May 27, 2009

Pregnancy 102

Here's part two of my pregnancy advice list. Enjoy (or something)!

10) Take a picture of your belly every week. Document your pregnancy through a journal or blog. Recognize the value of keepsakes (like ultrasound pictures). Remember that you will only experience this pregnancy once. Even though it sometimes sucks, enjoy it.

This is one piece of advice that you really can take or leave. I know that pregnancy is different for everyone, and some people have had such crappy experiences with it that it's not a joyous or wonderful time. Me, I love documenting my life, both the good and the bad. And I always find myself sad that my mom didn't really document anything about me as a baby or her pregnancy with me (probably because I was the second child). There is a general lack of info about myself when I was very young, and that always bothered me - especially now that many years have passed and my mom just doesn't remember. It's like there are parts and pieces of me that have been lost because they weren't written down. I never want to not remember (or document) my pregnancies or my birth stories.

11) Indulge.

Take a warm bath every night if you feel like it. Have dessert. Spend the evening in bed or on the couch. Just do what makes you feel good (as long as it's not harmful to the baby, of course). What's more, forgive yourself your little transgressions. I was bound and determined not to ingest caffeine while I was pregnant. I made it through the first trimester caffeine free. I started drinking caffeinated soda around the time I entered my second trimester. I was just too tired due to insomnia. But I have always stayed within a reasonable limit. "Everything in moderation" became my new motto (and to me, it's a good motto to have).

I don't mean that you should have fast food for every meal, but I guess what I mean is that you should treat yourself well when you're pregnant. And let others treat you well, too - everyone loves (and wants to spoil) a pregnant woman for some reason.

The point of all this is you will never be able to pamper yourself again on the same level as you are able to when you are pregnant. So do it now. I've done plenty of it through my pregnancy, and it's been totally and completely worth it.

12) Get your teeth cleaned at least once, but preferably twice, while you're pregnant.

Pregnancy did a number on my already bad teeth and gums. It's pretty common to have bleeding gums and gingivitis during pregnancy. And if things get too bad, you could go into pre-term labor.

I'm not sure if other pregnant women have experienced this, but every time I had to have dental work done during my pregnancy (which was about four times total), I felt the strongest sense of guilt at subjecting Charlie to novocaine and X-rays (even though my OB okayed it). I kept getting angry at myself for not taking better care of my teeth before I was pregnant, because I had finally found myself at a point where my avoidance of the dentist affected not only me, but my unborn child. I felt (and still feel) pretty awful about it. The good news is I have turned a corner and have realized that my dentist anxiety is not something that should hold me back from taking better care of myself. Hopefully with my next pregnancy there will be no dental work.

13) Become acquainted with the many websites that offer awesome bargains on baby gear.

There are some really good ones out there. My top two favorites are Mamabargains and babysteals. Also, there are a ton of blogs out there that post about the best baby/mom-related deals - I like that they do the legwork for me. I've gotten so many good deals on products, thanks to these sites and blogs. As an expecting mother, you can never find too many bargains.

14) Before you register, do your research.

There are so many useless products out there and so many things that may work for others but won't work for you. I can't really say that I picked the best products out there, because I honestly have no practical experience with them yet. But I did a ton of research and asked mommies that I know what they thought about certain products, etc. Special thanks goes out to Nanette for all her help with our registries.

But why is it important to be knowledgeable about what you're buying? Because babies need a fair amount of stuff, and you might as well get the best stuff out there.

A great book for this kind of thing is Baby Bargains. And don't forget to consult with moms you know for their opinions and advice. They are great resources.

15) If you have so-called "negative" feelings, don't hide from them. Let yourself feel what you feel.

Most people out there don't like to talk about how they feel. And moreover, when they ask you how you feel, they want to hear good things and only good things. This can sometimes pose a communication problem when you're feeling weighed down by scary and hard-to-deal-with feelings. Maybe you're good at avoiding talking about these feelings. But I'm not. I really like talking about how I feel, and I make it a point to not avoid it. (Of course, I am choosy in who I talk to, unless I write a blog post about it, in which case the whole world is free to know.)

This blog post generated so many responses, not necessarily in the form of comments, but in emails, conversations, texts, etc. I like that it got people talking with me about things that were bothering me - I not only got the support I needed, but also the validation. Pregnancy, though filled with joyful moments, is not a walk in the park. Like any life-changing event, it's complicated - and it brings out conflicting feelings in the parents-to-be. The best way to deal with these feelings, in my opinion, is to talk about them. You never know what connections you may make as a result.

(I'd like to interject here that while many people don't like to talk about their "negative" feelings, I think that is okay. Everyone has their own way of dealing with these feelings. I just happen to be pretty open about mine. It's not a judgment, just an observation.)

16) Try to be in good shape when you get pregnant.

I was attempting to get back in good shape when I found out I was pregnant. While I certainly wasn't a fat cow, my pre-pregnancy body left a lot to be desired (back then) - I would, of course, embrace it lovingly now. With my next pregnancy, I'd like to be in better shape beforehand. It just makes sense to me and ultimately is better for the baby (and the mother).

17) If you are able to, take time off before your baby is due.

I've talked about this before, but I'd like to reiterate that my maternity leave has been invaluable. I am taking a pay cut to have this time off before Charlie's born, but in my opinion, you can't put a price on some good old fashioned R&R. We are fortunate that we are able to afford this, as I know many people can't. I also know how lucky I am to have a decent maternity leave policy in place at my job, because many women have extreme limits placed on them in this regard (which completely sucks!).

My time off has been very special because it's been time devoted to me and to the very basic needs I have right now. I needed time to rest and reflect, and I've realized quite a few things about myself and life in general as a result of taking some time to myself. Many women seem to complain of being bored while being off work and waiting for the baby to be born, but to me, this time is something I will never get back. I have days that most would probably call "boring," but after years of working, going to school, and rushing around, I have realized that being busy really is not all it's cracked up to be.

I will no doubt return to having a very busy life very soon. And I won't regret it because there will be extra dimension and depth to it. But no way would I have wanted to work up until Charlie's birth. I was miserable while working, and I feel great now. I will hopefully make my entrance to motherhood feeling relatively well rested and serene.

18) Remember that so much of pregnancy, like any other thing in life, is about faith.

This is the toughest piece of advice I have to offer.

I am not a religious person by any stretch of the imagination. I'm not even what you'd call "spiritual." But during this pregnancy, I have come to understand a few things about faith. I've realized how necessary it is. I don't mean faith in God or Jesus Christ (for me, anyway), but faith in some kind of abstract "it's all going to be okay" feeling.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: pregnancy is scary. It is horribly, terribly scary. There is so much of it that is out of your control. You can do everything right and still miscarry or deliver a stillborn baby or have a baby with birth defects or special needs. There are never any guarantees that once you get pregnant you will stay pregnant or that you will have a perfect, healthy baby.

Me, I am incredibly lucky to have carried Charlie to term and to know that barring a disaster, we are going to be meeting him very soon and that more than likely he is going to be pretty damn healthy. However, my level of anxiety is high. Extremely high. Even now. I worry more now than I did when I was in the first trimester.

Back in the early days of my pregnancy, I would sometimes be overcome by these waves of panic. I felt like I was having an anxiety attack sometimes. It was completely irrational but it was real. Now the anxiety is dull but continuous. It doesn't go away. It has gotten worse since I've been on leave because I've had more time to myself and my thoughts. I've really had to take it all on a moment-by-moment basis sometimes. I've had to learn what it means to realize that faith is really all I have to fall back on. I have to have faith that things are going to work out. I have to just believe - because if I don't, I might go insane.

It is not like I'm sitting at home crying or chewing my nails down to the quick, but in the back of my mind all the time are these questions: "What if this doesn't work out? What if we lose him?" I hate to go down that road, but I think it crosses every parent's mind at some time or another. To love is to accept the possibility of loss. It's hard. Terribly hard. But it has made me stronger, that's for sure. And perhaps I'll be a better mother because of it.

At the end of the day, all I can do is put faith in the hope that everything will be okay, no matter what happens. There is always a way back from the blackest of darkness (should that darkness manifest itself in my life, that is). I've lived enough to know that. So I consciously choose to live in the light of the possibility of my son and our family.

So, this concludes my totally wise and awesome pregnancy advice list. I hope that you found something useful in here. I hope that I'll be able to look back on these posts when I'm pregnant again and find something to hold onto. That would be cool.


phairhead said...

i love yr insights. yr such a thoughtful writer. and i didn't know pregnancy affects yr teeth and gums.

cowboyboot lady said...

Very good honest insights. I think it's so great that you have this time off before Charlie arrives for yourself and to reflect.

Leslie said...

Thanks, gals! It's nice to know that honesty is appreciated. :)

amber said...

I told my CW to make sure to take weekly belly pics and she never did. It kind of made me sad for her. :( I've really enjoyed seeing yours, though. It's been fun to see the pregnancy progress. :)

Crazy Daisy said...

This is great! My husband and I have been thinking about a family and this has been wonderful! Thank you!

...the who cares girl... said...

Thank you. I'm going to bookmark this--just started reading "Mommy" blogs today--yours is my second! My husband and I are getting ready to start a family, and I'll be back here.