I Wish I Knew: Before Getting Pregnant

Before getting pregnant, I will admit that I was completely in the dark about a lot of details. I knew what went into getting pregnant, but I didn’t know anything beyond the basic mechanics and my personal expectations were limited to media portrayals of pregnant women.

Sperm and egg meet. Cells divide and grow. Skip the pregnancy test, first sign would be morning sickness. Strangers touching my belly and offering strange prophecies about the child inside. Nine months later my water breaks in the middle of a store. I’d barely make it to the hospital in time. Three pushes and the baby is out. Oh, and the pain was unimaginable.

That’s all there was to it.

As I said in Wednesday’s post, I had a lot to learn about the process and alter my preconceived notions. I read some books, blogs, and message boards about pregnancy but once I was pregnant there were still a lot of gaps in my knowledge. Even now, if I got pregnant again, I am sure I will learn something about the process that I didn’t even know was possible.

Part of the problem was I didn’t know what I didn’t know. What was important information for me to know ahead of time might be common knowledge for another person; and what I might be familiar with may be a gap in another person’s knowledge.

There were things I wish I knew before getting pregnant, but I wouldn’t have known how to ask for that information at the time.

What I Wish I Knew

Cultural stereotypes surrounding pregnancy happens for a reason: there are some universal commonalities about the experience. Most women will experience morning sickness, most women will experience extreme fatigue, most women will have strangers offer unsolicited advice, and most women will be over the pregnancy by month eight.

What get’s missed in these cultural stereotypes is that while there may be some commonalities, each woman’s experience will be unique to her and she will experience her pregnancy differently from the next person.

I wish I had known this ahead of time. I also wish I knew about some of the more minor details about pregnancy that I am sure other women have experienced. Obviously, there is no way to know every little detail about pregnancy that every woman has ever experienced, but I wish the message of “this is perfectly normal even if it doesn’t feel like it” had been driven home.

Note: I am not referring to things that may be medical complications. If something seems wrong always go to your medical professional immediately. I am referring to the minor day-to-day things, like passing a lot of gas or having bad heartburn.

Again, I blame my public school education for the gaps in knowledge, but I also blame a cultural aversion to talking about the finer points of pregnancy. I cannot change the school system, nor can I shift cultural attitudes, but I can write a post about what I wish I had known based off of my experience.

Many of these are unique to my own experience, so please do not take them as universal fact, but these are the things I wish I knew before getting pregnant:

  • It isn’t easy to get pregnant
  • The baby gets everything first, so if you are feeling fine, don’t stress that the baby isn’t getting enough nutrients
  • There’s a chance that you won’t look pregnant through much of the pregnancy (you’ll just look like you’ve gained weight), so people will look at you funny when you use the expectant mother spots in a parking lot
  • Additionally, because you won’t look pregnant for a long time, people won’t clamor to help you like they might with other pregnant women. Don’t get offended by this
  • You are not required to gain weight. In fact, you aren’t eating for two. You really are only eating for one (you) and a half (the baby)
  • For those with MS: pregnancy is addicting considering how good you may feel for the second and third trimesters
  • Regular sleep ends around month five or whenever the baby settles on your bladder. Waking up in the middle of the night will become a permanent issue (even after the baby is born)
  • Sciatic pain is a real thing when trying to sleep at night. You will have to shift a lot to find comfortable positions
  • Never stretch your legs in the middle of the night. No matter how tempting or good you think it will feel. You’ll only end in tears from the Charlie Horse pain and force your partner to massage the cramps out

Because pregnancy is both a universal and deeply unique experience, I didn’t want to restrict this post to my own experience. I reached out to some other mother’s to provide their own experiences and advice.

What Others Have Said

I asked mothers-to-be, mothers, and grandmothers about their experiences with pregnancy and what they wish they knew before getting pregnant. They provided some thoughtful and interesting responses that never came up in my own pregnancy or I had forgotten about.

Below are the questions I asked and their responses.

What were your cultural expectations surrounding pregnancy?

I expected some morning sickness, some swelling, and some really awesome hair and nails.  There is a myth of beauty and magic and this really special time to bond with our unborn children that is fed to mothers, and I totally drank that kool aid.  The only part I was really concerned about was having to give up my wine for months. – Meredyth H.

I expected to enjoy it, honestly. Hahaha. – Anonymous

I didn’t really know what to expect since I had heard so many different experiences from so many different people. I pretty much assumed I would get morning sickness, and I did. Other than that, I didn’t know which things I would and wouldn’t get for symptoms. – Sarah S.

I assumed there would be some nausea (not necessarily confined to mornings), and heightened sense of smell, since those were the most notable symptoms my mom got. I didn’t worry too much about the other things, since I tend to follow Mom relatively closely, healthwise. I was also overly concerned about my belly button popping inside out! – Anonymous

Cute clothes, glow, a little morning sickness – Jamie C.

How difficult did you think it would it be to get pregnant?

I never gave it much thought as I never planned my pregnancies. – Anita M.

My own personal mindset was that it would be fairly easy. Nonetheless, I was expecting it to take longer than it did for us since I was over 30 and know that lots of women struggle to conceive. – Anonymous

I found it much easier to conceive than I expected. I had been on oral contraceptives for over 10 years, and figured it might take about 6 months for my fertility to straighten itself out. It took about 6 weeks, instead. – Pam K.

I knew from early childhood education classes that it might not happen right away and so I was prepared for it to take at least six months or more. – Michelle M.

I wasn’t worried, but we were not in a rush and weren’t articulately interested in “trying” – only not “not trying. – Theresa S.

I thought if I shook hands without birth control then I’d get pregnant. – Angela

What are some personal recommendations for those trying to conceive?

The best advice was to have fun with it and not stress, but that was definitely also some of the hardest advice (the not stressing part anyway) to follow.  Every month where it didn’t work felt like a failure to a certain extent, even though we knew it was totally normal. – Meredyth H.

The best book was Taking Charge of Your Fertility. – Anonymous

Don’t assume it will just happen if you are really trying to get pregnant. – Sarah S.

Stress relief – Anita M.

You can buy ovulation tests in bulk on Amazon and it’s cheaper than Wal-Mart! Don’t stress if it doesn’t happen the first time! Practice makes perfect! – Jamie C.

If you can avoid putting any stress on trying, that’s awesome. It’s so hard when the process of making a baby takes over being with your partner. – Theresa S.

In 1983, access to information was limited to bookstores and library so I purchase the Better Homes and Gardens New Baby Book which I found very comprehensive and thorough.  It answered my questions from conception through the first years of life.  Today, with the internet, access to information is readily available so two years ago, as a grandmother-to-be, I sought information through websites such as whattoexpect.com to answer questions and to understand the changes in prenatal care that have been instituted in the last 30 years. – Michelle M.

Next Week

I will be continuing this conversation and be providing more responses to questions pertaining to the actual pregnancy, recommendations, and the worst piece of advice these women received regarding the pregnancy.

Stay tuned because there are some wonderful answers.

In the meantime, what are your responses to these questions? What did you wish you knew from your own pregnancy? What recommendations do you have for those trying to conceive? Post your responses in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “I Wish I Knew: Before Getting Pregnant

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