Dear Pregnancy: A Thank You Note
Because it's been quite the journey...
I’m in my 38th week of pregnancy. Until around this point, I actually felt as though my pregnancy was flying by. I was sleeping pretty well, working out daily, commuting to work with only mild discomfort and working the same long hours, the swelling in my feet hadn’t been crazy, and my energy was pretty consistent. I absolutely love everything about my baby bump and, most importantly, baby is doing well - thriving, growing, moving around all day long (my doctor said a lot of movement means she’s a happy baby, which MELTED my heart and awarded me my first “proud mom” moment), just doing her thing cooking away. Aside from some awful sciatic pain, things were cruising right along!
Then came weeks 36-37, where both the time and I drastically slowed down. In the last few weeks, I arrived at an abrupt point of feeling, well...done (which struck me with my first moment of “mom guilt”). But my body is sore and uncomfortable from the ribs down, I’ve barely slept, get up to pee 4 times per night at best, and I can no longer get up from the couch without a helping hand or a less than graceful body rotation maneuver I’ve discovered works. I now rock a mean waddle, usually accompanied by back (and front, and side) pain, and have to take constant breaks to breathe and regroup since the Braxton Hicks contractions are now much more frequent and intense (SO grateful for the comfort that WFH provides!). I’m still working out, but some days the struggle is real. I now also Google symptoms 3-5 times per day, mostly during bouts of insomnia, absolutely sure that I’m in labor or about to be.
Ah, so this is what all my friends were talking about when they hugged me, smiled compassionately (and/or sarcastically) and said, “It’s flying now, but wait until the last few weeks! It feels like a lifetime.” They weren’t lying. Time surely seems to slow down and discomfort picks up near the end of this journey. But truth be told, as much of a struggle as the days and nights may be right now, I’m still trying to take it all in, because I think I’ll really miss this time with my little love. For 9 months, it’s been just the two of us, connecting in our own little universe, where I can nurture her, nourish her, and protect her from within.
Last week, I dropped my thank you notes from my baby shower in the mail. As I near the end of this journey, I feel compelled to write a thank you note to my pregnancy as well, to express gratitude and reflect upon some (of the MANY) things I’ve learned over the last 9 months about myself, the power of being a woman, the world around me, and the parent I want to be...
Well, here we are in week 38. It’s 1am. We don’t sleep much since baby started pulling all nighters. My uterus is the DJ and my bladder is the dance floor, a sure sign of the karmic retribution my future holds (I can hear you laughing, Mom and Dad). There’s all the other good stuff at night, too...body cramping, bathroom breaks, Braxton Hicks, excruciating back pain, nesting impulses, insomnia, baby rotating like a rotisserie chicken, and more. Sure, it’s gotten a bit harder lately, but this little miracle will be here on the outside soon to love, nurture, and hold in our arms. It’s because of this that I would do it all again. Not every day has been a breeze (can’t forget weeks 7-16 🤢), but this journey has taught me so much, and because of that I thank you, I love you, and I cherish you, Pregnancy.
It’s all so beautiful and exciting, but it’s also sort of scary. Soon, she’s going to leave her gentle, calm, zen bubble of a world where she is safe inside me, to enter a much bigger, bolder, harsher world full of possibility, wonder, and the infinite unknown. This reality brings on a slew of thoughts and emotions. Of course I’d given this some thought before now, but over the last few weeks as her arrival becomes so close, I’ve been reflecting on my pregnancy journey a lot more closely...
Women are so badass.
The strength, power, and perseverance we possess as women cannot be matched. When I feel her little feet in my ribs, watch my belly pop up and down when she has the hiccups, when she starts kicking in a distinct way to tell me she’s hungry, or when she rolls around to tell me she doesn’t like the position we’re in, I can’t help but be like, “I cooked up this human being from a tiny little seed, and she’s already doing things to declare that she knows what she wants and needs. How badass is that!?” And this goes beyond pregnancy. Whatever road or journey one takes in becoming a mommy, we’re given this amazing gift by the universe to nurture a tiny human and play the most instrumental role as they grow into their own person with thoughts, opinions, and feelings. Not to mention many of us do this while juggling career, working until the very end while preparing (body, mind, soul, laundry, and home) for baby, nurturing family and friend relationships, showing up to events and obligations no matter how exhausted we may be, maintaining fitness and lifestyle goals, and keeping our homes operating and in order. I’ve never felt more empowered and proud to be a woman, and I’m excited that this energy has been flowing through me to my daughter for the last 9 months. We go girl.
I’ll miss my baby bump.
Someone said to me a few weeks ago, “Doesn’t being pregnant suck?!” I can’t say I feel that way at all! Granted, everyone has different experiences, and every single pregnancy is different, so you never know what people go through to make them feel some type of way about being pregnant. I could have another pregnancy and a completely different experience or perspective. But as far as this one goes, I feel so blessed, and I think what I’ve loved most is my bump! From rubbing it, to talking to it, to dressing it, it’s this awesome reminder that everywhere I go, my baby is my little sidekick, tagging along for the ride. We commute to work, explore our way through the energetic streets of NYC, try tons of different foods (love you, strange and unpredictable cravings), and we’ve traveled on planes, trains, and vacations together already, all as one. I love every second of soaking up each moment connecting to this little life inside me with a sense of adventure and passion, and through music, conversation, story time, and endless belly rubs (they make me feel like I’m hugging her from the outside). I even wake up early some days just to have a few extra minutes in bed with her, massaging her back and tickling her feet from the outside. It’s precious as she slowly begins to stir, waking up herself, as well. Even when she knees me in the ribs or bounces on my bladder all day long, I can’t help but feel so excited that this vibrant little life grows inside of me. I wear my bump that grows with her as a badge of honor.
I promise to try and let go of the fear of not doing it “right,” and just focus on doing my best.
True, my baby isn’t born yet, so maybe I shouldn’t preach too hard on this one, because it sounds like one of the biggest challenges moms face. But it's become a personal goal of mine going in. All my mommy friends tell me not to be too hard on myself for every little thing, and I’m really making a strong effort to take that to heart and put it in motion from the very beginning. I think it’s really easy to go down that road because we feel so responsible for making sure EVERYTHING is ok, ALL the time. I’m already a perfectionist and I always want the people I care about to feel loved, happy, comfortable, and safe. Even before baby comes, there are all these questions about whether or not we’re doing it “right” as moms. What if our milk supply isn’t enough? What if they can’t latch or sleep? What if we can’t figure out what they want? What if we can't console them when they cry? How can we be sure we're fostering self-love and self-worth? How can we be the best example and guide in helping them to grow into kind, genuine, and authentic human beings? What if we do something that doesn’t represent the best version of ourselves and they mirror that behavior? From labor, to breastfeeding, to sleep and schedules, to raising a good human, what does doing it “right” even mean? It’s a slippery slope and dangerously easy to pigeon hole ourselves into these pressures. Truth is, at the end of the day, life is messy with speed bumps and road blocks before ever even having a baby or being pregnant, and that fact won’t magically change after. This is real life, and bringing a baby into the mix makes it even realer. I realize what my friends are saying is to just do my best and lead by example. They tell me I’m gonna mess up, and that’s totally ok. The most important thing is knowing that my child will thrive on love, nurturing, presence, the consistency of my actions, and our structure and routine, NOT the fails and mistakes we make here and there along the way. If I am authentic, positive, kind, optimistic, independent, compassionate, strong, and respectful, she will see that, feel it, and learn to do the same.
A solid, kind, reliable partner is a godsend, and they should know it.
I’ve always loved my husband for qualities like being supportive, honest, protective, loyal, and level-headed. But pregnancy has heightened this appreciation on new levels, and I want to make sure he knows that. He comes to every doctor’s appointment, did all of the research for our registry, he shows affection on the good days and even more so throughout the not so easy ones, he comforts me and makes me feel safe and relaxed when I’m “hormotional,” and even makes sure I have a mocktail in hand when we’re out with friends so I’ll never feel like the left out prego. He asks how I’m doing, and he really listens to my answer. From foot rubs to telling me I'm doing a great job, he always makes sure the baby and I are happy, comfortable, and at ease. Best of all, he loves making the time to rub my belly, talk to our baby, and already build a connection and a bond with our child. Every time I thank him or tell him I appreciate it all so much, he replies, “I’m just here for moral support. You’re the one doing the real work.” While that’s sweet, and yes, I’m the one carrying the baby all this time, he’s wrong. I’m not the only one doing the real work. He is, too. It’s just different work. He’s always got my back. This journey and my state of mind wouldn’t be the same without all that he is and all that he does. I have a partner; someone who wants to navigate this together as much as possible. Not everyone has that type of support, and if you do, you’re very lucky, because I’ve observed a lot of very different circumstances. Whatever your situation may be, if you have someone or a few people who have been a constant form of support throughout your path to motherhood, I encourage you to let them know they are a blessing. Pregnancy isn’t always an easy road and (let’s be honest) pregnant chicks aren’t always the easiest, so it’s not always smooth sailing for our support systems, either! It’s important that they feel valued, loved, and supported, too.
Support and advice from mommy friends is invaluable.
For us first timers, pregnancy and motherhood is uncharted territory. You don’t have to follow everything they say, but the advice and insight your friends with kids provide while you’re pregnant and/or preparing for baby is invaluable. They know what the eff they’re talking about. They’ve been in your shoes already, possibly more than once. Thanks to my friends who kept it raw and real, I had fair warning about all the lovely things my body would go through over the course of pregnancy: the truth about “morning” sickness (can we @ the liar who made that name up?), extreme fatigue and sluggishness, pregnancy brain, round ligament pain, sciatica, lightning, jabs to the ribs and suffocation of the lungs, sleepless nights, what to pack for the hospital (some friends sent me their lists and it was SO helpful), what to make sure I had on my registry and what crap I’ll never need (a few friends let me log into theirs to use as a reference), how to get through the final stretch (current sitch), all the very real aches, pains and scenarios that may come with labor, the physical and mental possibilities post-delivery, the real deal with breastfeeding, and so much more. You can ask these friends the good, the bad, and the ugly without judgement or discomfort. You know, the things they’ve actually gone through themselves or those you may not want to necessarily discuss in depth with your sig other (hello, mucus plug). Their advice is priceless as you navigate this completely unfamiliar body and mind altering journey. It’s also super comforting to know that a lot of the things that scare you are totally normal, and made them feel scared, too. My sister-in-law just had her third and told me straight up, “This shit is not easy, it’s hard, especially in the beginning. You feel like it won’t get better, but you get through it, and you’ll be great.” She may as well add “Birth Coach” to her resume after my pregnancy. These women- whether they’re family, friends, mommy groups, or online mommy forums- are your cheerleaders, your tribe, and they'll provide you with support, sanity, and a sense of calm before, during, and after pregnancy. Equally important is that they will make you laugh and remind you not to take it all too seriously - you'll NEED these laughs! They want to be there for you, so let them. Listen, take it all in, and thank them, because they are a damn treasure. Having had them to lean on this whole time makes me excited to do the same for more friends moving forward!
The “things” people say never stops: learning to let go.
It goes something like this, right?: When you’re single, people ask how and why. Once you’re dating someone, people ask when you’re getting engaged. The second you’re engaged, they want to know the date and every detail of your wedding. Before your wedding reception is over, people are asking when you’re having a baby (this one REALLY bothers me because you don’t know what people want or what they’re going through, and it can be very hurtful - but that’s a long, separate post for another time). Does this sound familiar? Well, guess what, it doesn’t stop there! Once I became pregnant, I thought, “Ok, maybe people will stop saying all the “things” now.” Yeah...no. Once you’re pregnant, people veryyyy generously offer their opinions about pretty much anything you can think of: names (personal opinion and best decision we made: don't tell anyone!), parenting styles, your registry, your nursery, how you should dress, how you should exercise, where you should live, the size of your bump (too big, too small, you’re not eating enough, you’re eating too much, is the baby healthy?!), how you should deliver, when you should go on maternity leave, how long you should take leave for, what you should do about your career plans, whether or not you should breastfeed, and the list goes on. They also want to know when you’re having your second baby, and/or how many kids you want altogether. Like, can I just enjoy this one for a minute? Before being pregnant, these comments used to get under my skin like no one’s business (mainly because it isn’t anyone’s business). However, experiencing this throughout pregnancy helped me arrive at a much welcomed point of acceptance that I feel compelled to share because it’s been so incredibly liberating. It’s quite simple: I’ve realized that most people have good intentions and don’t mean to be hurtful. Most of them are just excited for you and it comes out in different ways. Other people are just really, well...ignorant, big mouthed, or unhappy. And in life there will always be people like this. Whatever the case may be, I now realize these “things” people say, and the way they say them, doesn’t ever go away. Once the baby comes, I'm absolutely sure people will try and tell me how to raise my child. The solution? Instead of stressing over these unsolicited advice and comments, commit your energy to your reaction. Give yourself the gift of inner peace by letting go and allowing their words to float off into oblivion. Zone in on the energy you want for your child, your relationship with your partner, and your home. Focus on the things you CAN control, because whether they’re in your belly or in your arms, your baby feels what you feel and will learn how to handle things based on your example.
I have the power to control my perspective, vibes, and energy.
Life has made me extremely protective of and guarded with my energy; the energy I emit, whom I share it with, and that which I surround myself with. This has increased immensely with pregnancy, mainly because my baby is entirely dependent upon my body, state of mind, and energy. What flows through me flows through her, and I want her to feel calm, happy, and relaxed. In a perfect world, we would constantly be surrounded by positive, genuine, upbeat, supportive, people who are just as happy for us as we are for them. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case, and it can be challenging to zone out negativity. While I feel I’ve reached a point in life where I’ve surrounded myself with solid peeps, there’s no way to ever fully escape toxic vibes. Haters are still gonna hate and negative people are still gonna complain. This used to stress me out mainly because I wanted so much for those people to change and be better. But you, sweet Pregnancy, have blessed me with an epiphany: there is immense power in my point of view, and the desire to set an example for my child is stronger and more powerful than worrying about anyone else’s BS. This has empowered me by making me realize and embrace the power of my perspective in literally any situation. Whether it’s someone bumping into me on the street without an apology, or someone trying to fuel chaos or negativity in my life, I’ve shifted into a new sense of control out of love for my baby, and it’s been SO liberating! Pregnancy, you have taught me to take a moment to pause, breathe, and step back to assess situations calmly and compassionately, just the way I’d want my child to. More often than not, the issue is someone else’s toxic energy or personal stuff. That quick reflective moment reminds me there's nothing I can do, and it actually feels pretty damn good, because THAT means I don’t have to worry about it! It’s out of my control: not my problem, and not on my to-do list. This evolved perspective allows me to center my energy on what really matters: the well-being and contentedness of my growing little family.
Drink the coffee, eat the slice of prosciutto, sample the soft cheese, enjoy the glass of wine.
My general opinion on this subject prior to pregnancy was and still is: don’t have an opinion about other peoples’ choices and don’t judge. Now I feel I’ve earned the right to elaborate on these feelings: If you want it, have it! If you don’t want it or miss it or think about it, that’s cool too! I enjoyed an icy, bold cup of cold brew now and then throughout the summer months, and I appreciated every single sip without feeling sorry. I nibbled on a few slices of prosciutto and soppressata and some Camembert on crackers at a work event, and felt so happy that I actually closed my eyes as those long lost robust flavors met my longing taste buds. I’ve blissfully nursed a nice glass of red wine or two near the end of my pregnancy and it’s been absolutely fabulous. I think what’s worse than a little indulgence is the stress, frustration, and negativity you may feel over NOT having it, or letting the idea of missing it impact your mood. That taste of delicious food you really miss or a few sips of your favorite, full-bodied Cabernet coursing through your veins can make all the difference. That being said, I’m not a medical professional and I know it’s a controversial topic. This is my perspective from my own experience. I’ll leave on this note: do you, and don’t judge. Now pardon me while I enjoy this piping hot Starbucks Blonde Roast and some extra runny poached eggs.
Self-reflection: be in touch with your hormones.
I feel like there’s a very negative stigma around pregnancy hormones. Prior to pregnancy, the topic of pregnancy hormones always brought me back to that scene in Knocked Up where they’re at the doctor and he's cursing out her hormones (You’re a bitch, HORMONES! Not you, Allison. HORMONES!”). This is pretty much how they’re always represented in the media, as though pregnancy = a 24/7 miserable, mean, unreasonable crazy banshee woman. Ok, if you were already a terrible person before, this behavior shouldn’t come as a surprise just because you’re pregnant, but outside of that, women are too often represented as becoming these dreadful people for 9 months straight. BTW, some days this is the case and it’s ok - I mean, we’re growing a human. But what I now refer to as being “hormotional” doesn’t necessarily have to fulfill the old cliche of a woman crying on the couch for no apparent reason, a gallon of ice cream in one hand and a pickle in the other, while her sig other stands there terrified, with no clue what to do (TIP to the sigs: a hug goes a long way on days like that, just saying). In an attempt to control my hormones rather than have them control me, I’ve made it a habit throughout my pregnancy to check in and reflect. I basically ask myself, “Is this you reacting, Christine, or you with a strong dose of hormones?” I don’t want to be unpleasant to those around me, but I don’t want to apologize or feel guilty if I’m having a rough day, either. So this approach has actually really helped me to remain centered and balanced, and I think it’s been a positive approach for personal and professional relationships, as well. By acknowledging that I woke up a little feisty, emotional, or just off, I’m more aware throughout the day of my actions and reactions. My advice is to make it a point to have a certain kind of day that works for YOU. For me, I get a solid workout in, go for solo walks in the fresh air and sunshine listening to whatever music soothes my mood, keep to myself and off the phone/social media a bit more than usual, meditate, eat healthy and mood-boosting brain foods, take a deep breath before reacting to people and situations, read a book and go to bed early, and maybe even have myself a good cry if it feels right. I’ve told my husband “I’m putting myself to bed,” which is code for, “I’ve had a day,” and he gets it (and is probably relieved that I’m doing everyone a favor LOL). He kisses me, hugs me, and tomorrow will be a new day. It’s ok to have “off” days- hormones and estrogen are racing through our bodies 24/7. Show yourself some love by admitting it, owning it, and accepting that it’s alright. Maybe if we show our pregnancy hormones some compassion, they wouldn’t be quite so scary.
Nesting is so fun!
I’ve always heard and read about nesting as this like, OCD, out of control urge, laced with stress and panic. It strikes in the middle of the night, compelling you to wake up, clean your entire home and fully prepare for the baby before daybreak so that the world won’t end. Even the pregnancy apps I have sort of convey it that way. I know everyone’s different, but I love nesting! I would describe it instead as a surge of excited energy, swirled with inspiration, warmth, and an inherent need and desire to nurture. Doesn’t that sound euphoric? Not sure about other peoples’ experiences, but this has been mine and it gives me an endorphin high! Nesting is definitely instinctive and it definitely strikes like lightning, but rather than feeling nervous or panicked, I’ve felt a surge of creativity, inspiration, and energy to do things with purpose and love for my baby. Things like planning out her nursery (love you Pinterest), washing and organizing all of her new clothes and visualizing her adorably wearing them, and getting our apartment in order so that we can welcome her home to our happy, calm, zen little nest. It’s not just pregnancy that my nesting has had an impact on, either. This nurturing aspect has sort of set my creative wheels on fire. Even more so than usual, I get lost in cooking, baking, writing, experimenting with new recipes, working to launch this new blog page, and more. It feels so good to be taking care of her by making our home feel homier and going hard at work on my passions. So embrace your nesting instincts. They’re a real thing and they can be super inspiring and fun!
Let your cravings open you up to new things!
Cravings are so weird and fun. They’re oddly specific and completely unpredictable. Some of mine: picking on dry cereal in a coffee mug, ice cold freshly cut fruit, pasta - particularly pappardelle and bucatini, blue cheese wedge salads, refrigerated Envy apples peeled, sliced, and sprinkled with cinnamon, and literally anything spicy - from pizzas to curries. You couldn’t PAY me to eat spicy food before I was pregnant. I hated everything about it - the sensation of it in my mouth, my zero tolerance spice meter, and the awful heartburn and stomach ache I’d have after. Since being pregnant, I swear I’m like, one step away from carrying chili flakes around in my Prada. My friend at work is from India, and she develops these amazing curries in the test kitchen. It’s been so fun upping my spice tolerance with her delicious dishes, especially because I’ve never been into it before. My husband’s like, “Who are you?! I love this!” I also had a dairy sensitivity prior to pregnancy, and it completely disappeared, allowing me to enjoy actual ice cream and soft serve (it’s been YEARSSS), whipped cream, creamy sauces and dips, and soft cheeses like mozzarella, ricotta, and brie without the fear of feeling terrible the next day. For years I’ve also struggled with torturous IBS, and it’s been so much more manageable. I don’t feel as sick, sluggish, or sensitive to all of these foods I couldn’t even touch before. It’s this whole new world of possibilities! Unfortunately, my mommy sources tell me there's a strong possibility that everything will go back to the way it was prior to pregnancy. That would suck...I’ve come so far! Hopefully things stay the same for this momma post-pregnancy! But until your fate is sealed, I say get into your cravings while you’re pregnant! Try all the snacks, embrace the odd love of things you used to hate, and indulge in the unfamiliar. It may not last forever, OR it could be the beginning of a whole new world of foodie fun. So either way, enjoy it now!
Go on a babymoon.
This is a fun topic that I’d love to dive deeper into in a separate post, so I’ll keep it short. I used to think people used the word “babymoon” as a cute name for going on vacation while they were pregnant. Then my husband and I went on one, and it proved to be so much more special than that. Whether it’s for a night or a week, and by plane, train, or automobile, if you can plan a relaxing getaway with your honey before baby comes, it's so worth it. Getting away from the pressures of work and everyday routine to reflect on what’s to come in your life together plus baby vitalizes and nourishes your relationship - mind, body, and soul - in ways you haven't experienced together before. We spent time, just the two of us, relaxing in the sun, cocktail and mocktail in hand, having fun talking about the kind of parents we want to be, guessing what she’ll look like and what her personality could be like, and just feeling that vacation high mixed with excitement for our baby. We went for walks, got massages, read and took naps in the sun, enjoyed long, drawn out dinners, and slept in together well past sunrise. It was all about us, and our little baby bump was along for the ride. It’s hard to explain, but there’s just a different kind of romance about a babymoon. You return having cultivated another layer of closeness as a couple and an extra wave of excitement for what’s to come. A babymoon is something special, and it's the perfect way to get energized together as you really start making moves to prepare for baby's arrival.
Pregnancy, I’ve learned so much more about the meaning and beauty of life because of you. You've placed an emphasis on life’s true priorities and somehow brought to light the simplicity of brushing off all the rest. I love you, I cherish you, and as excited as I am for that first martini, I’ll miss you. You’re a gift, and I thank you for coming into my life, and for helping me to grow and evolve as we prepare to welcome our little baby girl into this big, bold, brave new world.