Becoming a parent is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever experienced. Strangely though, before I had my first child (and even now) I heard so many stories of difficult pregnancies, painful deliveries and troublesome parenting. My experience on the other hand, has been amazing and quite positive, so I thought I would write it down, to ease the mind of future mothers. I'll start with pregnancy and work my way up to parenting in future posts.
When I was younger, pregnancy seemed like such a scary thing. I felt like every mother I spoke to had experienced unmanageable symptoms (not to mention births). I didn't really know what to expect. Everyone is a little afraid of the unknown right? Should I prepare myself for the worst? Would I vomit or want to eat really weird things?
The very first advice I can give you is to not expect anything. The moment you do, you start feeling things that aren't really happening, or you start thinking you're unable to handle what's coming (which is not true). Just like anything, take it one day at a time and trust your instincts.
To be honest, I'm not quite sure why there seems to be so many negative stories. Is it because people feel they need to complain in order to be accepted into social groups? Having gone through 2 pregnancies myself, and having spoken to many other women, I can tell you that many women also experience positive and manageable pregnancies (as well as births and parenting). Plus, if it really was that bad for all women, why would anyone want to have more than one child? Right? Just so we're clear though, I don't doubt that some women have very difficult pregnancies and deliveries, I just want to share my story so that future mothers know that good experiences also happen.
To show you what I mean, I thought it would be fun to share with you the symptoms I had (and did not have) in either, or both of my pregnancies. In green are the symptoms I had, in red are the symptoms I didn't have (but thought I would).
EXTRA SALIVA (1st trimester only)
Extra what? Yup, extra saliva. I was over salivating for 4 months in the beginning of both of my pregnancies. Has anyone ever heard of that? I sure hadn't... I had to carry this little spit bag around with an insane amount of Kleenex and spent half my days spitting because the extra saliva made me nauseous. I felt like a camel (or is it a lama?) and it was gross; Most-Annoying-Symptom-Ever. I put this symptom first just to show you that you really can't know what to expect.
NAUSEA (1st trimester only)
Although I didn't feel very nauseous during my first pregnancy, it really stepped up a notch during the second. It felt like the end of a cold mixed with the end of a stomach flu. For both pregnancies, it was more in the afternoons than in the mornings (no idea why they call it morning sickness), so the whole cracker before you get up thing didn't really apply to me. I'm guessing it's because I was tired so my body was less tolerant. Having an empty stomach at any time during the day was just a no-no. Whatever you do, do not let yourself go hungry; eat small bland tasting snacks All-Day-Long. I want to be reassuring though, if you do vomit, it's not like a stomach flu; it happens so fast you don't even have time to realize what's happening.
FATIGUE (1st trimester only)
Good god I-Was-Exhausted. During my first trimester (for both of my pregnancies), not only would I sleep a minimum of 14 hours a day, I would also fall asleep absolutely everywhere. The kind of falling asleep that you just can't help, the one where your eyelids close by themselves and your brain shuts off. I guess it's good it happens that way though, because when you sleep, you don't feel the nausea! Just a little trick. ;)
ALTERED SENSE OF TASTE & SMELL (1st trimester only)
Food aversions were particularly interesting, especially in the first trimester. I could smell absolutely everything, even if my nose was congested. How weird is that? Perfumes were overwhelming, chicken stank and my saliva was just yuk (see #1). There wasn't really anything that I just all of a sudden loved (when before I didn't), it was more smells and tastes making me nauseous. Sometimes I didn't even need to taste the food, just seeing it (and smelling it) was enough to know that it would make me sick.
I must say that I did not expect this, but during the last trimester of each of my pregnancies, I could not bend over...and sometimes it was painful to walk. (Let's be real though, the pain was manageable, it was nothing serious, and it passed quite quickly). I found that getting regular massages, seeing an osteopath and doing prenatal yoga (particularly the child pose and the cat cow pose) helped a lot.
Other than crying while watching Bamby, I can't really say I had mood swings. Then again, maybe you should ask my husband, he might have a different answer. :P
You're probably thinking: "doesn't every woman get cravings?" I've heard so many people talk about pickles and ice cream that I thought it happened to every pregnant woman out there. Interestingly, it doesn't. At least not to me. I didn't have any cravings in either of my pregnancies; maybe it's just a superstition, maybe it's because I ate very balanced or maybe it's just genetics.
Nope, nothing here. I thought for sure I would get stretch marks, but I didn't. I didn't even moisturize my skin during my second pregnancy. I guess I must have elastic skin. I never really thought about it before but I never got any stretch marks, ever. My guess is, if you're prone to them before you get pregnant, you're likely to get some while you're pregnant. Fear not though, they're proof that you're a wild tigress! Rawr! ;)
EATING FOR 2
Yes, a pregnant woman is technically feeding herself to provide nutrients for 2 beings. I have to say though, I expected to be eating a lot, but I didn't. I ate frequently, but only tiny portions (because I either felt sick or had no more space in my stomach!!)...so at the end of the day, I just ate a regular amount of food. I'm not sure if this one is just a common joke because pregnant women eat all day, or if it's actually true for some women. Then again, maybe it's just pregnant women giving themselves a reason to eat tons of junk because they usually can't on account of their weight.
Difficulty what? I wasn't sure if I would, but this one never affected me. At least not unless I drank a liter of water before bed time. Then again... who wouldn't it wake up?
Nope. Nothing here. Maybe that happens more in the summer or if you eat a lot of salty things?
FREQUENT NEED TO PEE
I probably did need to pee more often but to be honest, I didn't even notice. I did find that I had more trouble holding it in though, but I think that's because my little misters used my bladder as a trampoline!
a few words of advice
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
This is probably the best and only advice you will need. Everyone will tell you different things, and you will find a lot of information on the internet, but you need to remember that the most important things are you and how you feel. Personally, I slept to avoid nausea. I slept to recover from exhaustion (which was prominent in my first trimester). I ate small amounts of food randomly throughout the day, everyday.
If you are tired, sleep. I slept over 14 hours a night for each of my pregnancies in the first trimester, and I'm glad I did because it gave my body time to adjust to the boost in hormones... and most importantly, I had to deal with the nausea for a shorter period of time.
SNACK ALL DAY
I was reluctant at first because I didn't feel too good most of the time. I don't know about you but when I'm nauseous, the last thing I want to do is eat. Seriously tough (and I know this is counter-intuitive) eat! Not big meals. Small, regular bland snacks throughout the day. This will keep your stomach from being empty and reduce the nausea/vomiting you may be experiencing.
DRINK LOTS OF WATER
This one pretty much goes without saying. It will help with the nausea and will reduce a lot of the symptoms you might have by helping your body regulate itself.
LET THINGS GO
There will be a point where you will be too tired or too sore to care. Your whole life will seem upside down and may cause you stress. You'll need to learn to let the little things go, a skill that will come in handy once the little one arrives. You might think that every other pregnant woman (or mother) out there has it all together, but we don't, no one does. Just chillax, let the house get messy and let chores go undone. When in doubt, just go back to advice #1.
That's pretty much it. Even though it's a natural process, it isn't always easy. Just like anything in life, there are a few challenges. However, I can tell you that both my pregnancies were very manageable without any medical interventions (ie: pills) and quite pleasant for the most part. Take it one day at a time, and remember to trust your instincts.