The prego mags cover the most common side effects of pregnancy (blah blah, those super cute outfits (!), water retention, fatigue, etc.) and labor but what about all the other stuff? Looking back, here are some things my friends and I wish we had known:
1. Pregnancy is stressful.
Before I got pregnant, I imagined that pregnancy was going to be a happy, carefree time. But the feelings of excitement were quickly (think car skidding out of control) overshadowed by anxiety. Being pregnant made me feel like I had suddenly walked onstage. I worried about the health of my baby, whether or not my husband and I could support our new life, and whether or not we would make good parents. Then a coworker gave me some good advice. She told me that I was fretting away what should be a very beautiful experience and asked me if I wanted to look back and remember my pregnancy as an exciting time or an anxious time. From that point on I made a concerted effort to vehemently express my anger at strangers who rubbed my belly and let my husband rub my shoulders until his hand cramped. And he whimpered in pain.
2. It’s okay if you don’t love being pregnant.
Sometimes pregnancy makes you puke, cry, and scream all at the same time. Maybe it lowers your immunity so you’re sick all the time. Maybe you never get that cute pregnancy glow, instead you really just look like you’ve been eating steak and cheese sandwiches and washing them down with a six pack of beer every night. That’s okay. Your baby doesn’t care.
3. Morning sickness isn’t only in the morning.
Morning sickness can happen any time of day and it doesn’t always mean you vomit. Some of my friends threw up daily, for seven months. Others never even experienced nausea.
4. You should know what tests you are supposed to have.
Don’t assume your doctor’s office knows all. If you think you’re supposed to be tested for something at a particular time, call the office and ask.
5. Birth plans are a crock of shit.
Someone will probably say that no, she followed her birth plan down to the classical music she had playing as the baby was expelled from her non-anesthetized vagina into a pool of lukewarm, lilac-scented water. Fine. Congratulations. Personally I think the only reason birth plans exist is to give women a false sense of control over the labor process. I asked my doctor if I needed a birth plan because all the pregnancy mags said I did. She laughed.
6. Your husband may deny you.
You may actually get turned down by your husband, the same person who got you in this situation, for sex in the last couple months. I guess if I had to chose between mounting a tired, cranky, bloated pregnant woman from behind for a few minutes of satisfaction I’d probably prefer reruns of Star Trek, too.
7. The mucous plug is not a jellyfish.
Although it looks like one, it will not wriggle across your bathroom floor when it comes out (hopefully). It’s also not plug-shaped. It’s a gross blob that keeps on giving, sometimes for days.
8. Pack for the hospital like you’re going to the hospital.
Leave your CDs, DVDs, books, computer, and stuffed animals at home. You are not going to a resort. You are going to a hospital to have a baby. What do you need? A bathrobe, a better pillow than the flat pad of foam they’ll provide, towels, toiletries, comfortable clothes like sweats, and slippers. Comfort is the key word. Snacks are good too (see 10).
9. The old wives tales for bringing on labor don’t work.
Every woman has a grandmother or friend who has recommended unconventional methods for bringing on labor. Some of the more common suggestions are castor oil (which tastes disgusting and might cause horrendous diarrhea), herbs like raspberry leaf tea, nipple stimulation (which stimulates the release of Oxytocin, a hormone that causes contractions), and intercourse. Not so common recommendations include eating pineapple, walking with one foot on the curb, jumping off the toilet, and eating spicy food. I guess if you’ve already started your maternity leave and are bored you could try the last few for shits and giggles.
10. If you’re starting labor, you should eat before going to the hospital.
I don’t just mean eat. I mean eat like a horse. You can’t eat during labor and that might just end up being 24+ hours. Which means that when you’re lying there with your shiny new baby beside you, you will be craving a Big Mac instead of listening to the fascinating tips from the lactation expert.
11. You must throw your pride out the window.
In addition to being gawked at, rubbed without permission, and commented on while pregnant, labor brings about its own set of intrusions. By the end of my labor, I had been manhandled by so many people I swore at one point the janitor had taken a turn. At that point I was in so much pain I didn’t care, but the groping of my nether regions was nothing compared to the fondling the girls experienced when it was time to try breastfeeding. The nurses and lactation experts are resources, to be sure, but they think nothing of sticking your kid in your arms, whipping out your boob and shoving your nipple in the kid’s mouth. If you’re modest, be prepared to lose it. Fast.
12. Your husband might actually be a good little mommy.
My husband changed every diaper at the hospital. After we got home and I was having trouble breastfeeding, he brought me the pump and threw me some encouraging words like, “Don’t fall asleep with it stuck to your boob.” After I pumped for three hours and got a dribble that resembled one raindrop, he acted like he really cared when I cried. For the entire night. And when I was done, he didn’t even try to mount me.