A friend of mine recently found out she was pregnant, which got me thinking about some things I learned during/after pregnancy, so here’s five things I think are worth mentioning!
1. Really take advantage of this time. I found pregnancy exhausting. I was carrying around 30 extra pounds, I was being pummeled from the inside out, and putting on my shoes became serious cardio. That said, pregnancy is like a relaxing massage compared to once the baby is actually here. Babies do not care about your schedule or your hobbies or really anything at all. They’re kind of jerks. So my advice is to try and get everything you can done in advance because once that kid is here, everything takes four times as long as it should. (And go ahead and double that again if you have a Stage 5 Clinger like Atti.) Also, when your due date has come and gone, the best way to induce labor is by starting a project or a book that you really want to finish before baby is born. Truth.
2. If you can breastfeed, stick with it. I’m not trying to mommy-shame anyone about how they feed their kids, this is from a strictly financial position. If you can breastfeed, do it, because you will save A TON of money. Like, a small fortune. Kids are expensive enough as is, this is a great way to cut some costs! Unfortunately, even for those of us who can physically make milk and aren’t struggling with low-production or anything, breastfeeding is hard. This was one of the things I didn’t expect would be so hard. I thought it would come naturally, but it didn’t. I had two weeks of cracked, sore nipples and painful breasts that often left me in tears when it was time for Atti to eat (every 2-3 hours). It was rough. However, after two meetings with a lactation consultant, I was able to make some positive changes and within a few days, it was smooth sailing. I won’t lie, there were times when I considered quitting and formula feeding, but I’m so glad I didn’t. Because formula would’ve had to come out of Atti’s college fund.
3. Realize this is the last time in your life you will be the center of attention. If you like being in the spotlight, pregnancy is great. Everyone wants to talk about how you’re feeling and what your plans are. Strangers ask you (often incredibly intimate) questions. People tell you you’re glowing. It’s great. And then you have the baby and people are thrilled for you and want to spend time with you, but it’s no longer really about you. At all. And I presume it never will be again. That’s a rough transition to make. I don’t know how to soften that blow, but maybe expecting it and anticipating the shift will ease the pain.
4. Give your body time to heal. After childbirth, your body is going to be a mess. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true. Your stomach will be, as Anne Lamott says, “a waterbed covered in flannel.” When you lie on your side, it will lie “politely beside [you], like a puppy.” You’ll feel flabby and weird. Your hair will start falling out. You’ll probably have stretch marks. It’s a lot to deal with. But here’s the good news: you built a human with that body! Cut yourself some slack if you’re a little softer in the middle than you were before. Exercising and eating healthy to return to a healthy weight is great and all, but remember two things: It took you 9 months to gain this weight, give yourself (at least) 9 months to lose the weight, and don’t ever, EVER feel less beautiful because you have stretch marks, or an effed up belly button. You made a human. A real honest-to-goodness human. The marks that journey made should leave you feeling proud. That’s a badge of honor, right there.
5. Read about pregnancy, child development, birth, all of it. I highly recommend reading about all the things you’re going through. Partly because it’s awesome, but partly because when you know better, you do better. If you want a natural birth, read about it first! Get prepped! Want to make your own baby food? Google it! Wondering what toys are best for growing kids? Pick up a Parents magazine at your OBGYN! There is so much data out there, it’s overwhelming, but it never hurts to jump in and read!