Pregnancy is a magical time. A tiny bump, an open neural tube inside your uterus, grows into a full-fledged, kicking, twisting, wiggling baby. You have a great reason to love your stomach. You can eat donuts and carrots together because, hey, pregnancy. Your partner will trek across town to satisfy your cravings. You get a new wardrobe, including those stretchy Bella Materna tanks that you will never, ever, want to stop wearing. Strangers smile at you. Children point. You sail everywhere preceded by a big, beautiful belly.
But then you do stupid shit and screw it all up.
There are certain things you should not do when you’re pregnant. I don’t meant drinking wine or snarfing sushi. I mean dumb everyday things you should avoid for your own health and sanity.
I did them all. I was stupid. Do not make the same mistakes as me.
Do not move furniture.
My husband was gone. I wanted the changing table, which was actually an Ethan Allen bar, to go from the hallway (where it was in the way) to the nursery (where it would still not be out of the way). I was 6 months pregnant. Logically, I should have waited. But my pregnant mind said this had to happen now. So I tugged. I pushed. I picked up one end up rolled, dropping the solid-wood thing on my toe and ripping the nail. I wrapped that sucker in a paper towel and kept pushing. Thirty minutes later, my changing table was installed. My husband was livid. I was exhausted. Plus my toe hurt. Lesson learned.
Do not wear a tankini.
With my first son, I whined about how fat I was from the first trimester ’til the time that baby came out. When we went to the pool, I concealed my shameful, shameful fatness underneath a tankini, the only suit that would accommodate my belly. I was smarter with my second son. When else, other than pregnant, did I have such a big gorgeous belly? I swapped that wuss-ass tankini for a bikini that fit my boobs. I looked fabulous. You will too.
Do not stress over stretch marks.
You will probably get them. The first ones will make you cry. I got mine on my boobs, and ran upstairs in tears to tell my mother-in-law. She laughed at me. I thought she was insensitive. Now I know she was absolutely right. Your body is stretching, hence stretch marks. They will fade. Or they will look like tiger stripes. You earned that shit in battle, girl. Don’t bemoan them.
Do not travel.
Just don’t. First you have to pack, and then you have to pack some more, and then you have to scramble around gathering everything you forgot to pack. Afterwards, you’re either stuck in an airplane or a car, where you will have to get up and pee approximately every 10 minutes, annoying everyone who is not pregnant. When you arrive at your destination, there will not be nearly enough pillows, and the smell of the restaurants will make you sick. Just stay home in your own safe pillow nest as much as possible. In fact, try not to move for nine months. It’s good for you.
Do not skimp on the pillows.
I needed six — two at my head, one on each side to cuddle, and one on each side to wedge my belly and thighs on. This was very stupid. Instead, I should have sucked it up and Amazoned one of those crazy U-shaped maternity pillows that cost the moon but offer ultimate comfort. You are pregnant. You deserve this thing.
Do not hesitate to deploy the “I’m Pregnant” card.
You are growing a human being. This is some of the hardest work, evolutionarily, that the human race can do. So you deserve to get what you want. Want to eat out? Pregnant. Want to stay in? Pregnant. Want to go look at baby clothes? Pregnant, pregnant, pregnant.
Do not forget to drink a glass of wine before you hit the big box baby store.
I walked in, took one look around, and burst into tears. My baby needed how much shit to survive?! I cried the whole car ride home. Then I sat down and made a list of what I actually needed to buy. These things included clothes (thrift store!), diapers (online), a baby carrier, and a swing. We got the baby carrier at a locally owned store and the swing at the big box one. But with an agenda, I wasn’t so overwhelmed.
Do not eschew the baby shower.
I figured that 1) I had everything I needed, and 2) I didn’t want to go through the deal of being the center of attention. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Take every chance for free baby shit that you can, including those stupidly named “Sprinkles” for second and third babies, because baby crap is expensive and every gift is something you don’t have to buy. They will also get you those super-impractical, super-adorable outfits from Ye Old Baby Big Box Store that you can’t and won’t buy, but that you secretly love. Also, there will be cake, and the surgeon general recommends pregnant women consume as much cake as possible. I promise I am not making this up as justification to snarf chocolate icing.
Do not forget to hire a doula.
Find one who comes highly recommended from your local Facebook moms group and engage her services for the birth and the night after. She’ll make sure you know what your birthing options are, help you birth the way you want to, and do random chores, like sneak you a Coke while the nurses aren’t looking. Then after the baby’s born, she can hang out and help while you hold the baby and nurse. If you decide to sleep, your partner can sleep as well while she holds the baby. This is invaluable. It may sound awkward or weird, but trust me, you won’t regret this.
Do not be too wedded to a birth plan.
I had a Plan: I would go to the birth center when I absolutely totally had to, and then I would get in the warm water. I would labor gently, to the sounds of my favorite music, until my son came softly into the world and stared at me from underwater before I lifted him out for his first breath like he was Simba. My only pain relief would be counter-pressure on my back. I would eat and drink. I would breastfeed immediately and go home in four hours, and everything would be unicorns and magic fairy dust and good labor vibes. Except I ended up with back labor, transported to the hospital in terrible pain, dehydrated, confined to the bed, unable to eat, and had to push for three freaking hours. This was not the hypnobirth I was looking for, and I had to give myself space to mourn the loss. I could have avoided that by being more flexible about my expectations from the beginning. Don’t be like me.
Do not get a new pet.
You’re pregnant. You don’t have the fucking time to potty train a puppy, nor the ability to get off the couch that fast. We adopted a German shepherd mix while I was pregnant with my third son, and though he worked out swimmingly, his first few months in the house were full of upheaval. Not fair to him. And not fair to me, who suddenly had two kids and two dogs to keep alive. A hard and fast rule of pregnancy: Minimize the number of life-forms you’re responsible for. Trust me.
There’s a lot of other things people tell you not to do when you’re pregnant. Don’t drink wine (oops). Don’t eat sushi (oops). Don’t overexert yourself (or help your husband build a new deck). Mostly, you should spend some quality time with that maternity pillow you bought, rock a bikini, and tell everyone else to fuck off. It’s your prerogative. You’re growing a human being.