Just about everyone I know has jumped on the baby bump bandwagon. And since I seem to be the only girl ordering a glass of wine at dinner these days (or lunch, if I’m being honest), I figured it was a good time to chat about the underbelly—pun intended—of pregnancy.
Whether you’re already an excited mama-to-be or simply considering growing your family, it’s a good idea to know what you’re actually in for. By now, you’ve probably heard all the tried and true clichés (morning sickness sucks and, yes, you will pee every five minutes), but there is plenty that isn’t usually covered in the more general expectant mama roundups. All pregnancies are not created equal, but many of us do share similar experiences. So with all you ladies in mind, I put together a list of 10 things that I believe every mama-to-be and potential mama-to-be should know…
1. Google is not your friend.
If you thought WebMD was a slippery slope before baby, just wait until the Internet starts casually diagnosing you and your unborn child with exotic diseases and rare ailments. It’s a super fun way to spend an evening. First of all, you know better; step away from the keyboard. Whatever it is you’re Googling or frantically texting your mom friends about, I can pretty much guarantee that it is absolutely normal. My ears would bleed. I have no idea why, but they would, and apparently it happens. Go figure.
Simply put: Your body is going through a major, magical, scary, beautiful transformation, and you’ll begin to see and feel some pretty intense stuff. It’s why women go on and on about how they “can’t believe” all the things their bodies can do. It’s strange, and oftentimes uncomfortable, but 9 times out of 10…it’s normal.
2. You should have listened to your mother.
It pains me to say this, but our mothers were right: that belly button ring really was a badidea. Look, I get it. When Britney sashayed onto that VMA stage with a snake wrapped around her neck and a chandelier hanging from her belly button, I immediately drank the Kool-Aid. Fast forward 13 years and about 20 weeks into my pregnancy, the hole where the piercing once lived started to stretch out a little too much for my liking. By 38 weeks, I could have shoved a gumball through it. Needless to say, it was not a good look. When my mom told me I couldn’t get a belly button ring, it was because she “said so.” For a teenage girl, that was a pretty lousy reason. Now when my daughter asks me, I can just show her a picture of my belly button during my third trimester. Case closed. (The good news: it goes back. My vacant piercing looks the same as it did before I got pregnant, but you can bet your ass I’ll never tell my daughter that.)
3. Surprise! Not everything is going to cost you money.
Since I’m by no means attempting to get political, I will navigate this next bullet point with care and minimal humor…because if there are two things people take real seriously, it’s politics and breastfeeding (there’s a punchline there I’m going to ignore).
Under the current Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are required to provide expectant women with breastfeeding support services, such as breast pumps, at no charge and 100% coverage. As you may know, quality breast pumps can get expensive, and if you choose to pump, getting a good one can save you hours upon hours each week. However, which models may be available to you depends on your insurance provider. If you’re currently expecting, chances are you can apply and receive your breast pump prior to any potential change to your existing coverage. After which, check with your insurance provider and research your state legislation to see what options you have.
4. You Haven’t Seen Crazy…
I’ve always been a bit of quick trigger in the temper department, but I haven’t been a particularly emotional person since high school (when I would cry in my car after a break-up while listening to every Blink 182 song). To say pregnancy made me more sensitive is like saying I’m only a little bit fond of Sauvignon Blanc. While pregnant, I erupted into full hysteria over the mistreatment of Caesar in Planet of the Apes, and demanded that my husband and I drive around the neighborhood to rescue any animal that may be trapped in a car. I also asked him in all seriousness how much he thought it would it cost us to adopt ALL THE DOGS in Los Angeles. And this wasn’t an isolated event. For example, after getting a scratch on my new soccer mom SUV, I laid on the floor of the garage, sobbing, and refused to go in the house. If there was an Emmy for “best irrational garage crying sequence in a miniseries or drama,” I would have had that sucker IN THE BAG.
Needless to say, I no longer recognized myself. But not to worry, your hormones will totally regulate and you’ll get back to normal… approximately 24 months after delivery.
5. Break the Rules.
I’m blowing wide-open one of the oldest pregnancy taboos. When I was expecting, my OB told me that if I was craving sushi, I could eat sushi. So I did. While I didn’t always have the urge to eat raw fish, it was nice to hear that not everything I enjoyed was off the menu. She advised me to use the same precautions as I would with anything I was eating or doing during pregnancy. Like, I should definitely avoid shady supermarket sushi, but if I wanted a bite of salmon sashimi from a nice, reputable restaurant, then that was, in her opinion, totally fine. (Check the FDA website for a list of best fish choices during pregnancy.)
The moral of the story is this: treat your pregnancy in a way that you, your partner and your healthcare provider are most comfortable. Some women are comfortable sipping a glass of wine in their third trimester, and some prefer to avoid it all together. You can make yourself crazy with rules and restrictions, and it’s a personal decision, so just do what is best for you.
6. You’re still gonna hate the scale.
In general, the scale always sucks. When I learned I had a baby on board, I thought that pregnancy gave me carte blanche to go crazy enjoying everything I usually tried to avoid. Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. On top of the cravings, you can also experience aversions… and you might suddenly be repulsed by the very things you used to love. And first trimester nausea may prohibit you from holding anything down at all!
Some women gain weight early; some women struggle to gain weight. Some women lose weight and some women gain too much weight…and oftentimes it’s because of forces beyond their control. When I was pregnant, I weighed myself backwards at every doctors visit. I asked the nurse to write it down without saying the word, and I had my doctor monitor it to make sure I was in a healthy range. It was the best decision I could have made.
7. No lines for you!
My favorite perk of pregnancy was sticking out my bump and waddling to the front of just about every line. “Do you mind?” I would ask politely, while rubbing my belly. It’s a cheap trick, I know, but I peed every ten minutes. If I had to wait in a line every time I was at a restaurant, I would have spent half my pregnancy waiting to pee and the other half washing my jeans because I couldn’t hold my pee.
Pregnancy is basically like having a real-life “front of the line” pass at Disneyland. Usually, you don’t even have to ask…people love being nice to pregnant people. It was a rare occasion when someone wouldn’t offer me first right of refusal, and I wouldn’t always accept the kind gesture, but I also did…a lot.
8. Everything Goes Back to Normal (but maybe not your feet, or your ribs…).
Luckily, pregnancy is temporary and you will eventually get back to being you, but be patient with yourself. My girlfriend said it was “six months” before she started to feel like herself again, but for me it was more like nine months. By my daughter’s first birthday, my hair, my skin and my body were all pretty much back to normal. Even the Linea Negra, which I was certain would never disappear, had vanished. My pre-pregnancy clothes fit again, and I was once again comfortable in my skin. It happened, but it just took time. You have enough going on, so try not to stress yourself out about it. Sure, my ribs never quite went back to their original position, but since I didn’t own too many dresses with boning or corsets, the consequences were minimal.
Now, I must warn you: your feet might grow during pregnancy, and they might not go back. My girlfriend had an exquisite collection of #girlboss heels that would make any woman swoon, but during her pregnancy, her foot grew an entire shoe size. We both cried when she had to say goodbye to her entire shoe closet. It really was a tragedy.
9. Your relationship will never be the same.
For those women who are embarking on this journey on their own: Not only are you myhero, you will undoubtedly be the biggest, bravest hero in your child’s life as well. If you’re lucky enough to share this adventure with a partner at your side, you already know that you are tremendously blessed for having that support. That being said, it’s not the easiest of roads to navigate as a couple (dramatic understatement). I’ve never loved/loathed my husband more than during my pregnancy (except, maybe, during my daughter’s first three months of life).
He gave me this beautiful gift, and I knew I could never repay him for that. I also knew that he would never be able to repay me for having my nose swell to ungodly proportions or for all of the other strange bodily changes that were taking place. Like any life-changing event, when you go through it with someone at your side, it is a learning curve. You grow together, you evolve together and you discover this new existence together. Having a child with someone brings you closer in ways unimaginable, and it’s important to remember that it’s a two-way street. Your partner will never be able to understand what it’s like to grow a human, and you may never understand what it’s like to sit on the sidelines during the process.
Like anything, it’s easy to take out our frustrations on those we are closest too, but it’s also that person to whom we turn to celebrate in the victories, the milestones and who is at our side when that new little person enters the world for the very first time.
10. Everyone has an opinion.
That’s not really a shocker, but it’s a good thing to remind yourself. It’s easy to let those opinions rub you the wrong way or be made to feel like they’re being shoved down your throat, but just try to keep in mind why they are offering your advice. Every parent wants to believe they made the best possible decisions for their kids, and the idea that there may have been an alternative way that might have been better, could give them a mild panic attack. As a mom, the idea that I messed something up is horrifying, so I get it.
So take everything with a grain of salt, and recognize that some of it has to do with other parents validating their decisions…but what was the right decision for them, may not be the right one for you (and vice versa). There are a million ways to raise your child, and, ultimately, it’s up to you and your partner to decide what’s best for your family.
Was there something about pregnancy that surprised you?
I’d love to hear! Share in your comments below.
This article first appears on LaurenConrad.com on Feb. 27.