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Rockabye Mommy

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We have all heard of sleepless nights once the baby is born, but what no one tells expectant mothers is that the sleepless nights begin well before the baby arrives. All “third-trimester ladies” can safely attest to the fact that sleep tends to become a very rare commodity in the last few months of pregnancy.

After spending countless nights tossing and turning in bed, trying to achieve the unachievable i.e., a comfortable position to sleep in, I decided to do something about it. After all, how else was I supposed to get that elusive pregnancy glow that everyone talks about?

First, I tried to figure out why I wasn’t able to sleep? Not surprisingly, there were many contributing factors:

  • Exhaustion after a whole day of carrying around the equivalent of a week’s worth of groceries on my belly (while trying to act like a  ‘normal’ human being at work)
  •  Not being able to find a comfortable sleeping position (given that you are only supposed to sleep on your sides during the third trimester)
  • Backaches,
  • Pregnancy-related joint issues including SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction ) or PGP (Pelvic Girdle Pain)
  • Heartburn
  • Innumerable night time trips to pee
  • Stress arising from countless fears as the most consequential decision of my life comes to fruition.

So what can expectant mothers do in a situation like this?

  • Getting comfortable in bed: Everyone has their own way to get comfortable in bed. We’ve all read that we should get pregnancy pillows to support every nook and cranny of our body (like the one J Lo had in that Back-Up Plan movie) and should just surround ourselves with cushiony softness. However, this only works for some women. If it doesn’t work for you, don’t force it. I have had a winter pregnancy in the cold North-Western Hemisphere, and have slept with the fan on (sorry hubby!). However, I still felt really hot at night. Add pillow heat to that, and I’m toast. So I cleared the clutter and starting sleeping with just one pillow under my head and one under my belly. You should try out different positions to figure your optimal sleeping position and pillow count.
  • Keep yourself entertained: Don’t try to force yourself to go to sleep. It is far worse when you’re  tossing and turning, watching the clock every five minutes and calculating how many more hours you have left before the  alarm clock goes off for another crazy day at work (or at home). Watch some mindless TV (mindless being the key word here – you don’t want to over-stimulate your brain), read a romantic book (not one that makes you think and stimulates your mind- something light). Do not go over your baby list for the millionth time and freak out about what you have still not gotten around to getting for the baby, or worse, thinking about post-baby issues. Just stop and watch a re-run of Friends or your favorite soap or sitcom.
  • Physiotherapy: Since you can’t take any ‘real’ painkillers, and Paracetamol/Tylenol just do not cut it when you’re dealing with sciatic nerve pain, some pain management techniques are necessary. More women, than you know, suffer from some form of back or joint pain during their pregnancy. And doctors will just tell you to deal with it until the baby is born. However, instead of just dealing with immobilizing pain I sought help from a pregnancy trained physiotherapist. This really helped with pain management and it is likely that your office/insurance will be willing pay for it (mine did, as it was brought upon by sitting at work, for more than 12 hours a day, on uncomfortable chairs).
  • Getting comfortable at work:  Sitting on uncomfortable chairs for long periods of time can trigger nerve and joint pains which can further exacerbate your ability to sleep at night. I found that using a doughnut shaped pillow on my desk chair really relieved tension from my back (and I didn’t care about comments from my ‘fun loving’ co-workers about how only senior citizens use those kinds of pillows). Also, most workplaces will either have a mothers’ room or a first aid room where you can go and lie down for a little while. Even if you can’t get any sleep, just taking the pressure off your back and feet will help. Take your own pillow and blanket (in a discreet gym bag) and try to take these breaks throughout the day. Even fifteen minutes will do the trick. Also, try to put your feet up as often as you can, and ditch the shoes (people can rarely see what’s going on under your work desk).  A rested/relaxed body during the day makes for a body that is better able to sleep at night!
  • Heartburn relief aids: Heartburn, acidity or acid reflux annoyingly surfaces as soon as you lie down. TUMS and Gaviscon are your friends (don’t overdose though). Find out which antacids, available in your country, are pregnancy-friendly. Keep them handy by your bedside, dining table, handbag, desk drawer, etc. Avoid spicy, fried or heavy meals closer to bed time and if you do indulge, make sure you follow them up with a nice big shot (or better yet, a whole glass) of plain cold milk (lactose free if you’re intolerant). Milk really helps neutralize the acids in your stomach that creep up as soon as you lie down.
  • Frequent trips to the ladies’ room: Try to lighten up on the liquids closer to bed time and when you do go to the ladies’ room, lean forward so as to empty your bladder as much as possible. But if your baby decides to treat your bladder as a punching bag (mine thought my bladder was a squeeze toy), then just lovingly give your belly a rub and tell your baby you love her/him (this won’t help with your restroom issues, but it just feels nice!).
  • Stress-relieving activities: Stress is likely the biggest culprit keeping you up at night, and potentially your partner too (although my husband seems to have no issues falling asleep as soon as he lies down). One night, I was up till 6 am thinking about how we would bathe a teeny tiny baby (this was even after I had watched a video on YouTube many times). Other similar nights featured anxious thoughts about: if we had everything we needed for the baby? If our apartment was a death trap for a baby? How would I handle labor? If we are ready for this big responsibility? The list of things that can stress out an expectant mother is pretty much endless.

Do whatever it takes to bring the stress levels down. Talking to other moms really helps. As for me, I found great solace in talking to the most experienced mother I know – my Mama! She kept reminding me that we are not the first people in the world to have a baby. And as parents of all ages, cultures, religions, social and financial backgrounds cope, so would we.

But if this philosophical argument still doesn’t mitigate your stress level, try doing yoga (only as long as it’s comfortable and pain free and under the supervision of a qualified prenatal yoga instructor) and meditation. It takes some time and practice, but when you get the hang of it, it really does help. If you can’t find a professional instructor near you, don’t fret, the internet is your friend. Meditation and breathing exercises not only relieve stress, they are also very useful in getting your body prepped for labor and child-birth.

To learn more about stress management strategies, read my forthcoming article Distressed to De-stressed: Stress Management Techniques on www.Brightbabyhood.com.

In conclusion, my sincere advice to all “third-trimester ladies” – sit back, put your feet up and relax as much as possible and hopefully some of these techniques will help you sleep better at night.

Good luck and hopefully, good night!



Photograph credit: Meredith_Farmer; www.Foter.com



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Contributed by Abish

Abish is an Economist with a graduate degree in Economics and International Development from Harvard University. Along with watching the oil markets and managing her busy career, she, along with her husband, have just welcomed their beautiful baby daughter into the world. Her writing has appeared in professional oil and commodity related journals and at www.BrightBabyhood.com.

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