What I Would Have Done Differently During My First Pregnancy If I Knew Then What I Know Now
Advice and Tips for Women Pregnant for the First Time
I was somewhat hesitant to write this hub, because part of the beauty of being pregnant for the first time is that you don't know what to expect, and you are figuring it out as you go. There is no way you can be prepared, or do things exactly as you would have looking back. But it was also fun to reflect on what I would have done differently, and I hope that some of this can provide some advice and tips to others experiencing the gift of their first pregnancy.
#1: Realize That You Have the Gift of Living a Life of Leisure
The catch about this one is that most people don't have the necessary perspective while pregnant with their first child to realize how easy their life is. I can look back now and realize that all the things I thought were hard or stressful were really inconsequential. But at the time, I had no idea how my perspective would change once I had a baby.
I feel appreciative that I didn't totally miss the boat on this one. I took two weeks off before my due date. Got things in order at home, and just did some really leisurely things like going out to get frozen yogurt and see a movie with my aunt in the middle of the day! On my actual due date I went to see Jules & Julia all by myself and ate an entire large box of Junior Mints. It was heaven.
But I realize now that I did not take full advantage of the luxury of being able to do whatever you want, at any time of the day. Yes, I was working full time, so maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but I think everyone who has a baby knows that working is infinitely easier than being with a baby. So I wish I would have taken more long lunches during my work days, treated myself to more pedicures, and gone on more weekend trips with my husband.
How far in advance do you plan to have everything ready for your baby's arrival?
#2: Plan to Have Everything Ready At Least One Month Before Your Due Date
I felt silly even thinking about buying baby stuff until I was six or seven months. It all still felt too hypothetical, and I didn't want to be a freak organized over-achiever with the baby stuff. I also think part of me felt like I would jinx something if I started too early.
Luckily, one of my friends was four months ahead of me and made me go to a huge discount baby sale (seriously huge - if you are in the SF Bay Area, check out the annual sale at the convention center in Sacramento), and I got some basic stuff. I got our car seat and stroller there, even though I felt weird doing so, and saved at least $100 if not $200. I also was lucky enough to have another very organized friend who already had a kid who shared with me a very detailed list of all the basic items she thought you need before bringing a baby home. I tried to start borrowing as many of those things as possible as early as I could.
This all helped a lot, but if I hadn't had such great friends, I definitely would not have been so on top of it. And even with their help, and a great baby shower around seven months, I still ended up bringing the baby home without some basic things like a diaper pail! So I wish I would have been even more on top of checking off every possible item I would need well before my due date.
As to timing, I say at least a month early because I had multiple friends who had their kids three or four weeks early with absolutely no warning signs (super normal pregnancy, etc). They ended up having to scramble a bit because they just hadn't taken it seriously that their baby could come early. Luckily, I had time and went just past my due date, but I could have been scrambling as well.
- Buying a Baby Jogger Stroller: City Mini or Bob Revolution?
Advice about how to choose between two of the top baby jogger strollers - the BOB Revolution (SE not CE) and the City Mini. Offers ideas about what factors someone should consider before buying a baby jogger stroller, comparisons between the two.
#3: Splurge on the Baby Items You Will Use All the Time
I spent a long time avoiding the inevitable - buying a BOB stroller. Everyone told me it was worth the price, and I didn't believe them. If I had dealt with this while I was pregnant, instead of breaking down when my son was a few months old and buying one in a rush, I could have saved probably hundreds of dollars finding one on Craigslist or on sale.
I think there are a few other items that it is really worth getting the top of the line products - you will use them all the time, and you will notice the difference. I was fortunate to have some of these loaned or handed down to me, but that also took planning ahead of time. If you deal with all of this while you're pregnant and actually have the time, you can definitely find great deals on all of these essentials:
- Baby swing - we borrowed one that some friends had found for free at a garage sale. Simply put, it was a piece of junk and totally worthless. We tried our son in it and he hated it. We ended up trying our friends' Little Lamb swing, our son miraculously slept for two hours in it, and we went and bought one the next day. It would have been much better to get it ahead of time.
- Breast pump - if you will be pumping, please be kind to your body and find a good pump. If you're low-income, most hospitals have programs to loan or rent them to you for a good deal. I would also check out the local La Leche league. A good pump will work a lot faster and treat your body well.
- Stroller - already mentioned this above, but it's so nice for you and for your baby to have a stroller that is comfortable for both of you.
#4: You Are Not As Huge As You Think You Are
Throughout my pregnancy, beginning when I started showing about 15 weeks, I thought I was huge. In some ways, I was right - I have a smaller frame and popped out earlier than a lot of my other friends. But this picture is also a great example of how clueless I was. I thought I was gigantic at the time, and now I look back and knowing how I looked at nine months, I think I barely look pregnant.
Practically, I think it's helpful to realize this for a few reasons:
- Understand that people aren't trying to be rude or insensitive if they do or don't comment on your pregnancy. I was offended for a while that people weren't offering to give up their seats on public transportation. Now that I realize I really wasn't as huge as I thought, it makes sense. And people, especially men, live in fear of mistakenly treating a woman as if she's pregnant when she's not.
- Try not to live in fear of how big or not big you will be. You simply don't know. Everyone's body is different, and everyone's pregnancy progresses differently.
- Don't assume you are going to buy all your maternity clothes at once. You will probably have to buy (or hopefully borrow!) new clothes throughout your pregnancy as your body changes. I do recommend getting at least a few pants early on that are very stretchy so if you suddenly get bigger, you aren't stressing about finding new pants that work right away.
- Advice for New Parents: Expect the Unexpected When You Are Expecting
Advice and suggestions about approaching the first six weeks of your baby's life without too many expectations. Reminds new parents that they don't know what to expect with regard to labor, baby, friendships, and your own emotions.
#5: Begin Practicing Letting Go of Your Expectations
When I was pregnant with my first child, I had this idea that I could prepare for everything - plan on the type of birth I wanted, develop skills for soothing tactics for my baby, decide where the baby would sleep, how often he would eat, and so on. Once I had my baby, I realized he is completely unique, and my job was to focus on him and learn what he was about as a unique individual. Learning his cues, his temperament, what worked to soothe him at different times a day, what his different cries meant - there was a limited amount that I could have done before he was born to learn all of this.
What I realize now I could have done more of is practice having the type of mindset that would allow me to adapt to having a baby and taking each moment as it comes. Being aware and present and calm, and learning each day. I think yoga and meditation can be great ways to do this, but everyone has their own way of practicing this. Books about mindfulness can also be wonderful. The reality is, once the baby came, I had to figure this out, and I probably learned a lot from that process, but preparing myself mentally to face whatever was to come, and appreciating that much of that was unknowable, is something I would have done more of in retrospect.