The Top 5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before Pregnancy
So, as you guys know I’m pregnant with baby #2, and it’s got me thinking about all the things I know this time around that I didn’t know the first time... but that I wish someone had told me.
There is a proclivity towards celebrating the beautiful, happy parts of pregnancy with our girlfriends. We tend to talk about the registries & baby shower gifts, the color of the nursery, and the best products to stock up on.
But what about the REAL REAL?? I think no one talks about it because as mamas, a) we don’t want to “scare” our friends, b) we don’t want to be judged for having had less-than-positive feelings about motherhood, and c) a lot of it is wildly personal and semi-embarrassing.
When I had Mason, I had exactly TWO girlfriends who kept it real (other than my sister, who thank God is always the real deal). One texted me while I was still in the hospital and asked how I was doing emotionally, and when I said “I’m great,” she texted back “cut the shit and tell me how you’re really doing... and just know when I had my first, I cried for two weeks and wanted to give her away.”
THANK GOD, I thought. So it’s not just me!
The other friend texted me and asked how I was doing, physically, and when I told her I was “on the struggle bus,” she shared that after having her last child she had a hemorrhoid so big she and her husband named it.
Not only did that make me laugh - a welcome emotion - it allowed me to relate, and to know that it’s normal to experience insane body mutations that feel like they’re never going to heal… but do.
There were also some happy surprises, which I’ll share here as well. All told, pregnancy and childbirth were a total trip, and I remain in awe of the things our bodies can do, and what we women endure to bring our beautiful children into this world.
The good news is… after all is said and done, it is SO. DAMN. WORTH IT. But getting there is hard, and women shouldn’t feel alone, embarrassed, or surprised by any of it. So here we go…
1. Pregnancy can make you feel like a superhero.
Let’s start with the good stuff.
When I was younger, I always assumed that someday I’d get pregnant, gain a zillion pounds, and feel pretty crummy about myself. I just thought that was the way it worked.
What actually happened? I learned it doesn’t have to go down like that… at all!
After the first trimester nausea wore off, I got back to the gym and I ended up feeling fitter throughout my pregnancy than I had ever been in my life. I started back slow (like, really slow!), learned how to modify so my workouts were pregnancy safe, and then I GOT TO IT.
Something “clicked on.” I had a “I am woman, hear me roar” kinda vibe to me. A goddess glow that was unmistakably evident. A don’t-fuck-with-me, I’m building a human and also lifting a goddamn heavy weight so WATCH OUT kinda attitude.
I discovered I could still run, and it made me feel ALIVE. I loved the looks I got when I’d show up to run (ok, jog) a 5k, with my baby bump proudly poking out of my running shirt. People knew I was a trooper. A warrior. A badass mama. It was all true... and I was ready to OWN IT!
I did Barry’s Bootcamp all the way through my due date. I loved showing up to class with George each morning, knowing these were the last of our precious workout dates before everything would be different. I wore a fitbit with a heart rate monitor to ensure I stayed below 140 bpm, and George would run on the treadmill next to me to make sure I didn’t run too fast (he would literally push the buttons to slow my machine down). If George wasn’t there, I made sure to turn to the person next to me and say “I just have to tell you, I’m pregnant and planning on running slow… if I don’t tell you that out loud, I will try to race you”
(Our ego is a crazy thing. Hey, I never said I was perfect!)
You can’t work your frontal abs while you’re pregnant, so I did a ton of obliques (side bends for dayyyyys!). By the time Mason came out and they “hosed me down” (ok, it was a sponge bath, but I felt like a barnyard animal!), the nurse gasped and said “oh my God, girl, you have abs under there!” And she was right… I kept the right parts of my core strong enough so by the time I delivered, I was already poised for a comeback.
Now let’s talk about the comeback… and the associated trials & tribulations.
2. “Your vagina might break,” and other simple truths.
My “comeback” took a while. I thought I’d be able to workout during my maternity leave, but in reality I had to wait almost 8 weeks until I was ready, and even then I wasn’t really.
I had pelvic floor issues which made it feel like my insides (uterus, bladder, etc) were going to fall out. Yup, it’s a lovely thought. But the reality is, I was far from alone. The National Institute of Health reports that nearly 24% of U.S women have one or more pelvic floor disorders. In other countries, it’s normal for women to see a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist after having a baby - but here, it’s just not as common. For me, it was totally necessary… I was in a full panic, thinking I had a condition called prolapse (I didn’t), that it would never get better (it did), and that I was “ruined forever” and would never be intimate with my husband again (don’t worry!).
I also had painful hemorrhoids and a wicked bad time healing from my episiotomy (where they cut you to help the baby come out). Fun times!!
People always ask “how was the delivery??” as if that’s the hard part… it’s not! Or at least it wasn’t for me. The hard part is postpartum and trying to heal. Having to wear medical granny panties with giant pads while you bleed for the next 6 weeks. Not being able to wipe after you pee, and not wanting to (or being able to) poop because you’re scared you’re going to pop a stitch. It’s all more than I had ever considered. I wish someone had told me… just so it wasn’t such a shocker. I also wish someone had told me to focus on strengthening my pelvic floor while I was pregnant by doing my kegels.
(So if you’re preggo now…. DO YOUR DAMN, KEGELS, GIRL!)
So now we’ve discussed the physical joys… let’s talk a bit about the emotional journey.
3. Pregnancy and postpartum can feel very lonely, even if your partner is right there with you.
When you’re pregnant, there are symptoms that can feel relentless... the main one being a feeling of “bigness” that you can’t really describe unless you’ve experienced it. Oh, also heartburn, insomnia, nausea, super swollen feet (mine looked like elephant feet) and random stabbing pains, to name a few.