As I write this article, I’m just about 30 weeks pregnant, in the midst of my third trimester, with my first child on the way — a girl. The last six months have been a lot, too. After finding out the news of a baby in our small one-bedroom apartment in Boston, we’ve bought a house, moved into said house, I’ve watched my stomach grow into the bump that (finally) now exists and eagerly (and anxiously) awaited the arrival of our daughter.
And while I always knew that someday I wanted to be a mom, pregnancy has been surprising (and I’ve been a health reporter for the better part of a decade). In fact, I’ve never felt as in the dark as I have wondering why I got heartburn after drinking water, if I’d ever be able to go on a run again, or how on Earth moms-to-be did this pregnancy thing day after day, year after year.
It’s been a learning curve. So what are my biggest takeaways? Here, what I wish someone had told me* last October right before I found out I was pregnant.
*But first, a disclaimer: Of course, this is just my experience. Having a trusted OB-GYN you can turn to for solutions that work for you is super important — and everyone is different. No set “prescription” is right for every woman.
That morning sickness is real, vitamin B6 is a lifesaver, and first trimester symptoms do fade
No matter your stage in the pregnancy process, you’ve likely heard the term ‘morning sickness’, which refers to the fatigue and nausea many pregnant women feel in their first trimester. I had too but I had never really given much thought to it until about week six of my pregnancy when overwhelming fatigue and that feel-like-I’m-going-to-throw-up feeling hit me seemingly out of nowhere on a business trip.
And it wasn’t just in the morning: It was all day, all night and right when I woke up — and it was enough to make you want to crawl into bed and do nothing (especially difficult when trying to hold down a full-time job).
To be honest, it was a little alarming. (Not being able to keep down food or drink can be freaky no matter what you’re suffering from.) But it’s also normal: Some 75 percent of mamas-to-be suffer from it.
While every body is different, my doctor suggested supplementing with vitamin B6 — something I did up until a few weeks into my second trimester. It worked wonders, lessening my symptoms and allowing me to get through the day. I practically lived with a bottle by my side.
My mom told me that one day I’d wake up and just feel better. In the thick of that first trimester haze, it was hard to believe her but one day I did — and you will, too. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel; I promise.
That even if your baby is planned, emotions can be unplanned
Almost half of pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, which means that the news of a pregnancy can not only be surprising but emotional. But that’s not just true of unintended conception.
My husband and I planned to have our daughter. I wanted to be a mom. I went off the pill. I tracked my cycle. We knew what we were doing. But on a Tuesday in October when I got a positive pregnancy test after just one month of trying, I will admit: Happiness and excitement were not the first emotions I felt. In fact, I cried. They weren’t happy tears.
Now, inching up on about 30 weeks, I am excited about the arrival of our baby. But that doesn’t mean that pregnancy has been filled with only joy. I’ve found pregnancy to be a lot of things: confusing, exhausting, surprising, embarrassing (at times), terrible (at times), fascinating and exciting. And in talking with other women? I’ve learned that I’m not alone in harboring these feelings. It took me a few weeks to come to terms with that positive test result, too. And I think that’s okay.
That Instagram (and society) can paint an unrealistic image of pregnancy
Some women love being pregnant, yes. And sometimes, it’s easy to look the glowing part with a cute bump, a killer dress, exuding happiness. But I wish someone told me to be careful with social media — to not believe every single loving, positive post out there, to know that when people congratulate you and ask you if you’re excited, it’s okay to not share their sentiments 100 percent of the time or even right away.
Since getting pregnant, I’ve interviewed many health professionals and doctors who specialize in the perinatal time period and one message that finds itself weaved into many of my conversations with them is that pregnancy is one of the biggest changes that a woman’s body will ever undergo both mentally and physically. Your body is drastically altered. Your cocktail of hormones gets all mixed up. It’s part of the process. And this all takes time to come to terms with.
That people don’t talk enough about some of the weird and super unpleasant symptoms
Some pregnancy symptoms (nausea) I had been warned about. Others? They were a big surprise to me.
One biggie: heartburn and reflux. At the beginning of my second trimester, it seemed that *everything* (even a glass of water) was giving me heartburn. And big meals? They were especially to blame. One night, I even woke up in the middle of the night choking from reflux — it was alarming (and grossed me out) but my doctor assured me it was normal; a result, perhaps, of the baby taking up more space. My doctor suggested two things that helped: Zantac and eating a super small dinner a lot earlier in the night.
The other thing I wasn’t prepared for? Boobs that seemingly grow two sizes overnight and hurt. My first trimester, even the mere thought of someone brushing up against me was enough to make me shudder and, I hate to say it, but there wasn’t *much* I did here to ease the soreness. A few things I would suggest? Invest in a few really comfortable (bigger) bras. They’re an investment, but it’s worth it for the comfort. If you’re a runner, consider Reebok’s Pure Move. It’s been my go-to.
That while baby-free friends mean well, talking to other moms can do wonders, too
A few weeks ago, I went over to my cousin’s house to pick up some baby clothes she was giving me (she has three little girls of her own). When I walked in, she asked me if I was going to breastfeed. She told me she had pads and other items I might need if I wanted them. Unexpectedly, I started bawling. I guess I was just overwhelmed.
As the first one in my friend group to have a baby, I don’t have many people in my life who have, well, been there. And, for the most part, that’s okay. (You don’t have to have experienced something to be a support for someone.) My baby-free friends have been positive, supportive, excited and enthusiastic. They’ve listened to me detail weird symptoms, long nights and confusing emotions at length. They’ve bought my baby gifts and offered to help once she arrives. But that day at my cousin’s was probably the first time I had actually talked about some of the mom-related things that were on my mind (Was I going to breastfeed? What was breastfeeding even like? What was I going to do about childcare?). She was a book of answers. She’d been there. She got it. I left feeling — dare I say? — calm.
My advice: Reach out to the women in your life who have kids. It helps.
That if you’re going to buy one maternity item, it should be a great pair of jeans
Now in my third trimester, I’ve been lucky that I haven’t had to shell out a lot for maternity wear (yet?). At almost six feet tall, I’m also not showing as much as some smaller women might (and I work from home, so I really *can* live in leggings — Lululemon’s Align Pants have been my fave).
But the first item of clothes to go out the window for me was my jeans. And when you want to go grab a quick dinner or have a night out, I think a great pair of jeans is a must. Maternity jeans are surprisingly cute, too — and with a long enough top, you can’t even tell they’re different. I ended up buying a few affordable pairs (in black, white, and denim colors) on ASOS, which has a good selection of maternity wear. I was looking for pairs that, more or less, looked like the jeans I wore on a regular basis and was able to find them fairly easily. I’ve also heard good things about Khloe Kardashian’s line Good American.
Otherwise, my advice? Try to live in dresses, big sweaters, and athleisure as much as you can (comfort is key, right?).
That your body is capable of seriously cool things
If you’re a control freak like me, there’s no way to not think that your body growing a human and all of its parts — while you seemingly do absolutely nothing to aid in that development — is cool. There are a lot of things you have control over in life (and in pregnancy). You can eat well and exercise and be mindful and plan for the baby’s arrival. But your body grows the baby (even while you’re sleeping!), and that is pretty remarkable.
That if you’re really down, there are specialists who can help
Postpartum depression (PPD) isn’t just a post-baby thing. Perinatal mood disorders — that crop up before, during, and after a baby — are common (about one in five women experience them). And there are therapists who specialize in this tumultuous time of change. Postpartum Support International (PSI) can be a good resource for answers (and qualified professionals in your area).
This post is sponsored by Nature Made Prenatals.