The joys of pregnancy: No really, there are some

This is the first baby item I bought  when I was pregnant the first time.  It was so fun to shop!
This is the first baby item I bought when I was pregnant the first time. It was so fun to shop!

As much as it’s fun to make fun of the not-so-fun parts of pregnancy – and believe me, at nearly 35 weeks, there are a lot of things I’d like to complain about – there are a lot of wonderful aspects to this journey.

1.  Great hair – By my glorious genetics, my hair is thin, fine and fragile.  My best friend’s nickname for me in 5th grade was “chemo woman.”  (Looking back, perhaps she wasn’t the best best friend.  I did call her “palm tree” in return because she had a massive, thick mop.)  But when I’m pregnant, it thickens up, gets a natural shine without looking greasy, and grows at a record speed.  In each pregnancy, I’ve gone up to 3 days without washing it and doing nothing to style it, and it still looks good when I wake up.   It’s fabulous.

2.  Great nails – The prenatal vitamins that so miraculously fix my hair for a season also make my nails strong and pretty.  It’s a good thing, because they’re pretty low on the priority list, but my kids sure do appreciate how long they are when they ask me to scratch their backs.

3.  That pregnancy “glow” – It’s real.  Sure, it might be tainted by some pregnancy acne here and there (or everywhere), but your skin radiates.  I have no idea why.  Maybe it’s that you generally take better care of yourself and drink enough water.  But there is a definite beauty halo that every pregnant woman gets.  Her natural beauty magnifies.

4.  Feeling a life moving inside of you – In all three pregnancies, I’ve never gotten so used to feeling one of my children move inside of me that the sensation has lost its awe factor.  Sure, sometimes I wish there weren’t 20-minute hiccup sessions keeping me up in the middle of the night between one of 4-5 bathroom excursions, but even those remind me of the beautiful miracle growing in my belly.  It’s pretty freaking amazing.

5.  A renewed motivation to take care of yourself – Something about being pregnant makes you reassess all of your priorities, and I generally find I want to treat my body better.  I also want ice cream and chocolate, but even those have things my growing baby needs, like calcium, vitamin D, protein and antioxidants.  (It’s all about spin.)

6.  An excuse to be pampered – People generally want to take care of others who are pregnant.  It’s nice to have people give up their seats for me, open doors, carry things and the like.  Remember the aforementioned ice cream cravings?  Last night I showered after my Zumba class and felt I deserved a reward for exercising.  But I was in pajamas.  I asked Greg if he would go get me a McDonald’s ice cream cone since he was still dressed.  Could the man really say “no” to me?  (And ohhhhh, it tasted so good!!!)

7.  An excuse to tease strangers – Now that it is pretty clear I am either about to birth a baby or I have a massive abdominal tumor, it’s fun to tease strangers who assume I am pregnant.  “When are you due?” gives me the chance to respond, “For what?”  A woman at church asked me on Sunday when I was expecting, and with a bewildered look, I said, “Expecting what?”  Without missing a beat, she pointed at my belly and said, “Your BABY!”  Eh, you win some, you lose some.  But it’s sure fun to try to catch them off-guard.

8.  Shopping – Regardless of how many times you’ve been through it, there are some things you need.  Preparing for the baby gives you an excuse to buy some much-needed items, and adore all the cute baby clothes in stores.

9. Celebrating – Having a baby shower or any sort of party to celebrate you and the baby is super fun, especially the first time around.

Of course, there are many more moments of pregnancy I could cherish, but my pregnancy brain is currently blocking my memory.  Feel free to add some true pregnancy joys to the list by commenting!

The joys of pregnancy: judgment (or the fear of it)

It can be shocking when you see pregnant women doing things that we have decided are bad for the baby.  I will never forget being in high school and going out to eat with some friends.  On our way out of the restaurant, one friend ran into her very pregnant cousin at a table we passed.  I am sure I wasn’t even able to stutter through my name during my introduction, as my mouth was agape at this clearly pregnant woman, smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of wine.

It’s amazing how we humans can be so judgmental about another person’s life until the moment when we are in the same boat.  Though I’ve never tried a cigarette in my life, OH, how I appreciate a few ounces of wine or beer here or there while pregnant.

Fast forward to two weeks ago, when Greg was out-of-town for work.  I have been struggling with insomnia for several weeks now (another joy of pregnancy), and being on my own with the two kids at 31-weeks pregnant would have been tough enough if I were getting loads of rest.  After swim lessons on Thursday, I was D-O-N-E.  And I was not about to cook dinner. I decided on the five-minute drive to our neighborhood pub that I was going to order a beer and just drink half of it.  I convinced myself that of all places, a pregnant woman could order a beer in a pub without judgment, especially when some of those present could be considered alcoholics and could also see there were two other children in my care who appeared to be surviving.  I was wrong.

Oh no, nobody judged me.  I chickened out.  I just couldn’t bring myself to publicly order an alcoholic beverage while obviously pregnant and in charge of two children.  And maybe it dates back to my experience in high school, when I couldn’t stop gawking at this pregnant woman, cigarette in one hand, wine in the other.  But regardless of the reason behind chickening out, I realized that a lot of what I do or don’t do in public these days depends on how I think others will see me.

At no other point in history have there been so many things you should and shouldn’t do during pregnancy.  We shouldn’t: get our hair colored; take any medicine; go in hot tubs; touch cat litter, pesticides or chemicals; clean with bleach; paint our homes; eat nitrates, cold deli meats, high mercury fish, raw fish or unpasteurized cheeses; lift anything heavy; ski, ride roller coasters, or do any other adventurous fun activity; paint our nails; smoke; or consume caffeine and alcohol.  We should take exorbitant amounts of vitamins, drink lots of water, eat healthily, get loads of rest and exercise.  It’s honestly hard to keep track of it all.  One of the “joys” of late pregnancy is that the whole world, just by looking at you, can tell that you are pregnant.  And boy, can you get some glances and stares if you publicly do any of the “no-nos.”  It’s funny how I think I’ve gotten a little more relaxed about it with each subsequent pregnancy.  I guess that’s to be expected.

When it really comes down to it, the way I decide if I am going to do something or not do something that could be considered risky, I ask myself this question: “If anything bad happens to the baby, or if this child develops any health issues over life that could potentially be caused by this action, will I blame the decision I’m making in this moment?  Will I feel guilty?”  If the answer is “no,” I generally allow myself some freedom.  When it is “yes,” I play it safe.  Thus, we just returned home last night from a ski trip, and though I badly wanted to strap on some K2 Burnin Luvs and take a few easy runs, I knew if I fell I would never forgive myself.  But when I was in Greece at 4-5 weeks pregnant, I ate what was most likely unpasteurized feta cheese just about every day, despite the risk of Listeria.  A couple of weeks ago, I ordered an Italian cold cut sub  from my favorite deli and ate it while getting a manicure and pedicure.  I thought I might get judged for one of both of those actions – but I decided I didn’t care.  And that beer?  Well, I told myself in the pub that I would have half a Yuengling when I got home.  Only I was too tired and threw myself into bed after getting the kids into theirs.  So the following night, I had my beer.  And I had a little beer and a half glass of wine on my ski trip.  And I’m okay with that.  Judge me if you’d like.  At least I didn’t do it in public.

The joys of pregnancy: The takeover of your body

Today became the day when I can no longer bend forward comfortably to put on socks.  I’m at the pregnancy point when I must fold one leg over the other knee to get dressed.  And I know from previous experience this is just the beginning.

Adjusting to the aesthetic changes to my body is one of the hardest parts of pregnancy.  I actually think the belly bump is cute and I love doing the Aladdin Genie in the Lamp move where I say to Greg in a Robin Williams voice, “Look at me from the side.  Do I look different to you?”  But beyond the belly bump, it is difficult not to look at yourself in the mirror and wonder what the heck is happening, and worse, can it ever be undone?  And this concern and fear hasn’t changed from pregnancy 1 to pregnancy 2 to pregnancy 3.

I’ve always struggled with cellulite.  I’m genetically prone to it and, um, I like to eat Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids sometimes.  And if they’re not the cause, maybe it’s steak or french fries.  Whatever.  But when pregnant, it is pretty disconcerting to look at your naked body head-on in a mirror and see cellulite down the FRONTS of your thighs.  And though I’m lucky enough not to be prone to getting stretch marks on my belly, I do get them on my lower butt and upper thighs in pregnancy.  Nice, big purplish-pink ones.  If I had the choice, I think I would rather get them on my belly, because those can at least be covered up by a one-piece bathing suit.  As can the weird hairs you start growing in never-before-seen places.  Ugh.

It’s weird the first time you cough, laugh, sneeze or jump and a little pee comes out.  Thankfully, other women who have been there assure you it is normal.  But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean you ever adjust to it.  It’s hard to sleep, not just because of your growing belly and changing anatomy, but because your bladder becomes increasingly smaller.  Only with Eliza did I really get the second trimester break from multiple middle-of-the-night bathroom trips.

I haven’t even gotten to the point in pregnancy when my ankles swell and I get Fred Flinstone feet.  I haven’t gotten to the point yet when I can’t see my toes when I look down.  Sure, I have some lower back pain here and there, but nothing like I know what’s to come.  And I know what’s also coming before this baby comes out is warmer weather, when I won’t need to put on socks anymore, thankfully.  But then I’ll have to shave, which will become a potentially dangerous endeavor.

The joys of pregnancy: uncontrollable crying

Violet Crawley“I’m a woman, Mary, I can be as contrary as I choose.”  – Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, to her granddaughter, Lady Mary Crawley, in Downton Abbey.

And I will add that there is never a time when a woman is more contrary, irrational or emotional as when pregnant.

We keep a thankfulness journal as a family, and at dinner we talk about something for which we are thankful and write it down.  Last night, Greg said he was thankful that he is not the one who has to be pregnant.  Here’s why.

Yesterday Greg helped me remove everything from our minivan (car seats, donation items, stroller, etc.) so I could go get it washed and vacuumed.  I went to our usual place around 2 p.m. to find a crazy line.  The big banner with hours listed said it was open until 6 p.m.  I decided to go back around 5:15, at which time I found they had closed off the line and put up cones, not to mention covered up the closing hours on the sign.  The pregnancy-induced rage that can rise so quickly to such a level boiled over and I got out of my car and began to move the cones.  Someone came over to tell me they were closed.  There’s no need to detail the rest of my discussion with the owner; all you need to know is that it reduced me to a heap of tears, as cars got stuck behind our van on a busy street, causing a ton of road rage and honking.  I came home rather quickly, and Greg saw my face and asked why I was crying (because despite my drive home and sitting outside the house trying to stop the flow, there was no ending this cry quickly).  I think I managed to blurt out, “They covered up the closing time on the banner and put up cones and then the owner had the balls to tell me they close at 4 and I just started crying and I can’t stop.  I’m pregnant, that’s why I’m crying!”

I am fully aware that many women are capable of manipulating with tears to get what they want.  I’ve heard several stories about women doing this to, say, get out of traffic tickets.  However, this was not that.  The pregnancy cry can come on at any time, over any little thing, and more often than not, you don’t WANT to be crying, and that just makes you cry more because you can’t stop.

It’s all part of the wonderful experience, I guess.  It’s times like these when I’m so grateful Greg understands that there is no way to understand what I’m going through and he just offers support and love.  He offered to vacuum out the car.  He helped put everything back into it for me.  And though it’s not clean, it’s raining today anyway, and would have just become an instant, muddy mess again.  I’m thankful that he realizes he should be thankful not to have to be pregnant.

And as for crying, it eventually stopped.  In fact, I think my tear ducts were empty, because Downton Abbey was super sad last night, and I didn’t even shed a tear.