Finding out you are pregnant is both an exciting and overwhelming feeling. I remember when I first found out, I was so excited and literally did not wait more than a minute to tell my husband. After the initial excitement settles, the reality sets in that you are soon to be a mother. I don’t think anything can really prepare you for what that means. And perhaps to this day, as a mom of toddlers, I still don’t truly know what it means beyond the toddler years. Of course, I pictured the cute little baby that I would soon have in my arms and our sweet snuggles and the indescribable newborn baby scent that I had experienced with my nieces and nephews. I had watched my sisters become mothers and care for their babies, but it is a whole different world when it is your own. The realization that I would soon, inshāʾAllāh be a mom, left me feeling an overwhelming mixture of excitement and anxiety. As with all things in life, the Qurʾān and Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) have given us guidance to put our hearts at ease.
The Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) have taught us that becoming a mother is a great honor and privilege. Allah (swt) and the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) have spoken highly of the merits of motherhood and the blessings that come with it. As mothers, we should feel honored that Allah (swt) has chosen us to bring life into this world and we should strive to raise our children to be His devout worshippers. One ḥadīth that resonated strongly with me is from Imām Jaʿfar aṣ-Ṣādiq (ʿa) who said,
“Every time a woman becomes pregnant, during the whole period of pregnancy she has the status of one who fasts, one who worships during the night, and one who fights for Allah (swt) with her life and possessions. And when she is giving birth, Allah (swt) grants her so much reward that nobody knows its limit because of its greatness. And when she is giving milk to her child, for every suck of the child, Allah (swt) gives her the reward of freeing a slave from the children of Ismāʿīl, and when the period of breastfeeding the child is finished, one of the great angels of Allah (swt) taps her side and says: “Start your deeds afresh, for Allah (swt) has forgiven all your minor sins.”Al-Kāfī, Vol. 5, P. 496
This ḥadīth highlights every stage from pregnancy up until, potentially, when the child is two years old. During pregnancy, this hadīth is stating that we are basically constantly in a state of worship. One of the recommendations is to be in wuḍūʾ as much as possible when pregnant. Although this is recommended (mustaḥab) at all times for everyone regardless of being pregnant, it is interesting that once you are pregnant you are willing to do things for your child that you wouldn’t do for yourself alone. This continues beyond pregnancy and perhaps is one of the blessings of motherhood in that it motivates us to be the best version of ourselves.
Likewise, during pregnancy there are recommended (mustaḥab) recitations and actions to do for each month of pregnancy. These were taught to us by the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa) and inshāʾAllāh will bring many blessings for the mother and child. They can be found online at: https://www.al-islam.org/marriage-parenthood-heavenly-path/chapter-6-pregnancy
I remember looking these up early on in my pregnancy and my sister-in-law also sent them to me after we told her we were expecting. There is something beautiful about starting to do recommended spiritual acts (aʿmāl) for your unborn child. I remember the short aʿmāl (supplications and recommended actions) after prayers were the easiest for me to implement and left me feeling more connected to the child in my womb and to Allah (swt) for blessing me with this child. I always send this list of supplications and recommended actions l to my friends who I know are trying to conceive because the aʿmāll are to be started from the first month but usually we don’t tell others until later. So if you think you might become pregnant in the next year, perhaps save these somewhere for future reference. That link also includes some recommendations for before conception as well.
Pregnancy Can be Hard
As the months of pregnancy began to pass, the reality of it became stronger and stronger. Once I felt the first kick, I was in complete awe of the Might of Allah (swt) and His design. Of course at first these kicks were such a welcomed experience that brought joy but as the baby grew, Alḥamdulillāh, the kicks were not as pleasant or welcomed. For some, all of pregnancy is a beautiful time that they enjoy; for others it is a struggle from start to end. For most it is a mixture of the two, as it was for me. In the hard moments, I was reminded that Allah (swt) is aware of everything and will only give us as much as we can handle. Though it could be hard, I tried to remind myself to be patient and recall the words of Imām ʿAlī (ʿa) in which he says,
“The world has two days; one for you and the other against you. When the day is for you, do not feel proud, but when it is against you, you should endure it. Through both of the days, you are put to the test.”Abū Ḥayyān at-Tawḥīdī, Al-Baṣāʾir wadh-Dhakhāʾir, P. 155
Physical and Mental Preparation
In the third trimester, for me, I also needed to remember to take care of myself. This is when physical exercise became even more important, as my kind OBGYN constantly reminded me. In hindsight, I would have done even more physical preparation, particularly strengthening my core and back to be able to better handle the amount of carrying, rocking, bending that comes with the newborn phase. But also the third trimester was a good time to mentally try to prepare for what was to come. In my first pregnancy I read a few books that I found helpful in regards to the newborn phase and did some research on breastfeeding as I had heard it is not as intuitive as it would seem. Thankfully there are many resources available for preparing to breastfeed. The most important thing to learn is how to help the baby get a good latch. I think reading and watching videos helped to make it possible for me. I also highly recommend packing nursing cream and soothing gel pads in your hospital bag.
The Birthing “Plan”
Throughout my pregnancy I was very worried about delivery, as many of us are. I personally have a low pain tolerance, and my mom often reminded me of it. Knowing that, I still hoped for a natural birth and trusted that Allah (swt) would help me through it as He has for mothers since the beginning of time. So I took the usual birthing classes and watched videos and was trying to mentally prepare myself. I also had a “Birth Preferences” document to share with my hospital team, which I recommend so that they are aware of your preferences in regards to things such as males entering the room, medications, epidural, delivery styles you’d like to try or avoid, delayed cord cutting, immediate skin to skin, etc. I also included a request for the room to be quiet while my husband recited the adhān and iqāmah in the baby’s ears immediately after birth.
While this preparation for delivery is good to think about and plan for, it is also important to make duʿāʾ and trust Allah’s plans. Going back to my low pain tolerance; my mother advised that I should plan for a c-section. A c-section also terrified me and so I prayed for Allah (swt) to choose what is best for me and the baby. I was still preparing myself and my husband for a natural birth which included going to birthing classes and practicing techniques for handling the pain. In the end, I did need a c-section because my baby was breech and had a 95th percentile head circumference. Alḥamdulillāh, the birthing preparations were still beneficial as I needed to use some of the breathing techniques during the procedure. Though things didn’t go exactly as I planned, they did go exactly as Allah (swt) planned. We also were able to have immediate skin to skin time and a quiet room for the adhān and iqāmah, alḥamdulillāh.
In summary, things may go as you expect or there may be some curve balls; in either case, put your trust in Allah (swt) and go with the flow while trying to do what is important to you and your faith. You might have a “natural” birth or you may have a c-section; and either one is okay. What is important is that inshāʾAllāh you and your baby will be healthy. Both ways come with their challenges and benefits and ultimately it is all in Allah’s (swt) hands. He is the best Planner and Protector.
The newborn phase is both exhausting and beautiful. If you don’t see the beauty of it in the moment, don’t stress; you might feel it later or not at all and that’s okay. There will be hard moments but there will also be beautiful moments: focus on the beautiful ones.
For me, what helped the most was getting into a routine; once possible. I followed a cycle of feeding the baby, changing a diaper, letting the baby sleep, and getting a bit of rest myself. This repeating cycle helped me and the baby to know what to expect next throughout the day. There is lots more to discuss when it comes to the newborn phase, but this was the single most useful practice for me. This coupled with continuous dua and remembrance of Allah (swt) will bring much peace Inshallah.
Every baby and every mother is unique. Try to be mindful of comparing yourself or your baby with others. There is no prize for reaching “milestones” sooner or having an “easy baby”. Every child will develop at its own pace and in its own way. You will get a lot of advice (solicited or not) over the years. You can choose which ones to try to apply and which ones you decide are not for you, navigating through the lens of what is most pleasing to Allah (swt) and the Ahl al-Bayt (ʿa).