Finding out I was pregnant was a bag of mixed emotions for me. I was delighted, relieved, joyful, scared, nervous, but most of all thankful. Not all women get to experience the wonder of pregnancy and I was going to grab the opportunity with both hands and embrace this journey which in the grand scheme of it, would be a blip in my lifetime.
Finding out the good news so early on (2 weeks) we had a hard time keeping a lid on it! We told our mums and dads, brothers and sisters and very few close friends. The weeks leading up to our 12 week scan dragged on and it felt like we had kept this secret for a lot longer. So used to the idea of protecting this little life from exposure, I found it hard to let go of the secrecy. In a few months I had gone from wanting to shout from the roof tops to not being able to find the words to tell people we were going to have a baby. It was as if the more people we told the more like a dream it felt, a very very happy dream, but a dream no less.
I’m pleased to say that I made the very most of my pregnancy and just 3 days before the birth a stranger asked if I was tired of being pregnant? I could honestly answer that I was not tired at all, in fact quite the opposite, I loved being pregnant and the impending due date gave me a feeling that I could only describe as bitter-sweet!
I learnt a lot during those weeks and months and was able to reap the rewards of this knowledge ten fold. Below are a few realisations I had and things I learnt that helped me make the most of my pregnancy.
MAKE MEMORIES FROM DAY 1
Almost from the word go I started tracking every minuscule moment. With the help of a pregnancy journal nothing was to be missed out! Every twinge, every feeling, week by week I tracked every appointment, our ideas, dreams, hopes for a healthy pregnancy and birth.
Once the baby is born you will, over time, forget most of the little details, especially all the wonder and discovery moments.
Quite often Mothers can only recall negative events from their pregnancy, I feel this is a tragedy. I did not want to forget this wondrous journey. To see the big picture you must include the small details.
HAPPY AND HEALTHY GO HAND IN HAND
Determined to start as I meant to go on I looked up details on healthy eating, exercise classes and the dos and don’ts of pregnancy. Although overweight I was the fittest I had ever been, running 3 times a week and ate a relatively balanced diet. Having always heard phrases like ‘eating for two’ and advice given to pregnant women about ‘resting up’, I was curious to know how helpful this advice was, as it turned out it was quite the opposite.
I was shocked to find that in the first two trimesters of pregnancy you don’t really need any extra calories! Yes you might be tired and therefore use food as fuel to get through the day until you can return home from work and fall asleep on the sofa before dinner, I know there were days I did; but it’s not a necessity to the development of the baby. Only in the third trimester do you really have a need for them, and then it’s only another few hundred calories or so, this equates to two slices of bread and butter!
As for exercise, because I had already established a fitness regime it was absolutely fine to continue as normal. As long as I wasn’t doing any abdominal workouts or pushing my usual boundaries (ie distance or quantity of runs) I and my baby were safe and I was encouraged to continue as normal.
I ran until I experienced pelvic discomfort at 20 weeks, caused by a Calcium deficiency. At this time I had already started pregnancy yoga classes which I attended weekly from week 16, right up to the night before the birth.
Doing this kept my serotonin levels up and I was getting as much goodness as possible by enjoying a normal balanced diet with just maybe an extra treat or two. It was a great decision and I believe made all the difference.
I feel I had a much happier and healthy pregnancy then I would have had if I was ‘eating for two’ or ‘resting up’.
ACCEPT ALL THE CHANGES AND BE PREPARED TO ADAPT ACCORDINGLY
It’s important to understand and accept that your body will change, in ways that are pleasing and ways that are not.
Morning sickness kicked in quite early on for me and was at its worst in the evenings. Discussing what to have for dinner was almost impossible, the idea of eating was nauseating. So I changed my habits to suit, I would eat a large breakfast, eat lunch early and then mid afternoon when the sickness started I had already pretty much eaten my calorific intake for the day so if I had to skip dinner it was no big deal. Listening to my body and responding in kind was the only way to cope.
During my pregnancy a lady commented to me that she thought I was having a girl because I had put on weight ‘all over’. I found this comment insensitive, however I was not ignorant enough to be believe my weight and shape wouldn’t change. In the beginning I was desperate to have my bump, as the weeks went on and the bigger my tummy grew the greater I felt about my body. After all, the more my tummy grew the more room my baby had to grow, I felt this was something to be thankful for, not to be resented. Yes I have stretch marks, but who doesn’t? Yes I have been using an ointment to reduce their redness, but I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of them, they are a reminder of a wonderful unique journey, never to be replicated.
LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
Almost from day 1 I had cravings for orange juice and ice. Other cravings came and went but these things we’re the only that stayed with me throughout pregnancy. At my early blood tests I was found to have low iron so put onto supplements, it’s not a coincidence that craving orange and ice is linked to low iron. I listened to my body and gave it what it needed. That said, not all cravings are linked to deficiencies, otherwise I would’ve eaten a LOT more sweets; but by listening to my body I was helping it get all the nutrients it needed.
As most mums will know it is recommended you don’t sleep on your back or left hand side after so many weeks into the pregnancy. That said, I was very uncomfortable on my right side and so would turn over in my sleep or wake at night to find I was sleeping on my back. Talking to other mums-to-be at my yoga class it was reassuring to find I wasn’t alone. One lady who was quite a few weeks ahead of me said you will know when it’s no longer good for you and will automatically adjust. She was right, the night I woke up and was stuck like a tortoise on its shell I knew it was time to stop sleeping on my back! The only damage done was that of my pride when I had to wake my other half and ask him to roll me over so I could get out of bed to use the toilet!
TALK TO YOUR BABY AND ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR PRESENCE POSITIVELY
With the help of a few ‘apps’ I could look up the progress of my pregnancy day by day, week by week and I revelled upon reading about every little detail my baby and body were going through. This was exciting and made my pregnancy feel ‘real’ but the best thing I did to bond was talk to my baby. I strongly believed that by talking to my baby and touching my belly he would understand my love for him and the happiness I felt for his presence.
When he moved I acknowledged him and when he moved in a way that made me feel uncomfortable I would gently move him and explain that it was causing me discomfort.
I would share with him many happy journeys to work singing in the car and the excitement on the way home when I would tell him we were going home to see daddy, who loves us very much.
Already having conversations with him was wonderful and it really helped me feel he was a part of me, sharing my being, not ‘invading my body’, which is unfortunately how I hear so many women describe it.
I feel so privileged to have taken that journey into motherhood. I thank my baby every day for letting me carry him in my tummy and for all the precious moments we shared. Each private communication, when he would move and I would respond in talking to him acknowledging his presence, or when I would rub his back and pat his bottom when he had hiccups and seemed to be annoyed by them somehow. Even now he will get upset if hiccups won’t go away but is soothed by my picking him up and rubbing his back or patting his bottom, it’s a beautiful gentle reminder of the special bond we shared for so many months before he was born.