What I learned from being pregnant

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Stefanie with her son. (Photo by Rachel Friedman Photography)

A couple years back, I did something totally crazy-I created a human! A tiny, beautiful, miraculous human.  Well, I guess I had a little help from my husband, but I did most of the heavy lifting (pun intended). 

And while, amazingly, I am not the first and only person to accomplish this ridiculously incredible feat, I know I will not be the last. So I thought I'd share what I learned throughout my pregnancy-things I wish I'd known before starting out on this crazy journey. 

People will say the weirdest stuff to you-don't let it get to you. 

People will tell you that you're carrying big. "Yes, I'm sure there's just one in there," you will tell them. They will tell you for sure you're carrying like it's a girl even though I have the ultrasound picture to prove it's a boy. They will tell you horrific labor stories that you can't unhear. One day, when I was about eight months pregnant, I was walking out of Starbucks and this woman just pointed at me and said "You're pregnant!!" and kept walking. No kidding. 

The thing is, people will also be pretty nice to you and treat you like some kind of super human (which you are.) They will hold doors for you, help you carry things, occasionally they will give up their seat on the train for you-but not always. Well-meaning strangers will smile at you, ask you when you're due, offer words of advice, wish you well and warmly welcome you into the club of parenthood. You will totally do the same annoying thing the minute you become a parent. 

Connect with other moms-to-be. ASAP! 

The weird thing about being pregnant is that in those early weeks, when you are completely freaked out and feeling awful, you can't really talk about it. After my first trimester, when I finally did tell all my friends, I blabbed to them for hours about everything I had been worrying about and wished I could have told them from the start. Obviously everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to this, but if you have one friend or family member you can trust to confide in during those early weeks, I say go for it. 

Once your pregnancy is Facebook official, or at least all your friends and family know, my number one suggestion is to find a mommy buddy who is due around the same time as you. Someone you can talk to who totally understands what you're going through in that very moment.  JUF's jBaby Chicago hosts wonderful programs and classes for expectant parents that are great places to connect with other pregnant couples and get some great info along the way. The mommies-to-be you meet during pregnancy will be your lifelines during maternity leave and beyond-plus the babies have buddies lined up right from the start!   

Dr. Google is not your friend 

One night, I woke up and my foot was itchy. I googled "itchy feet pregnancy," a condition came up, and I was sure I had it. "I'll have to have the baby early!" I told my husband at 2 a.m., freaking out. So he looked at my foot. "Um, you have a mosquito bite." 

I googled so many ridiculous things while I was pregnant. "Can you eat _____ when you're pregnant?" I can't tell you how many meals I sent back because I suspected there may have been unpasteurized cheese or a rogue bean sprout on my plate. Yes, there are some foods to avoid during pregnancy, but there is also a lot of gray area and for most questions there will always be a website to tell you yes, you can eat that and another that tells you no, you can't and you will literally drive yourself insane. 

Just take the pamphlet your doctor gives you at your first visit and abide by those rules. I kept a list in my phone of all my crazy questions as they came up and asked them at each appointment and they didn't laugh at me (most of the time.) 

While you're at it, don't stay up all night reading pregnancy message boards. Trust me-do as I say, not as I did on this one! 

Get moving! 

If you have clearance from your doctor to work out, there are lots of prenatal exercise classes and programs out there. I did small group prenatal training with a mom's group from the time I was about 15 weeks on. I felt strong throughout my pregnancy-I could still hold a plank for one minute when I was 9 months along!-and got to connect with other moms in the process. 

And if all else fails, just walk. There were days I felt like I could barely move, but walking, even just for a little bit, always made me feel better. 

Your body is going to change and do some crazy stuff. The sooner you come to terms with this, the better. It may never be the same, but I promise that eventually you will feel like yourself again. On that note: embrace maternity pants! They are seriously the best-why don't all pants come without a waistband?-and they are hard to give up after your pregnancy-or so I've heard. 

Enjoy it 

This is, at times, easier said than done. You're big, you're uncomfortable, you can't sleep, and there is a parasite inside of you that not only takes all of your nutrients but kicks you a lot. There will be times when you will bring new meaning to the term "hangry," you will cry, you will nest like crazy, you will pee like crazy, you will be baffled by your own swollen feet, and you will catch your reflection in a window as you walk down the street and think to yourself "who is that person?"  

But then you will be somewhere doing something ordinary, like eating in a restaurant or checking your email and a little foot will jab you in your ribcage as if to say "Hey Mom, it's me, your little parasite. Thanks for that delicious burrito you had for lunch today. I love you." And you will smile and cry and reach for that little foot and whisper, "I love you too, baby."  

And just wait until you see that little foot for the first time.  

This column originally ran on  Kveller.com


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