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Everything I Wish I Knew Before Getting Pregnant (Plus My Favorite Pregnancy Resources!)
I’m five days past my due date and SO ready to meet this baby already!
Writing about pregnancy has been on my mind for the last few months, but I just haven’t sat down and done it. Well, now that I’ve been given some “extra time,” I have no excuse.
I wanted to write this post A) for my own benefit, as I think I (and my child) may appreciate reading it one day, and B) for the potential benefit of other moms-to-be, as I believe we learn best from people who are still in (or just barely out of) the stage of life we’re entering. If I’m touring a college campus, I want to be led by a sophomore, not a senior — let alone a tenured professor — you know?
So, instead of waiting until I’m three kids deep into motherhood, I thought I’d write about my pregnancy now, while I’m technically still in it (for hopefully only hours longer!).
Here’s everything I’ve learned about pregnancy, including the most surprising changes to my physical, mental, and spiritual health, plus all my favorite pregnancy resources.
(Disclaimer: I know everyone’s pregnancy journey is different; this is simply my experience!)
1. Physical Changes
Before getting pregnant, I had no idea my body would change.
😆 Just kidding.
I knew it would, but I didn’t know exactly how. Aside from the obvious growing belly, here are a few unexpected physical changes I’ve experienced during pregnancy. (TMI alert!)
How My Body Has Changed
Fluctuating appetite: During my first trimester, I experienced regular bouts of nausea and food aversions; almost nothing sounded appetizing except cheese and carbs. Once second trimester hit, I became almost ravenous, indulging perhaps a bit too much. Then third trimester arrived, and the baby started crowding my body so much that I simply couldn’t eat as much as I wanted. (Now that the baby has “dropped,” I have a bit more room for bigger meals.)
Fluctuating breasts: For both of my pregnancies, tender, bigger breasts were my first obvious clue that I was pregnant. The tenderness went away after my first trimester, but I did have to go up a cup size a couple of months in; later, I got remeasured at Victoria’s Secret and got another size altogether. Over the past few months, though, I swear my breasts have actually shrunk — maybe it’s the eating less, or maybe it’s an optical illusion, given how much bigger my belly seems by comparison. 😆
Better skin, hair, and nails: I don’t know if I’d call it a “pregnancy glow,” but I haven’t had a zit since getting pregnant, and my hair and nails have definitely been growing faster and thicker. On the flip side, I feel like I have to shave less… which doesn’t seem to make sense, but I’ll take it!
Thicker… everything: I don’t know if my butt is actually bigger or if it’s just the expanding belly, but my underwear is a bit tighter these days. My arms and thighs seem a little thicker than usual, too. Fun.
Stretch marks: Despite lotion-ing up after every shower, I made it to about eight months before some lovely dark lines started crawling up my stomach. Around the same time, my belly became super itchy, especially at night or after working out. The itchiness has since subsided, which could be a product of switching from regular lotion to the Palmer’s samples I’ve gotten in my baby registry boxes. (I’ve heard that nothing can really prevent stretch marks, as they’re largely genetic, but using a quality cream or oil can’t hurt, right?)
PMS symptoms: No bleeding, fortunately, but I’ve still had occasional cramps, fluids, bloating, and gas. You know, all that cute stuff!
Fluctuating energy: Looking back on my first trimester, I don’t think I fully recognized just how tired I was. I think I believed that because my outward appearance hadn’t changed that much, my inward energy shouldn’t have, either — yet I wanted to sleep all the time, and my regular workouts absolutely wiped me out. But then I entered second trimester, and I began to feel great. Even now, 40-plus weeks in, my energy levels are mostly normal, although they get depleted pretty fast.
Notice a theme here? Fluctuation is the name of the game. I’ve learned to go with the flow and listen to what my body is truly asking, since it seems to change every day.
Tips for Dealing with Physical Pregnancy Changes
Don’t freak out about physical changes early on (or anytime!). That first trimester can be a real b*tch, so give yourself grace for however it hits you — whether you gain more (or less) weight than you’d like, whether you feel “not yourself,” etc. Hopefully, those un-fun changes won’t last long, but even if they do — or if you start to develop new un-fun changes as your pregnancy progresses — they still won’t last forever. Or maybe they will; maybe you (and I) will have stretch marks forever, and they’ll be just another reminder of the beautiful journeys our bodies make to create precious life.
Don’t assume your symptoms will be the same as anyone else’s. Even your mom’s. Even your sister’s. Even your previous pregnancy’s! Just like every mom is different, every baby is different, and you just can’t predict how your body will react. So try to approach every week of pregnancy with an open mind and a humble heart.
Try to maintain your pre-pregnancy lifestyle. Moms who have had super-difficult pregnancies, please just tune me out right now. 😅 But if you aren’t debilitated, I’d recommend at least trying to stay as healthy and active as you can. I did cut down on the frequency (and intensity) of my workouts, but I still went to Zumba every week, which not only made me feel “normal” but also benefited my baby’s health and mine. I’ve also noticed that, since my diet has improved over the past few months, so has my mood. Pregnancy already makes you feel a little off, so don’t make it even harder by denying yourself the healthy habits that make you feel like you.
Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Whether you’re feeling nauseated in your first trimester or stuffed in your third trimester, eating less (but often) can really help you feel better.
Sleep!Seriously, give yourself permission to just REST. If you’re like me, you feel the need to always be “productive”… but growing a baby is productive! Still get up and move around if and when you can, but don’t feel bad about sleeping in later or lying down earlier than usual. Doing “nothing” can be a great time to replenish your energy, read about motherhood, or connect with your baby… all of which are, I’d argue, definitely doing “something”!
2. Mental / Emotional Changes
Pregnancy takes just as much of a toll on your mind just it does on your body.
Especially after experiencing the miscarriage of our first child about a year ago, this pregnancy has been very emotional for me — in both positive and not-so-positive ways.
How My Mood Has Changed
Accepting this is really happening: My first trimester was fraught with worry about the baby’s health. We learned we were pregnant pretty early, around four weeks, so getting to that second-trimester milestone felt like it took forever — especially since we’d lost our first baby at eight weeks (thinking we were ten). Even once we felt fairly confident this pregnancy was viable, we waited a while to announce it to others out of caution. I’m not sure when I finally accepted everything would (probably) be okay, but by mid-second trimester, I had adopted a position of pure faith and gratitude. I still try to maintain that, not complaining about anything, knowing how the outcome could have been so different.
Connecting with my baby: A friend asked me a few months into this pregnancy, gently, whether I’d had trouble connecting with my baby after experiencing the trauma of our miscarriage. It was a great question, and one I’m sure many moms who have lost a child struggle to answer, but I can fortunately say I’ve felt bonded to this baby from the first ultrasound. Since we still don’t know the gender, it’s hard to actually picture our baby — and I know my love will multiply by a million once we meet him or her — but I have already felt my heart shift like a sunflower toward this child.
Dealing with body image issues: Like many (most?) women, I’ve struggled with body image throughout my life, something pregnancy has definitely tested. Again, I’ve felt guilty complaining about this — and, on the whole, I’ve actually felt pretty good about my pregnant body — but I want to be honest that it hasn’t been completely easy watching my body grow. (I posted about this here and here.) That said, the last couple of months have been oddly freeing, like I’ve finally surrendered control over my size. There’s no “sucking in” now! I may not feel my sexiest, but I do feel more powerful, more womanly, than ever.
Nesting: Oh yes, this is real! I’ve always been someone who likes to plan ahead, but pregnancy has made me even more Type A. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of time researching products for our baby registry, getting our house ready, and reading (and watching videos) about what to expect with a newborn. It’s mostly been fun, and I don’t regret it — especially because neither Troy nor I have historically been “baby people,” and Lord knows he isn’t doing much research on this front. 😉
Mentally preparing for major life change: We waited six years after getting married to “start trying” (or rather “stop not trying”) because we knew just how much having a baby would rock our world. I’ve now spent the whole last year wrapping my mind around the imminent reality of that world-rocking. Not gonna lie, I’ve had a few mental breakdowns about it. But on the whole, I’ve gradually come to terms with what’s about to happen. At this point, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Just like my physical fluctuations, I’ve had plenty of emotional ups and downs throughout this pregnancy. Again, I’m simply trying to honor the space I’m in, acknowledging it gets better every day.
Tips for Dealing with Mental / Emotional Pregnancy Changes
Allow yourself to accept the blessing of this pregnancy. Whatever has happened in your history, whatever will happen, this child is a gift. You can absolutely feel conflicted if you’ve walked a rough road, but you don’t have to live in fear of what could be. You can rejoice in the miracle of life now.
Actively try to bond with your baby. I know I said I haven’t had trouble with this, but I think that’s largely because I’ve prayed fervently over my baby from the moment I found out I was pregnant. Try to seek out moments every day or week when you can quietly connect with your child, whether that’s walking in nature, writing a letter, or simply lying in bed, resting a hand on your belly. I’m not saying we always have control over our feelings, but I’ve found these little actions have really helped me fall in love with my baby in utero.
Be vulnerable. If you’re struggling emotionally, find someone to confide in — ideally your partner, but also a trusted friend, family member, or therapist. I’ve even found that going public with both my miscarriage story and my body-image issues has been encouraging, as so many people have come forward in solidarity. Remember that whatever trial you’re experiencing, you are neither the first nor the last to do so, and you have an army of friends waiting to help you bear that burden.
Start preparing early and often. Sure, you probably could over-prepare, but wouldn’t you rather err on that side? Keep a baby-related book on your bedside table (see my recommendations below), and start saving the parenting info you find online. I created a private Pinterest board to collect all the products, articles, and other resources I stumbled upon, so I could easily reference them later.
Create your baby registry strategically. This is where hours and hours of research come in handy! I recommend registering for only what you’re certain you want or need, since returning unwanted items later is not so fun. I picked one universal registry (Babylist, as explained below), though I did also register privately at both Target and Amazon to get their completion discounts on the things Babylist didn’t carry.
Set up your new sleeping environment now. Those first few nights with a newborn will be disorienting enough. If you plan on having your baby sleep in your room (as is recommended), start getting used to the arrangement. Put the bassinet together, install the blackout curtains, and turn on the sound machine a few weeks in advance.
Ride the highs — especially during second trimester. Not every day will be rosy, but cherish those that are. Consider keeping a pregnancy journal (mine is linked below) to record what you’re grateful for and write letters to your child. You’ll both be glad you did.
3. Spiritual Changes
As a Christian, I consider my spiritual health just as important as my physical and mental health.
Here’s how my faith has changed since getting pregnant.
How My Faith Has Changed
Appreciation of life: I’ve always believed life is a miracle, but feeling the baby move inside me has sparked a whole new level of awe and wonder. I’m simply amazed at what the Lord is creating and equipping my body to do, and I’m so grateful I get to play a part in the process.
Shifting of priorities: Although my daily life hasn’t had to change too much just yet, I’m growingly aware of how much it will — and, surprisingly, how much I’m okay with that. God truly is reshaping my heart, as I’ve been praying he would.
New and growing connections with others: From the moment we shared about our miscarriage, people — parents especially — seem to have related to us differently. Although there are no “clubs” in the kingdom, I do think God uses shared experiences to help us grow, and he seems to be using pregnancy to help me better connect with other moms (and dads, and moms-to-be, and dads-to-be…). As someone who leans independent, I’m starting to see how it does “take a village to raise a child,” and how that so sweetly reflects the relational, community-loving heart of God.
Overall, as I’ve come to accept this huge responsibility the Lord has given me, pregnancy has caused my faith to mature in rich, beautiful ways. I can’t wait to see what happens once I actually have this precious soul in my arms!
Tips for Dealing with Spiritual Pregnancy Changes
Get your partner involved. If possible, talk to your partner about the spiritual changes you’re (both!) experiencing during pregnancy. It’s easy to focus on the obvious physical and emotional changes that are happening, but your faith is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of your health, so don’t forget to address it regularly.
Do your devotions. While other healthy habits may fall by the wayside during pregnancy, don’t let your devotional practice be one of them. I’ve found that reading my Bible, writing in my journal, and praying every morning keeps me centered and thankful.
Remember your pregnancy is temporary. I’ve heard this advice applied to parenthood in general, and I think it’s so helpful in both good pregnancy times and bad. Throwing up for the third time today? Don’t worry; it’s temporary. Hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time? Treasure it; it’s temporary.
Remember what you’re creating is forever. While your pregnancy is temporary, your baby’s soul is not. Through you, God is knitting together a life that hopefully will join you in heaven one day — for all of eternity. How glorious is that!
Bonus: My Favorite Pregnancy Resources
As I’ve been navigating all these physical, emotional, and spiritual changes during pregnancy, I’ve come across several resources that have helped make my pregnant life a little easier.
Here are my favorite pregnancy-related products, books, apps, and more!
Expecting Better*: This smartly written book by economist Emily Oster reviews the real data behind the “rules” of pregnancy (like eating sushi or drinking caffeine) — and whether or not we should actually follow them.
Cribsheet: Another good book by Emily Oster, this one reviews the real data behind everything that comes after pregnancy, like breastfeeding, sleep training, potty training, and more.
Bumpin’*: Coined “The Modern Guide to Pregnancy,” this book by Leslie Schrock is a comprehensive overview of all your pregnancy questions.
Nurture*: Written by doula Erica Chidi Cohen, this is an easily digestible, almost journal-like pregnancy and birthing book with an inclusive, integrative approach.
What to Eat When You’re Pregnant*: This week-by-week guide by Dr. Nicole M. Avena includes 50 recipes… that I didn’t actually make, but I appreciated the general advice. 😄
On Becoming Babywise: I’m not actually finished with this yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about this sleep-training method from Dr. Robert Bucknam and co-author Gary Ezzo that I feel good about recommending it now.
Babylist: A must-have app for pregnancy info, product comparisons, and (most importantly) your universal baby registry. Add anything from any store, and get a 15% completion discount after your shower.
What to Expect: Another good (if a little cheesy) app to help track your baby’s — and your — development throughout pregnancy.
Pregnancy Confidential: A conversational, week-by-week podcast explaining what to expect each week of pregnancy. It’s old (recorded in 2016) but still good!
Facebook Marketplace: The best place to find local, gently used items you didn’t get off your registry (especially the pricier ones…).
YouTube: For product comparisons, nursery organization tips, baby bathing tutorials, and other pregnancy- and newborn-related vlogs.
Pinterest: A great place to get inspiration for, and save items that may go on, your baby registry.
Instagram: Ideal for polling your community about motherhood — if you truly want to know what they think. 😜 I got a lot of great recommendations for local daycares and baby products just by asking people on my Stories.
First Comes Pregnancy, Then Comes Postpartum…
So, that’s just about everything I’ve learned during this pregnancy. I hope my pregnant (and pregnant-to-be) friends find it helpful!
A baby, that’s what! ☺️
I promise this is not going to turn into a “mommy blog,” but writing about my personal life is important to me. If sharing my experience can help others — and, let’s face it, myself (writing is therapeutic!) — I want to do it.
So, stay tuned for potential content about my postpartum experience. I’m sure it’s going to be scary and exciting and painful and meaningful and tiring and beautiful, all at once!