Inspired by this highly readable and important post by Blythe Fike: How to Postpartum Like a Boss, I thought I’d chime in with some thoughts you might not typically hear supported in books
like What to Expect When You’re Expecting (*shudder*) and simply call it “How to Be Pregnant”. Similar to the postpartum period, so much of how we can better our lot comes in the very simple idea to stop. feeling. guilty. So these will mostly come at you in bulleted points:
1- Don’t stress about how or when to announce your pregnancy. Do what is comfortable to you. I used to be of the school that ‘waited’ until a good 10-12 weeks at least before sharing our news “just in case” we miscarried. I just don’t really buy into that mentality anymore. After having three miscarriages, I can tell you that it doesn’t make a difference. Grieving your lost baby isn’t any easier if the world never knew about your pregnancy. And it can be awkward for your friends who lament that they didn’t even know you were pregnant and are shocked into how to support you best. The earlier you share your news, the sooner people can begin praying for you. The only exception to this rule is when you are tasked with sharing baby news with less-than-thrilled family members. Wait as long as you need so as not to stretch out their disgust. In fact, just don’t even say anything and show up with a newborn at Christmas and let me know how that technique works. My own mother never told her mother-in-law about her final pregnancy. My grandma was dying and very anti-life and my mom didn’t want to add to her despair by announcing a ninth baby… this is so sad and disordered to me, but I can totally respect what my mom was trying to do here.
2- Survive those first 13 weeks or so. Don’t get all bent out of shape trying to thrive. There will be a scant week or so between the time you find out you are pregnant and the time you start to feel nauseated. USE THIS WEEK. Prepare for the storm that is first trimester and make a bunch of easy, freezer foods for your family. Stash a lot of protein snack on hand for only you: nuts, beef jerky, sunflower seeds, peanut butter jars tucked under your bed… whatever. Have quality videos for your children to watch ready to go, including some new, novel ones… because they’ll only tolerate Planet Earth so many times. Be like a ‘prepper’ and act like the end of the world is coming. Because it kind of is.
See, “Morning sickness” is a cruel misnomer as you will likely feel like garbage most of the time during this phase. I can tell you one significant thing that has helped, though not “cured” this nausea: Massive amounts of protein. If you can especially eat a high protein snack before going to bed, you’ll be able to actually get out of bed in the morning, not quite singing with joy, but at least not seeing stars. Protein is your best friend in the first trimester. Do not compromise on protein! You’ll be doing a lot of household delegating from the couch. Don’t. Feel. Guilty. Let your older children prepare junky macaroni for dinner for the kids. Let it go. The hard part here is that because you don’t “look” that pregnant yet, it’s hard for the world to see that you may need more support than usual. Everyone chimes in with wanting to help during the awkward third trimester, but people generally think a first trimester woman gets a sweet little 30 minutes of nausea in the morning and should be good to go for the rest of the day. Not so. Meal ministries should figure out how to support mothers during this phase! So much like the postpartum phase, you’re house is going to go to the pits and your children will probably watch way too many cartoons while you are just laying around… growing a baby. And that’s okay.
3- Avoid Pinterest. Avoid any high ideals to start really complicated, new Easter traditions or start doing Jesse Tree readings complete with hand-crocheted ornaments. Don’t do it! You. Are. Enough. If you skip Jesse Tree this year, it’ll be okay. If you don’t organize a living reenactment of the Stations of the Cross, it’ll be okay. If all you do is lay on the couch while the kids suck on store-bought candy canes on Christmas Eve… it’s okay. You are enough. I’ll even up this and remind you that your excuse needn’t only be physical sickness. The “pregnancy brain” syndrome is not a myth. And it gets worse with each subsequent pregnancy in my experience. Avoid any situations that will overload your brain or overstimulate your very limited capacity for critical thinking.
4- Nap. Because you are sleeping for two now.
5- If you can afford hired help, get some. And, of course, don’t feel guilty. Our culture has lost so many of the domestic traditions and we are often geographically removed from family support… and we need support! It’s one thing when your friends say “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help!” but frankly, they are often wrestling their own busy lives, and it’s not easy to say “I need you to drop everything and move in, make meals, watch children and manage my entire household while I lay on the couch feeling gross.” That’s just not a feasible request to make of anyone except wonderful mothers and available sisters. The rest of us just have to suck it up Seabee and get through it.
6- Ignore the weight gain charts. (*Warning, these statements are not FDA approved and I only come from the Medical School of Life with my experiences.*) I’ll tell you. I regularly gain over 40 pounds with each of my babies. I know some women who gain more than that. It’ll be okay if two things can apply: 1) You nurse like a fool, on demand, after baby is born. Not all women can or are willing to do this. None of my babies ever followed the “every 2-3 hours” recommendation for food and could be regularly found suckling even every hour or 30 minutes in some cases. This has lots of other benefits of course, but one primary one is that lots of nursing is a surefire way to kick off baby weight! Stay hydrated and you’ll be fine. 2) Eat whatever you want, as much as you want while pregnant if you can follow two very simple rules… and this is coming from someone very, very skittish about food wars: 1-Eat as much real food as possible (not food-like substances). And, I hate to say it, I really do! But avoid sugar as much as possible. I know. It’s painful. Horrible. But so helpful. And so unrealistic for the sugartooths among us. I can’t manage to be fastidious on this point, so I do my best (imperfectly) to save my sugar splurge for the Sabbath only. And like any good Catholic, I observe the Sabbath beginning around vigil time on Saturday night of course. 🙂
Similarly, don’t stress about exercise during pregnancy. If you were already working out, keep on it! Your body will tell you when it’s too much. Don’t turn into a vegetable though; walk, bike (until it’s too awkward), swim. Now isn’t the time to try and start an new routine. But, an important caveat! If you CAN manage it… take some time to really strengthen your core and back muscles before you get too big to do so. Planks. And plank variations. If you can do those with good form, you’ll be in a remarkably better position going into labor and delivery.
7- Rock the 2nd Trimester. These are the glory days. You should be feeling better and you look legitimately pregnant by now so public sympathy/support should increase. This is the time to treat yourself to some fresh maternity clothes… because looking at your giant tupperware bin of maternity clothes that’s been around for literally a decade or more can be quite a downer. Do what you can to look and feel your best; a few fresh items will do wonders in making you feel happier. You can visit Pinterest during this phase… with moderation. Do all the little projects you wanted to do. Paint. Sew. Go swimming. Whatever. Do yourself a favor and prepare NOW for the third trimester. Nest now. After you have a baby, you may get meal support, but that last month of pregnancy is like a long walk in the Sahara desert… don’t go into it unprepared. Make a ton of burritos to freeze. Bake several loaves of zucchini bread and freeze a bunch of soups or casseroles. You’re probably going to be on your own for food help and it can be demoralizing and budget straining to eat pizza, yet again, during those final weeks of pregnancy just because you don’t have energy to make a meal. The magical 2nd trimester is your ticket to all things productive. Take advantage of it.
8- Iron. Natural and/or supplements. One of the best things I ever learned (five kids too late) was the importance of iron in having a healthy birth. Right at week 28 or so, amp up your iron intake. A lot. You will bleed less. You will have more energy. It’s one of the single best things you can do to get ready for birth. I am very sensitive to iron in most forms (and I’ve tried many; they cause headaches for me), so I prefer to get mine in the form of brewer’s yeast and this brand has been the hands down winner for a safe, effective intake for me.
9- Have a glass of wine. Because you are a responsible adult. And it’ll help your nerves. Your child will not get fetal alcohol syndrome from the occasional glass of wine or good beer. Those warnings are made because the net has to be cast wide to catch the fools who abuse alcohol while pregnant. I do not recommend, however, going to a bar to do your drinking. I wouldn’t hesitate to enjoy some champagne at a friend’s wedding while pregnant, but most of the world is still in the being-scandalized-by-pregnant-women-drinking mode so it’d be best to avoid that.
10- Be kind to your body during those last few weeks. Try hard not to slouch back on comfy couches. Keep your baby from floating and flipping in utero by sitting up straight or laying on your side. Get the yoga ball out. Do your kegals like a dutiful preggo; they help with pushing but also with control when you shouldn’t push too hard. Sciatica will strike many of us here. Bear with it. Drink absurd amounts of water. Be patient… so patient. I can assure you that all the old wive’s tales about natural induction are wive’s tales (with the exception of castor oil… gross; you have to be desperate and way overdue to justify this one). I have tried everything. Yes everything. Even the unmentionable things to try and get babies to come… not even on time, just a week overdue was all I was asking! I am firmly convinced that he/she will come when they are good and ready and we needn’t try and rush it. Those excruciating days when your due date is long past are difficult but offer them up and trust that your body is doing what it’s supposed to… growing a baby. There’s no rushing perfection.