Things I Was NOT Told To Expect When Expecting
I’m the kind of girl to research, like hardcore research. Tell me the good, the bad, and the excruciatingly painful. Tell me the absolute worst and anything less than that, and I’ll be a happy camper. I entered the realm of pregnancy in March, 2018, which, at the time of this post, puts me right about 30 weeks, or for those of you who have never been pregnant and don’t do the “weeks” counting (such a weird thing), about 7 months pregnant this week. My, how time has flown, and I have had the ‘fairytale’ of pregnancies by all means, but I have experienced some lesser known pregnancy effects that no one really told me about. Things I felt like I confided in close friends or my mom for. Things that, if you’re a male, or a not so close friend, and you think you may not want all of intimate details of my pregnancy, you may want to shut this post down now. You have been warned.
Nothing is guaranteed.
First, we’ll cover the normalities of pregnancy, like nausea, fatigue, headaches, constant trips to the bathroom, and extreme hanger (though, I feel like I had this one before). These were the expectations I had, and though I’ve had bouts of them, I feel like in the span of 7 months, even men have experienced a few of these symptoms. Again, I will say, I had an easy first and second trimester in my eyes. I was not morning sick, and I was not fatigued in the slightest. I was up and running, with just the occasional nausea if I went too long between meals. Nevertheless, I awoke every day to lay in bed, petrified that I was going to vomit that day. Someone (haha EVERYONE) gave me advice on pregnancy, most of which was very welcomed, but I do remember a particular instance where I was told “ahhh, you’re lucky for now, but wait until you hit 8 weeks, it’s like a really bad flu and you won’t feel better for like a month or so”. Cool. I’m just going to be scared for the next 2-3 months, but thank you for that piece of very ‘helpful’ information (she said sarcastically). But again, as my pregnancy went on, I didn’t have many of these knocked-up norms, and I went about my daily life, taking it on a day at a time, and doing my best to keep a protein bar in my purse (MVP advice from my biffle, Leah). Just try to remember, every pregnancy is SO different from mom to mom, and even from one pregnancy to your next. Don’t worry about what ‘could’ be, and live in joy of the moment that may be a little extra energy or pep that day (because there are good hormones too!).
Not all pregnancy tests are created equally.
So the things I wasn’t told to expect. That was a whole new ballgame. I feel like the beginning is a great place to start, so here we go. First, I was kind of under the impression, as I imagine most couples trying to conceive their first baby are, that a pregnancy test is the best way to tell if you are, in fact, pregnant. I waited until the day before I was to start my normally scheduled period and I headed to my local CVS Pharmacy to pick up a few tests (because we all know just one can’t be trusted). I walked down the “Family Planning” aisle and was completely overwhelmed. One test saying it could tell 5 days before your missed period, another claiming 99% accuracy if taken within 3 days of your missed period, and even more with outlandish promises, comparable to their neighbors. I’d heard of a few of these brands before, so I bought a set of digital tests, and a set of a competitor’s ‘old fashioned’, two pink line tests. I rushed home and Nik was already there, to whom I exclaimed that I’d be taking a pregnancy test. I barricaded myself in the bathroom, followed steps one through forty on the digital tests, and waited the painstakingly long 2 minutes for the results. I was crushed with my first “NOT PREGNANT”. Wait, what? But… no… that can’t be right. I was tracking ovulation. I was sure. I mean, don’t they call it ‘a mother’s intuition’? What I hadn’t been told was most digital pregnancy tests measure the hCG at a threshold of 22 mIU/mL or more of hCG (the pregnancy hormone that shows up in urine) to yield a “PREGNANT”, or positive outcome. Two days had come and gone, and I had missed my period. I was not an irregular girl; this stuff happened like clockwork for me. I woke up on the Monday morning, and realized that I was still late, and went right to researching. I read a few articles about digital tests, compared to their non-digital competitors, and found a startling amount of women had been given a false negative on their digital tests, and hadn’t taken a manual test. Manual tests can measure as low as 5.5 mIU/mL of hCG in urine and yield a positive result. That’s literally a quarter of the amount of hCG needed to have a positive result with a digital test. I saw 2 or 3 posts on this matter, and decided that I would take one more test, just for my own sanity’s sake. This time around, I used a manual test, and waited only a few seconds for it to register a very faint dual line reading. A positive. I had only wished that I’d known that the digital tests were less reliable early on, and known a few days sooner (haha, don’t we all have this obsession with instant gratification?!).
The initial feelings you have may mystify you.
So, holy crap, we’re pregnant. Immediately, I felt a true rush of emotions. I felt ecstatic, like I was going to burst into tears and scream from excitement at the same time. But I felt something out of place as well; I felt very scared. Anxious even. Like the security harness had come unfastened on a roller coaster and I was at the tip top of a huge drop. I was flooded with insane amounts of happiness and just a hint of the unsettling. I think the thought “well, no going back now” may have even crossed my mind (not that I ever would have wanted to). This was exactly what we wanted, perfect timing, and it happened without the struggle of getting pregnant, which so many of our friends had struggled with and warned us about, and I was immediately grateful to have not gone through. There was still something so mystifying about that feeling. I eventually asked a friend how she felt when she found out, and the first words out of her mouth were “Oh wow!! Wow. Wow, we’ve really done it…”. We talked it over more, and found that it is a complicated feeling. I found that, by talking to other moms, new and old, they almost had ALL felt the same initially, and that was okay! The feeling was the first nod to closing the door on your own selfishness. No longer was all of life going to be about caring for yourself and your spouse, or even close family and friends in the small ways that we all care for each other, but true care a dependency from one living, breathing little human, that is all ours to love and cherish, and appease, and nourish, and everything that being a parent means. This feeling is SO normal! The best news of all, you have nearly 10 months to cope with this feeling, wrestle with your anxieties of parenthood, and honestly, I personally felt like by the time I started going through hand-me-down clothes for my son, I was totally okay with loving him as much as I loved myself… and sometimes even more. (This in no way denotes that self-care and self-love is unimportant mommas. Remember, you have to take care of yourself before you can help anyone else!)
You’re going to toot. A LOT.
Now onto the more physical aspects of pregnancy… no one tells you how much gas you’re going to have. Oh, the beauty that is the mothering body. Your entire digestive tract is immediately slowed, and as a lovely side-effect response, you will have gas pent up in your body trying to escape from any orifice it can. I am a very private bodily functions person, so this one was a bit of a rude awakening for me. That secretion of relaxin throughout your body will also (you guessed it) relax your digestive muscles, your joints, tendons, and muscles all over. This, ladies and gentlemen, means that you will have limited control, fairly immediately, over your sphincter muscle. Bend down to pick up a pen off the floor? Toooooot. Think you just need to pee, so you don’t quite shut the door alllllllll the way? Blaaaaamp. Going to get some exercise on a walk with your hubs and dogs? No, no you go ahead and walk in front of me. I was mortified. Thankfully, my husband pretends not to notice more often than he probably does, and I am grateful. If you’re already a pretty comfortable person with your spouse when it comes to bodily functions, you won’t need to adjust much, just maybe give him a warning that the gases are on the rise.
You may also pee yourself earlier than expected.
No, nothing is wrong with you. No, your water did not break (but don’t feel like you shouldn’t go get checked out if you did feel a sudden rush of waters). I get it, you’ve been doing your kegels and getting that PC muscle primed for post delivery, but let me tell you, it doesn’t matter. Once your baby gets large enough to karate chop your bladder on a long car trip, you will learn to pack twice the amount of panties per day when you go on a trip. I literally peed myself laughing recently. Unfortunately, that just made it more funny. Sometimes, out of thin air, I’ll cough or sneeze on what I thought and felt like was an empty bladder, and I’ll pee a little. It’s not a fun place to be, especially in public. Just remember, if you’re here, p*ssing yourself with me, you’ve only got a few months to go!
The night sweats. The day sweats. Everywhere you sweat, sweats.
Fairly quickly, you may experience, as I did, a raise in your Basal Body Temperature. Not enough to make you mistake this for a fever, so don’t ignore any signs from your body if you’re feeling hot out of nowhere and it’s not going away, but just enough to make your body constantly sticky, and to make it uncomfortable to be naked, if you liked that kind of thing before. My sweats are pretty predictable at this point. I sweat profusely in the morning when I’m getting ready (ever tried putting on foundation when your whole face is sweaty? Imagine painting an ice cube at room temperature), then basically any time I’m doing moderately light activity like grocery shopping, and lastly at night, pretty much the entire time. I started sleeping with a lighter blanket to aid this last one, but the others are normal discomforts, and not a sign that anything is wrong. Remember, if you are a regularly sweaty prego, you’re losing hydration, so get in the habit of carrying around a water bottle like a Hydroflask, and refill it as often as you can.
You may get a little stuffy.
Another mild discomfort that I noticed was that my nose and sinuses felt stuffed up pretty frequently. I started sleeping with another pillow to prop up my upper body at night and this helped a lot, but during the day if you were stuffed up, that was too bad. There is nothing approved (at least by my doctor) to relieve these symptoms, so I found that a bit of doTERRA peppermint or eucalyptus oil in my nostrils helped me get the airways open and functional, long enough for me to fall asleep or get started on my day and forget about the pesky stuffiness.
I called it ‘Dragon Skin’.
Right around the end of my first trimester, I noticed some very rough, dry patches of skin on my breasts (especially on the growing, darkening baby targets) and sometimes on my hips or thighs. I has been told that I may get dry, flaky, or even itchy, but I hadn’t really been warned that I may end up shedding skin like a snake while my body stretched to accommodate my growing baby. I tried out a few products to help, but nothing seemed to even phase this new skin I was growing and shedding at a rapid rate and parts of my body got a little raw. I ended up finding Bio-Oil on Amazon, which I consider to be an amazing little product and easy addition to my nighttime routine. I would not recommend using it in the daytime, as it is oil and can stain your clothing.
The sun must’ve gotten closer to earth.
I had always been the girl who wore a 15 SPF out in the sun, because ‘I don’t burn’. This all changed when I got pregnant, and this one was pretty immediate. I had already established my base tan by March, as we’d just come back from a trip to Costa Rica. I was laying out by our pool one afternoon, and within minutes felt like I’d been out there for hours. Now where I live in California, temps get up to the triple digits and it’s not uncommon to feel hot, but this was new. My skin felt hot, but my core was hydrated and fine. I found myself taking frequent dips in the pool and eventually staying closer to the shade, but after a nasty run in with the sun one day, I decided that I can in fact sunburn like everyone else. I now use Sun Bum SPF 50 or more from Target, and reapply every hour or so if I’m staying outside. The good news is, contrary to popular belief, you can still get a killer tan using sunscreen! Woo! (I also saw theeee cutest Baby Bum Essentials Gift Set, and I feel like I might need it!)
You don’t have to actually eat for two. Choices matter.
Thankfully, I did a lot of research and reading before we got pregnant and within my first trimester. That whole first trimester, I ate and worked out exactly as I always had. According to my doctor and all my research, there was no reason for me to change up my normal routine just yet. If I felt hungry, I ate. I drank to thirst, and I salted my food as normal (yes, this too is acceptable and does not actually cause swelling in pregnancy, but can alleviate it). Now right around my second trimester I had a true, mild increase in appetite and I appeased it with (mostly) healthy foods, and lots of protein. Now, in my third trimester, I am sometimes ravenous. I have woken up at 4 AM with a grumbling tummy and made myself go back to sleep, though, I have found that getting to sleep on an empty stomach to begin with is hard. My advice: Eat healthfully and consciously. Don’t do anything mindlessly or you’re going to pay for it later. The rule of thumb my doctor gave me to eat calorie wise, was an additional 3-350 calories per day than normal. That’s a half meal. I basically found also, that as my growing baby pushed my stomach out of the way, I really didn’t need to eat as much to feel full. Honestly, the rule I use is if I’m “craving” something bad, I’m probably not actually hungry, just bored. If I would rather be “hungry” than eat an apple or grapes, I decide that I don’t need a snack at the moment. I log my choices using MyFitnessPal so I can look back on a good day and copy that when I don’t feel like thinking outside of the box.
The ‘pregnancy glow” is made of magical, mystical…
Reference the above section where we talked about sweat… so you’ll have this all over body “glow” made of sweat at times, but you’ll also have extra body secretions of oil at times, and in odd places. My face is pretty constantly glistening, and though I don’t mind (I was an oily skinned girl before), some people find this little side effect revolting. Just be aware that you may want to use some extra setting powder like RCMA No Color Translucent Powder, or carry around NYX Blotting Paper from Ulta to help get rid of the extra body fluids.
Birthing classes are helpful, BUUUUUUUUUUT.
They’re also sometimes boring and tedious. Classes are dumbed down so everyone can understand them, rightfully so, because so many women obviously didn’t pay attention in school during basic anatomy (you have three holes down there, ladies). It’s pretty necessary to know the difference in your vagina and urinary tract, otherwise the thought of getting a catheter might make one think that the baby could be impaled. Now, if you DO in fact know you basic womanly anatomy, and you’ve read a book or article, or even have an app like The Bump that spews birthing information at you, you’re probably aware of the basics. Unfortunately, some birthing instructors take this time to also push their parenting, vaccinating, un-medically educated opinions on you, and this can be strange. If you have questions, please take all that is said with a grain of salt. I am a bit crunchy, but I also believe in modern medicine, so for me, I like to gather opinions, take what I can, and make my own decision with my husband. Search and find information to help you make a decision. Talk to a mentor or friends with kids, and don’t let ANYONE bully you into feeling a certain way. Even doctors can exaggerate at times to make you be a good little patient. Nurses will try to make their own lives easier, because they do have to put up with you for 12 straight hours. Educate yourself, be aware of worst case scenarios, and talk them over with your spouse. Make your wishes known to your spouse or birthing coach far before you experience contractions, and feel free to change your mind. Just make sure, if you’re changing your stance on an important child bearing or rearing scenario, that you’re doing it for the benefit of you and your family, not because ANYONE made you feel incompetent.
You’re going shopping!
I have been blessed with a long torso. This allows my baby tons of space to roll around and change positions, meaning I am pretty darn comfortable in my 7th month. Not everyone is so lucky. I was also given tons of hand-me-down clothes from my sister who recently had her third and final baby. I STILL had to buy maternity clothes. I would highly recommend first getting a good pair of jeans (or 2 or 3 pairs…) and a couple tank tops, I personally love the maternity selection at Target, and it was all so comfortable! If nothing else, I could wear jeans, a tank, and an open cardigan, jacket, flannel, etc and feel dressed up. I also am a heavier set girl, so I liked the physique being shown off. I am not a fan of adding weight where there is none, so the belly bump is worn loud and proud around my house. I can even still fit into some of my baggier non-maternity clothes, but when you get to the point where everything you try on is uncomfortable, just make the switch. Don’t go to Nordstrom to buy your maternity clothes either; you’re only going to wear them for a few months. Get some basic necessities from Target, Ross, TJ Maxx, or even Nordstrom Rack, look at reasonable places to purchase nicer dresses that you may want to rewear like PinkBlush Maternity, and RENT your high end maternity dresses from Mama Bump Rentals, Rent The Runway, or the like. But I promise, you will have to go shopping.
Due dates can be deceiving.
Even I have fallen victim to this bit of information. Our due date was given to us as December 11th, 2018, but within months we were told that baby Boone was growing rapidly. My doctor is keeping an eye on his development, and simply told us one day, that gestation can be different form woman to woman. The average human gestation is 37 to 42 weeks, so that 40 week marker you’ve been counting down to is reeeeeally just an average guideline. Some mommas just cook their baby faster or slower than others. Just keep this in mind, and try not to lose it when your due date comes and goes, or you go into labor earlier than expected. You can trust that in most healthy situations, your body will do what is right for you and your child. Plan early, and prepare for a surprise.
You’re kind of a rockstar.
One of the coolest things about pregnancy, aside from the obvious baby at the end, is that your friends and family have a new, exciting topic to chat with you about every time they see you. Trust me, you may think the question will get annoying, and I’m sure for some people it does, but I always remember, I’m growing a human, and people are just curious as to how my personal experience is going. I think that’s pretty cool. People will share their kind wishes, their terrifying birth stories, and everything in between. Again, the time you have in this particular state is so temporary. If you’re having a hard time in your pregnancy due to medical reasons, or trouble dealing with the weird body image, I am here to remind you that it only lasts such a short time. There will be a day when you look back on peeing yourself in public, and you’re not mortified. You will miss not feeling your baby move around inside of you and sharing that sweet experience with your spouse. You’re going to be tired, and weigh more than you ever have, and through the end, you’re going to grow a fully functioning child. That’s a pretty cool experience that not everyone gets to have. My own husband said he’d like to switch places with me, and if it were possible, at times, I’d let him. But then there are the days that I lay awake at night and I feel this little man inside of me stir. My heart just flutters. My mind goes to place when he is born, or 2 years old, or graduating from high school, or getting married, and I just can’t help but remember the whole state is so very temporary. This time in our lives is so, so extraordinary, and very soon, it will change forever. I say, bring it on.