I started writing this whilst on maternity leave waiting for my baby to arrive – it’s now almost 4 months later but I didn’t want to waste it!
As I get towards the end of my pregnancy, and the early days of finding out and still fitting into my jeans are becoming a fading distant memory, I feel like doing what many who have gone before do: give unsolicited advice. I don’t know if you’re pregnant, or just curious, or my future self revisiting this experience before going through it all again, but I hope you find it useful.
Feel free to ignore advice
Every mother is different, every baby is different, and every situation is different – so it makes sense that the complex experience of growing an entire human being for 9+ months is going to take shape differently for everyone. There’s a vast spectrum of what is considered “normal” and “healthy” in pregnancy, but most people will give advice based on their own limited experience which may have no relevance to you whatsoever (including me, in this post). For the important people in your life it might be worth discussing your differences, but with random acquaintances I find it easiest to just smile and nod politely, or say “ah, good to know”. Then ignore it. Unless it’s coming from your medical professional, who presumably is giving advice based on science and a lot of experience so is probably worth considering.
Don’t compare (or try not to)
Don’t compare weight gain. Don’t compare symptoms. Don’t compare your physical fitness level. Don’t compare the estimated weight of your baby (which, by the way, gets more and more inaccurate as your progress). Don’t compare stretch marks. Don’t compare the size of your belly, especially not to pregnant fitness instructors. Or if you do, which is pretty difficult to avoid, try to not get too worked up about it, because every pregnancy is complex and different (see the point above). For a lot of these things, you have very little control since a lot is determined by genetics and a lot by sheer luck, and no amount of scrolling through #28weeks pics on Instagram is going to make a difference. Focusing on these things too much is a downwards spiral to madness.
You are allowed to have a positive experience
There’s a lot of horror stories around pregnancy, childbirth and parenting out there, and nothing brings people together like complaining about something. But I think it’s okay and even a good thing to put positive stories out there too, as long as you’re sensitive to the audience and timing. Fear and anxiety can make things worse, so I like to think that hearing about positive experiences can be a nice counter point to the image portrayed in media. I’ve had a good experience so far, although I’m sure my luck won’t hold out forever :)
Exercise, if you can
I’ve never really been a very fit person, but exercise is a good way to keep sane and mobile (easier said than done with crazy hormones and a growing un-ergonomic belly). I was lucky that the kind of exercise I don’t hate – walking, Pilates and yoga – happen to be very pregnancy friendly. Aquarobics was also more fun than I thought it would be, especially feeling light and free at the end of my pregnancy when I just felt so heavy.
Feel good in your clothes
If you’re in a position to, get some clothes that you feel great in – whatever that might look like. Sure, it might only be for a few months, but there’s so much about pregnancy that’s uncomfortable and clothing is one thing that can actually be controlled. My third trimester was over summer, so I favoured super stretchy bamboo jersey skirts and dresses that lasted me throughout (edit: and also after!).
Skip the ‘Things that can go wrong” section
A friend gave me a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book, and wow that thing is chunky. A large part of that is detailing all the potential complications and things that can go wrong in pregnancy and birth – which I very purposely skipped. Most things have a low probability of happening unless you have specific risk factors, and worrying about all the things won’t change anything. Save the anxiety for if you have something specific to stress about!
It’s only temporary
It felt like I was pregnant forever, but now finishing this post 3 months after having Felix it feels like a short and distant memory. It’s uncomfortable and scary but at the end of the day it is temporary – and isn’t that significant compared to a lifetime of being a parent.
Just a note to add that I was lucky to have a complication free and actually even enjoyable pregnancy, which might be very different to your experience (or future me if I end up doing this again). This might all be irrelevant or annoying to you, and that’s okay! Take my advice to ignore my advice :)