Now in our third trimester of our first pregnancy, my husband and I have learned about each other and a good deal about pregnancy and baby things—many to our surprise.
From the first time we heard our baby’s heartbeat—my husband had to hold on to the counter to keep from falling over—to our 20-week ultra sound when we found out our baby is a boy, we have had moments of awe and joy mixed with vulnerability, confusion and a gamut of other emotions. We knew that through preparing for a baby, God would teach us new lessons—He sure has.
As we go along on this journey, it has been helpful to gain support and hear stories from friends and family, authors and bloggers who have experienced being pregnant and having children. Learning from parents has become comforting, fun and has given us a chance to build new friendships in our community. As each of us women are different (as are our growing babies!) some experiences haven’t related and some tips aren’t applicable. Even so, the sharing and support is an unanticipated blessing.
While not a pregnancy expert of any kind, this busy 30-year-old urban wife and soon-to-be momma hopes to pass on some of that sharing and support to you. Below are 10 tips (plus a bonus tip) and bits of information for pregnant women that I’ve gleaned thus far. If you have your own tips, please join in and share in the comments section at the end of this post!
1. Practice patience. Does this seem like an odd place to begin? If so, consider how you are doing with being patient. This is an area of growth God has been bringing to light for me throughout marriage and pregnancy—particularly by this definition: “to be patient is to endure discomfort without complaint.” – James Spiegel in The Virtue of Patience. I have come to realized how acutely impatient I can become with other people and myself when I’m feeling uncomfortable—and being pregnant can certainly heighten discomfort. I react with irritation—eye-rolling seems to be my method of choice.
Once the baby comes, we moms will likely experience many new, uncomfortable, unfavorable situations. Do we really want to be more easily irritable wives and mommies?! Why not practice being patient? In Spiegel’s article, he suggests times for meditation on the scriptures and prayer. Also, using every uncomfortable circumstance as a practice session—and a gift from God as a means to grow in patience. It helps me to pay attention to what is happening around me whenever I start to feel irritable. What are the typical culprits? Here’s a few from my own list (some of them are quite silly): text messages, misbehaving computers, missing a session at the gym, people who don’t plan ahead, slow walkers and drivers who purposely are trying to make me late (or so I convince myself). What causes you to be impatient?
2. Take care of your body, heart and mind. This is so important! And perhaps you have heard it over and over again—probably because it is so important. In my experience, I am more focused, relaxed, joyful and friendly when I have taken the time to care for myself. For example, today I am spending a couple of hours at one of my favorite coffee shops to do two of my favorite activities—writing and reading! When I’m strapped for time and under pressure, small gestures of care can help. Here is a short list for what has worked for me:
- Going for a 10 minute walk
- Soaking a wash cloth with cool water for my face
- Setting a time in my schedule just for reading or journaling
- Texting my husband a goofy photo and message that I know will make him smile
- Being sure to wear my compression socks so that my legs don’t ache during the day
- Remembering to take my prenatal vitamins before scurrying out the door
- Eating a healthy lunch (even if it costs a little extra)
- Filling up my water bottle with ice, fresh water and some cut-up citrus (orange, lemon, pineapple) for a little flavor
- Lying on the sofa to talk to my baby and watch him move in my belly (this makes all of my concerns of the day fade and it’s good for the baby too!)
3. Involve & encourage your husband or support person. As the ones who carry the baby and are going through so many physical and emotional changes, it can be easy to overlook the changes our husbands are and will be going through as they become dads. I have to remind myself that I am first and foremost a daughter of God and then a wife to my sweet husband and then a mom. So how can I be there for my husband during this transitional time? My husband enjoys praying and so we pray for one another and our growing baby, we read books about the baby together, and I be sure to give him any news from doctor appointments that he can’t make. Try using encouraging words and asking him a question at least once per day: “You’ll be a great dad,” “You’re such a hard worker,” “Is there anything that makes you nervous about becoming a dad?” “What are you looking forward to the most?” “What changes do you think will be most difficult for you?” “Is there anything you’d like to talk about or do before the baby comes?” “How can I support you?” “In what ways would you like to be involved in the pregnancy? Baby’s birth? Caring for the baby?
4. Spend intentional time with your growing baby. After the initial excitement fades away and life gets busy, don’t forget to spend time with that little life growing inside of you! When I’m at work, I’ll take a minute or two to say something to the baby or I’ll even turn soothing music on and put headphones on my belly. One of my favorite ways to spend time with him is to sing or hum and also to read the Jesus Storybook Bible before we fall asleep at night. I’ve read in one of my baby books that if we talk to the baby during pregnancy, he or she will be able to recognize our voice after birth. My husband tries talking to him too…it’s really sweet and pretty funny.
5. Consider your family of origin & start working through your stuff. We all have stuff right? In anticipation of our family growing, being pregnant has caused me to think through stuff from my childhood. Questions have come up like: What would I like to change for our family? What would I like to keep? Who do I need to forgive? Is there any bitterness or resentment to work through? God is helping me to answer these questions through prayer, journaling, talks with my husband and participating in a women’s book study on Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Pete Scazzero. There won’t be more time after the baby comes so why not begin the hard emotional work now?
6. Keep a pregnancy journal & take photos—you’re creating history! My mom kept a scrapbook of sorts with photos, captions and other momentos from when I was a little girl. I love looking through that—it helps me to connect with myself and the journey God has taken me on. Plus it’s so much fun to be reminded of some of the fun activities I was involved with. She bought me a Pregnancy Journal—didn’t even know those existed—at the beginning of my pregnancy. It’s called The Belly Book. As you can imagine, there are many types of these journals to buy. You can also grab a blank notebook or journal to chronicle how the pregnancy is going for you, doctor’s appointments, baby’s first kick, photos of your belly etc.
7. Try not to be discouraged by the scary birth stories. Many women like to share, especially when we feel like another woman is going through or will go through a similar experience—like giving birth. I’ve heard stories from both positive and negative extremes; to give you an idea, here are a couple of phrases—albeit the words are probably not exact—that come to mind, “I loved giving birth! It was the most incredible experience,” “I had the best experience; it felt so natural,” “It was long and painful. We are done after two,” “So many things can go wrong during birth—it was a scary experience for me.” While in all of these conversations it was important to listen to these women—after all, they are very real and life-impacting stories—I’m having to learn that every women’s birth story and body is different. Whenever I’m feeling concerned about something I hear, I’ll ask my doctor and/or pray over what is going through my mind.
8. Get your hands on a baby registry list. One of my sweet friends passed on an amazing list to me when I felt overwhelmed by registering—not only is there a ton of baby merchandise, there are also a ton of brands of each item! You can find this list, among other helpful registry tips at Lucie’s List.
Note: Here’s a registry tip I’ve read: You don’t need to register for crib bumpers and they can actually be harmful for the baby! I’d be curious to know what others think on this.
9. Pray for your husband and baby. He’s going to be a daddy and your baby is coming into this less than perfect world. They need prayer! I like to take prayer walks in the park near our house where I pray for my two boys (when no one is around, I pray out loud in case baby is listening!). Also, The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian has been one of my go-to prayer guides.
10. Seek out friends who are parents for extra support. Sometimes it’s difficult to get involved in a community with people who have been through pregnancy or who have children. Especially if you are new to an area, going through this stage of life can feel lonely if you don’t know anyone yet! For us, it has helped to be involved in our local church and also just to be friendly on my daily errands. I have been amazed at how willing mommas that I meet at the park or at the gym are willing to talk with me—one mom told me all about the stroller she was pushing and another simply asked me questions about my pregnancy and told me about her newborn. Other ways to both love and glean from friends with kids is to babysit for them, bring them a meal and/or invite them over for a meal.
11. Educate yourself—and try not to get overwhelmed by competing information. Have you discovered contradictory information in different sources? I have! So, particularly for medical info, I’ve tried to stick to only one or two print sources while also relying on my OB and pediatrician. On the phone with our new pediatrician the other day, she advised me not to look on the web for answers but to call their office instead. She also said to keep in mind that all babies are different so some information may not apply.
This brings back memories of my journalism professors teaching our class that primary sources are usually the best bet. Below are a few suggestions (both primary and secondary):
- Prenatal courses through your local hospital or health care facility—we signed up for courses like Infant Safety & CPR, Breastfeeding, Labor & Delivery, and Infant Care (classes aren’t for everyone but they are for me because I love asking questions!)
- Mom’s hotline—an around-the-clock number to call for support (check with your healthcare provider; some healthcare facilities have their own!)
- Mom’s groups through your church or healthcare facility
- Books: Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy and What to Expect the First Year
- Magazines: articles in Parents, Pregnancy & Newborn and Family Circle have been helpful too—as a supplementary source