What is Feng Shui and what does it have to do with being a Mom?
Feng shui (pronounced “fung shway”) is an ancient Chinese philosophy that focuses on harmonizing humans with our surrounding environment.
Feng shui is based on the idea that nature, including our material environments, is alive with an invisible energy — our chi, or life force. In Feng Shui Mommy, the concept of feng shui is pushed beyond your physical environment into a space where your mental and spiritual environments, and the life force they’re alive with, are honored.
What inspired you to write your book?
I wrote this book because I was in dire need of a better way to move into, and then “be in,” motherhood. The idea came to me when, one offensively early morning, around 3 am, I was crying with my newborn son in a pool of breastmilk and spit-up. Something was poking my back and it was a lid-less blue gel pen that had been soaking into my glider chair. I took the pen and a copy of Women Who Run With Wolves, and scribbled my ideas for Feng Shui Mommy in the back cover of the book. The notes seemed like milky tear-stained gibberish at the time, but when I found them a few months later I was struck with their helpfulness, and ability to make me see the light and humor in my (many!) flaws.
Your book includes sections about FOUR trimesters, but aren’t there only three trimesters in a pregnancy? Please explain.
The first three months of a baby’s life out of the womb are referred to by many as the “fourth trimester” – although the baby is no longer in the womb they are still helpless in many ways and fully dependent on their mother. These first three months out of the womb are also the first third of what is sometimes referred to as exterogestation, or “exterior gestation.” The term “exterior gestation” comes from the belief that infants are born before their brains are fully matured (because their heads would be too large to fit through the birth path at full maturity) so, their brains finish growing when they are outside the womb.
Because a baby is so dependent in these early months (almost as dependent as they were in the womb) I felt it was important to support the reader through this “trimester”, a period that in many ways is more challenging for the mother than the first three trimesters.
During this “fourth trimester,” the mother can no longer just take care of herself and trust that her baby will receive all he requires (as she did in the first three trimesters), she now has to be vigilant about still caring for her own needs, while also nurturing her vulnerable infant who is now much more demanding than he was in the womb—it can understandably be incredibly challenging!
What is your best piece of advice for a woman in the first trimester of her pregnancy?
My best piece of advice for a woman in the first trimester of her pregnancy is to learn what her intuition sounds like, and get really good at listening to it. As women hone this skill they will likely fall in love with the peace of mind (and heart!) that comes from honoring this inner wisdom.
A woman’s intuition, that will almost always lead her to “right action” (which looks different for every individual), is commonly steamrolled during pregnancy, specifically the first trimester, as people who claim to “know better” try to impose their opinions on the newly pregnant, and often vulnerable, woman.
By figuring out what actions and decisions intuitively feel best to her, as she embarks on her journey into motherhood, she will have a much better chance of selecting a care provider, childbirth preparation method, birth location and more that really resonate with her, thus setting her up for her optimal birth experience, and first steps into motherhood.
How Do You Locate Your Intuition?
The woman can begin tuning into her intuition by listening to the first voice that answers in the moment after she asks her Self a question, before the mental chatter begins. Then, she can practice following the guidance of that first voice and seeing what happens. She can start small, with questions about what to eat, when to sleep, or what movie she should watch.
The following breathing exercise can also facilitate this process!
Just Breathe: Allow each deep inhale to draw out your intuition from the recesses of your subconscious mind, then allow each exhale to encourage the voice of your intuition to flow out of you. Do this as you contemplate each question that pops up during pregnancy or birth, allowing your intuition to lead your way.
What is your best piece of advice for women once their baby arrives?
Trust your instincts, and then cut your self some slack if your instincts occasionally fail you.
There is no book or class to teach you the “perfect” way to parent your unique child, so you must lean on your maternal instincts. These instincts are made of that “gut feeling” you’ll have about how to handle a diaper rash, whether that poop is normal or a cause for concern, if your baby is procuring enough milk out of your sore boobs, or any of the other dilemmas you’ll be faced with – and sometimes, that “gut feeling” will say, “I have no idea what to do, call in back up.”
Sometimes (or many times) you’ll look back on a mom-call you made and think, “Ugh, I could have handled that better.” Resist the temptation to dunk yourself in shame in these moments, take the (perceived) misstep as a learning opportunity, give your self kudos for showing up and doing something, then go back to mothering. And guess what, there is not one mother out there who hasn’t made hundreds (OK, probably thousands) of decisions they didn’t later regret – that’s just part of the deal.
Oh, and ask for help! The stickiest trap many new moms fall into is believing they shouldn’t ask for help, that it makes them look like a less competent mother – not true. Reaching out for support from your partner (definitely!), family, friends, a postpartum doula, or an organization that offers postpartum support will help to fortify your maternal instincts and ability to make it through the almost-sleepless “fourth trimester” with not only your sanity intact but also a sense that you actually enjoy this whole motherhood thing (at least most of the time.)
You are a Certified Hypnotherapist. What does hypnosis have to do with pregnancy?
A huge component of how a woman processes the experience of pregnancy and childbirth is her mind-body connection – her body is like a robot that responds to the messages being sent to it from the mind. If these mind-messages are positive and hopeful, the woman will perceive her experience as positive and hopeful, if these messages are negative and fearful, it’s likely she’ll perceive her experience as negative and fearful.
Hypnosis, in relation to pregnancy and childbirth, is all about reprogramming the mind with healthy and happy messages about pregnancy and childbirth, so it can then send the body healthy and happy messages about pregnancy and childbirth.
Supporting a woman in filling her subconscious mind (which makes up 88% of the mind!) with positive alternatives to fears, worries, uncomfortable sensations, negative actions and more, that can negatively impact her experiences throughout pregnancy and childbirth, can help to reset how she believes she will move through this journey. This “resetting” will then allow her to fill her mental “birth book” with beautiful and beneficial beliefs about pregnancy and birth, which will translate into a pregnancy and birth experience she perceives as beautiful and beneficial, regardless of how it plays out.
What in your opinion is the “best” best way to birth?
The “best” way for a woman to birth is in whatever way she feels will best support her unique needs—the unique needs of her mind, body, spirit and baby.
Many women inadvertently try to please the needs and preferences of their birth supporters (e.g., their care provider, partner, mother or best friend) because they want to foster the energy of peace and unity with those they trust and are closest to. So, what often ends up happening is that the woman’s choices during birth satisfy the needs of the individuals in her external environment, but she forgets to satisfy the needs of the people in her inner environment—her baby and Self.
When she respectfully asks the people around her to quiet down, and she tunes into her intuitive needs, her choices in childbirth will be led by what will best support the needs of her and her baby.
A crucial step in her figuring out what her “best way” is is for her to become informed. When she adopts the energy of curiosity during pregnancy, and seeks out information on all the different ways she can birth, she can then pick and choose pieces of the different methodologies that resonate with her and create her own customized childbirth method—that’s the best way for her to birth.
What is a birth doula and what are the benefits of working with one?
A birth doula supplies physiological and psychological support during and after birth. Doulas are not medically trained, and they do not administer medicine or perform clinical or medical tasks, but their presence can still be highly beneficial to Mom, Baby, and Birth Companion. Birth doulas are specifically trained to support the woman during pregnancy and childbirth
What is the main piece of advice you would give to pregnant women fearful of childbirth?
Breathe, and trust your instincts. Deep breathing will help to regulate your blood pressure and rate, create less resistance in your uterus during surges, encourage your cervix to open and will keep baby well supplied with oxygen. When you’re focused on breathing your mind quiets and your intuition is able to speak up and lead the way.
What do you most hope women will take away from your book?
I hope that women will take away from this book a knowingness that they deserve to claim their journey into motherhood and make it their own. One of my main messages in the book is the importance of tuning in to one’s intuition, or gut, or maternal instincts, or whatever they want to call that guiding feeling that will lead them into thought processes, decisions and actions that will best suit their unique path into motherhood. The more they tune into this intuition the less chaotic and confusing their adventure into motherhood will be.
Bailey Gaddis is the author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth and Motherhood (New World Press; 2017). She is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Certified Birthing Doula, HypnoBirthing® Practitioner, IVF coordinator and a contributing writer for Huffington Post, Babble, Your Tango, Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Scary Mommy, Flight Network, and Elephant Journal.