I had an amazing first pregnancy. Zero swelling, no nausea and a super quick labor. Fast forward three years later, and I was pregnant again. I thought I was fully prepared and told myself, “I got this!” And to some extent, it was true: I knew what not to eat, what to expect during prenatal visits, and how my skin and hair could change. But I soon realized how different my pregnancy was going to be. Clearly, baby number 2 was his own little person, and I still had a lot to learn.
Don’t get me wrong. I knew all pregnancies were unique, but I didn’t knew just how different. Plus, isn’t it easy to forget all the details of your first pregnancy when your toddler and your first-trimester symptoms seem to conspire to make you extra tired all. of. the. time? Truth be told, I was bound to have a completely and uniquely new experience this time around, so I wanted to make the most of it and learn as much as possible not only about pregnancy, but also about myself, as a mom and a person.
Here are 4 things my second pregnancy taught me.
1. Your body experiences each pregnancy differently. My first pregnancy was like a dream: I was never sick, enjoyed every trimester and just loved being pregnant. My second pregnancy (another boy!) kicked off with severe daily nausea and weekly migraines that lasted for five months. I was convinced something was wrong and called my doctor multiple times with my own medical theories. I was reassured (again and again) that my baby and I were perfectly healthy. I slowly learned to accept the fact that this pregnancy was just affecting my body differently and to be thankful for the little life growing inside of me. Regardless of what number pregnancy you are on, make sure to monitor your body and don’t just rely on Google searches to answer your daily symptom questions. Never hesitate to call your doctor, but know that just as every baby is different, so is every pregnancy.
2. It’s ok to lean on others. I was so determined to prove that I could be a mom of two that I was reluctant to ask for help, even on days when I could barely get out of bed. After some gentle pushing and insisting from loved ones, I realized how it is not just ok, but sometimes necessary to ask for help from friends, family, and other local resources. Growing a baby while taking care of a little person is not easy, and it’s important to let others step in and help out when they can. For family members, offer to pay for lunch or tickets to a local museum if you need a break or want to give something back for babysitting. If you are not near loved ones, resources such as Care.com and local neighborhood mom blogs offer hourly rates for last-minute services paired with trusted references. Don’t forget to be open and communicate with your partner when you need them to take over. They may not do things the way you do (dressed in pjs for school, cereal for dinner…), but can help take over everyday tasks so you can focus on you and your growing baby.
3. The importance of saying no and taking time for yourself. During my first pregnancy, I worked full time until I gave birth, exercised everyday (even on the day I had my son), and attended five weddings in the last two weeks of my pregnancy (in heels!). I tried to keep this pace up with my second but learned that it was just not possible; and there is absolutely nothing wrong with taking things day by day. If you feel like you need to take it down a notch, don’t be afraid to talk to your boss or HR about working from home or switching up your hours. Come prepared with a proposal/plan and reiterate your commitment to the job. Be honest and open with friends and family about needing some ‘me time’ and managing their expectations for future events. You will be surprised by how much they understand.
4. Don’t worry about letting go. I learned to accept the fact that things will not always run smoothly while preparing for baby #2 (or baby #1, 3, 5…). Using Netflix as a temporary babysitter for your half-naked toddler while you are hugging the bathroom floor? Check. Wearing your husband’s sweatpants to the store because you don’t have the energy to put on your new maternity jumpsuit? Check. Agreeing with your three-year-old that ice cream is a nutritious option for lunch? Check, check, check. Embrace and learn from the things you can’t control – both in and outside of your belly. Let it go and laugh during moments of imperfection -- sometimes they are the best ones.