Podcaster and author Sophie Walker shares how to survive Christmas with your health, and sanity, intact, especially if you’re pregnant (and even if you’re not).
Christmas can be an emotionally taxing time of year for anybody. So many expectations, social commitments and family obligations to navigate. And if you’re pregnant? Unwanted advice is thrown around like tinsel.
This, along with judgmental remarks and grief-filled birth stories, can significantly affect your mood, your mindset and your birth preparation.
I’ve interviewed over 350 mothers on my podcast, Australian Birth Stories, and if there’s a consistent theme across the birthing experience it’s this: taking care of yourself in pregnancy is the first step to prioritising your health and wellbeing throughout motherhood.
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If you’re celebrating the silly season with a bun in the oven, here are my four tips to survive Christmas with your health, and sanity, intact.
You can say no
Don’t fancy stifling yawns or throwing champagne over your shoulder? Women are increasingly choosing to announce their pregnancy news early so they can be supported through the typical challenges of the first trimester (hello, fatigue and nausea!)
However, if you want to keep your news under wraps until you reach the 12-week mark, go gently through the next few weeks.
Your body is working extremely hard right now and your baby is completing critical development milestones. So if you don’t feel up for attending every event you’ve been invited to, consider this permission to politely decline!
Get clear on your boundaries
There’s no denying a pregnant belly is often a magnet for oversharing and boundary-pushing. This can be amplified during the festive season as social commitments multiply and extended families gather to celebrate.
Ask any mother and she’ll recall a myriad of offensive remarks made by loved ones, acquaintances and strangers.
“It’s about time you started a family, isn’t it?”
“Are you sure there’s not two in there?”
“I had the most horrific birth, let me tell you about it…”
Coupled with unsolicited belly touches and predictions of your baby’s sex and you have a cringe-worthy combination that’s upsetting and exhausting.
Gone are the days when anyone, let alone a pregnant woman in the height of summer, must push through and smile politely.
Prepare for social engagements by considering your boundaries and what you will and won’t discuss when it comes to your pregnancy. Come up with appropriate responses for when people overstep so you can guide the conversation away from taboo topics.
Remember: if someone starts recounting their traumatic birth, simply tell them that you’re focussing on your own birth preparation and choosing who, and what, to listen to.
Remember to stay hydrated
Christmas is hectic as we bustle from one social engagement to the next or drive long distances to see family. During an Australian summer, it’s even more important for pregnant women to stay hydrated throughout the festive season.
Aim to drink at least two litres of water a day during pregnancy (even more if it’s hot). If you’re struggling to get through all those liquids, consider carrying a water bottle with you or adding a few slices of lemon or lime.
In your first trimester, it’s best to take small, regular sips of water throughout the day to curb pregnancy nausea and vomiting (although we all know that sometimes, no amount of anything can prevent pregnancy sickness!)
For those in their third trimester, adequate hydration is essential for limiting fluid retention. Movement including gentle ankle rotations while you’re sitting and elevating your feet at the end of the day will help alleviate aches and pains.
If your swelling comes on suddenly and is accompanied by dizziness and headaches, contact your care provider as this may be a sign of preeclampsia.
Forget burning the midnight oil until you ring in the New Year. During pregnancy and parenthood, rest is essential for your physical, mental and emotional health. While rest can include daily naps in front of the Boxing Day test, it can also mean:
Social rest: socialising requires energy and it can leave you feeling exhausted and depleted (especially if you’re an introvert or you’re spending time with people who expect a lot of you). Simplifying your schedule and carefully choosing what events you attend is a practical step towards socialising with boundaries.
Sensory rest: the sheer busyness of Christmas can rattle your nervous system, especially in pregnancy when you’re feeling more vulnerable. Consciously ground yourself by playing your favourite music, relaxing in the bath or shower, listening to meditations and minimising your screen time.
Physical rest: as soon as you feel weary, lie down (on your side if you’re over 20 weeks!) for a rest. Ten to twenty minutes where you focus on deep breathing; inhaling through your nose followed by long exhalations from a soft, open mouth, is a powerful deep relaxation practice.
And if all else fails, take a seat at the kid’s table. I guarantee little ones will give you a hefty dose of Christmas cheer!