, that you very much wish to share with your child someday.
The stories we tell others about ourselves hold precious information about how we perceive ourselves. What stories do you tell someone you are just getting to know, to help him or her know you better? What stories do you tell someone when you want to be closer to them, to see if you will be accepted? What stories do you never, ever tell anyone? (These questions are from Deena Metzger's Writing For Your Life.)
Ask the significant people in your life to tell you something they cherish about you, something they respect, and their favorite memory of a wonderful time with you. (Yes, this is difficult to do. You will feel egotistical and weird. Do it anyway - this is part of the process of learning to love yourself so you can love your baby even more.)
Life Pledge to Your Baby
Consider what you are willing to pledge to your child - what do you want to give him, teach her, offer, promise, vow? You might want to compose this with your partner or a friend if you are single mom. Consider what values are most sacred to you, and what you most wish to pass on. What do you want your child to receive from you? What is yours to give? What promises can you make that are within your power to keep? You might find yourself focusing on the negative, "I promise never to invade your privacy like my father did." Transform any negatives, nevers, and shoulds by reworking them into affirmative statements. For example, "I pledge to respect your privacy."
If you are planning a naming ceremony or christening, consider reading your pledge to your child and your loved ones.
What are you most looking forward to about having this child? What are your fantasies of play, togetherness, enjoyment? For example, Chris and I were sitting in the car after lunch one day when it occurred to me, "Our child will get to see the Wizard of Oz for the first time!" I actually started crying at the thought of all the marvels we would get to share with this little human being. List your fantasies, what you imagine doing with your infant, baby, child, teenager. Don't worry about chronological order, or money, or if he or she will share your interests. This doesn't have to be about reality.