The last weeks of pregnancy (or the entire ten months, for some!) and the first months with a new baby can be a time of diminished pleasure for many reasons that are often built in to the process. We endure physical pain, sleep deprivation, isolation, and can't always find time for regular, satisfying meals. Certain things that may typically bring us pleasure may be on hold for the time being (like running, or sex, or spontaneously going to a movie.) Getting out and seeing the world and all it's stimuli takes a great deal more work with a baby, and the myriad sights and sounds and scents we used to take for granted dissolve into the focused and compact universe of our tiny human. How can we cultivate the deep and fulfilling pleasures in our lives during this time of so much change?
The first step is acknowledging that there are external processes in play like those listed above. In noticing that, we can begin to shed some of the ideas we have or are told about how we're "supposed" to feel. Sure, there are infinite pleasurable and joyful things about having a baby, but if the baby isn't making "it all worth it" (quite a big job for such a little person, I'd add), it's time to cultivate what pleasure we can on our own behalf. Here are some prompts, but feel free to write your own pleasure prescription:
1. Eat the most delicious thing you can imagine, sometimes. And as much of it as you want. Give yourself permission. Live a little.
2. Turn on some music that makes you feel lighter or energized or sparks a fire in your soul. Stevie Wonder? Robyn? Marvin Gaye? You know the one(s). Go on and move your body if it feels right.
3. Get out! Though it may be challenging at the beginning, it gets easier. See what's in bloom. If the weather's crappy, walk around Target. It doesn't matter as much where you go, just that you see, and feel, and hear new and different things.
4. Hug and cuddle and hug some more. With your baby, with your partner, or with a pet or friend. Hugging releases oxytocin:
Oxytocin does more than make us feel good. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal. It also seems to play an important role in our relationships. It’s been linked, for example, to how much we trust others. -NIH News in Health
5. Wear soft and comfortable things. Let your body be as it is. It is a powerful, unique and extraordinary home for YOU, and deserves utmost respect. If it pleases your body to wear your fancy clothes, do that! What matters most is what feels good to you, and the process of discovering that.
What makes you feel good? What brings you comfort? What do you desire? What ignites your soul? Snuggle into those things as often and as fully as you can and the even the tiniest seeds of pleasure you plant will begin to grow.