It was 11 years ago that I discovered that we were pregnant with our first child. I think about how I felt like I was navigating in the dark for most of the pregnancy and delivery…..and subsequent child-rearing, and I wish I could go back to the me 11 years ago and clue her in on a few things.
1. People really can get pregnant right away. My husband and I got married at the ages of 28 and 33, and were together for several years before wedding. I was ready to start a family immediately, but my husband wanted to enjoy being newlyweds for a while first. We compromised (i.e., I got my way) and we agreed that 4 months after we got married, New Year’s Day of 2004, I would stop taking my birth control. We both assumed that because I had been on birth control for several years, it would take us a while before we actually conceived. We even scheduled a belated honeymoon in Vegas for April. I was 3 months pregnant on our honeymoon, and we spent our one year anniversary in the hospital. So 9 months later, when we decided we wanted to add to our family, we were not shocked when that little pink plus sign appeared after our first month of trying.
2. Morning sickness is a misnomer. Almost immediately after finding out that I was pregnant the first time, I suffered from morning sickness. The waves of nausea would crash over me from the minute I opened my eyes in the morning until the minute I fell asleep. The thought of eating made the acid burn in my stomach, so I subsisted on olives, crackers, and pickles for the first few months. I knew the location of every bathroom in every gas station between my home and my work in Davenport, and even blazed a trail on a few off ramps in between. What I had now has a name and is discussed publicly due to Princess Kate, but 11 years ago, it was just me vomiting in any toilet that would allow me, then apologizing to customers for the puke in my hair. Which leads me to my next bit of advice….
3. You can cure your debilitating morning sickness…….by having the baby. My morning sickness was so bad that I was once hospitalized for severe dehydration. I tried EVERYTHING for relief. I wore the seasickness bands, I tried the lollipops, I kept crackers next to my bed, I left bed to go to work and to the doctor, I ate ginger cookies, sucked religiously on Starlight mints, and even took Unisom at the suggestion of my doctor. The second trimester provided relief. One morning, I woke up and felt normal……as normal as someone growing a human can feel. I took those months for granted because the morning sickness hit again during my last two months of pregnancy. I remember vividly washing my face in our basin sink, and grabbing my washcloth to dry it off, only to discover that my cat had slept on it at some point. The texture of the cat fur on my wet face was enough to send me into spasms. From that day on, I got sick at least once a day until the day I delivered. Stupid cat.
4. You will love that baby, even in utero, more than you can ever imagine. I was not a person who gave my love freely, so when I found my husband, I thought that my heart was filled to capacity. I was certain that I could never love anyone as much as I loved him. What I felt the minute I discovered I was pregnant dwarfed even that. (Sorry Chris) I knew that because the 5 day early EPT test told me I was pregnant well before the doctor was able to. I had taken several positive tests, but the first blood draw from the doctor’s office was negative. When the nurse called to tell me, I was inconsolable. I had lost a parent, a grandparent, had ended a serious relationship, but none of those things compared to the loss that I felt at those words. I was fortunate that the doctor was wrong, but the grief I felt those few days was immeasurable. It provided me with a glimpse as to the strength it takes for a woman to cope with the loss of a pregnancy.
5. Maternity clothes are generally not attractive, but maternity pants are amazing! I haven’t been pregnant in 9 years, and in that time, they have made vast improvements in the field of maternity clothing. When I was pregnant, there were limited options, and those limited options were limited even further by the fact that I was not small pre-pregnancy. I survived my pregnancy by investing in a few basic pieces in multiple colors. What I did discover was that maternity pants are glorious. I’d never had the inclination to wear my waistband under my breasts before, but it was so comfortable. No more judgy waistband tightening around your middle after a meal, no more muffin top, no more gapping in the back when sitting down. I wondered why everyone wasn’t wearing maternity pants! I held on to this fashion choice for long after delivery, like up until about a year ago. My youngest is 8. Seriously, let’s make all pants maternity pants.
6. You’ve got to get over your phobia of peeing in public. This is true for multiple reasons; once that baby started growing, all I did was go to the bathroom. I’ve never been the type of person who gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. I value my sleep far too much for that nonsense. By the time I was 6 months along, those nighttime trips to the bathroom were every night, and sometimes multiple times a night. The bladder also began calling in the most inconvenient times and places. The movies, gas stations, Target, the grocery store, Toys R Us; I used all of these bathrooms. On top of this, I was giving weekly donations at the doctor’s office. Not only did I get used to going on command, I got good at aiming into that little cup. Several times, there was protein in my sample, so I then had to carry a collection hat and a collection bucket with me to corral 24 hour samples. I learned of all the hiding places for an orange juice size jug of my urine at work, and discovered that it is very important to seat belt said jug in to the front seat of the car to prevent serious, smelly accidents.
I could go on about this topic for pages, but I will save everyone the gorier details of my first pregnancy. What advice would you give to your pre-pregnancy self if you could?