My husband and I are newly pregnant with our first child. What are some things you’d wish you’d known about pregnancy, but didn’t?
- Great Expectations
Dear Great Expectations,
Congratulations on your new pregnancy – what a special moment you’re living in! I was lucky to have three healthy pregnancies and gave birth to three daughters over the past decade. I also walked alongside several friends who had wildly different experiences from me, some wonderful, some heart-wrenching. So, the advice I’m sharing with you comes from that lens.
The first thing I learned along the way is that each pregnancy is different, both for you and for each person you know. Each carries its own challenges, discomforts and concerns.
When people around you are sharing their experiences, know that yours will have some things in common and many things unique. And, should you get pregnant again in the future, there will be many aspects of that experience that will be nothing like this first time around.
The second thing no one told me about was charley horses. Towards the end of my second pregnancy, I awoke with a sharp, throbbing pain in my leg and was terrified that I was experiencing a blood clot. I later learned that some women experience charley horses in pregnancy due to a number of factors, including nutrient deficiencies and dehydration.
I bring it up, as it was one of the scariest symptoms of pregnancy I’ve experienced, and the only one I had never heard anyone talk about until I experienced it myself. If you’re experiencing it, talk to your doctor about supplementing magnesium and start eating bananas and broccoli a bit more regularly – both of those things helped me tremendously.
The third piece of advice I have for you is to think about what your optimal pregnancy and childbirth experience would be, and then partner with people who will help to make that happen.
When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, my doctor shamed me into not having a birth plan, reminding me that he was the expert and I wasn’t. My childbirth experience with him as my doctor was unquestionably the most difficult on my body of the three childbirths I had, and I regretted not advocating for myself or finding another doctor. (He was dismissed from the hospital for unrelated reasons a month later, and I was cared for by a different doctor for my subsequent pregnancies).
We have many friends who’ve shared the same birth experience under the capable supervision of doctors, nurses, midwives and doulas. Those experiences went anywhere from in hospitals to birthing centers or in their homes, with drugs or natural approaches, leveraging any of the birthing philosophies or methodologies available. And, to be frank, I can’t tell a lick of difference between our kids and theirs. Choose the approach that brings you the most comfort and stand strong, because there isn’t a wrong way.
Finally, the most important thing I learned along the way is this: We have absolutely no control over anything that happens with our babies.
Sure, we can make certain decisions to keep ourselves and our babies at a lower risk for harm. But when it comes right down to it, things can go good or bad, and we can’t will them to go differently in most situations.
It’s remarkably vulnerable to release the mental grasp on control, but I can promise you that you’ll have to at some point and your mind will rest easier if you do it sooner than later.
Wishing you all the best as you enter this exciting new chapter!
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