So, before I got pregnant, I considered myself to be very knowledgeable about pregnancy and birth. I’d read books, watched documentaries, listened to podcasts. I knew what an episiotomy is, and what the placenta does. But as it turns out, I am actually a big moron know-nothing of the Jon Snow school of ignorance. I went into pregnancy the same way I go into everything—with big Veruca Salt energy. I wanted the Golden Goose (to finally be a mom), and nothing was going to get in my way. I really thought that because I had strong opinions about Montessori toys, and because I had a pre-conception doctor’s appointment that confirmed me physically fit to breed, that I could “handle” pregnancy, newborn care, and parenting. For the rest of my life.
I’m reading the books and doing the work, but I definitely could have focused less of my energy on the process of getting pregnant (which for me apparently happens if I so much as make eye contact with my husband while I’m ovulating) and more energy on learning how to be pregnant, and the risks and challenges that come along with it. I didn’t factor in what it would feel like to sit in an office chair 8 hours a day, or what eating an extra 300-900 calories a day would actually entail. I didn’t consider how awkward it is to come up with a baby shower guest list, since you’re basically begging everyone you invite for either money or presents. And I certainly wasn’t prepared for the fact that it’s not a magical, earth goddess experience—it actually rather sucks and I’m definitely never doing it again. Here are some of the things (from the serious to the silly) that I wish I’d thought about before taking the plunge, although, let’s be real—even if I had known all of this, I’d still have made the same decision 100 times over.
- It could be multiples. Even if they don’t run in your family, and even if you don’t undergo any fertility treatments, you could end up with twins, or even triplets (hello, This Is Us). I didn’t even consider twins to be a remote possibility—only 3% of live births are twins, and that can largely be attributed to the increase in IVF and other treatments. The chances of conceiving twins naturally is only about 0.004%. But 0.004% is not 0%. Before you slip on your sexy bra and pee on the ovulation strip, be sure to make peace with the fact that you could be getting more than you bargained for.
- You have to pee constantly. I knew this about pregnancy, but I always thought it was something that happened later due to pressure on your bladder. Nope! Apparently, right from the get-go, the increase in progesterone makes you feel the urge to pee 1,000 times a day. It ebbs and flows (I’m about halfway through my pregnancy now and it’s not as bad as it was), but it’s incredibly inconvenient, especially, as I discovered, when you’re trying to spend the day lounging in the pool.
- There is zero consistency in symptoms person-to-person or pregnancy-to-pregnancy. I was hardly sick a day, and everything I read said symptoms were especially horrendous with twins. I also never got that second trimester “boost” I was supposed to feel—I’m tired and uncomfortable all the time, since I have twice as much going on in there. I also still haven’t developed an appetite, even though everything I read, especially about multiples pregnancies, says you get hungry all the time after the morning sickness goes away. I’m only about 3 lbs. heavier than my average pre-pregnancy weight at 19 weeks. So, basically, there is no way to possibly prepare for being pregnant, other than becoming Buddha-level enlightened and being able to truly roll with the punches.
- No one tells you…anything. This may vary widely; I’m sure that pregnant people seeing an MFM doctor or who have higher-risk pregnancies get more face time with medical professionals, but since I am, against all odds considering my utter disdain for exercise, healthy as a horse and the babies are thriving, my actual OB appointments are about three minutes long. I’m hoping that, as I progress, I get looped in about important things such as, “What do I do when I go into labor?” and “When the hell exactly am I supposed to have these babies?” Beyond that, since I’ve barely ever met a baby in my life, is someone going to teach me how to actually take care of a newborn? Is that what pediatricians are for? It seems wildly irresponsible and vaguely illegal that they’re just going to let me give birth to these children and then take them home without making me demonstrate any sort of competency at childrearing. It’s harder to adopt a dog, much less a human child.
- Maternity clothes are boring. I was actually kind of excited about buying maternity clothes before I got pregnant, but the actual experience has been a total downer. Basics, like long tank tops, are affordable and can definitely be worn after pregnancy, but anything that even approximates stylishness is pricey, and in my opinion, it’s insane to spend money on things with a limited sartorial shelf life. My advice, especially to women not having multiples, is to take advantage of the existing flowy/stretchy stuff in your wardrobe and do your best to skip maternity clothes altogether. Since I’m going to be enormous, I can’t avoid it, but I’m trying to stick to things that I can wear for at least the first year postpartum.
- Pregnancy is essentially a temporary disability. I’m very fortunate to be a healthy and able-bodied person, so never in my life have I felt more empathy for differently-abled people than during pregnancy. I knew I couldn’t lift anything over 25 lbs., but I didn’t exactly do the math on how that would impact things as basic as grocery shopping. I also run out of energy performing simple tasks like folding laundry, and my center of gravity is already starting to shift, so I constantly have to be careful not to trip or run into things (I’ve always been a fairly long-limbed clumsy person covered in bruises). Low-impact movement/exercise is really encouraged during pregnancy, but I’m so uncomfortable all of the time that the thought of going on a walk or doing downward dog makes me want to simultaneously laugh and cry.
- Nothing is pregnancy safe. This one makes me roll my eyes a tiny bit, since even in recent history, people didn’t have access to fancy prenatal vitamins or, for my husband’s grandparents, even modern conveniences like electricity or running water, and they’ve been having perfectly healthy babies. But since I do have access to all of the wonders of 21st century living, I thought it appropriate to do my best to make my body a temple for my babies (minus the cheesecake kick I’ve been on). My one desert-island, can’t-live-without-it product is lipstick, specifically of the matte liquid variety, and guess what? Makeup is basically poison! If you do enough research, even some products marketed to pregnant women aren’t even pregnancy-safe! If I actually wanted to be a perfect pregnant person, I’d basically have to move in with the Bubble Boy. I’m doing my best (I switched to this lipstick), but they say a healthy mom is a healthy baby, and if I couldn’t periodically dye my greys, I would be mentally unwell.
I’m still early enough in this journey that the true trials and tribulations haven’t even begun, so I’m sure I’ll be back with another installment. But let me just say, that people who go through more than one pregnancy, especially those that are pregnant and also caring for young children, are braver than the goddamn Marines, and I salute them.