When you’re pregnant, a very large share of your energy is expended getting ready for the baby: doing nursery things, choosing a pediatrician, lining up childcare, and maybe – if you have the time and resources – taking classes about labor and delivery, breastfeeding, and baby care. Of course, this is preparation that will make life with this new human you have created a whole heck of a lot easier.
But what about the nine months (or approximately 280 days) you are pregnant? That’s a long time, right? As the mother of three women-children – who might be pregnant themselves one day – I’m here to tell you: Every single minute of the experience should be savored (yes, even the lousy parts!). As anxious as you are to meet your baby, please do not wish away your pregnancy.
While my baby-making days are over, a few of my nieces are in new-mama mode, so I’ve been reminiscing. You learn a few things from being pregnant three times. Like…
Don’t tell anyone your game plan. Making a baby is your business. When you announce to the world that you’re “starting a family,” you’re putting yourself under the microscope. That means you’ve got people watching for weight gain and morning sickness, or wondering why you’re not drinking a glass of wine. And although I didn’t experience this, I watched a friend’s heart break a little more every month when she had to tell people she wasn’t pregnant.
It will happen when it happens. Someone told us this: It will take six months to a year to get pregnant. Someone was very wrong. With our first child, I got pregnant on the first attempt. Of course, I soon realized how very fortunate we were, especially after listening to the stories of friends who were trying to have biological children. The truth is, it could take months, it could take years, or it could take help. These days, there are many different ways to become a parent.
Wait as long as you possibly can before telling people you’re pregnant. Keeping a secret is fun! And being pregnant is perhaps the most wonder-filled secret you will ever have. Besides, if you tell everyone you know on day one, it will seem like you’re pregnant for an eternity. From a practical standpoint, there is also an increased risk of miscarriage in the first trimester.
You can blame almost everything on hormones. Stuffy nose? It’s hormones. Peanut bladder? It’s hormones. That weird taste in your mouth? Hormones, of course. And my personal favorite: After the baby has come and you have gotten pretty darn close to a healthy pre-pregnancy weight, your feet will probably be at least a half-size bigger. This is not due to weight gain. You guessed it! Hormones.
Too much food is too much food, even if it’s all the right stuff. With my first pregnancy, I was ravenous. It was like my body was demanding payback for all of those months of working out to fit into my wedding dress. I told myself over and over again that I really wasn’t hungry, but it didn’t matter. Finally, to silence my inner 300-pound man, I started eating. I had seen pregnant friends bingeing on junk food and knew that wasn’t the solution. My snacking was primarily dairy, nuts, and fruits and veggies. News flash! You can overdo it, even if your food choices are healthy for you and the baby. Try not to use pregnancy as an excuse to eat.
Plan all you want, but you’re not calling the shots. Healthy, fit, non-drinker, non-smoker, I was everything an OB-GYN wants in a patient. To top that off, all my life I had low blood pressure. In fact, all during my pregnancy, the nurses commented on my unusually low blood pressure. Then, two days shy of my due date for baby number one, my blood pressure went through the roof and my birthing plan went out the window. Fortunately, I had a lot of luck and the right doctor. But there is no way you can control all of the variables, so be prepared by staying flexible from the start.
Every pregnancy is different. We had our three children close together by design, so I felt like I was pregnant for a long time. But each pregnancy – just like each child – was unique. Lines and striations that appeared with number one were absent the second time around, and reappeared for number three. Food cravings were always different. Morning sickness, sciatica, acne flare-ups, leg cramps, carpal tunnel, all the fun stuff – here one pregnancy, gone the next. Basically, expect the unexpected.
Don’t worry about the doctor. My OB group was a large one, and I had heard that I should try to meet a few of the doctors in case my doctor wasn’t available on the big day. Here’s what I think: Schedule your appointments with a doctor you like and trust, even if it’s the same one every time. When it comes time to deliver, assuming it is a complication-free vaginal delivery (and I know that is a glorious assumption), the doctor could be your hair stylist and it won’t matter. No offense to doctors, but with each of my babies, there were two people who made the difference in my birthing experience: my coach (a.k.a. my husband), and the labor and delivery nurse.
Pregnancy is an adventure. If you’re having a baby, I wish you a happy pregnancy. From avoiding sushi to drinking wine, you will be bombarded with conflicting advice and overwhelmed with information (like this column!). Through it all, you’ll make a million decisions and take everything one day at a time – until the day you become a mother and have to start on your next million decisions.
Whether you take the trip one time or ten times, pregnancy can only be described as an amazing journey. It’s something only women can do, an unparalleled adventure, and an experience that can absolutely, positively be savored.