What Surprised Me About Pregnancy

Having never been pregnant before, pretty much everything about the past nine-ish months has been a surprise. The day I found out I was pregnant (the day after Valentine’s Day — I wondered why my hangover was so bad even though I swear I hadn’t had that much to drink…), I started a Word document on my computer and wrote about how I was feeling as soon as I saw the positive test. I wanted to remember that crazy rush of feelings. Now, as it’s just about time to meet this baby on the outside, that document has grown to 35 pages. What started with “So it turns out I’m pregnant” is now “I can’t stop peeing, and all I want to do is bake muffins.”

Throughout those 35 pages, I kept a list of things that most surprised me along the way. If you’ve had kids, some of these things may be super obvious in hindsight. Some might even be obvious if you don’t have kids. But I honestly hadn’t thought a lot about actually being pregnant until I was pregnant, so here goes.

Pregnancy Surprises
I am SO GLAD we took maternity photos. I love how they came out, and am super happy we have these.

You start counting your pregnancy from the date of your last period.

Not the date of conception. I had no idea. So when I found out I was pregnant, I was “technically” four weeks along, but had only, in my mind, actually been carrying a little poppy seed for two weeks. Science.

Not all baby bumps are immediately cute and round.

Mine was weird for a while, and for a long time I just felt sort of pudgy. I swore I was “showing” no fewer than 60 times between the day I got the positive test and roughly week 30. But for a long time, I wasn’t showing. I was just bloated or softening. And then, once I did get a little bump, it wasn’t the cute basketball kind I imagined — instead, it was sort of pointy and sometimes lumpy. For a while, my belly button “pouch” was huge and so visible through my clothes. Now, at 38 weeks, my belly is rounder and more sports-ball-shaped, but it took a while to have what I considered to be a common or stereotypical bump.

Pregnancy Surprises
9 weeks, AKA the first time I texted a photo to Brian and said, “I’m starting to show!”

It took a really long time to show.

Even though I convinced myself I had a bump at six weeks, I didn’t start to look obviously pregnant until well into the second trimester. Everyone is different, of course, but that was the case for me.

There are so many terms out there, and everyone else who is pregnant or has already had a baby seems to know all of them. (And I did not.)

Pregnancy language felt really foreign to me for a long time. A lot of it still does. But almost immediately, the “What to Expect” and BabyCenter message boards and real-life people were talking about amnios and placenta previa and CVS tests and SI pain. It felt like everyone around me was throwing these terms around like an expert, and I was so lost. I must have Googled “round ligament pain” 900 times, and even then I still didn’t really understand what it was or why it had such a dumb name. I had to constantly remind myself that I’m not dumb, I have just never been pregnant before, so amnios and abbreviations like “LO” and “SO” and “DH” never really came up in conversation. (For reference: “little one,” “significant other,” and “dear husband,” the last of which sort of makes me want to gag, but OK.)

My biggest takeaway here was to ask lots of questions, which is pretty much my outlook on life in general. I remember Brian bringing up cord blood banking early on and I had no clue what those words together meant. I Googled and read about it and educated myself, and still asked a million questions.

Pregnancy Surprises
This was a nice day!

If you lean forward when you pee, more pee comes out!

This is helpful, because sometimes it means one fewer middle-of-the-night pee trip! My nighttime bathroom habits weren’t terrible at all, and I actually remember peeing the most in the first trimester, which surprised me.

It’s not just sushi and booze that are off-limits.

Everyone has their own take on all the “rules,” of course. (My midwife was fine with me eating sushi “as long as it isn’t gas station sushi,” and said runny eggs were fine, again, as long as they were constantly refrigerated and from a solid source. I never had sushi, but I did eventually eat runny eggs. So obviously default to your doctor on this one — I’m not here to give advice!)

But because this pregnancy was a bit of a surprise, I hadn’t spent hours Googling all the rules and reading all the books. I learned as I went, and I had no idea that certain skincare products were off-limits. I’d always heard the common “rules” — raw fish, some cheeses based on pasteurization, etc. — but I didn’t realize that some of the skincare products I’d been using were super off-limits.

At my first (not great) OB/GYN appointment, the doctor very quickly rushed through a few basic things (“no raw fish,” she told me, “and drink a glass of milk every day,” which…no), but didn’t break down anything else. She never asked what products I was using on my skin (I have wicked hormonal acne) and basically just hustled me out of her office to get to the next patient.

Plus, that first appointment was when I was already almost eight weeks along. Not a huge deal (hopefully?), but I learned to do my own research, always consider the source, and uh, switch doctors to someone who would give me time, attention, and expertise.

Pregnancy Surprises
Hanging out “in Ellie’s room…”

Most maternity wear is online only. 

This was very frustrating to me. I wanted to be able to try stuff on, but the majority of places I found and liked didn’t stock stuff in their actual locations. There’s a lot of cute maternity stuff out there these days, which is great, but there’s also a lot of off-the-shoulder and strapless stuff, which, LOL. The minute I got pregnant, my boobs alone gained roughly 30 pounds. Strapless wasn’t happening for me pre-pregnancy, and definitely wasn’t going to happen at 32 weeks. Power to all the women who can pull this off. My heavy boobs and I salute you.

Those message boards get wild.

Early on, I loved going on the message boards because everything was new and exciting and it was cool to find an online community of people with the same thoughts, concerns, and feelings. But they quickly got crazy.

There’s drama! There’s so much “Do you like this name?” but then if people don’t all say “OMG YES LUV IT,” the “OP” (that’s “original poster,” of course) goes batshit on everyone for being “rude” and “attacking her” and “mom shaming.” In one of the October 2018 Babies boards, everyone got scammed by some poster saying her husband left her and she was broke and pregnant, and another poster convinced her to set up an Amazon registry, and everyone bought her TONS of stuff and donated money to her, and turns out she scammed everyone. (I did not fall for it. It was really fishy right away, to be honest…) So yeah. Insanity.

My point: I eventually found the boards to be a fun source of entertainment, but in those first few weeks, I had to avoid them entirely. I was nervous about miscarrying, as I’m sure many women are during the first trimester, and on the message boards, it felt like everyone was miscarrying around the clock. It terrified me, and made me constantly question every little twinge I felt. (I must have texted poor Dr. Meggie five times asking about ectopic pregnancies.) Of course, it makes sense to post there during tough times — there’s a lot of camaraderie and support, and it’s actually very lovely (as opposed to the crazy baby-naming posts, which get heated). But I had to moderate my reading habits a bit to avoid being super paranoid.

All this to say: reader responsibility. See also: blogger pregnancy recaps. No two pregnancies are the same, of course, and very few people out there are actual experts.

Pregnancy Surprises
This was the first day Brian told me I looked pregnant!

Everything smelled different.

Like me. I smell different. This never came up in my conversations with other pregnant women or moms, but I’ll put it here. Just different. All of it. Everything.

I felt guilty a lot.

I have a hard time articulating this one. But I was constantly aware of the fact that, for Brian and me, getting pregnant was drama-free. I realize that’s not the case for so many people, including so many of my loved ones, and I’m so grateful for the experience we’ve had. So, so grateful. And as exciting as this experience has been for me, I wanted to make sure I was sensitive to people I know and ones I don’t know who are going through tough times trying to conceive, miscarrying, or whatever else may be going on. I felt like I wanted to constantly express how grateful I was because I know so many people who can’t say the same, and that breaks my heart. Like I said, I have a hard time articulating this one, but I guess my point here is just that I’m sending love to everyone, in good times and tough ones.

I loved when my friends touched my belly. 

I never had strangers touch my belly or anything weird like that. But whenever my girlfriends would touch my belly (and they always asked!), it made me feel so happy and loved. One of my favorite pregnancy memories was from my friend’s wedding in August. My friend Lucy really wanted to feel the baby kick, and she sat next to me with her hand on my belly for a good 10 minutes. Baby was super chill, but finally she gave a huge, swift kick and Lucy felt it and it was awesome.

Pregnancy Surprises
Oh just Kayla Itsines showing Baby Cristiano a whole lotta love.

I loved being pregnant.

Again, I’ve had a pretty easy go of it all. I mean, my Crohn’s has been flaring since 17 weeks, and that has sucked, but I’ve rolled with it better than I ever could have predicted. I’ve enjoyed watching my body change and grow, and I’m obsessed with the kicks and movements I get to feel every day.

Pregnancy chilled me out in a major way. All the little things that used to stress me out somehow stopped having that effect. I went entire weekends without making the bed! I relaxed! I napped!

Pregnancy Surprises
I am pretty sure I felt more confident and psyched in a bikini while pregnant than I ever did pre-pregnancy!

I’m not nervous about giving birth.

I guess I expected to eventually get really anxious about this, and there’s still time, but I’m not afraid of delivering this baby, however it happens. I really trust my team (midwife, doula, Brian), and I’m going to do whatever I can and need to do to get Baby Cristiano into this world safely.

Lots of people lately have been asking about my “birth plan” and if I want to go drug-free or whatever other term you choose (and don’t find offensive, because when it comes to pregnancy, a lot of people are offended by a lot of things).

My birth plan is to go to the hospital when the doula says it’s time, and to follow her guidance from there. If the pain is manageable, sure, I’ll go sans epidural. If I’m miserable and suffering, that seems silly, so bring on the pain management! If my team says the best way to get baby out is with vacuums, forceps (another thing I Googled!), or a c-section, cool, let’s have some fun!

I have three playlists ready to go: a chill one, a “fun and upbeat” one, and a “go time” one. My bag is mostly packed. And I trust my physical and mental toughness.

Pregnancy Surprises




22 Responses

  1. I was surprised by how quick labor went. My daughter was born 3 weeks early and I thought my labor pains were braxton hicks contractions. When they didn’t stop we went to the doctor’s office to get things checked and I was already dilated to 10. Thank goodness the hospital was just a few blocks away! I delivered within about 10 minutes of getting checked in. I enjoy your blog and your podcasts and I wish you the very best birthing experience you can even imagine.

  2. I’m still so excited for you! This is one lucky baby.
    – I was surprised by the intensity of the hormones during pregnancy, but especially after. I had my first baby in my mid-30s when I was pretty settled into Handling It mode, and those hormones…wow. I was unable to Handle It sometimes and found that really frustrating.
    – I kept being surprised by how much baby- and kid-related knowledge I’d gained by osmosis compared to how little my partner knew. This isn’t a slight to him–I was surrounded by women and kids growing up, and he wasn’t. He’d been pushing me to ask my doctor for some meds to deal with the nausea early on; one afternoon I woke up to a stricken “I’m sorry, that was stupid” conversation–he’d caught a documentary about thalidomide while I was sleeping. Me? I’d grown up knowing about thalidomide and miscarriages and infertility and…etc.
    – There’s helpful help and unhelpful help when there’s a newborn in the house. I was much better at recognizing and navigating this on the second round.
    Fingers crossed for an utterly boring and totally joyful birth!

  3. Oh those message boards were my favorite! In that last month when I was home from work I remember reading them and being so entertained by all of the drama. The one thing that surprised me was after my pregnancy actually. I like you LOVED being pregnant. Everything about it especially the baby kicks. I had read that some people get sad and really miss that feeling after the fact and I was certain that was going to be me, but I guess the adorable little newborn made me not even think twice about it.

  4. You have an absolutely awesome attitude towards labour and you’re going to rock it! Best of luck in the coming weeks as you get to experience SO MANY BIG THINGS!!

  5. Like you, I started a Word document when I found out I was pregnant and kept track of how I was feeling, what I was excited for, what I was doing, how much weight I gained, cravings, etc roughly every week. Now I’m 7 months PP (postpartum 😉 ) and I looked back on my last entry, which was when I was 37 w and I wrote “What no one tells you about being pregnant: As your belly grows, it gets harder to wipe.” lol!
    Also, your feet may grow – I went up a half size in sneakers.
    I delivered my son at 39W 4D, without any medications (as was my plan, but was completely open to plan changes if need be.. bc who can predict how you’re going to feel since you’ve never been through it?) I survived the long labor on ice chips, motivation from my DH (agree, gag!) and my midwife and reminders to “breathe”.
    I was never afraid of labor and delivery. I trusted my body. The night before I went into labor I fell asleep watching animals giving birth on YouTube – chimpanzees, cats, dogs… it was motivating to me to watch animals just do what they’re designed to do – they’re not scared, they’re just following their instincts. We are animals after all.
    Two things that no one tells you about labor and delivery – You may puke… a lot… like exorcism puking lol (I did) especially in transitional labor. And hemorrhoids will happen during delivery. That was the worst part. But they do go away!
    Good luck, you’re going to do awesome!

  6. Yes to your “birth plan” motto – I was exactly the same and wasn’t nervous about giving birth. The baby has to come out somehow, so there’s really no use being nervous about it. And everyone’s labor progresses differently with different pain levels and tolerance. For my own two cents, I waited on the epidural for both my babies, got to 8 cms each time and hung out there FOREVER shaking with pain. So I got the epidural. And there are pros and cons but honestly, it makes it so much easier to “enjoy” the delivery. You do you, and best wishes for a speedy, healthy, and (relatively) pain-manageable delivery!
    As for the things that are surprising – no one talks about the war zone that is your post-delivery body. (It does all get back to normal but just, wow).

  7. I was surprised at how swollen my legs, feet, and face got. My nose was huge! Luckily it’s gone back to its normal size. Oh and I turned my toilet seat blue. For after pregnancy, I was surprised that I was all the sudden 100% responsible for this little human. It’s a weird feeling getting home and thinking “what do I do now?” Ha. The answer is sleep by the way. I’m so excited for you! Can’t wait to “meet” baby!

  8. Most surprising thing about being pregnant: I felt so good until the end- when I was uncomfortable and had debilitating groin cramps- which I’d never heard of before! Less pregnancy related, but baby prep related: That you’re supposed to wash all of the baby’s clothes before they wear them. And not all baby soaps and detergents are actually baby friendly (even if they’re labeled as such). Unscented (free and clear) detergents and soaps are *actually* baby safe. Who knew?!

  9. Loved reading this post! And I love your outlook on how to actually give birth. I had the same plan with both of my babies! The first was medicated (which was great!) and ended in c-section. That was the best outcome for the situation. The second was unmedicated (not planned! Just got to hospital too late), and I ended up with a vbac. And it was also a great experience and outcome. Both experiences were awesome and wonderful, so I love hearing others going with the flow! I’m excited for you meet your baby so soon!
    -longtime reader

  10. The thing that surprised me the most was how, from pretty early on, I got full so fast! You always hear about how hungry pregnant women are and the whole “eating for two” thing. I’m not sure if it’s the way I carried, but I just couldn’t eat a lot. I only gained weight while pregnant at the very end, and only a few pounds at that (I am overweight to begin with, so this was not an issue at all and I was monitored).

    Hope it’s smooth sailing the rest of your pregnancy and I wish you a speedy delivery and health all around!

  11. I was surprised at how little information doctors give first-time moms. I had to come up with all of the questions, but like you and the face treatments I sometimes didn’t even know to ask the questions. I think part of that is to not make you nervous, but then you’re forced to google it…and that makes you nervous!

    I was also surprised at how quickly my boobs tripled in size (10 weeks) and how that impacted my workouts (ie no more running). I thought the belly would be the limiting factor, but it was definitely the sentive boobs. Thank goodness for swimming! At 38 weeks pool workouts were heavenly!

    A huge surprise for me that I know isn’t everyone’s reality was how quickly my body recovered. It was kind of a double-edged sword because I didn’t always give myself the rest I probably needed in the first few weeks because my body felt normal. So, even if you feel great remember that you just did labor and that is hard work for you physically and mentally and demands rest!

  12. I’m so excited for you! I’m currently 16.5 weeks pregnant and I so feel you on the guilt. we also got pregnant right when we started trying and I know it’s not that easy for everyone. I try to be cognizant of that fact. I waa also terrified of miscarriages (still kinda am).

    What has surprised me most? TONS. I didn’t realize how much discharge you’d have, or that heartburn could start immediately. I also had awful morning sickness that has made pregnancy hard but its finally easing up. It’s weird and awesome all rolled into one! When did you first feel the baby move? I’m still anxiously waiting.

  13. Love this and I hear you on the feeling guilty aspect, I completely relate. 🙁

    Overall I have loved your recaps and it’s nice to see a positive perspective – it’s one I ca relate to!

    What has surprised me most:
    1. That I LOVED being pregnant. Both times! Every one around me has always said negative things and hated the changes in their body but I truly loved it. Sure I could have done without the back ache and crotch lightening (no fun) but overall it was such a magical experience for me.

    2. That each pregnancy could be SO different. Maybe it was the differing season, maybe it was the different genders (had a girl then a boy) or age or something but my pregnancies were vastly different even at the very end. My daughter came 23 days early at 7lbs and my son came only 7 days early at 9lbs 14oz!

    3. Pregnancy brain is so very real. I truly believed I wasn’t victim to it until I found myself fighting for home fries I didn’t get after the place told me twice they were out. (Also, clearly, pregnancy rage. Ha.)

  14. I’m childfree after infertility, and I want to thank you so much for noting that getting pregnant, staying pregnant and having a live, healthy child at the end of 9 months does not happen easily (or at all) for everyone. Glad you’re not taking your pregnancy for granted, and being sensitive to people who are struggling. It means a lot.

  15. I’ve really enjoyed following your pregnancy (and running) adventures here! The thing that surprised me most was how calm I was DURING labor and how RIDICULOUSLY EMOTIONAL I was AFTER labor! I thought for sure I’d be a screaming, cussing psycho while giving birth, but nope. Calm as a cucumber. Once baby was home though, woah. That’s when the crying hot mess showed up. Be prepared for the hormonal let down afterwards. It really caught me off guard. I can’t wait to see pics of your precious little girl!!

    1. Totally agree with this. The emotions after birth can be crazy. I ended up with PPD. If you’re feeling down for longer than 2 weeks, or you are so lost in despair and can’t see any hope for the future talk to your doctor/midwife! The same goes for anxiety. It’s normal to be a bit anxious, but if you aren’t able to sleep or care for yourself due to anxiety, you need to talk to a doctor/midwife.

  16. I’ve so enjoyed following your journey! Everything you said here is accurate and was eye-opening. Pregnancy brain/ baby brain hit me hard- and it gets worse with each baby (I had 3 kids in 3.5 years). I remember standing in front of my mailbox holding my car key fob and pressing the “unlock” button over and over again. I was getting really frustrated that the key fob wasn’t opening my mailbox for me. Another time I forgot that I already fulfilled our need for a gallon of milk, and 3 days in a row I stopped at the store on my way home from work and bought a gallon of milk.

  17. How easy labor ended up being! I feel lucky since everyone gives you these awful horror stories so you are definitely freaked out. I would do labor 40 times over! It was fun and exciting and short and there is nothing better than when the baby comes out and you see them for the first time and they put them on your chest. Didn’t even think I would be emotional during that… I was a mess! It was so beautiful. Congrats and enjoy!!

  18. My baby is almost 8 months old and I am still shocked that pretty much the only places you can try on maternity clothes IRL are Motherhood Maternity and Target. Very uncool! What surprised me most is what happens post-baby: I had it in my head that I’d push him out and soon everything would be the same as pre-pregnancy except with a baby. I didn’t really grasp the time/energy commitment of breastfeeding or physically recovering from giving birth until I was living it.

  19. Pregnancy brain – you don’t realize how foggy you have been all of pregnancy until that baby comes out. It’s crazy – the minute my baby was born I felt clear-minded and more like myself.

    Also, post baby night sweats. Sleep on a towel to help 🙂

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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