I’m the type of person who visualizes things before they happen. I create expectations in my mind for most things in my life. They are almost always positive and represent the ideal result; those that know me best know that I’m the definition of a “dreamer.” Over time I’ve learned that having my expectations become reality is not always realistic. I’m trying to come to terms that some of this is out of my control, while some of it I can influence through preparation, hard work, or determination, and I’ve learned to adjust my expectations. I had certain expectations for pregnancy too, some of which were not too far off from my initial visualization, but there was a whole extensive list of expectations I never would have expected while expecting our first child. From the encouragement of our team, Thomas and I made a list of the things we have been surprised to discover during this pregnancy.
The First Trimester Being as Difficult as Others Described – I can be a skeptic of most things, so I choose not to read too far into reports or descriptions of things being too difficult. When people would tell me about how hard the first trimester would be, I think I brushed it off because I know every woman, every body, and every pregnancy is so different. But I, too, found the first trimester to be the most challenging one. When I wasn’t feeling nauseous, I was probably feeling drained of energy. Thomas also said the most frustrating thing for him was that he’s so used to helping me when I’m down, but nothing we did could cure the nausea. For someone like me who is go-go-go all the time, this was a sudden shock to my system and a frustrating period of time to go through, as I really didn’t feel like myself.
That It Would Go By So Quickly – Nine months is a long time…and pregnancy is technically longer than that. Up until a few weeks ago, it felt like my whole pregnancy flew by. I think this was due to a combination of being really busy and not slowing down, but I just can’t quite wrap my head around the fact that we’re in the final stretch. These last few weeks though have felt much slower, as every day becomes a guessing game of whether or not she’ll show up.
That You Really Don’t Get to See the Baby That Much – Prior to this pregnancy, I didn’t know much about the experience and never sought out much information of what the process was like. I was quite surprised in the beginning to learn that not every doctor appointment involves an ultrasound or seeing the baby. I had envisioned (thanks to TV, movies, and media), that every checkup would involve us getting to witness her progress from month to month. In reality, you have very few ultrasounds (unless you seek out an entertainment ultrasound outside of your doctor’s office), with the first one being early on, followed up by the longer anatomy scan at around 20 weeks. Now we’re at the point where we have doctor’s visits every week and I’m so anxious to see her little face!
That I’d Enjoy Pregnancy So Much and Be Worried About Missing It When She Comes – I’ve always known I wanted children and hoped that my body would be able to carry my own. But honestly, when it came to thinking about pregnancy, I assumed (if I could) that it would be a really long and hard process. That it would be uncomfortable, there would be a lot of swelling and not wanting to move or get dressed, etc. I had pretty low expectations about how I would feel. And while I’ve had moments of all of those things, I’ve truly loved being pregnant. I feel really fortunate that I’ve had a smooth experience that has allowed me to carry on with work and my normal day-to-day so that I haven’t felt like I’m an outsider in my own body. I love seeing my belly grow, along with other parts of my body. Now when I think about my body post-birth, I get teary-eyed knowing that our sweet baby will be in our arms and my body will no longer be her home. I never expected, or even knew, it would be an emotional experience, to miss having her in my belly and the bond I would feel carrying her with me all day, every day for almost 10 months. But I know there will be no greater feeling than holding her and having her in our arms.
Kicks and Movements Going From Sweet and Exciting to Very Uncomfortable and Nauseating – Kicks are a constant topic of discussion when you’re towards the last half of pregnancy; nearly everyone asks about them. I remember when I first felt movements, it was magical. Every movement was sweet and exciting. When they were finally strong enough for Thomas to feel them too, that was even more special. Now that we are in the final weeks of pregnancy, those sweet movements have now become not the most comfortable thing in the world. Multiple times a day, I shriek with surprise or pain on the particularly large kicks, and when it feels like she’s twisting and turning, I can get really nauseous. But luckily, those big movements mean she’s healthy and doing well, which ultimately is all we want.
That Our Doctors Have a Different Way of Looking at Things – I’m active, I try to be healthy, and I almost always choose the most natural route before using medical intervention. During my pregnancy, I’ve been a little surprised by the overall lack of focus on the natural side of medicine. I had assumed that 10 months worth of doctor’s visits would have me at expert-level knowledge of the birthing process, my options, and how to best take care of myself during pregnancy. I thought my doctor would be a partner in my pregnancy, challenging me to make tweaks to my health and habits, informing me of the most recent medical learning, and coaching me as we get closer and closer to birth. These are things that I’ve since realized just aren’t part of the regular routine (at least in my experience). Taking a three-part Birthing Class further opened up our eyes about the discrepancy between what our doctor has informed us about and what we should know. The problem, we’ve realized, is that doctors don’t have the same priorities that we (Thomas and I) have. Their primary focus is delivering a healthy baby and keeping the mom healthy, which are obviously the two most important things. But there is so much more to learn about the beginning, middle, end, and after. My advice to every pregnant woman is to make sure to search for advice outside of your doctors and outside of your birthing hospital if you feel like you aren’t getting all of the information you’re looking for. Read books like The Positive Birth Book (which was recommended to us and opened our eyes to so many different things) and try seeking out either private or small-sized birthing classes to learn as much as you can about the birthing process, what your body is going through/will go through, and what alternative options you have for every step along the way.
How Important Staying Active Would Be – I wouldn’t say I’m religious about or super dedicated to working out, but I lead a very active lifestyle and am always moving. I’ve always loved to move my body and want to feel strong and healthy. During the first trimester of my pregnancy, it was really challenging to feel well enough to work out. And if I did, the “after” was tough–I would feel 100% drained of all energy, which is usually the opposite of how I feel after a workout. I found going on morning and evening walks to be one of the things I looked forward to the most. While there are many days when I’m on my feet traveling or on long shoots, I also spend a large chunk of my time at my desk all day. Kickstarting my morning by moving my body has helped me find a good rhythm and routine of feeling like myself, even when my body doesn’t. It helps me find the energy I need to get up, get dressed, and take on a full day of work. Other ways I’ve enjoyed staying active have been taking yoga classes, Orange Theory (but I take it much slower and at my own pace), and pilates.
That I’d Feel This Confident/Comfortable with My Body – I have absolutely loved seeing my body change. First, before anything else really grew, it was my boobs. They were the only thing that grew rapidly. Then slowly, my bump started to take form, and over the past nine months, it’s been wild to watch it get bigger and bigger. I’ve filled out in new places and have more curves than before. I always thought that these changes would make me feel uncomfortable or that I would be anxious to get back to my pre-pregnancy body, but I absolutely love them. I truly have felt the most confident while being pregnant and I’ve never loved my body more.
That There Would Be So Many Research-Informed Resources For Like-Minded Parents Like Me (Thomas) – I live most of my life with a data-informed approach. When we found out we were pregnant, I sought out books written by authors who have the same level of respect for combing through the good studies vs. the bad. With today’s news cycles, nearly every story is accompanied by some “fact” discovered from a new study. Rarely are these studies conducted with scientifically valid and reliable methods that allow for the proper controls of the testing environment. The problem is that a lot of the advice around pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting gets funneled through channels that prefer to disseminate personal biases or agendas into dos and don’ts. The authors that have assembled these books have done all of the hard work for us–they’ve discovered the best of the best when it comes to studies and they’ve pulled out the findings we need to know. Here are the resources I found most helpful:
Bumpology – Written by a science journalist based in the UK, this was the first book I read. It’s written in a Q&A format which makes it an easier read for such in-depth topics. I also enjoyed the added aspect of it being written by a UK author because she often would compare UK practices to US practices, which added extra perspective.
Expecting Better & Crib Sheet – These two books meant for pregnancy and then childbirth and afterwards were written by an economist. I particularly liked how she ends each section with a summary, called The Bottom Line, which are basically cliff notes if you aren’t able to 100% follow or understand every detail of the section.
Mayo Clinic Guide To A Healthy Pregnancy – We continuously referenced this book throughout the pregnancy, especially the section on medication safety during pregnancy.
Evidenced Based Birth – This resource was shared with us by our Birthing Coach and goes deep into every aspect of childbirth.
Thank you to our friend Ryan Ray for capturing these maternity photos of us on film!