When I was pregnant with my second child, I huffed and puffed into my parents’ kitchen over the holidays and plopped down in a chair, complaining about every ache and discomfort in my body. My sister sniffed: “I loved every moment of my pregnancy.” Inside, I rolled my eyes and questioned her truthfulness…or at least, her memory. Out loud, I said only, “Wait till your second. The first pregnancy is for enjoying. The rest are for getting through.”
Two years later, that same sister, now pregnant with her second child, plopped down in the same chair to enumerate her woes. Our youngest sister put her hands on her hips and said, “You’re not encouraging me to start having babies, you know.”
There’s lots of advice out there on how to get pregnant…how to take care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy…how to have a great sex life in spite of pregnancy…but let’s face it, the hardest part about being pregnant is…well, being pregnant.
I am 23 weeks into my fourth pregnancy now. Although that is several fewer than many readers of this blog, I think I have enough experience to justify dispensing a little unsolicited wisdom.
Embrace the hormones. You’ll be crying over books, movies, Scripture readings, beautiful music…and it’s a wonderful thing. In this jaded world, how precious are the moments in which we really allow our souls to be that vulnerable?
Live in the moment. You never know if this may be the last time you get to nurture a child beneath your heart. Take a minute to pause, to mark the changes in your body—both miraculous and unpleasant—to thank God for the beautiful and ask for help to bear the rest with grace.
Don’t take the annoying questions to heart. People are going to ask how you’re feeling. You’re going to get tired of it. They’re going to ask if you know “what” you’re having. You’re going to get tired of it. But people have the best intentions. They want to show they care. Take it as it’s intended. It’s okay to answer with a short, generalized answer. You don’t have to invest the emotional energy to come up with anything more profound than, “Fine, thanks. How are you?”
Give yourself a break. We all want to be super women and super moms, but sometimes you just can’t do it all. It’s okay to lower your standards, to take a nap, to rest and baby yourself a bit. But at the same time…
Take the long view. I can’t tell you how many people have told me, “You’re pregnant! Eat whatever you want! Follow your cravings!” Ladies, a craving for hot dogs and doughnuts does not need to be indulged. On the far side of this pregnancy, you’ll still be a person who needs a healthy body. Stay active, eat well, plan for what comes next. The third trimester of my last pregnancy was horrible. I knew I could not seek a fourth without restrengthening my surgery-weakened abdominal muscles first—something I hadn’t bothered with after the first two. And so I made the plans, the attitude adjustment, even before my son was born, so that I wouldn’t be too overwhelmed in the postpartum time to begin the necessary regimen.
But most of all…
Attitude is everything.
In the first trimester, when you’re sick and listless, you can focus on nausea, or you can tell yourself, “At least I still get to wear my own clothes and sleep on my back…or my stomach…or whatever way I want!”
In the second trimester, when you’re too big for your clothes and not big enough for maternity garb, and really, more than anything, you just feel fat, you can zero in on self-image, or you can be thankful that you’re past needing a nap every day and yet you can still bend over, carry the kids, and be active.
In the third trimester, when there is no such thing as a comfortable sleeping position…when crossing the kitchen makes you huff and puff and your belly activates the LeapFrog refrigerator alphabet when you didn’t even realize you’d touched anything…when your hips ache and you’re perpetually queasy and round ligament pains and baby gymnastics keep you up at night…during the third trimester, you can focus on the misery, or you can focus on the baby rolling and stretching and kicking within you, and think, “Thank you, God, for the constant reassurance that my baby is still alive and well.”
Now it’s your turn. How do (or did) you handle pregnancy with grace?
(Photo credit: Y♥YNTL, via Flickr)