Enjoy these perks now (they'll be gone soon enough).
At some point in your life you've probably been reminded to "enjoy the journey." That's sage advice for most of life's adventures, but it's particularly true for the 40 miraculous weeks you'll spend with your baby growing inside you.
Of course, your rosy glow of pregnancy sometimes can be clouded by less pleasant side effects that come with the turf — everything from finding that your butt and hips having melded into one to the need for buying antacids in bulk. But why bemoan a few inconveniences when your body has just become a miracle of nature? It's much more rewarding to focus on the positive. "I know this is going to be my last child, so I'm savoring every aspect of my pregnancy," says Janet Crawford, R.N., a Lamaze-certified childbirth instructor in Boulder, Colo. "Knowing it's the last time my body will go through this has heightened my appreciation."
So enjoy this time while it lasts. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of 20 things you just might find yourself remembering wistfully once your baby is born.
1) Having a secret
Before anything shows on the outside, you know something's happening on the inside. For the first few months you might look like your same old self, but you know something that no one else does. (Unless you choose to tell them, of course!)
2) Smiles from total strangers
Once you start showing, you might be surprised at what a friendly place the world has become. You've joined the sorority, sister, and your stunning silhouette brings smiles, questions and congratulations.
In our go-go-go world, there may not be another time in your life when you don't have to feel guilty about sneaking in a 30-minute snooze after lunch. In fact, when you're pregnant, naps are practically prescribed. So slumber away blissfully: Soon enough you'll be sleeping on your baby's schedule — in other words, naps may be the only sleep you'll get.
4) That rosy glow
The pregnant woman's glow might be more myth than reality, says Allan Lichtman, M.D., clinical professor in the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Southern California School of Medicine. "You do get some increased blood circulation, but it generally doesn't show on the face," Lichtman explains.
But just as we're about to cross this off the list, Lichtman offers another explanation. "I do see wonderful smiles and happiness, and that emotion is translated onto the face." Aha — an inner glow. Even better.
5) Calories, calories, calories
"Women can eat more during pregnancy because they're eating for two," says Mona M. Shangold, M.D., director of the Center for Women's Health and Sports Gynecology in Philadelphia. "The exact number of calories will depend on how active you are and what your metabolic rate is." If you play your cards right, you can potentially extend this benefit for another year or so by nursing your baby — you'll need the extra calories to produce all that milk.
6) The anticipation
There's a certain excitement in looking forward to events — it allows us to extend and savor our enjoyment of them. "I know that there's a lot of hard work ahead taking care of an infant," says expectant mom Crawford. But the anticipation phase is pure enjoyment: "I look forward to nursing another child, I look forward to my sons meeting their brother," she says. "Knowing that all that wonderful stuff is on the way, it's like waiting for Christmas."
7) Indulging your cravings sans guilt
"It's important for pregnant women to listen to what their bodies want," says Susan Kundrat, M.S., R.D., a sports and wellness nutritionist and owner of Nutrition on the Move in Champaign, Ill. "A woman may be craving a food that is high in a nutrient she really needs." Just watch portion sizes and make sure your cravings are part of a balanced diet, she adds. Satisfy your cravings with our recipes that are delicious and nutritious.
This is your very own pregnancy, and you get to indulge whatever cravings your hormones concoct. Mangoes? Chocolate chip cookies? Steak? Go for it.
8) Feeling special
The humdrum of daily routine can suck the feeling-specialness out of the best of us. But is there anything more special than creating life? "I tell people, 'Do you realize that you are making a person inside you?'" Lichtman says. "Making a person!" Nothing humdrum about that.
9) Being the center of attention
Pregnancy may be the last time in a long while that you are the center of attention. "Once they have the baby, so many women are so instantly wrapped up in — and overwhelmed by — caring for their infant that they immediately forget the recent experience of being pregnant," says Crawford. Also, the outside world pays attention to you when you're pregnant and to the baby once it's born. So go ahead and savor the fact that, for now, the focus is on you.
10) The shopping
New clothes for you. New clothes for baby. New furniture, new gadgets, new linens (check out our Buyer's Guide). Yellow and green if you don't know, pink or blue if you do. Socks smaller than your pinkie finger, whimsical hats with ears attached. Just remember that you do still have to save for college.
11) Tiny hiccups & big kicks
There is simply no substitute for the wonder of feeling your child move inside you. "Movement is just a winner for everybody," Lichtman says. Ultrasounds and sonograms are wondrous but distant meetings with your unborn child. It's that first squirm in your belly that signals a personal hello.
For the next several months, you'll be tracking kicks and rolls and what feel like somersaults, learning the rhythm of your child's day before anyone else. The first time your baby has the hiccups after she's born will be a sweet yet sad reminder of what you used to feel inside.
12) Being taken care of
You're led to the front of the line, the door is cheerily opened for you, and your sweetie even offers to bring you a snack and rub your feet. Isn't this the way life should be? So what if it isn't PC — it sure is fun. Let's face it, after your baby's born, you will be the one carrying the bundle and wiping up messes wherever you go.
13) All that motivation
When pregnant, you're motivated like never before — you watch what you eat, eliminate unhealthful habits, get plenty of rest and stay physically active. "Pregnancy is a good opportunity for a woman to develop a sound nutrition plan and healthy habits for the rest of her life," Kundrat says. Cutting your daily dose of caffeine, eliminating artificial sweeteners and increasing your water intake are all smart moves for baby. If you can stick with them, these better habits will serve you well for years to come.
14) Fabulous follicles
Some women will get thicker hair during pregnancy and some won't, says Shangold. (Changing hormone levels can synchronize hair growth so it is all in the same phase, meaning more hairs might be on your head at a given time.) Like everything else on the list, enjoy it while it lasts.
15) Who cares if your clothes fit?
This may be the only time in your life when you're supposed to expand like a balloon. But don't use that as an excuse to inflate beyond reason: A steady, gradual and not too extreme weight gain is advised during pregnancy.
16) You're never alone
Of course, you will have your bundle of joy when it's all over and done with. But sharing your body with your child provides an intimacy unmatched by any other relationship.
17) A better body image
Pregnancy brings countless changes to your body. Paying attention to the nuances of that child growing inside you means you'll feel everything from your breath to your belly with new appreciation. "A lot of people are more aware of their bodies during pregnancy," Shangold says. But, she adds, some women are not so happy with the way their bodies change. "It would be nice if all pregnant women would think of the pregnant body as being beautiful," she says.
18) Having pregnancy as an excuse
Forgot where you parked? That's OK — you're pregnant. Need to walk slowly? That's OK — you're pregnant. Just want to sit and daydream? Of course you do — you're pregnant. Behavior that raises eyebrows in "real life" seems universally excused for now. Just blame it on pregnancy brain.
19) The newness of it all
When was the last time you were truly surprised? Or experienced something completely new? In this day of Internet information, television, fax and instant everything, there isn't much wonder left in the world. Until you become pregnant, that is. For 40 weeks, almost every day brings something new. In a way, both you and your baby are experiencing a birth.
20) Taking part in the miracle of life
It sounds like a cliché — until it happens to you. During the course of your pregnancy, it's hard not to marvel at the little bit of destiny growing inside you and follow its progress with acute interest: two cells, then four, then eight. The size of a pea, then a peanut. A heartbeat, fingers, toes. Inside you.