I knew going into this pregnancy that one big thing I wanted to be different between this pregnancy and my first pregnancy was that I wanted the third trimester to be much more relaxing.
With Ezra’s pregnancy, there were many things that contributed to stress in the final weeks leading up to his birth:
- The assumption that he was coming early because I was measuring ahead, cervical check at 38 weeks revealing I was 4cm, stripping of membranes at 40 weeks
- Prodromal labor possibly caused by malpositioning from 36 weeks on
- General stress and anxiety being a first-time mom not knowing what to expect
But this pregnancy was very different. As I mentioned in my post Balancing being proactive and being obsessive about your VBAC, I went through both a hormonal and mental shift as I entered the third trimester.
My focus became letting go.
Moving away from childbirth information
During the second trimester, I did a lot of focusing on my personal childbirth education. I spent hours listening to podcasts, did a lot of online reading, and watched several birth documentaries – not just about VBAC but about home birth, water birth, unassisted birth, hospital birth, and so much more.
But when I reached the third trimester, I did what I could to put that aside and clear my mind for my baby’s birth.
Focusing on my firstborn
I was so appreciative of how this pregnancy flowed with the calendar of what was going on in our home at the time. Ezra’s all-day school ended when I was 29 weeks pregnant. From there he spent 4 weeks attending a summer camp program 9am-1pm (with a week-long trip to the beach right in the middle), and then 5 weeks of being home just the two of us. He started school again when I was 40 weeks.
The way I structured our summer weeks as such was intentional, but it also “just worked out” that the dates of the school and summer programs lent itself to a gradual fade into spending lot of focused one-on-one time with Ezra just before the baby came.
While those last five weeks were incredibly challenging in their own right because of the things that Ezra deals with behaviorally, they helped me to let go of what I couldn’t control and just take things one day at a time. Ezra was also a distraction from sitting around just waiting for Little Brother to show up.
We quickly got into a routine by going to the YMCA nearly every morning so I could utilize 2 hours of childcare to walk and relax, and then we would swim together for about 30-45 minutes. This filled up our mornings and once we got home between 12 and 1, we were ready for lunch and naps.
In her post, Going Overdue – What Does It Mean to You?, she says this about oxytocin:
Oxytocin helps you relax and enjoy your pregnancy, and it primes your body for labor to begin. Do things that increase your comfort and relaxation and you may help encourage labor to get going.
Go out for lunch, fold baby clothes, meander around the mall. Turn off your phone. Unplug from Facebook. Just enjoy these last few days. Take long baths. Really enjoy.
She also says this in regard to due date pressure and home induction remedies:
I could give you a long list of things to try, like walking up and down stairs, making love, cleaning your floors, etc. But what you really need is to relax and pamper yourself and your baby.
I screenshotted these quotes sometime early in the second trimester and read them often, really trying to keep those concepts in front of me.
So in the third trimester, I tried to do just that. Anything I could think of to promote oxytocin, I would do. I did a lot of cuddling and kissing with my family, took lots of warm baths, did a lot of deep breathing, and tried to do things that were ENJOYABLE.
Relaxation, affirmation, and visualization
I devoted a whole post earlier in the series to affirmations and guided imagery in pregnancy and labor. My third trimester is when I really focused on making purposed focus on relaxation through guided imagery and listening to affirmations a DAILY practice, along with very intentional deep breathing whenever I felt any stress building within me.
It wasn’t always easy. I had less time to myself in the third trimester. Between my husband’s anxiety disorder and my son’s behavioral needs — at any given moment, our home can be a very stressful place.
Taking the time to say no to time with them to take a bubble bath or a walk and listen to relaxing music and affirmations didn’t always make me feel like the greatest mom or wife to them, but I knew I was doing what was best for me and Little Brother.
After listening to The Birthful Podcast episode Why do Prenatal Yoga?, I felt like it was no longer advantageous or safe for me to continue taking yoga classes at the YMCA because they were not prenatal specific – not to mention I was feeling more and more uncomfortable after every class. (I think the word I used when texting my husband after my last class was sucktastic.) Prenatal yoga WAS available to me at our local hospital, but they ran on Wednesday evening and Saturday morning, both times when I would have to leave both of the boys at home and cut into our family time. I made the choice to make the Wednesday night class weekly in the last trimester, even though it made things harder on my husband and son at home.
During the week days, I continued to walk 2-3 miles at a time, but stayed indoors walking around the track at the Y to help combat swelling. I also would listen to my VBAC playlist or birth affirmations while walking, as well as doing a lot of deep breathing.
You can read more about some of the art therapy projects I did during my pregnancy in my posts about magazine art, coloring pages, and pillow cases. Coloring was my main third trimester project because it was easy for me to do while still spending time with Ezra (as he sat at the table doing his own coloring, preschool worksheets, or playing with playdough).
Massage therapy (which I splurged on during the last two months). Bubble baths. One mani/pedi. Painting my nails. Rubbing my belly with belly butter. Anything that made me feel good about my body, I tried to do regularly.
Sleeping and napping
If you have followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know I have an affinity for Netflix. But there was this switch that flipped within me mid-second trimester where all of the sudden, I just wasn’t really into anything I was watching. It was strange and at first, I kept trying new shows thinking that something would grab my attention. Eventually, I gave up and started just turning off the TV and turning in early.
Like, 8:30 or 9PM early.
I didn’t always sleep right away. Sometimes I would light candles and do more guided imagery, but I found it to be helpful to get extra rest (especially with having a son who regularly wakes up between 4 and 6 AM!!)
I’m not a big napper, but after reading this post, Nap Your Baby Out., I decided to try to make naps a bigger priority throughout the third trimester. I napped almost daily during the week for an hour or two at a time, unless I had something incredibly pressing that needed to be accomplished.
Making better medical decisions
For me personally, I felt that knowing dilation didn’t really help me any with Ezra’s birth, and probably did much to increase my stress levels. So I declined them, as well as stripping of membranes (until my strip at 41 weeks which broke my water).
I also declined ultrasounds to determine how big my baby was, even though my care provider began offering them because of my history of cesarean and delivering a big baby. Growth ultrasounds can be inaccurate, and I didn’t want it to be pushed into induction for a big baby. (Part of me wonders if I had opted for earlier induction if I could have ended up with a smaller baby and a VBAC, but I’m happy that I was able to experience natural labor, regardless of the outcome.)
You can see here that this is a list. I’m a doer and and planner and I’m not always the best at truly letting go and just BEING. But hopefully this post gave you some good ideas about how to relax and let go in the 3rd trimester.