Love your pregnant body.

"The best way to care for my baby was to care for myself."

If you think pregnancy is all about growing a baby, then think again. Pregnancy is actually about growing you into a parent - it's nine months of preparation for your most significant role yet.

You're transitioning from person to parent, and the transformation is life changing. If you heed pregnancy's cues, by the time your baby is ready to enter the world, you will be ready too.

You give up sleep-ins, leisure time, and a sense of independence. But you gain morning cuddles, family time, and a deeper connection to humanity. 

Slow down
Pregnancy forces you to slow down. Growing a baby is physically demanding. You cannot experience life at the same pace as you did pre-pregnancy. You need more rest, more sleep, and more time to day dream. 

During the first trimester of both my pregnancies I was often in bed by 8.30pm.  And when my newborn babies arrived, I often went to bed just as early to try and get a few hours sleep before the inevitable night feeds.  
My timetable during pregnancy changed. I wasn't out partying on Friday nights. I was home on the couch, eating takeaway and getting to bed early. I later realised that this was a perfect rehearsal for those first few months with my new baby when late night feeds replaced late night partying.  

Let go
As your life slows during pregnancy, you don't have the time, energy or desire to do everything you did before you were pregnant. Some things or many things will have to give.

I gave up late nights, netball and running. But that allowed me more time for sleep, yoga and walks by the beach. During pregnancy, you give up but you also gain. And it is the same when you become a parent. You give up sleep-ins, leisure time, and a sense of independence. But you gain morning cuddles, family time, and a deeper connection to humanity.

Love your body
Like most women, before I was pregnant, I disliked my body. I spent a lot of energy and time wishing my bum was smaller, my legs were longer and my shoulders were broader. I wanted someone else's silhouette and shape - not mine.

But pregnancy offers an incredible opportunity. At last, you begin to understand how truly remarkable your body really is. Your body can grow, birth and nurture a baby - how amazing!

I now think differently about my body and myself.  What's important is not so much how my body looks, but how it functions.  I want to be healthy for myself and my children.  And I want my kids to be healthy not body-obsessed.

Be an emotional expert
Pregnancy can raise some deep and difficult emotions. We can blame some emotional outbursts on hormones, like sobbing uncontrollably when watching news of a sick baby. But other emotions appear more inexplicable, like the panic of whether you and your partner are really ready to become a parent.
 
One evening my husband was late home from work - all of 18 minutes late. But by then I was in tears. You didn't call! How can I rely on you? How am I supposed to have a baby if you're late all the time? It was fuelled by fear and uncertainty. I really wanted a baby, but I wasn't sure how I would cope.

Emotions can run rife during pregnancy. But experiencing powerful emotions in pregnancy is the beginning of your journey into parenthood. As a parent, you experience emotions you've never felt before at an intensity never experienced before. And teaching your children how to master their emotions is one of the greatest gifts you can give them.
 
Care for yourself
When you are pregnant, caring for yourself means you are caring for your baby. What you eat, whether you exercise, and whether you get enough rest all impact on the health and wellbeing of your baby.

During my pregnancy I was devoted to yoga, sleep, and five healthy meals a day. I ate when I was hungry, rested when I was tired, and exercised when I needed energy. The best way to care for my baby was to care for myself.  I did it willingly and diligently.

But when my baby was born, her needs came first and mine were forgotten. I soon became so run down, exhausted and emotional, that I couldn't care as well for my baby. I then realised that if I didn't care for myself, I couldn't care for anyone else.  It is a lesson learnt in pregnancy that must continue when you become a parent.

What did you do to prepare for first time parenthood? Chat with new mums in our birth-six months forum.