May 26, 2009

Pregnancy 101

So who would have thought that somewhere in the last nine months I became sort of knowledgeable about pregnancy? I might even be considered an expert. For that reason, I decided to put together a list of some good pregnancy related advice. I did this as much for anyone out there who might need some guidance and for myself for future reference. This is a long list, so I'm going to split it into two posts.

Note: Thanks for bearing with me through all the pregnancy posts. I know that I've been kind of one-note through it all, and I'm sure I've lost readers as a result - but I've come to terms with that. I realize that my pregnancy just isn't as interesting to anyone else as it is to me, but I'm one of those people who loves documenting my life and the things I experience. I know that I've posted some way TMI stuff, but I do believe in being honest and forthcoming about things (although there are definitely things that I have left out). I totally value hearing real life stories over something that is insincerely positive or unrealistic. Let's face it - pregnancy is a beautiful thing, but it wreaks havoc on your body and your emotions. If I can help just one person by relating my experiences, then I think that's awesome.

Now, onto the list of what I consider to be helpful advice in dealing with pregnancy.

1) See a chiropractor/massage therapist.

I've been seeing either one or the other throughout my pregnancy; I consider them essential due to the stresses placed on the body as it grows and changes. You may not be able to tell how tired and overworked your body is at the beginning, but trust me, you will once you get to the third trimester. Remember to make sure to see someone who has been trained in working on pregnant women, and make sure you discuss your desire to see a chiropractor and/or massage therapist with your doctor. My doctor has been totally okay with my seeing both, even in the first trimester. Some doctors are not.

2) Buy a good maternity support belt/brace.

Mine makes me look really lumpy, depending on what I'm wearing, and it's not the most comfortable thing in the world, but it really does the job of keeping the back pain at bay. I can't think of a single pregnant woman who doesn't have back pain sometime during pregnancy; this is a good solution. I haven't worn mine since I've been on leave, but while I was still working, it was a lifesaver.

Here's the one I bought. It was recommended to me by my chiropractor. I am definitely going to hang onto it and use it whenever I'm pregnant again.

3) Stretch your pre-pregnancy wardrobe as long as possible.

Maternity clothes suck. Granted, there are so many more options these days than there used to be. But I personally hate them.

I have been able to use some (not all, but some) of my pre-pregnancy wardrobe throughout my pregnancy. When I was seven or eight weeks pregnant, I went out and bought a package of three white wife-beaters. I bought them in a bigger size, and as my tummy grew, I began using them to layer underneath my pre-pregnancy shirts so that I always had full belly coverage. I also already had a big stash of camisoles and tank tops that I was able to use for layering purposes as well.

I bought about five cheap maternity shirts and then was over them after a couple of months. So I started buying larger sizes in shirts so that I could get some cuter clothes that would still fit. These shirts still fit - well, kind of. I have started outgrowing everything in the last few weeks. They will probably come in handy after Charlie is born as well, since I know I will still be a bit chubby.

The best idea I had was to go to Forever 21 and buy some shirts from there. F21 is a super trendy store, filled with bright colors and annoying teenage girls, but wearing their clothes has been one of the biggest ego boosts for me during my entire pregnancy. (It's a good thing that really long shirts are in style right now.)

I would not, however, recommend buying shirts from Old Navy. I bought some from there, and the quality sucks. The seams started unravelling after a couple of washes, or the shirts became really misshapen and unflattering. Even the regular shirts that I bought in larger sizes are shapeless and unattractive now. No bueno.

Pants are a whole other story. I don't think that it's possible not to buy maternity pants while you're pregnant. I bought three or four pairs of jeans, a pair of black dress pants, a grey pair of drawstring pants and a pair of black lounge pants. I borrowed some other pants from a friend of mine and have been able to make it through with a decent amount of variety. I also bought this skirt and love it. Yes, it was pricey, but it also has been totally worth it.

Out of all the pants that I have, the jeans are the least comfortable. I much prefer the lighter, looser pants that I borrowed from my friend, especially once I got to the stage where it became hard to cross my legs and bend over. Sadly, these pants don't fit as comfortably as they used to. I can tell that my hips have widened some.

I was extremely lucky that my workplace is/was super casual, so I didn't have to buy completely separate work clothes. I imagine buying maternity suits and work clothes is a major pain in the ass, not to mention expensive.

I think the key to finding a good maternity wardrobe is trial and error. Try something and see if it works. I could not wait to get into maternity clothes because I was bloated and uncomfortable in my pre-pregnancy clothes. But once I began to hate maternity clothes, I found a way to make some of my pre-pregnancy clothes work for me. This means that a few items of maternity clothing that I bought have been sitting in my closet unworn for quite awhile now, which kind of sucks.

And this is really just my experience. Not everyone puts on the same amount of weight in the same places. For example, I am pretty much all baby. The rest of my body has stayed pretty much the same or has increased in size very slightly. So it's been easy for me to stretch out my pre-pregnancy wardrobe because I've only had the tummy to worry about. Many, many women have to buy new underwear and bras, and that can be costly.

4) Buy a bella band.

Pregnant women tend to sing the praises of the bella band, and I can't blame them for doing so. I bought two (one in black, one in white) when I was eight weeks pregnant in order to keep wearing my pre-pregnancy pants for awhile longer. I ended up in maternity pants at around 13 weeks and put the bella bands away. I pulled them back out of the drawer when I began wearing my brace (to wear them underneath it), and they were invaluable in keeping me somewhat comfortable. I have also heard they come in handy after giving birth. I am taking one to the hospital with me, and I may use it as a bra during delivery. (It sounds silly to wear a bra while delivering a baby, but I am kind of modest and would like to have the girls covered up should I decide to rip my hospital gown off.)

The bella band is not perfect, however. You do have to rearrange your pants quite a bit while wearing one, but it always has done the job for me. Plus, I have to rearrange my clothing all the time anyway. It's something you get used to doing while being pregnant. Nothing fits right, that's for sure.

5) Rent a doppler.

I did not have the emotional strength to not rent a doppler during my pregnancy. Once Charlie got big enough to have his heartbeat detected by a doppler, I went to Baby Beat and rented one. Here's why:

A month between appointments at the beginning of pregnancy feels like an eternity. With all the scary stories out there about missed miscarriages, I wanted to have a little more control over knowing that the baby was doing okay. Roy and I listened to Charlie's heartbeat religiously up until I was 21 weeks pregnant. I would listen to it in the morning before my OB appointments, because if something bad had happened, I wanted to find out at home (or at least be forewarned) and not at the doctor's office. It sounds morbid, but being pregnant is scary - especially before feeling the baby move (which acts as constant reassurance for the parents-to-be).

We stopped using the doppler as much once I started feeling movement - however, we still use it when Charlie has had a really quiet/inactive day. (I will say this, though, that picking up the baby's heartbeat on the doppler despite decreased fetal movement is not necessarily an indication that everything is okay. Please call your doctor if you have concerns.)

We still have it and probably won't box it up to send it back until we're home from the hospital. It's just nice to have around, totally worth the $30/month rental fee. Plus, you can use it to record the baby's heartbeat, which is a very nice memento.

6) Be an informed patient. Take the time to read a book or two about pregnancy. Do research. Ask lots of questions.

There are so many women who just blindly accept what their doctor tells them, and frankly, I feel that people should be stronger advocates for themselves and their care. It's your body and your baby - why would you not have a say in it? Don't be afraid to ask for what you want or for clarification if you don't understand something. Also, make a list of the questions you have and take it in when you see the doctor. We have done this for pretty much every visit, and while we have become known as "the question people," I'd rather be known as that than be uninformed about my condition.

7) If something doesn't feel right, call your doctor.

One thing I don't understand is why a lot of pregnant women will ask for medical advice on an internet message board before calling their doctor. I see this all the time, and it drives me absolutely crazy. Spotting? Call your doctor! Not feeling the baby move? Call your doctor! Have a question about whether it's okay to take ibuprofen? Call your doctor (if it can't wait until your next appointment, that is)!

The absolute best person to speak to when something feels wrong is your doctor, not a bunch of random strangers on an internet message board. You'd think this would be common sense, but apparently not.

8) Remember that drinking lots of water and getting plenty of rest go a long way.

This is something I didn't really get until I was pregnant: the importance of staying hydrated and taking it easy when your body tells you to do so. I am convinced that I have felt really good these last few weeks because I do what my body tells me as opposed to try to make it conform to some stupid work schedule like I was doing.

And water really is amazing! I think we take it for granted, but really, it's so important to drink plenty of it (and not just for pregnant women, either). I had an issue with dehydration at 11 weeks. I felt absolutely awful. Once I had some fluid in me, I felt so much better. Drink your water, ladies.

9) Don't overdo it.

When I first found out I was pregnant, I told Roy flat out that I was really going to need his help throughout my pregnancy. I was working full time and attending classes, and that in and of itself was more than enough. So my advice to anyone who is expecting is to warn your spouse or significant other that you will need lots of help and support during your pregnancy.

Also, don't try to be the same person you were before you were pregnant. I had to learn this the hard way. At the end of the fall quarter of school, I was so incredibly sleep deprived that I missed too much work and ended up getting in trouble with my company's HR department. It was pretty messy ... and stressful. I finally realized that it's just not possible to operate at the same level of efficiency. So don't be afraid to tell others that you need help. And be flexible. I was bound and determined to have finished my thesis by the time Charlie was born, but that is something I had to let go of for the sake of my sanity and health. I have now made peace with the fact that I will not have my MA by the time he's born, which was my original intention.

The rest of the list will be put up in a subsequent post, so stay tuned for all that totally fascinating and riveting information.


kim said...

Great post! I would much rather hear the truth than some "pregnancy is so great and I am so perfect" version.

cowboyboot lady said...

Great information. I didn't know you could rent a doppler! Looking forward to the rest of the list.

Erika said...

I admire your honesty about pregnancy....I rather hear how it was uncomfortable and how your vag feels like exploding then " romancing the pregnancy"....LOL

Leslie said...

Kim - But pregnancy IS so great, and I AM so perfect. Didn't you know? ;)

cowboyboot lady - Yep, you most certainly can rent a doppler. I am so glad we did that. It's good for saving your sanity (most of the time, anyway).

Erika - Thanks. :) I like the phrase "romancing the pregnancy," btw.

amber said...

Great list. Not sure if I'll ever need to revisit it, but if we have kids, I'll be sure to take a closer read. :)

Crazy Daisy said...

This is a wonderful post! Thank you!