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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
YOUR TURN: IF YOU’VE DONE THIS WHOLE THING, WHAT SURPRISED *YOU* MOST ABOUT BEING PREGNANT?