I absolutely loved the experience of being pregnant. Believe it or not, I even enjoyed the unforgettable and incomparable intensity of labour. Becoming a mama has been a wild and wonderful journey. I marvel daily at how much has changed in my life in the last year. Dreams evolving, priorities shifting, mindset realigning. I can scarcely believe I'm here now, two months after becoming a mama, and I'm so very grateful.
My road to motherhood, despite a few scares and being designated as higher risk for a period of time, was one of a healthy pregnancy without many complications. However joyful, I was sometimes utterly exhausted and uncomfortable, so when I found creature comforts that helped ease the less pleasant sensations, or things that just enhanced the journey to motherhood, I embraced them enthusiastically. In this post, I'm excited to share my discoveries and recommendations for you, in case you, too, may find them helpful.
The best piece of advice I can give to carry you through is to educate yourself about all the resources your city has to offer. It's trickier to do things once your little one arrives, and time seems to run shorter as pregnancy progresses so take advantage of the time you have and start collecting info on everything you think would be helpful, for example:
- Find your OB/midwife/doula
- Get any necessary immunizations
- Does your city offer any free resources/books/info for expecting mamas?
- Download the Overdrive app on your device so you can sign out ebooks for free with your library card. This is a great way to read all the relevant books without breaking the bank
In-person workshops are a great way to learn and also connect with other expecting mamas. When I was 36 weeks along, I attended Pregnancy and the Empowered Mother, which was hosted by Jill (a nurse and founder of Essentials by Nature) and Lauren Mary (holistic doula and founder of Lauren Mary Holistics.) I wish I had done this earlier in my pregnancy, as they shared so many things that would have helped me out when I was battling extreme fatigue and nausea early on, for example. If you're local to Edmonton I would highly recommend this workshop, or if you're elsewhere I would encourage you to search for something similar in your city.
I also attended an event at Yo Mama Maternity that featured a fabulous group of guest speakers about all things motherhood. My friend Mel of The Nomadic Wife spoke about meal prep, while other presenters touched on topics from sleep to fitness after baby, to mental health and also documenting your family through photography.
Another thing I found very helpful is to talk to friends who are already parents whose general approach to life you respect and admire. Let's be honest, there are some parents who we don't want to emulate, so I found it inspiring to connect with the ones who are the kind of parents I aspire to be. I personally avoid the ones whose approach and general negativity makes parenting seem like a nightmare, and gravitate towards the ones who run their families with honesty, warmth and lots of humour. On the same note, it is wonderful to connect with other kindred spirits who are expecting little ones, to chat over tea and share your experiences.
Apps I found helpful throughout pregnancy:
- What to Expect: a classic but a goodie. Tracks your baby's development week by week and shares relevant health and self-care information. My main criticism of this app is that it's tips of the day often make men/dads out to be useless idiots who've never cooked or cleaned in their lives and have no emotional intelligence, but other than that, it's generally really helpful.
- iBirth: A slightly more holistic pregnancy app
- The Bump: Similar to the other two, but with more lighthearted articles
- Babyname: the" tinder" of babyname apps - you and your partner swipe on your respective phones to choose your favourite names and it builds a list of your favourite name matches for your reference. Fun, and helpful!
For me, the first trimester was a time to focus on emotional and physical self care, as it's a vulnerable moment where you're often not sharing your news with many people, holding on to hope that all will be well with baby, and feeling very fragile due to morning sickness and exhaustion. I rested as much as possible and tried to learn about all the things I shouldn't eat for food safety, while also learning through trial and error about what I could stomach! The most important tip I learned was to keep blood sugar stable, as drops were sure to trigger extreme nausea or almost fainting. Pack high protein snacks with you everywhere you go!
- Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy: Published in 2017, so very up-to-date and packed with truly helpful information. I loved this book and wish I'd read it before my baby arrived!
- The Field Guide to Pregnancy: I picked this up while in San Francisico and adored its east-meets-west approach, combining a traditional Chinese medicine perspective with a modern western perspective, month-by-month.
- The Mama Natural: a little more crunchy, with a focus on doing everything as naturally and drug-free as possible, but very interesting with lots of great recipes
- Yeah Baby. The tone of this one was what you would expect from Jillian Michaels, but nevertheless, absolutely packed with information about health, fitness and nutrition and how you can use pregnancy as an opportunity to get in the best shape of your life.
People told me the second trimester is the "golden trimester" as symptoms from the first start to dissipate and you're still not large enough to be uncomfortable. I found this to be very true. As such, this is a good time to get stuff done! Here are some things I would recommend:
- Travel. We took a babymoon to California and I had enough energy to walk for 8 hours/day!
- Dental work. You're hopefully less nauseated than in your first trimester and less large and uncomfortable sitting in a reclining pose than you will be in the third. Plus your gums need a little extra TLC while you're pregnant.
- Get your hair done. I did not take this advice and now have to wait until the little one can go long enough without nursing for me to get my highlights done. Highlights are safe to do during pregnancy since the colour doesn't touch your scalp, but ask your doctor if other colouring is safe before going while pregnant.
- Prepare the nursery. Do it earlier before you get too tired and big.
- Start to think about maternity leave. I am taking approximately 4-5 months off from working, though I did have my first brief shoot over the weekend. Talk to your partner (if applicable) and discuss what is desired and realistic for you. By prepping early, you can advise your employer or clients and start to make plans. On a related note...
- Financial planning. Unless you will be receiving Employment Insurance + full top-up from your employer, your financial situation will be affected by taking leave. Make a plan before you have to panic. I recommend speaking to a personal financial planner (more on that below).
- Maternity clothes. Most people start needing to wear maternity-appropriate clothes once the second trimester begins. I borrowed from friends, shopped at local boutiques as well as H&M's maternity section, and also simply purchased clothing in larger sizes or with a lot of stretch.
- Figure out home remedies and comfort strategies. Despite the magic of pregnancy, it can come with many physical discomforts. For me, heartburn was a big one and it started during the second trimester. I dealt with it using a mix of homemade shrub (a fruit vinegar) mixed with water and chewable Tums at night. Another complaint was my aching joints and hips, which I dealt with by padding my side of the bed with a thick comforter, which added extra cushioning.
- Take care of your skin. My complexion did crazy things during pregnancy, and my abdomen began expanding rapidly. The remedy for both of these phenomena was oil! I used Pura Botanicals' Ambrosia Beautifying Serum on my face and Evening Primrose Therapy Oil on my belly and I credit both with the absence of melasma or stretch marks.
Recommended reading: Worry-Free Money: the guilt-free guide to managing your money and your life. This is written by my friend and financial planner, Shannon Lee Simmons. Shannon is a longtime friend who has been advising me on personal finances for nearly a decade. Her expertise has been invaluable to me so I was incredibly excited to read her new book. It's full of information that will help whip you into financial shape as your family grows.
The third trimester, naturally, is when things start getting real. Here's what you can do during this time:
- Get the nitty gritty. I attended my hospital's prenatal class, which conveyed all the most important information about what to expect medically. I also asked my beloved OB for candid advice based on her vast experience. She was super blunt and also very encouraging, and our conversation was really reassuring. It was at this point that I decided to have no set birth plan.
- Care for your body. The best thing I did during the final month was a "Healthy Homestretch" package that included acupuncture, prenatal massage and guided meditation at Ripple Effect Wellness. It was an excellent experience! I'd encourage you to care for yourself in whatever way feels best, and be sure to get lots of rest.
- Meal prep! My friend Mel helped us with meal preparation, and I also baked a lot of one-handed and bite-sized snacks like pre-sliced banana bread that could be frozen and individually defrosted.
- Make a snack station. My friend Sarah gifted me a basket of her personal favourite drinks and snacks that she'd enjoyed during nursing her own baby. I set this up beside my chair in the nursery and it sustained me during those first few weeks!
- Maternity portraits. This is a great time to hire a photographer to take portraits for you at this special moment. I'd advise doing so earlier in your third trimester, before you get increasingly uncomfortable and have to run to the bathroom all the time.
LABOUR + DELIVERY
I learned a lot about what to pack from attending my hospital prenatal class, although I only used a tiny portion of it since the delivery ward was full and I spent the day being induced, walking the halls with my IV and also standing up in a curtained bay of the assessment area for 80% of my labour. I didn't get to use any of the therapeutic items like a yoga ball or massage balls because I didn't get into the delivery room until it was time to push. But that's a story for another day!
Between what I learned at different prenatal classes and what I gleaned from friends, my hospital must-haves (that I actually had a chance to use) were:
- A camera!
- A super cozy robe
- Comfortable slippers
- 1-2 of your own pillows from home
- Litres of coconut water (what I lived off during labour when I wasn't allowed anything but clear fluids)
- Intensive moisturizer and chapstick (because you will be parched)
- Good hair elastics that keep your hair off your face
- Pads and an ice pack and larger cotton underwear
- A water bottle with a straw
- Great snacks for recovery including nourishing bone broth, high fibre friends like chia seeds and dried fruits, and high protein items like nuts and seeds. Also, I drank a chocolate milkshake as soon as I was able to and I highly recommend it.
- A beautifully scented soap or body wash for your post-labour shower (the best shower of your life)
- Nursing bras + tank tops
- Grooming supplies if you care about cleaning yourself up for your first pictures with your baby/family. I packed a bright pink lipstick and I'm so glad I did, seriously. It perked me right up when I felt utterly spent and didn't want any photos initially.
- Cozy blanket to swaddle your baby
- Cozy clothes for baby in multiple sizes
- Diapers and wipes for baby
- Black pens for filling out a million forms
I hope you found this helpful! It's only a tiny bit of what I learned, so if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out.