Written by | Caitlin Curbello-Rodriguez
Let me tell you – this whole pregnancy thing has been wild. I’m sure every first-time mommy-to-be (M2B) has felt similarly; what the HECK is going on here? I’ve heard from friends and family members different versions of pregnancy – some had seamless, easy-breezy pregnancies, while others experienced pain and mild to severe complications. Every pregnancy is unique and that is absolutely incredible to me. It’s mystifying. It makes you wonder, “What did this person do to have this type of pregnancy? Why do (or don’t) I feel this way? Why do (or don’t) I experience those same things? Is it genetics? Environmental factors?” There may be clear cut answers to some of these questions, but fast-forward to the end result and all successful pregnancies are the same – bringing a beautiful baby into this crazy world.
This piece isn’t going to be filled with scientific data or references to studies relating to pregnancy. I just want to share my personal experience with being pregnant for the first time, because it’s such a weird and wonderful journey. Maybe some of these things will help you feel normal, make you laugh, make you think I’m ridiculous, or make you want to call your OBGYN right away to ask a question. Whatever the case is, I want to throw this out there – I’m no expert. I’m no doctor. Please, please always defer to your healthcare provider for any questions or big choices you may have relating to you and your future baby’s health. Every pregnancy is completely different, and you are the only one who can decide what is best.
MY JOURNEY, SO FAR
My husband and I were not actively trying to have a baby. Once we got married in 2017 we were both ready for a kid, but decided to let it happen naturally if possible – no planning, no strenuous schedules. We also agreed that if by a certain date nothing had happened, we would go see a doctor to ensure we were both actually capable of having children or if we might need extra help along the way (which is far more common than you might think). About a year and a half later – boom. That pregnancy test said clear as day, “PREGNANT”. I was completely shocked. It had been so long without contraceptives and not actually “trying” to have a baby that this was a surprise to me. When I read that result I didn’t really react. I just said, “Well, that’s never happened before,” while my husband cheered and came up and hugged me. As the days went by and I processed everything, I shook off the shock and my excitement started to show.
Hormones | Oh, hormones. I’ve always been an emotional person, but with this new level of fluctuating hormones I reached an entirely new plane of emotional existence. Out of all of my pregnancy side-effects, hormones have been the most prominent and unpredictable. I’ll just say it – I’ve been a hormonal WRECK! During the first trimester, I cried constantly. I didn’t think it would ever stop. All of life’s biggest questions, who I was as a person, if I was ready for parenthood, all the preparations I needed to make, every problem I’d ever had ALL came bubbling to the surface and called in to question. I felt like I was having an existential crisis! Luckily I have the most supportive friends, family, and co-workers who let me cry at them and assured me everything was okay, even if I didn’t believe them at the time. I still have some mood swings, but it’s not nearly as bad as it had been. Phew.
Although I chalk up a lot of my feelings as hormones, it did dredge up many real issues and problems I was facing. I talked to my doctor about it, and she advised me to see a counselor or therapist even if these feelings faded later on. It’s never a bad idea to talk to someone professionally, so if you’re feeling sad don’t hesitate to set an appointment with a mental healthcare provider. They are there to help, and it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. I also started taking long walks and listening to music or my favorite podcasts when I’d have hard days. This helped to cheer me up, and I definitely recommend getting some sort of physical activity in every week. Those walks were (and still are) very cathartic and refreshing. Be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before starting or continuing any sort of workout regimen.
Belly Pictures | I don’t always think my pregnancy body looks cute, but I’ve taken belly progress pictures anyway. I think after I have the baby I’m going to want to see a time lapse of how the pregnancy developed. It’s such a COOL thing to witness! I suggest taking the pictures every week. Your body is enduring something amazing, and it all happens so fast!
PREPARING FOR BABY
I was once (and still can be) one of the world’s worst procrastinators. I don’t deny it. This realization has transformed me into the Princess of Paranoia when it comes to getting things done. This has especially rung true leading up to bringing a new human into the world. Since the beginning of this pregnancy, I’ve made lists of things that need to get done, need to be researched, and that I need to figure out in order to calm my anxiety.
What is my maternity leave plan? Who will throw us baby showers? What do we put on a registry? When can I get this home-office-turned-nursery cleaned out and ready for the baby? How are we going to afford all of this?
“I’m Pregnant!” | Don’t feel pressured to announce when you’re pregnant, or how you announce it. That is something that no one else has jurisdiction over. I waited until after the 13 week mark which many people do because they feel certain enough that the pregnancy is healthy and will proceed as normal. I’ve had friends who also waited until a little later to announce for the same reason, and still experienced heartbreak after that amount of time. This is your journey – do what makes you, or you and your partner, feel most comfortable.
Have any names picked out yet? | Baby names are so exciting! You can choose to honor loved ones (alive or deceased) by naming your baby after a friend or family member. You can be inspired by things you love like a favorite book or movie character – the possibilities are endless! EVERYONE wants to know what you plan on naming your baby, whether it’s sheer curiosity or to start that custom embroidered baby blanket. We’ve decided to keep the names quiet. That’s just our preference. A few reasons why I want to keep the name under wraps is because I’ve actually witnessed family members fight over the use of a name, become jealous if another namesake was used, and I’ve seen people be judged harshly because someone thought the proposed baby name was weird or not cute. That makes ZERO sense to me. If it’s not your baby, you really have no say in what the name is. I would have never imagined witnessing drama over a baby name, but it’s unfortunately happened.
Use your resources | If you’re having your baby at a hospital, they’ll usually offer some type of parenting classes leading up to your delivery date. I highly suggest taking advantage of them, especially if you’re a first-time M2B like me. I didn’t grow up with younger siblings or family members, so I feel inexperienced and unfamiliar when it comes to caring for babies. My husband and I will take all of the help we can get to better understand the basics of infant childcare! If you aren’t having your baby at a hospital, I’m sure there are credible resources for parenting guidance elsewhere. Just be sure to do your research. Side note: I’ve called my doctor’s office numerous times to ask questions when I feel uncertain about using a particular medication or eating a certain food – that’s why they are there! Don’t be afraid to give them a call to ease your mind about anything and everything.
Daycare / Childcare | This is something that has weighed heavily on me. Remember me, Princess of Paranoia? Well, that also translates to stressing over who is going to care for my baby while I’m back at work. I suggest doing research as early as possible on childcare available in your area (and within your budget). Be sure to ask other moms you know what they did for childcare, word-of-mouth are some of the best reviews you can get. Do you want a religiously-affiliated daycare, or not? Is video camera surveillance you can check throughout the day a must-have? Is the type of curriculum provided important? What time is drop-off and pick-up, and will that work with your schedule? Read reviews and schedule tours so you can physically walk through the place and ask questions. Waiting lists are definitely a thing for most childcare establishments, so the sooner you feel comfortable with choosing a place, the sooner you can get on that waiting list! Don’t want to go the daycare route? There are in-home options available, too.
Support | I highly suggest joining parenting groups, locally and online. I downloaded a pregnancy tracking app (What to Expect Pregnancy Tracker) on my phone, and it has been a wonderful resource. It gives me silly size comparisons (“your baby is the size of a red bell pepper”) every week, explains some of the general things that are *likely*happening with my body and baby, and also links to great articles that cover almost any question you may have about pregnancy/motherhood. Within this app there are forums full of M2Bs asking the same questions that swirl around my brain. So far I’ve received nothing but love and support from the online community. It’s fascinating and reassuring to hear from people from all walks of life about their unique experiences. I’ve only posted my own thread a couple of times (one being a novel freaking out about maternity leave) and everyone who responded to it were so kind, protective, and understanding.
I have a friend locally who is a mother of four, and she has invited me to several mommy groups on social media. She lets me know about meetings or outings with other groups that I may be interested in. This all makes me feel like I am not at all alone, and I am so thankful. I have an entire community of parents around me who are supportive and helpful! They have discussions and post about which stores are having sales, which schools they recommend, which doctors they’ve had good/bad experiences with, cheap family outings – anything you could imagine to help a fellow parent out!
I’d like to say I have myself completely together moving forward towards first-time parenthood, but I don’t. I think that’s okay, though – I doubt there has been anyone on the face of this planet that has been completely ready for parenthood no matter how much preparation they went through, or how many books they’ve read. All I can do is keep myself and the baby healthy, and do my best to shape this new human being into the best person they can be. This pregnancy has been a weird journey so far, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.