A better pregnancy

I am by no means an expert on pregnancy, and I am most certainly not an obstetrician, midwife or lactation consultant. I am, however, a mother who’s been through two very different pregnancies and postpartum periods, and there are certain bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along the way. So — for those of you who are pregnant right now — what follows are a few of my suggestions for having a better pregnancy.

Honesty: Not always best
We all know being honest is a desirable quality, but when you’re pregnant (or really, any time), you’re under no obligation to tell the whole truth to all and sundry.

Know the sex of your baby but don’t want a bunch of relentlessly gendered shower gifts? You can simply tell people you’re looking forward to the “surprise.” This goes for any and all things you’d rather not discuss, including genetic testing, epidurals, water birth, breastfeeding, circumcision, parenting styles … you get the idea.

As my midwife during my second pregnancy told me, “You have my permission to lie.”

Set some boundaries
When you’re pregnant, certain people out in the world will decide that your body is public property.

Un-asked-for guesses about your baby’s sex (based on the way you’re “carrying”) and strangers in the grocery store wanting to stroke your abdomen may come at you daily. And you don’t have to stand for it.

Also be aware of another phenomenon — the practice of sharing (frequently unwanted) advice and information with pregnant women. During my pregnancies, I had complete strangers approach me to offer up their scary birth stories, nutritional advice and suggestions for achieving a “natural” childbirth.

You can practice deflecting these unwanted advances.

“I will definitely take that under consideration,” you could say as you turn tail and run.

“I’m trying to reduce my stress levels, so I’d really rather not discuss birth stories,” is another approach.

Or simply: “Please don’t touch me.”

Be a little selfish
You’re growing a whole human inside you: That’s a big deal! In many ways, having a child is one of the most selfless things you can do. But it’s easy to get caught up in “what’s best for the baby” while neglecting your own needs.

If anything you’re doing for the baby is making you miserable, consider another way.

For example, let’s say you’ve been going to prenatal yoga, but you secretly find it boring and could do without the “empowered mama” rhetoric.

Remember, there are many ways to exercise and they don’t all have to carry a prenatal label.

In a similar vein, notice the “shoulds” in your life and work to banish them. Instead of thinking, “I should take an eight-week class about childbirth,” think, “I could take an eight-week class, or I could take a one-day crash-course and spend the time I save sleeping and shopping for night nurses.”

Pay attention
Pregnancy can come with a variety of side effects, some of them rather unpleasant. But don’t assume that every single complaint must be endured stoically. Heartburn, lower-back pain, insomnia, depression and many other issues can come up.

Notice how you’re feeling and talk to your doctor or midwife about what’s going on. There are a variety of medications and interventions that are safe during pregnancy and might make you a lot more comfortable. 

Take it or leave it
As with all things in life, I encourage you to take the information that works for you and ignore the rest — and that goes for my suggestions, too. You know your body, your life and your baby better than anyone, and you get to make the decisions that work best for you. That’s the truth during pregnancy, and for the rest of your life, too.