7 things no one tells you about being pregnant
Updated: Aug 3
Okay, so the title might be a little bit clickbait-y, but after hearing stories from friends and family, watching movies and TV shows, and lots of reading in my lifetime, I thought I knew what to expect when it came to pregnancy. Turns out I was very wrong. It's so important to remember that all bodies are different, which, of course, means that all pregnancies will be different. There are several things that I expected to happen to my body during pregnancy that just never happened, as well as things that I never expected to happen, but have been bothering me since day one.
Hopefully, this post is helpful to you, whether you're pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or just enjoy reading random articles!
Wait, I can drink coffee?
Prior to getting pregnant, I was under the impression that coffee (unless it was decaf) was completely off the table. This thought was definitely hard for someone who worked as a Starbucks barista for 5 years and was used to drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day. Seriously. I used to start my morning shifts off with a minimum of 4 shots of espresso, then continue drinking caffeine throughout the rest of my shift. Probably not healthy, but anyway, I digress.
It turns out that small amounts of caffeine are 100% fine to drink during pregnancy. They recommend around 200mg per day, which is about 2 small cups of coffee, or 4 cups of tea. I did cut back on my normal amount of caffeine intake, but it was nice to know that I could still enjoy a morning cup of coffee or a nice latte when I felt like it.
Not every pregnancy body change happens to everyone
There are so many changes that I feel like women grow up knowing about and expecting to happen to them during their pregnancy. The two big ones for me were the linea nigra - the dark line that women get down the middle of their stomach, and your belly button 'popping', especially if you started as an innie. These are two things that I had been expecting and waiting for. However, I'm almost done with week 38 and neither of them has happened to me. I also got lucky and didn't start getting stretch marks until week 35 (however they've developed a very itchy rash that has not been fun to deal with!).
On the flip side of that, I had horrible morning sickness from about week 6 to week 15. As soon as that started to subside, in stepped the acid reflux that made it hard to sleep at night and brought back the constant vomiting for about 3 weeks steady at the beginning of the third trimester. Overall, I'd say I experienced morning sickness at least 1-2 times per week from week 6 to week 32 when my doctor gave me these magic acid-reducing tablets that have completely eliminated the vomiting.
Massive pregnancy weight gain is not a given
Now, this may be due to the fact that I was really sick in the beginning, but I didn't start gaining any baby weight until week 17. As of my last appointment at week 36, I'd only gained about 15lbs/7kgs. Now I know I got lucky, and I'm definitely not complaining, but I was expecting to gain a lot of weight during pregnancy. In the US, the average weight gain for my BMI is 28-40lbs. This meant I spent a lot of time worrying that I wasn't gaining enough weight. Luckily my (French) doctor assured me that it's perfectly normal and healthy to have a pregnancy where you gain less than 20lbs and have a healthy-sized baby.
I also didn't really start showing and looking pregnant (as opposed to just a little weight gain) until late in the second trimester. I knew I shouldn't do this, but I found myself always comparing with other soon-to-be moms on my Facebook feed and that I saw in real life who were so much bigger and rounder than I was. Even now, people are shocked when I tell them that I've only got about 1-2 weeks left. It's really hard to break out of the cycle of comparing yourself with other women - pregnant or not. Unfortunately, I think it's something that's just so ingrained in us at this point.
Your body doesn't feel like your body anymore
This is definitely something that has been especially hard for me. I've had days during my pregnancy that I really feel pregnant - bloated, sick, and tired. Then there are days that, mentally, I feel like my body hasn't changed at all. Those days make it really hard to accept that I can't lift things like I used to, I can't take the dog on as long of walks as I would like, and there are things I have to ask for help with that pre-pregnancy I would have been able to do completely on my own. As someone who's been very independent her whole life, it's been hard to go through these changes that make me feel like I'm living in someone else's body.
You will worry about everything
Now I've already kind of touched on this, but you will worry about every little pregnancy symptom or lack thereof. I know I am a person who is prone to worrying and overthinking, but trust me when I say I couldn't count the number of things I've Googled just to make sure they're normal and nothing is wrong with me or the baby.
I've had days where I think I haven't felt her move much, then I spend the next couple of hours worrying (until she wakes up and decides to practice her muy thai moves.) I have also been neurotic enough to have to search if your baby can move too much in utero. I swear, there probably is something wrong with me.
However, I have realized it's pretty normal for pregnant women to worry about their babies, and I think it's something that doesn't really go away once the baby is born, or for that matter, probably ever. Trust your gut and don't WedMD yourself too much - check with your doctor instead! Know that whatever is happening to your body is probably normal. However, you should still bring all these things up at your prenatal appointments. If it's something you're really worried about, your doctor will be able to help.
In my case, I thought that the terrible acid reflux I was having was just a symptom of pregnancy I was going to have to deal with until the baby decided to make her appearance. While a bit of reflux is normal, it turns out when you have it so bad that you can't keep any solid food down, there is medicine for that. Trust me, it has been a lifesaver in making me less miserable these past 6 weeks. I'm so glad I brought it up with my doctor instead of just assuming it was something that I would have to put up with for the last trimester.
Prenatal depression is a real thing
Now I don't think this is a scientific term, but it's my term for it. We've all heard of the 'baby blues' and postnatal depression. However, no one talks about the depression that can happen while you're still pregnant. I realize I've had a lot of outside factors - I definitely didn't plan on or expect to be having a baby in the middle of a global pandemic in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language without my family and friends around. But even outside that, I've had so many days of worrying and tears - about not being able to be a good mom, wishing that circumstances were different and my mom and sister could be here, and thinking about how life is going to change and hoping that I'm up for the challenge - there's certainly no going back now!
If you're also feeling the prenatal blues, know that you're not alone, and don't bottle it all up. My best piece of advice would be to talk to a counselor if you can. If you can't, find a friend or family member you can trust and feel comfortable talking to. Having someone who will listen and be there for you makes a world of a difference, especially when it's someone who knows you really well. Even though it can be hard to talk about these things at first, trust me, you'll feel so much better when you get it off your chest.
It's okay to not love being pregnant
Don't get me wrong, I didn't think being pregnant would be easy, but I saw so many women on social media who were absolutely glowing in their cute maternity wear. They really made it look like pregnancy was the best time of their life, and truthfully, maybe it was. I think there are just some women who really thrive during pregnancy. They feel beautiful and sexy and powerful. They want to take a bunch of cute maternity pictures and save those moments of pregnancy forever. This is where we really have to recognize and accept that every body and pregnancy is different. For every women who loves the experience of being pregnant, I'm sure there's another one who didn't. That doesn't mean that you're going to love your baby any less or be a bad mom.
I've had to reassure myself of this so many times. I know my body is doing something amazing by growing a tiny human inside of it. I can't wait to meet her when she finally comes out and watch her grow up. I just really haven't loved the physical aspect of being pregnant. I've had no real desire to take a bunch of pictures of myself and my baby belly when I don't feel like myself. My self-esteem is through the floor, which is really hard for someone who has always struggled with body image issues.
I think it doesn't help that cute maternity clothes in Vietnam are pretty hard to come by (at least in my experience), so I've spent the last four months in the same 4 dresses that all make me feel a bit like a granny. J keeps teasing me that everything I own is a flowered or dotted dress, and I've had to reassure him that's not my typical style. Those are just the only dresses I've been able to find here that fit me. I can't wait until I fit into non-maternity clothes and can donate all those dresses!
I'm sorry If this has come off as a bit of a downer post today. I wasn't really trying to be depressing, but I do want to be realistic. I wanted to put this out there for anyone else who's having a hard time during their pregnancy. Remember that no one is the same, and that's okay. My mom always used to say if everyone was the same, life would be really boring, and she's right! Just know you're not alone, and it will all be worth it when you get to meet your little one.