A first pregnancy can be downright terrifying. Let's face it, chances are you have zero clue what's going on down there. You have to rely on books, Google, and girlfriends. When it's your second pregnancy, however, you can count on the expertise of one very special individual: yourself. I'm sure every experienced expectant mom would love to write a letter to her previously pregnant self. That's why I'm sharing the things I learned during my first pregnancy that have helped during my second.
My first pregnancy was far from magical, and to make it worse, I wasn't anticipating it at all. My mom loved her experience (she thought she had the flu one day and only realized she was pregnant when I kicked the catalog off her lap), so I assumed it would be just as easy for me. It was an incredibly challenging nine months for me, but it was also a learning experience that's paid off in spades now that I'm pregnant again. I know what to expect, what's normal and what's cause for worry, and perhaps, most importantly, when it will stop sucking (or at least suck in a different way).
I'm currently benefiting from my own experience, so I'm imparting the "wisdom" I've gained in the hopes that other expectant moms don't have to wait until their second pregnancy to learn the following:
Eat the damn cheese. Take the damn bath. You get the idea. There's all kinds of sh*t that's verboten when you're expecting, but you honestly don't need to let the pregnancy police harsh your mellow. I was so worried about everything the first time around, and I really didn't need to be. I know the recommendations, limits, and risks, and as long as I assume those, it's nobody's business what I do.
OK, so maybe the details of your pregnancy are not nobody's business. Your provider does need to know what's going on with you. During my first pregnancy, I was hesitant to let my midwife know how bad things were (whether it was morning sickness or hemorrhoids), and guess what? I didn't get what I needed.
This time, I made sure at my initial appointment that my midwife knew everything that was going on with me, from my history of depression to the staph infection in my hooha a few months ago. If there's anything I think might affect my pregnancy or that my provider could possibly help with, I'm going to tell her about it, no matter how embarrassing.
During my first pregnancy, I was still teaching third grade full-time. Despite vomiting daily until about 20 weeks, I missed only five days of school. After a parent complained that I wasn't making her daughter a priority (you know, because I was making my daughter one), I was scared to take any time off. My body and mental and emotional state paid the price.
I now work two part-time jobs with a more flexible schedule, so it's objectively easier this time around. The biggest difference, however, is I don't have people making me feel bad about missing work, and this time my own name is at the top of that list. Sick days exist for a reason. Take them.
The first time I went through a first trimester, I didn't know that what I was experiencing wasn't normal. I thought, "It's just morning sickness." Well, turns out that the severe food aversions, acute nausea, and constant vomiting I had were, in fact, extreme symptoms.
When that garbage reared its ugly head this time around, I was quick to tell my doctor about its severity and the fact that nothing worked to fix it. I was finally diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum. When things got really bad and I couldn't hold down liquids, I marched into urgent care and got an IV. That, plus the anti-nausea medications, have helped me turn the corner to feeling better faster than I did with my first child.
I didn't realize that when medical professionals and your BFF tell you to do your pelvic floor exercises, they really mean it — and I learned the hard way. I didn't do them (like, at all) during my first pregnancy, and now I have a major problem with stress-induced incontinence. That's right, folks, my pregnancy hormones make me vomit, and my vomit makes me pee. I will not make this mistake again. In fact, I'm doing my Kegels right now.
I was uncomfortable and had trouble sleeping way before I ever started showing. I felt weird shopping for pregnancy pillows on Amazon because, well, don't you need a belly first? The answer is no. You can break out that Snoogle the second you see a pink line on that pregnancy test. Second time moms know that comfort comes first.
You guys, I can't emphasize this enough. Hemorrhoids are goddamn awful, and hemorrhoid surgery is worse. Your butthole will look like an eviscerated turkey, and you won't even care. Seriously, if you want to avoid them, don't get constipated in the first place.
Now that I'm experiencing this second pregnancy, I am on a steady diet of fiber-heavy food, stool softener, laxative, and probiotic, and I've got my sitz bath on standby.
My first pregnancy, I think some part of me really thought the Earth would stop spinning on its axis if I left a dirty dish in the sink. I have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), so that kind of stuff really bothers me. I attended to it instead of attending to myself.
It's not like I've been cured of OCD since getting pregnant again, but I have been able to let more things slide. I'll let myself take a nap because the dusting will still be there tomorrow.
If you are a first time mom, I can almost guarantee you will have too much stuff (except wash cloths, because believe me when I say you can never have too many of those). People love to buy you sh*t, and it's easy to go a little scanner happy when registering. But a wipe warmer? Just say no.
The crappy part is you really have to go through it yourself in order to figure out what it is you really need. By the time you get to your second pregnancy, you know what you like and you probably have everything already. If anyone wants to get me anything this time, I'm asking for diapers.
There's something about pregnancy that apparently invites unsolicited commentary, regarding a subject that would not normally be discussed. I'm talking about your weight. I started out underweight, and I had people make comments about everything from how big my ass was getting to I wasn't eating enough to keep a baby alive. Awesome.
This pregnancy, I'm only listening to my medical practitioner, and you know, my own body. How much you do or do not gain is a topic for the doctor's office, not the staff room.
When it's your first time, it can be hard to remember that your suffering is for a reason. As an experienced pregnant person, you know that this too shall pass, and that it will all be worth it when you hold that precious little person in your arms for the first time. So much so that you might even do it all again.
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.