Gently rubbing and talking to your pregnant belly are some of the first motherly actions you take. “You don’t become a mother when your baby is born, you grow into becoming a mother during your pregnancy,” says Virginia Bobro, co-owner and managing director of the international childbirth education organization Birthing from Within. Bobro, who is also co-author of a new edition of the classic book by the same name, offers 10 playful, joyful ways to use pregnancy as a time “to grow that seed of ‘Mom’” and connect with your baby while she’s still in the womb.
1. Eat with Nourishing Intention
Every bite of food you choose for yourself during pregnancy feeds your baby too. Follow recommendations on foods to avoid, but also embrace the opportunity to visualize how your meals are nourishing your baby and helping him grow. “Take a moment to imagine your baby eating with you,” says Bobro, “so you’re having every meal together.”
2. Plant Something
Bobro suggests planting a seed in a pot or a tree in the ground to reflect the process of nurturing and growing that’s going on in your belly. Imagine sitting with your child under the shade of your tree, or cooking together with herbs you’ve grown. Planting something “creates that sense of an external mirroring of the changes you’re experiencing inside,” says Bobro. So marvel at all the things you’ve been able to grow.
3. Craft Something
Making a baby blanket, hat, or outfit is something women have done for generations. The end product is a precious keepsake, to be sure. But just as meaningful is the process of creating something for someone else. Quilting, knitting, or embellishing a purchased item with simple embroidered initials or a meaningful symbol is a way to “send love to your baby with every stitch,” says Bobro.
4. Make the Most of Ultrasound
Ultrasounds have become highly anticipated rituals of pregnancy, opportunities to peek at your baby and even bring home a “photo” of her tiny face, hands, and feet. Bobro advises women to make the experience personal by taking a moment to merge the images you saw on a screen with the intimate, personal picture you have of your baby. “Close your eyes and imagine who you think the baby is,” says Bobro. “Have an inner image as well” as the ultrasound photo.
5. Breathe to Your Baby
Whether you practice yoga, listen to guided meditations, or simply take time each day for intentional, relaxed breathing, Bobro says breathing mindfully is one of the simplest, most powerful things you can do to connect with your growing baby. “Imagine you’re breathing all that wonderful, life-giving oxygen to your baby,” she says.
6. Take a ‘Color Walk’
Daily walks are good for your pregnant body, and they bring energy and soothing movement to your baby as well. Bobro suggests a “color walk” as a fun, mindful approach to your strolls. Choose one color for your walk, then internally narrate all the things you see in that color during your walk. “There’s a sense of bringing the outside world into baby’s world,” as you point out green grass, a green car, or someone’s funny green hat, says Bobro.
7. Find “Your Song”
Start your lullaby routine now, choosing a favorite song that reflects your ethnic or religious heritage, makes you feel calm and content, or was a childhood favorite of yours. Bobro says research shows that babies recognize their parents’ voices and even respond to songs that they heard repeatedly in utero–so try to sing your song at regular times throughout the day, especially at bedtime. And if you’re self-conscious about your voice? “Baby doesn’t care if you have perfect pitch,” says Bobro, he loves everything about you–as you do about him.
8. Get Down and Boogie
Take your baby for a spin around the dance floor by choosing a few upbeat songs that get you in the mood to groove. Not only will dancing get your heart pumping, which lowers stress hormones and raises “feel-good” hormones,” says Bobro, but it also gives you a chance to spend fun, quality time together. “When Mom and baby are moving together, they’re sharing that experience,” she says.
9. Write to Your Baby
Whether you choose to craft a letter, poem, song, or ongoing journal, writing something you plan to give your baby to read one day is a beautiful way to communicate directly with her while she’s still growing inside you. Write about your hopes, your values, your family history, anything you are thinking about as you get ready to meet her. Says Bobro, writing during pregnancy “captures that very special little window in your relationship.”
10. Make Art
Take up your paintbrush to create what Bobro dubs a “Womb with a View” painting in which you visualize what your baby’s world might look and feel like. Grab some discount watercolors or even crayons. Without pressure to make a “good” painting, try to capture your vision in your own artistic way. “It doesn’t have to be realistic,” says Bobro, “just close your eyes and try to capture some of that internal world. Try to imagine the world from the baby’s perspective.” Your finished painting doesn’t have to be museum-worthy, but it will be deeply meaningful to you and, later, to your baby.