When you’re having a baby or thinking of starting a family, you’ll soon discover that everyone from your letter carrier to your sister-in-law suddenly feels free to talk to you about how great pregnancy is.
I’ve never felt better! It’s a magical time! I even qualified for the Boston marathon while sucking on anti-nausea pills!
If you’re someone who loves being pregnant and finds every parenting moment a sacred, ethereal experience, good for you. The world needs more saints.
For my part, though, I really wish someone had gotten real with me from the get-go. I think it might have saved me hours (no, months) of agonizing and feeling like I must be the only one experiencing the less-than-angelic nature of pregnancy and birth (I certainly wasn’t angelic).
So if you’re looking at nine months of pregnancy and wondering how you’ll survive, I’ve been taking notes. I’ll assume you’re hearing all the amazing stuff from your friends, so I can focus on the less glamorous yet very real sides of childbearing.
The real deal on being pregnant
Nobody told me that losing your body to a child growing inside you was going to be so physically and psychologically uncomfortable. I remember the moment when, in a hotel room in San Jose, I noticed that my belly button had reversed. My hitherto inny and become an undeniable outy. But the way I experienced that moment was as if a real part of my identity had shifted. I literally had never seen the inside of my belly button. It had been a deep, dark, narrow cavern. I felt broken open, vulnerable — my true hidden nature revealed. And it wasn’t pretty.
And that captured pregnancy for me. Muscles you never knew existed suddenly make their presence known. Your back aches. Cellulite becomes ever-present — in places cellulite is not supposed to be. You feel sick. Favorite foods turn your stomach. You crave fried food you gave up in high school. Everything is wrong.
And that’s just the physical part. This new being moving inside of you looses fears and joy and insecurity and just plain disturbs your mental equilibrium. You realize that what you held as YOU may not be you at all. This child is revealing all of these things within the first few months of dwelling with you — and that’s just the beginning! Get used to it!
So I’m just here to say: It’s all NORMAL! That’s my point. You aren’t weird if you wonder why a woman would do this more than once. You aren’t strange that you cry at the drop of a hat or scream at your husband when he tosses a couple slices of organic cucumber in the trash (yes, I did that — it’s EXPENSIVE, that organic cucumber).
If you enjoy pregnancy, more power to you. If you don’t, I get you, girl. I get you so hard.
Think about NOT doing these things when pregnant
I’m not talking about caffeine, sushi, or cold cuts. (Or wine — oh, sweet nectar of the gods.) I’m talking about the real stuff nobody ever tells us!
First, you know that dainty belly button ring you’ve had for 10 years? Take it out the second you find out you’re pregnant. Friends warned me, but did I listen? No, I did not. I wanted a cute baby belly with my cute baby belly button ring. I left it in for the first trimester, and by then, the stretch scar had already begun, never to leave me. So here I am years later, wearing a one-piece (which, let’s be honest, is probably best) and remembering every time I navel gaze (daily) that I should have listened.
If you don’t have a belly button ring and are flaunting a 4.0 GPA instead, there are still a few things to consider here.
Do NOT fret over how large you’re getting or refer to yourself as any variety of large animal. Even if you can’t reach your legs to shave, you in no way resemble a woolly mammoth. What makes this a little harder are the women genetically gifted with only looking pregnant when viewed from the side.
Do NOT hesitate to accept help. The people who love you want to celebrate the coming life growing inside of you. Make that wish list for your favorite store. Let your friends line up to make you dinner. Let your sister come unpack your moving boxes when you’re eight months pregnant (mine did!).
Do NOT plan to work through maternity leave! Say no to guilt from the get-go (there will be plenty of time for that later). Set yourself up for taking as much time as your job will allow. Pass projects, sales leads, etc. to people you trust. You will want that time to heal and bond with baby (it’s time you’ll never get back!), so start planning now.
Think about doing these things when pregnant
DO buy beautiful maternity clothes — if it matters to you (as it clearly did to me). It’s worth it to feel comfortable and stylish. If you need further justification, you’ll likely wear those comfort-loaded maternity clothes for more than just the months you’re pregnant — you’ll also be loving those same elastic-banded jeans well into precious baby’s first months (or years). Quite frankly, you may never go back to the zip-and-button version.
DO make a list of the things you hope and dream for your little one and your family. What kind of person do you hope they’ll be? (Think characteristics over accomplishments.) What kind of parent do you hope to be in order to help him/her get there? How will your home and family dynamic change as s/he enters your life? What are the top five words that will describe who you are as a family? We have four in our family: fun, love, health, gratitude. What will yours be?
DO have your favorite photographer (Mom, sister, husband, a professional) take amazing pictures of you while you are pregnant. My sister did this, and even though she sent the pics to us with the caption, “Whale Mom Takes Pregnancy Photo,” it is precious to watch her children’s faces when they see those pictures of themselves still shrouded in her belly. They are filled with wonder and a sense of being cherished. I think that’s the moment they realize God exists. You’re beautiful. So just do it.
Pregnancy is a beautiful, difficult time. Your emotions will be everywhere. You’ll lose your memory (I’m still trying to get mine back!). You’ll ache and at the same time be mystified when you feel baby move. You’ll wonder where your body, mind, and identity have gone.
In the end, though, you’ll cherish baby, and you’ll probably do it again. So savor the sweet moments, and when it’s hard, know there’s someone out there who gets you, girl! Congrats!