It's hard to know what to expect when you're expecting, but from one pregnant woman to another, there are some things no pregnant woman should do without.
I have been pregnant twice, and both times I (mostly) loved it. As a first-time mom-to-be, I expected the heartburn, the tickle of small feet in my ribs and the excitement mixed with fear that marked both pregnancies. But there are a few other less obvious things I wish I could go back and tell my newly pregnant self, especially the first time around.
- Buy a body pillow. As a devout stomach sleeper, sleeping in my favorite position was one of the hardest things to give up with a bump—until I discovered the body pillow. It allowed me to trick myself into feeling like I was sleeping on my stomach until the very end of each pregnancy. It was also an effective divider for when I needed a break from the hubby!
- Generic antacid will do just fine. I had terrible heartburn with my daughter and kept chewing on chalky Tums tablets until one day I bought one of those big generic antacid liquid jugs from CVS. I gave it a shot that night, trying not to think about how much it looked like a prop in a 1970s sitcom, and, almost instantly, felt better. From then on, a bottle lived by my bed. Bonus tip: it became a constant source of hilarity for my husband.
- Keep your eye on the fact that pregnancy really and truly is a miracle. My second pregnancy was fairly uncomfortable towards the end, and while I reminded myself often that it was likely to be my last one, I still succumbed to feeling sorry for myself and miserable now and then. I'm not sure awareness of how fast nine months go would have made me less exhausted or uncomfortable, but it surely would have counteracted those feelings and reminded me of how extraordinary it is to grow a human life in your own body.
- Walk, bike, do yoga, whatever, but stay active. Birth is a tremendously physical experience and I'm grateful that I was in fairly good shape for both of mine. I also know that remaining fit helps post-pregnancy in terms of feeling like yourself again. Finally, staying active (assuming you were before) is a way to keep in touch with your "normal life" and to set the stage that while enormous things are changing, you are still you and you need to take care of your body.
- Sleep, rest, enjoy yourself, laugh, spend time with friends. You also need to take care of your mind and your spirit. Giving yourself up entirely to motherhood, by which I mean losing touch with your pre-mother self, is a slippery and oft-dangerous slope. Keep doing the things you love (within reason, of course), while you're pregnant.
- Don't panic about your marriage. With my first pregnancy, I thought constantly about what would happen to me and my husband when we added a third person to our family. Turns out I had nothing to worry about: Yes, things change. But almost always, for the better. I fell more in love with him holding our baby in the delivery room than ever.
- Know you will be rested again. The end of pregnancy is good training for the beginning of motherhood, specifically in the sleep deprivation department. I know it's hard to see this in the dark, exhausted moments, but you will sleep again, and the baby will grow into his or herself. I promise.
- Educate yourself a little bit about what happens immediately after pregnancy. I wasn't alone in being surprised by some of the painful and slightly unnerving physical details right after birth: there's a lot of blood, nursing can hurt immensely, it is often hard to go to the bathroom. There are many books about a newborn's sleep and nursing schedules but very few about what happens to a brand-new mother's body.
- You don't need as much stuff as you think you do. There's a huge industry set up to make you think you need to buy a lot of stuff for your newborn baby. My mother used to say that you needed diapers and a breast, and that a baby could sleep in an empty drawer. That's taking it too far, but I promise you, that wipe warmer and fourth different swing will both sit and gather dust. Think long and hard about what you buy. And the baby really does grow as fast as everyone says. You don't need very much at all in the 0-3 month size. It's your first introduction to how blindingly fast time will go (while simultaneously crawling) as a parent.
- Whatever it is you're anxious about, try to take a deep breath. I worry this sounds condescending, and that's not at all my intention, but it's unlikely to be a huge deal eventually. Have a small glass of wine. Drink a half cup of coffee. Go for a short jog. Stay up a few minutes late with a friend. Breathe in this time. It's magic.