1 /// A (not so instant) Connection
I always heard people talking about feeling an immediate bond with their babies when that test came up positive. I definitely did not have that. In fact, truth be told, I didn’t feel really “connected” with this baby at all until I saw my body start to change and that was about 4 months in. I didn’t feel a kick until week 22 (5 months in) and even then, I thought it was gas for like 2 weeks until it was so consistent that I couldn’t pretend I was just really bloated 24 hours a day.
When I could actually see the movement in my stomach, I was kind of freaked out. It was like that scene in Alien but the same scene that’s even better in Space Balls when the thing bursts from his stomach and starts singing “Hello My Baby, Hello My Darling” while donning a top hat and cane on the bar. I wasn’t at home when I first saw it and I called Chris to tell him. He sounded a little downtrodden that he missed it and, in the moment, something inside me shifted… I mean, physically, something shifted, but emotionally, I felt like this was something I may be taking for granted. This tiny life that Chris and I had made was growing inside me and I was going to feel his life emerging in the months ahead.
When Chris was able to feel him move for the first time, and I saw the look on this face, it sealed the deal. It’s always said that a woman becomes a mom when she gets pregnant and a dad becomes a dad when he sees his baby for the first time. I think Chris started to feel really connected to the baby when he put his hand on my stomach and felt that first kick… and honestly, I think that’s when I started to feel a bond too. I think the bottom line is that there is no “right time” to feel that link with your baby. At the beginning, I felt a little guilty that month after month, it all just didn’t seem real, but there’s no need for that guilt. Every woman (and every couple) will experience pregnancy differently, and guess what? However you and your partner experience it is “right”, because it’s right for you.
2 /// Lack of Symptoms
When reading the famous pregnancy bible: “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” every new month starts the same: “As always, remember that every pregnancy and every woman is different. You may experience all of these symptoms at one time or another or only a few of them.” I assumed that morning sickness, aversion to certain smells, and fatigue were all just part of the pregnancy package. Luckily, I got none of those. The only symptom I struggled with from week 5 to week 20ish was sore breasts, like sleep in a sports bra sore. You know when you’re not pregnant and the second you get home from work or from running errands, the first thing you want to do is take your bra off to free yourself from the constriction of female life? Ya, everyday I was like, noooo!!! I don’t want to do it! Can I just shower in my bra?
Some days were worse than others. There were days I felt so tired, it was all I could do to make it through work so I could get home and “nap” (which actually turned into a full night of sleep from 4pm until 6 am the next morning). Some days I felt really crampy and some days I felt really emotional, but I just took it day by day which I felt like is all I could do. I would get through the hard days and relish in the great days where I sometimes forgot I was even pregnant. It really helped me to have Chris and my girlfriends who, despite being completely spread across the country, were always there for me with advice and commiserating words when I started bawling at the Subaru commercial for the third time that day.
3 /// Critical Need for Partner Communication
For some reason, women tend to want their partners to read their minds (“I want you to WANT to do the dishes!”). During pregnancy, that desire becomes more prevalent. I hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as mind reading. If you want or need something, ask for it! If you’re really uncomfortable and in pain, tell someone! If you can’t bend over to tie your shoes anymore because you feel like you’re either crushing your unborn child or that your head is going to explode from lack of oxygen, recruit some help!
Seriously though, from my experience, men are simple creatures (don’t hate me for saying it, but so are women for that matter). Chris can’t read my mind and it makes no sense for me to be upset about things he is or is not doing when I’m not saying anything about how I’m feeling. Does this mean that I never get upset without telling him what’s going on? No, but I really do make a conscious effort not to do that as much as possible. Your partner doesn’t know what being pregnant is like. Chris doesn’t know what I’m physically feeling or why I’m uncontrollably bawling because even my “fat jeans” don’t fit anymore. Talking through how you’re feeling (especially when you are both going through pregnancy for the first time) is so critical to both your and your partner’s well-being and sanity.
Even when it feels pointless to tell Chris that I’m upset because I had to empty the dishwasher while he was working on a single math problem that took 4 hours to complete, I’ve learned to just say something. Talking it over is so much better in the long run that just stewing in it and building up resentment. It also keeps your blood pressure at a healthy level, which is good for you AND your baby!
4 /// Ability to Exercise
A little over a year ago, I was in the Army running 5 times a week because I had to. After I got out of the Army, I kind of assumed that I would gain a lot of weight because I wouldn’t have forced to maintain the weight standard that was expected of me for the last 7 years. Surprisingly enough, without the pressure, I really jumped into a workout program that involved 6 days a week of running mixed with weight training and got some great results.
I started training for the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in December with Carly and by the time I found out I was pregnant in April, I had lost 15 pounds and was feeling pretty great. I ran the race on May 10th and went to my first doctor’s appointment at 8 weeks pregnant 2 days later on May 12th. I asked him if it was okay to continue running because I had heard a lot about elevated heartrate issues. He told me that staying active and continuing my routine was great so I did.
I let go of my weight training routine (the gym I had a membership to was an expense we didn’t need) but continued to run. I have truthfully been surprised at how easy and natural it feels to continue running. I’m not gonna lie, I have had days that were uber-binge days consisting of noshing on sugar pretty much all day, planning a run because I felt like a pig, then not going and eating three bowls of Lucky Charms for dinner. Hey, life is a balance and I try to do what’s best for me and best for my baby as much as I can. Staying active throughout my pregnancy (reference previous blog) has helped me (I believe) with the lack of aches and pain that are frequently associated with this time in a woman’s life and I’m told (God willing this is true) that it will make for an easier labor and delivery (please, please, please be an accurate statement!!).
5 /// Body Image Issues
Oh boy. I SO wanted to be one of those pregnant women who relished in her body changing to accommodate for the miracle of life growing inside her. Unfortunately, I am not that woman. I am the woman that when my pants started getting tight and my running shorts began to roll down my stomach had a complete emotional breakdown. I’m at 33 weeks today and these breakdowns happen about once every three weeks now.
I asked Chris a few weeks ago what the most surprising thing about this pregnancy experience has been for him. He told me that it was the fact that I was having such a hard time with the physical change in my body. He said that it seemed my body image was overshadowing the experience of the actual pregnancy. In Chris’ completely rational mind, when a woman gets pregnant, it is the most natural thing that her body would change to carry a baby and he couldn’t understand why that would be difficult to accept. Once again, this is where the open communication comes into play. Neither of you will completely understand where the other person is coming from, but empathy and support for the struggles of the other person are essential.
Sidenote: I had a run the other day that I was not particularly happy about. When I came back and was talking to Chris about it, he said, “you know, it’s not really fair.” When I asked him to elaborate, he told me that it wasn’t really fair that my body had to go through all the changes it has to physically and mentally. That he wished when I wanted to go for a run, he could just take the baby off my hands (or out of my uterus) for a half an hour while I enjoyed some good exercise outside. This statement is one of the millions of reasons that I love Chris so much.
6 /// Overwhelming Stress of Baby Registries
Chris and I went to register at Buy Buy Baby thinking how exciting it would be to get the little scanner and find all the soft, snuggly blankets, the best strollers and carseats, the cutest onesies, and the nostalgic books that I remembered my parents reading to me when I was just a little girl. Remember that scene in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids where they are out in the lawn, looking up at the 20 foot tall blade of grass? That’s kindof how I felt in this store. The tiny speck of person surrounded by hundreds of feet of baby supplies, half of which had uses I didn’t understand.
In reality, this experience was three hours long. The first 20 minutes consisted of me trying to contain a total breakdown in the store while I tried to figure out what a basinet was and if we needed one and my God, how was I so unprepared and I am going to be the worst mother in the history of parenting. Deep breath. Here’s huge tip that we wished we had known prior to registering:
Going into a baby store to register requires some research on the front end to figure out what brands of what products you want. Look up the things that are important to you and your partner on different things: Safety ratings? Nursery matching? Compatibility with your car? Lifestyle? Space?
We definitely had not done any of that and after driving an hour and half to the nearest Buy Buy Baby, we were completely overwhelmed by the entire registry process and had failed to call ahead to have a consultant available to help us (which they do offer but requires pre-planning). We wandered the store for about 20 minutes and by the time we made it to the back, I was almost in tears because I felt so lost and unqualified to be an expectant mother. Chris consoled me while he called his sister who just had her first in April and talked to her about the kinds of things we needed (or more importantly, what we didn’t need) and what brands of the big things (stroller, carseat, etc) they went with and why.
She was a total God send. After about 15 minutes on the phone, we spent another 2 hours going through the store scanning the items we, as expectant parents, assumed we would need. Wipes warmer? Ummm, no. Breast pump? Yes. (Sidenote: many insurance companies will cover the cost of a breast pump. Ours does and we got our $300 Medela one for free.) After 3 hours, we were so emotionally drained, we went to relax and get ice cream.
Last piece of advice: ice cream heals all things. Including crazy, expectant mothers (and totally rational, comforting expectant fathers).