Friday, May 11, 2012

Pregnancy advice, not like most of you care

So I've been thinking lately about pregnancy and how it's affected my life, the ways I was ready for it, and the ways I really REALLY wasn't.  It's taught me a lot, and while this post may have a limited demographic for an audience I figured I'd share anyway.

Things to do to prepare for pregnancy:
It may seem like the weirdest bit of advice I can give you, but the thing that has helped me the most during this pregnancy is that I already had a body pillow and was used to sleeping on my side.  Oh, I know, all the beauty magazines say to sleep on your back because this prevents wrinkles.  But this goes COMPLETELY out the window in your second trimester, and it's best to be used to sleeping this way ahead of time instead of trying to teach yourself a new way to sleep after you're already feeling like an ungainly hippopotamus.  The more your stomach's in the way, the more difficult it is to be comfortable, and you're going to be TIRED during your pregnancy, so you don't want to waste time trying to find ways to get comfortable.

Actually I had an aunt give me a body pillow for my high school graduation, and I pretty much can't sleep without it at all anymore, even when I'm not pregnant, especially if I'm away from my husband.  If I'm traveling, I do everything I can to fit it into my luggage.  All the pregnancy books say sleeping on your side is better for all sorts of reasons.  Apparently it helps your kidneys to work more efficiently, which is more important when they're working for two.  One book said sleeping on your left side is better than right, but didn't say why.  If I had to guess I would think it's because your stomach is on the left, so this helps to prevent heartburn and such.  I personally tend to alternate sides through the night (heck I have to get up to use the restroom 2-3 times now, might as well switch sides each time).  Hopefully that'll be enough to at least make sure that my wrinkles develop somewhat evenly on both sides.

I haven't gotten to the labor and delivery part yet, though I'll admit the word episiotomy (and the reason some folks say you need one) scares me bat-shit crazy, but I've been told by several practitioners that walking and being in the best possible shape is the best thing you can do to prepare those muscles for what they need to do.  So my second best bit of advice is, get used to a regular exercise regimen ahead of time.  Oh, I'm not saying you have to be a world class swimmer, or climb Mount Everest, but get into the regular habit of doing something physical before you get pregnant.  You're going to be tired during your pregnancy.  You'll sleep a LOT (probably more than you ever dreamed possible) so if you wait until after I promise you'll never get started.  In fact, you'll probably cut back significantly over the course of your pregnancy.  My husband and I worked out regularly with the wii before I was pregnant.  Ok,ok, he was a lot more regular than I was, but I would still join him.  And we took walks around the neighborhood (about a 2 mile trek) pretty often as well.  There's one big hill in our neighborhood that I haven't done since I found out I was pregnant (and I walk a lot slower now than I used to even on the non-hills), like I said you'll cut back, not just because you're tired but as you progress you'll feel less steady on your feet and less comfortable on uneven ground.  But if we weren't in the habit of doing something physical before we would NEVER get around to it now.

I'm sure there's a lot more I should have done to prepare.  If you want to offer me advice on what's helped you the most (or what I should be doing in my third trimester) I'll be glad to take it (with a grain of salt of course) and let you know how it works for me.  If not in this pregnancy, maybe in the next.

Things Pregnancy has taught me:
Just because I was already doing a few things right doesn't mean I had it all together, AT ALL!  This pregnancy has taught me a lot that I think I'll take forward into non-pregnant life.  Not the least is...

How to Eat.
When you have a strange alien being living in your mid-section for any period of time, this does not go unnoticed by your other internal organs.  Your stomach's probably the first to take note.  I happened to have been offered a free consultation with a nutritionist shortly before I found out I was pregnant, so by the time my appointment rolled around I had a whole slew of questions to ask, and was in a good mindset to take her advice to heart!

If you're in the habit of skipping breakfast, skimping on lunch, and eating most of your food at dinner that's gonna have to stop with a quickness!  One thing I found was that if I let my stomach get to empty, I got nauseous.  If I let it get to full, I got nauseous.  If I ate anything to rich (I couldn't eat mac and cheese for the first trimester), I got nauseous!  If I didn't prep my stomach in the morning, I wouldn't get to keep my breakfast!  So I learned to snack on very little bits of food throughout the day.  What will work for you will probably be different from what worked for me, but I went through a LOT of ginger ale before figuring out that if I woke up and immediately ate a little bit of fruit, before showering or dressing or anything, then my stomach would be in much better shape by the time I got around to real breakfast.  Then I continued to eat tiny amounts at really close intervals throughout the day, a few crackers here, some almonds and dried fruit there.  If I brought my lunch I often ate half of it, and then saved the other half for a mid-afternoon snack.  Then I'd come home and have a snack before I even started fixing dinner.  So even thought the nutritionist said to aim for 6 small meals a day, it was often more like 7-8.

This became less necessity after the morning sickness stage (I think I'm down to 4-5 meals a day) but it still doesn't do well to let yourself get to hungry, or to full for that matter.  While I no longer have to completely avoid all-you-can-eat buffets, I still can't take advantage of them like I once could.  Grazing all day helps keep your whole digestive tract moving in the right direction, so having nine months to train myself how to eat will (I think) work well for me moving forward, especially as I try to lose the baby weight.

Learn how NOT to worry.
There's actually a stage in pregnancy, early on, that is characterized by a fear that every little twinge is a sign that something is going wrong.  Coming on the heels of my first failed pregnancy I spent a LOT of sleepless nights wondering if every little twinge was a sign that I was losing this one as well.  After 2 solid weeks of not sleeping through the night a single night, not only was I exhausted but I was a nervous wreck from worrying all the time.  I finally had to accept that even if the sky was falling, there was nothing I could do about.  It was less a matter of fatalism, and more a matter of self preservation.  I mean, pregnancy makes you tired enough on its own!  3-5 hours of being awake and worrying in the middle of the night does not help things at all!

Lastly, Everyone has an opinion, but take it with a grain of salt!
As soon as you start showing people will start coming out of the woodwork to tell you about the best things that you can do for your baby.  You'll get advice on the best morning sickness remedies, the best places to shop for maternity clothes, the best way to coordinate your nursery, and where to get the best deals on diapers.  Learn to smile and nod, because for every bit of good information you get, there will be at least a dozen piles of complete and utter nonsense!  Every pregnancy is different, and you have to do what works best for you!  I tried several "morning sickness remedies" that made me more nauseous than when I started.  The things that worked the best were often the simplest (plain ginger, lemon drops, and fruit) but these may not be the things that work for you.  I've had at least one friend who NOTHING worked for, and she just had to resign herself to three + months of misery with each of her pregnancies.  Compared to her, I was just grateful to have kept almost everything that wasn't fish down!

There is also LOTS of baby stuff out there.  YOU DO NOT NEED ALL THE STUFF!  I had a lady come up to me in the store the other day and tell me about this amazing high chair that she used for her baby from the time he could hold his head up until he was four years old.  I went home and looked it up, and it was over $300.  IKEA has a perfectly good high chair for $19.99, and why do you need to have a baby at the table when he/she can't even sit up yet?  If I want to start training her to sit at the table I'll hold her, or pull the swing up to the table, or put her in the car seat carrier on the table or something.  I DON'T NEED A FREAKIN $300 high chair!  I found out recently that my college roommate who had twin boys NEVER HAD A HIGH CHAIR and her kids are just fine.  They just never really decided they needed one, and her boys are wonderfully well behaved and didn't starve.  I have adopted a new mantra.  If Abraham Lincoln didn't have it when he was a baby, then I probably don't need it either, because he turned out just fine!  Oh, there are exceptions to that.  We thoroughly researched car seats, and got one that was a good balance of safety and usability.  Of course cars weren't invented when Abraham Lincoln was a child, and neither were dishwashers.  But I get all these lists of things that you NEED to have a baby, and I'm telling you my baby doesn't need three types of blankets and a white noise machine.  I swear these lists were written by people in marketing, just to get you to buy more stuff.

For heaven's sake, my baby's due in July, if I get to many snuggley sleep warming outfits for her she'll get heat stroke!  That's not to say that I'm advocating having a bunch of naked babies running around, but keep your focus on the basic necessities: something to eat, a place to sleep, and maybe something to keep warm (if you're not due in July) and feel free to tell everything else (politely) to stuff it!  Oh, and diapers.  I've been told we'll go through an inordinate number of diapers!

Keep in mind, my baby's not born yet.  This is just the philosophy that's helped me not to wig out up to this point.  I'm not there yet, and I'm sure there's a lot that I haven't taken into account, so if you can think of anything else I should be doing, feel free to offer advice.  I'll be glad to take it, with a grain (or 1000) of salt, of course.