ELBURN—When Amy Shoop Riley was pregnant with her daughter McKenzie, every time someone asked, “how do you feel?” she assumed they were really asking, “how badly do you feel?”
She assumed she was going to have back pain. Swollen ankles. Raging hormones.
And then Riley, who works as a life coach, realized that it wasn’t pregnancy that was making her miserable—it was her mindset.
“I wasn’t trying to pretend that I was excited about some aspects of pregnancy when I wasn’t,” she said. “But I knew from my coaching that a lot of it is mindset; that it’s what we expect and assume is going to happen.”
She decided to commit herself to enjoying her pregnancy as much as she could. So what if she didn’t know other women who had traveled while pregnant? She went on a cruise. So what if people were constantly asking her how she felt? Maybe they just cared.
Riley said she went from being “pretty cynical about pregnancy” to “loving pregnancy”—and then she wrote a book, “Loving the Pregnant You,” trying to help other women struggling with their changing bodies and lives do the same.
“After I had my daughter, somebody said to me, ‘you should write a book, because you went from being completely cynical to loving pregnancy.’ And I thought, ‘Who cares what I did? Why would it work for the next woman?’” Riley said. “But the idea of writing a book didn’t go away. And about a year later, I got the idea of interviewing a bunch of women about how they approached challenging situations in their pregnancy. I thought it would be helpful to have a collection of stories.”
Though the book was just published on April 25, it took four years for Riley to gather those stories. The former Elburn resident and 1989 Kaneland High School graduate interviewed dozens of women about how they approached challenging situations in their pregnancy. The book encourages women to avoid what Riley calls “the perfection trap.”
“There’s this pressure because people typically know that you’re pregnant,” Riley said. “You have this belly that tips people off, and they feel like they know about it and can talk about it. ‘How much weight is she gaining?’ ‘When is she due?’ You begin to feel like you’re being watched. It’s easy to think, ‘it’s nine months. I’m going to pull up my bootstraps and do it exactly right.’ But it’s not about doing it right. It’s about doing what’s right for you and empowering for you.”
Much of that empowerment comes from realizing that there are more than two possible options to many of pregnancy’s dilemmas, Riley said.
“So much of it boils down to taking people away from the ‘should’ thinking, or from thinking that their options are either A or B,” she said. “You can’t decide whether to have an epidural or not? Well, are there other ways to look at that? Do you want to look into other types of pain medicine and pain management? Do you want to look at that you’ll only get an epidural if these kinds of circumstances come up? Sometimes we freak out if we don’t know. But it’s OK, because (first-time moms) have never done this before. I’m about encouraging people to look at their reactions and what works for them.”
Riley said she realized she needed to look for “option C” when the idea of sitting in a childbirth class, listening to a nurse talk about emergency interventions and all the possible things that could go wrong during labor, felt overwhelming.
She walked out of the class, leaving her husband Kevin inside to listen to the nurse talk about c-sections, episiotomies, fetal oxygen levels, cerebral palsy and other possible complications.
“I thought, I don’t necessarily want to start learning about that and start worrying about that, when it’s not happening right now,” Riley said. “And my husband said, ‘Why don’t you leave the room, and I’ll stay here and get the information so that we have it. And I’ll pass on what I think you need to know.’”
Riley sat in the hall, drinking a decaf latte, waiting for her husband’s signal that it was safe to come back in.
“Some women wouldn’t be able to deal with that,” she said. “The not knowing would be disempowering. But for me, there was so much information out there that it was overwhelming. I didn’t need to know that information right then. Maybe I would never need to. It’s when we start thinking about the future that we start worrying. If we stay in the present moment, we’re fine.”
Riley works as a life and leadership coach and owns Shoop Consulting Group, a training and development company. She decided to start a pregnancy coaching business, as well, to accompany the book. She has a master’s in training and development from Loyola University, and offers her services as a pregnancy coach at lovingthepregnantyou.com, where she also sells the book and a companion journal.
Her pregnancy coaching business is still developing, she said, but so far she has had about 30 clients.
“I do most of the coaching over the phone,” she said. “I also do six keys to loving the pregnant you, which are six key inquiries for a pregnant woman to answer for herself, and that gets emailed out over six weeks.”
She is working on developing a weekly email product that will coach women through each week of their pregnancy, discussing a topic that is likely to come up at that point in the pregnancy and encouraging women to reflect on it.
“I didn’t grow up thinking that I was going to write a book someday, but I kind of feel that I was called to do it,” Riley said. “I wrote the book because I wished there had been one like it when (my husband and I) wanted to get pregnant.”
“Loving the Pregnant You” is available on Amazon or through lovingthepregnantyou.com.