This baby thing is really happening, and you’re in it for the 40-week long haul. Maybe you were perfectly prepared before the test pointed positive, or maybe you’re like the rest of us and could use a tuneup to get you on the right track. Heck, maybe some major repairs are in order. No matter where you’re starting from, now is the time to get your mind, body and spirit in gear.
Rotation and alignment
Look at you, reading Pregnancy & Newborn! Obviously, you’re taking steps to learn about the changes your body is going through and what you can expect down the road. Page by page, you’re aligning your mindset with this new phase of life.
Besides this handy periodical, there are several useful books out there that will keep you up to speed on your pregnancy. For comprehensive Q&A, pick up the classic What to Expect When You’re Expecting. For a helpful timeline and overview, try Your Pregnancy Week by Week. For a more scientific (and illustrated) approach, check out The Pregnant Body Book. All of these are great for general knowledge; for personal guidance, always turn to your trusted medical professional. Your OB or midwife is going to be the best source of advice whenever you have medical concerns.
You may find yourself rotating your topics of conversation with friends as well. Even though your pregnancy journey will be unique and personal, it helps to hear about the successes and experiences of others. Your girlfriends will give it to you straight (What kind of maternity jeans do I want? How do I have sex with a belly in the way? Will these stretch marks go away?) and remind you to keep your sense of humor close at hand. Moms and sisters are also awesome resources—because you share DNA, your experiences may be similar in some ways.
As you’re learning about your pregnancy (the now), start looking ahead to delivery and baby care, too (the later). Check with your local hospital for a calendar of maternity classes, and sign up for those that seem helpful. Popular options include labor and delivery prep (or Lamaze if you’re planning to deliver naturally), breastfeeding 101 and baby care basics. Tour the hospital or birthing center you have selected, and develop a birth plan detailing how you would like to deliver. When you take the time to mentally prepare, you’ll be that much more ready to tackle the challenges of birth and baby-rearing.
We’ve all got some mileage on us, but this is the time to do a little restoration work. Even if your baby-making machine isn’t quite in mint condition, don’t beat yourself up for unhealthy habits you might have had in the past. From here forward, commit to fueling (er, eating) more healthfully and exercising regularly.
When you’re expecting, it’s easy to get anxious about all the “shalt-nots”—no soft cheese, no Advil, no wine—but it’s even more important to think about the “shalts.” Start with a daily prenatal vitamin. Select one with iron if you can stomach it, but if not, just make sure it’s a solid multivitamin with plenty of folic acid.
You also want to be eating a balanced diet of fruits, veggies, whole grains and proteins. Fish (with low mercury) has important omega-3s for baby’s brain development; try to incorporate it on a weekly basis. If seafood is not your favorite, munch on nuts, use vegetable oils, or take a DHA supplement to reach the recommended 200 milligrams per day.
Even when you’re down with morning sickness (total misnomer, by the way), work in nutrition as best you can. Contrary to inclination, eating small amounts throughout the day is much better than skipping meals because they look/sound/ smell unappetizing. Having something in your stomach at all times is one of the surest ways to combat nausea. Incorporate protein and vitamins whenever you can, but even plain toast is better than running on empty.
Physically, you’re going to encounter aches and pains you’ve never felt before. To prevent a breakdown, keep up with regular, low-impact exercise like walking or swimming. Other forms of exercise can be OK, too, but check with your doctor to make sure you’re not pushing yourself too hard.
As your pregnancy progresses, blood flow becomes more labored and swelling is common. Alter your position throughout the day, rather than spending all your time on your feet or in a chair. This will also help with the back pain you’re likely to encounter in your third trimester.
Lastly, get some rest! Sleep on your left side at night for optimal blood flow, and use extra pillows to prop up your tummy in whatever way is comfortable. Use the bathroom right before bed, so middle-of-the-night potty calls will be at a minimum. When all else fails (a good night’s sleep will become increasingly evasive, unfortunately), schedule a rejuvenating nap during the day.
Firing on all cylinders
Baby thrives in an optimistic environment. Forgive yourself for the glass of wine you had before you knew you were pregnant. Let go of all those parenting worries—you’ll learn as you go. And don’t let strangers freak you out with worst-case-scenario horror stories about their cousin’s friend’s sister. Try to let it all roll off your back, and stay focused on the positive.
Yoga, meditation and prayer are great ways to calm yourself and feel connected with your baby; this quiet alone time is precious. However, socialization is important, too. Keep company with other moms or moms-to-be who can share your ups and downs—find support at prenatal classes, through your community center or neighborhood, or even online. If possible, distance yourself from those who aren’t supportive of your pregnancy.
During this special time, your romantic relationship will certainly be affected. Stay close to your partner with date nights, go for walks, and talk about your hopes for the future. Make this pregnancy an “us” thing, not a “me” thing. Stay physically close, too, with hugs and affection even when you’re not in the mood for more. If you can support each other now, it will be easier to lean on one another after baby arrives and redefines the makeup of your family.
Look for ways to lessen stress at work and at home. Communicate with your boss, co-workers and family; without broadcasting a “woe is me” attitude, discuss any necessary adjustments to your workload while maintaining a can-do perspective. Choose media—books, movies, TV shows, music, Internet articles—that bring peace to your life. Get out for fresh air when you can.
Pregnancy can be an emotional time, partly because of heightened hormones, but also because you’re going through something major that will change your life forever. It is a big deal, but you want to approach it calmly and positively. Taking care of your mind and body should help you feel spiritually centered as well, but if you find yourself unable to cope with feelings of anxiety or depression, talk with your doctor right away. He might recommend a prescription or share advice on how to handle these tough emotions.