I have been lucky my entire pregnancy to be friends with other pregnant women. There are plenty of good stories and advice you can hear from other moms, but when someone is actually going through things alongside you, the memories are fresh. In my case, my friends were both a couple of months ahead of me and I got to watch them deal with things right before I did. It helps so much to have girlfriends you can talk to about what’s going on right now. One thing we all agree on is that there were so many things we never knew before we got pregnant:
1. Never take your health for granted. When you get pregnant, there are things you’ll have to give up to be healthy and put your baby first, like wine-tasting and gymnastics, but you have no idea how many things you will begin to take on. First there’s the vitamins and doctor’s appointments, then the diet changes and eventually the day you become dependent on comfortable shoes. I never thought I’d see my best friend in a pair of Crocs, but at 8 months pregnant, it happened. I also never realized what it’s like to be sick day after day. After morning sickness, sleeplessness, and arthritis in my hip, I have a whole new respect and empathy for people managing severe or chronic illness. At least my symptoms are temporary and mild. I now know what it feels like to have to lay down all the time, to need to catch my breath after I eat a cinnabon, and to be scared of peeing my pants.
2. Focus on all the ways you’re amazing right now, instead of your “flaws.” I have discovered due to my skin stretching out, much to my surprise, that I have a mole inside my belly button. Processing this has taken some patience and self-love. How did I not know that all these years? I’ve also realized how skinny and pretty I used to be, how strong I was, and what a fast walker I could be. How did I miss all that before? I was a lot more focused on what needed improvement. I wasn’t being fair and I wish we would all just stop doing that. There’s just no excuse for being mean to yourself over the way you look. You have no idea how beautiful you are right now, and there’s no way to see yourself accurately from every angle. You might have a hidden mole in your belly button you never knew about. You might have the hips of an angel. You might have a double chin just waiting to emerge only when being photographed and if you get pregnant you will have a whole host of new surprises headed your way. Learn to love yourself now.
3. Having a child brings meaning to your life that you cannot know without it. I feel like Ebenezer Scrooge after the three ghosts visit him. I suddenly care about everything. I listen more. I watch the news. I’ve never thought more about right and wrong, about what my values are, or about what matters to me, because for the first time I’m realizing how much what I do and say, and what’s happening in the world, is going to affect another person, and because I already love that person more than I’ve ever loved anything, I want to protect her and help her through it, oh and simultaneously the rest of the world and all the people in it. Stop driving carelessly! Leave a good tip for your waiter! Don’t call names! We’re all somebody’s baby. I feel like bringing Tiny Tim a Christmas goose.
4. Pregnancy is a group project. You know that name you’ve been dreaming of naming your child your entire life? Let’s say it’s “Heathcliff” just as an example. As it turns out, the father of your baby was bullied by a kid named Heathcliff and his old boss named her kid that, and he hates his old boss and he hates Heathcliff. Turns out, even though you are the one housing this future person inside your uterus for 9 months, not every decision is yours! This is both bad and good. Take it from me. The bad thing about group projects is that you might not get to be in charge of everything, and I hate that because I’m the bossy one. Now other people get a say, like your doctor, your family, and the baby’s father, but it can also be a relief. You don’t have to do all the work, buy all the supplies, or make all the calls, and believe me you’ll have enough on your plate without trying to do everything yourself. You are going to be a mom, which means you have a whole other, let’s say “course load,” going on in your life.
5. Being vulnerable brings about (good) surprises. When you’re pregnant, you wear a lot of stuff on your sleeve, or the front of your shirt, because you dribbled and it landed there. You become kind of transparent, not just because of the raw emotional nerve created by your pregnancy hormones, but also because people can see with their own eyes this big belly hanging off the front of you with mustard on it. Some people ask weird questions, some people speak without thinking, but in my experience, people tend to show a lot more of their hearts too. Being vulnerable brings out empathy and kindness in others. They want to connect with you and instinctively give back the kind of feelings they sense coming off of you. They open doors and help you reach the top shelf and send you gifts. They take that casserole dish you’re carrying and ask you how you’re feeling, and they mean it. The grumpy older lady at your work suddenly listens patiently and you find out that her pregnancy was a lot like yours! It’s pretty damn heartwarming.
6. Not everything about being pregnant is horrible. I’m the first to admit that while I love that I get to be a mom, I kind of hate being pregnant most of the time. At my aunt’s wedding in front of a group of people who were kind of gushing over my pregnancy, my cousin did me a favor, put his arm around me and quietly asked, “Is it fun being pregnant?” to which I responded, “NO!” and we laughed. I don’t like feeling sidelined or inconvenienced. I hate vomiting. I miss my favorite clothes. I can’t sleep through the night and I cannot believe how much I have to pee, BUT there are some good things too. Somebody finally said I was glowing the other day! Another cool thing is not having to help anybody move. More and more though, it’s just all the dreaming about my baby… all the warm gooey tender feelings I have for her, how excited I am for her arrival. This kid is getting such a royal welcome into life. I have to admit, it’s pretty great.
7. There are some things nobody can explain; you just have to experience them for yourself. There are a lot of intimate and gross pregnancy symptoms I had just never even heard of before I got pregnant. Google any weird symptom and the word pregnancy and you’re sure to get hundreds of results telling you it’s normal. It’s just something you never thought to ask about before and the reason nobody tells you, is because it’s honestly just not socially acceptable or pleasant to talk about excessive crotch sweat, as I learned the hard way. You just have to find out on your own. Also, some of it is just indescribable. I was trying to describe what it felt like when my daughter kicks me the other day, and words just failed me. Nothing compares. I had to ask my mother to pick up a waterproof mattress pad today, because I suddenly became afraid that I’d pee the bed (or my water would break) and the memory foam would be destroyed. That’s just the kind of thing that should stay secret. Luckily for you, I write blogs about my feelings on the Internet for a living, so I can get away with it.