After three pregnancies and three wonderful baby girls, I have (let's hope) learned a few things.
Ok, I’ll admit it: growing up, I was one of those girls who used to stick a pillow under her shirt and look in the mirror, day dreaming of the day I’d become a mommy. I always knew that I wanted kids, and looked forward to the day when that dream would become a reality. When I was newly pregnant with our first daughter, I was on cloud nine. I loved thinking, reading, and talking about my pregnancy. Despite my euphoric haze, though, there are a few things I wish I had known at the time:
- Don’t worry so much. In general. This is a broad suggestion, but I really wish I had not worried so much. If you had a beer the night before you found out you’re pregnant, the baby is fine. If you ate three hot dogs and then read that pregnant women shouldn’t eat hot dogs, make a mental note and move on. And don’t worry about being a good mom – you’ll be just fine.
- Morning sickness will probably not be what you expect. I was shocked, and convinced I had the flu the first week (even though I knew I was pregnant). Just remember that if it hits you hard, it will pass. Also, you may be one of the lucky ones who don’t get it, or who feel mildly queasy and that’s it. Just don’t set up expectations, like expecting to only get sick in the morning, or thinking that it ends right at 12 weeks. Let your body do what it’s going to do, and just hang in there!
- Buy frozen foods and a lot of convenience food before you start feeling nauseous. I wish I had done this – we would have saved a ton of money on take-out and fast food! You may be fine and keep cooking as usual, but I was way too sick to stand the smell of raw meat, doing dishes, or anything else that triggered my gag reflex. Buy frozen lasagna, frozen dinners, and lots of snack stuff. Also stock up on paper plates. Having things on hand will be very helpful when you are either feeling too tired or too sick to cook.
- If you take everyone’s advice too seriously, you’ll make yourself miserable. Every one has an opinion, and over the course of your pregnancy, you are going to hear tons of stories, lots of warnings, and plenty of advice. Take it all with a grain of salt – and don’t let it stress you out. Society feels the responsibility to educate and advise pregnant women on just about everything, but it often just causes more stress. Let it roll off of your back.
- Don’t be in a rush to wear maternity clothes. I was so excited during my first pregnancy to finally “look pregnant,” I rushed into maternity clothes. I could have gone another month or so, but I was just too excited. Trust me – you will have plenty of time to wear those clothes (and you’ll get sick of them), so enjoy your regular clothes while you still can.
- Invest in a belly band. This will extend the life of your pre-pregnancy pants, and will help you with your clothing options. These wonderful things are nice, stretchy bands that enable you to walk around with your pants unzipped, while still held up in place with a nice band covering the zipper. (An added benefit of these bands – they help you get back into your old jeans after having the baby, when you are still carrying some baby weight in your middle.)
- Don’t obsess about your pregnancy. When people ask you how you are feeling, try not to go into a monologue about how you threw up yesterday, need to pee every hour, and then give them a long list of all the baby names you are considering. When it comes down to it, most people are asking to be polite. It’s completely normal to want to gush about your pregnancy, but just remember that non-pregnant people may not be as interested as you are in certain things. I was bad about that when I was pregnant with my first, so I can completely understand this – and I wish I had realized it at the time. It’s better to save the gory details for a pregnancy journal, your mom, or your best friend.
- A regular soda here and there is fine. Dr. Pepper helped me make it through the end of my first trimester – I wish I had lightened up earlier on. Sure, you aren’t supposed to have tons of caffeine – but a smidge here and there won’t hurt.
- Avoid saying, “I will never do that!” Before you actually become a parent, you just don’t know. You may end up co-sleeping with your baby, deciding to get the epidural, or stop nursing after a couple of months. Keep an open mind, and don’t set yourself up for a disappointment.
- Don’t feel bad about sleeping in. Sleep while you can. Trust me.
- Buy at least one or two fabulous nursing bras. I made the mistake of buying cheap nursing bras when I was still pregnant with my first baby, thinking it didn’t matter. Well, think again. You will need a lot of support during those first few months. I am in love with Bravado bras, because (a) they are crazy comfy, (b) you can sleep in them, and (c) these bras come in many patterns and colors. I have four of the “original nursing bras” and I love them. My favorite is the leopard print – just because you’re nursing doesn’t mean you can’t still be hot!
- Be clear about what you want before and after labor, but don’t come up with an elaborate birth plan that spells out exactly how you want it to go. Labor and delivery are full of surprises, so don’t set yourself up thinking it will go a certain way. Do be clear on what you want regarding pain meds, who is allowed in the room with you, the doc’s policy on episiotomies, etc.
- You don’t need as much as you think. I was so OCD when I was pregnant. I worried way too much about “getting ready” for the baby, and looking back, I realize now it was bit overboard. When it comes down to it, Target will still exist after you arrive home from the hospital. You husband can go out and buy a bouncy seat or some extra blankets when you are resting at home with the baby, so don’t worry about having everything just right.
- Let the hospital nursery take the baby overnight. They will still bring your baby in to nurse during the night, but at least you’ll get some sleep. We chose to “room in” with our first baby, because I was concerned that I’d look bad if I sent her to the nursery. Big mistake. Let the nurses take care of the baby while you have the opportunity – you will have plenty of sleepless nights once you arrive home.
- Above all, I wish I had known how much I’d love my kids. I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s true. You have absolutely no idea how much you are going to fall in love with your children until you are staring into their tiny faces at 5am, counting their eyelashes. Once you realize how much you love that little person you saw on the ultrasound screen, it blows your mind. Motherhood is out of this world. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the months leading up to it.