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Pregnancy is hard—but also so life-changing I wish you could experience it too

Because the physical changes are just a tiny part of what's going on inside of me. They are a constant reminder that my entire life—my entire identity—is about to change too.

Pregnancy is hard—but also so life-changing I wish you could experience it too

My darling,

I know you've been here for me throughout this pregnancy. I appreciate it, I do. But I also know you will never understand what it feels like to be nine months pregnant. So let me give you a little insight.

You know that whole "it's like having a bowling ball taped to your stomach" analogy? That 's inaccurate. This bump isn't just riding along in front of me. It's squirming inside of me, pushing my organs out of the way, bending and separating my very bones to make enough room. My sternum now curves unsettlingly from where baby has snuggled up under it.

Body parts I have never noticed before now hurt. One rib aches and stings from where our baby presses against it. My bladder spasms when kicked. My back is sore, buckling from the weight pulling it forward. My legs and feet throb from the sudden demand they carry around from an extra 40 pounds. Muscles I cannot possibly stretch hurt.

Even body parts you think would be unaffected have their own indignities to bear. My fingers are swollen, my wrists tingle with carpal tunnel. Even my nose (my nose!) is affected, from a heightened sense of smell to the occasional nosebleed.

I know you are tired of hearing my litany of complaints (not as tired as I am, but still, you're a little tired). But I'm absolutely overwhelmed at the changes my body has gone through.

For example, have you thought about how exhausting it is to move?

I know we've all seen the TV trope of a pregnant woman crying because she's too big to get off the couch. It's always a good bit for a chuckle. But it's different when you are actually living it.

Every move requires thought. How can I pick up this toy off the floor? Bending over will give me a nasty case of reflux. Squatting might cause my hips to permanently disconnect.

How can I get off this couch? My abdominal muscles, which I've used forever without thinking of them, no longer function. Do you know how unsettling it is to have an entire group of muscles rendered virtually useless? It's not about getting off the couch. It's about the humiliation I feel not being able to.

I know, I know. You understand. I'm pregnant! What pregnant woman can get off the couch? But to me, I'm not just "some pregnant lady." I'm me. Only for the last several months, I haven't felt at home in my body at all.

You say I'm beautiful, and I groan and sigh. I knew I would gain weight. But I didn't expect my face to change. I didn't expect to not be able to recognize my feet. And it's not the weight that bothers me. It's looking in the mirror and not knowing the person looking back at me.

Because the physical changes are just a tiny part of what's going on inside of me. They are a constant reminder that my entire life—my entire identity—is about to change too.

Every ache, every pain, every kick to the rib reminds me that I am responsible for bringing a life into the world. Every time the ultrasound tech lifts the wand to my belly, I say a prayer. I know if anything were to happen, you would hold me and say it wasn't my fault. But that's not exactly true. I'm doing a job no one else can, and it's terrifying.

Exercise! Don't exercise too much! Eat organic! Don't gain too much weight! Eat nuts! Don't eat nuts!

All day long I hear mixed messages about what I am supposed to do to set my kid down the "right" path before they're even born. It's a lot of pressure to parent correctly before the child is even born.

I am holding a life inside of me. It's an enormous challenge, physically and mentally. But at the same time (even though I don't want to admit it because I want you to keep getting me ice cream every night and rubbing my back when it aches), I feel a bit sorry for you.

Each of my pregnancies and births has empowered me like nothing else I have experienced in my life. They have not made me a better or truer parent—I have watched your love for our children, and the love of friends who have adopted, and I know pregnancy is only a small part of the parenting experience.

But for the first time in my life, I have felt truly proud of and confident in my body. Knowing what my body can accomplish has made me deeply grateful for it, and much better able to ignore all of its imperfections that bothered me pre-motherhood. It's a powerful experience, and one I wish you could have.

(Seriously. I wish you could have this experience. And I wish I could experience that beer you are drinking right in front of me, too. 😜)

I have to do this part myself, and it's a large load to bear for my body and my soul. So what I need from you is this: Believe me when I tell you how hard it is. And remind me you'll be there to share the load for the rest of the journey.

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After 4 kids, this is still the best baby gear item I’ve ever purchased

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work.

I have four kids 8 and under, so you might expect that my house is teeming with baby gear and kid toys.

But it turns out that for me, the more kids I have, the more I simplify our stuff. At this point, I'm down to the absolute essentials, the gear that I can't live without and the toys my kids actually play with. And so when a mama-to-be asks me what things are worth registering for, there are only a few must-haves on my list.

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer seat is on the top of my list—totally worth it and an absolute must-have for any new mama.

In fact, since I first splurged on my first BABYBJÖRN bouncer eight years ago (it definitely felt like a splurge at the time, but the five star reviews were really compelling), the bouncer seat has become the most-used product in our house for baby's first year.

We've actually invested in a second one so that we didn't have to keep moving ours from the bedroom to the living room when we change locations.

BABYBJÖRN bouncer bliss

baby bjorn bouncer

The utility of the seat might seem counterintuitive—it has no mechanical parts, so your baby is instead gently bounced by her own movements. In a world where many baby products are touted for their ability to mechanically rock baby to sleep, I get that many moms might not find the "no-motion" bouncer that compelling. But it turns out that the seat is quite reactive to baby's little kicks, and it has helped my kids to learn how to self-soothe.

$200

Lightweight + compact:

The BABYBJÖRN bouncer is super lightweight, and it also folds flat in a second. Because of those features, we've frequently stored it under the couch, in a suitcase or in the back of the car. It folds completely flat, which I love.

Entertainment zone:

Is the toy bar worth it? The toy bar is totally worth it. Not only is the toy bar adorable, but it's one of the first toys that my babies actually play with once they discover the world beyond my boobs. The toys spin and are close to eye level so they have frequently kept my baby entertained while I cook or take a quick shower.

Great style:

This is not a small detail to me–the BABYBJÖRN bouncer is seriously stylish. I am done with baby gear and toys that make my house look like a theme park. The elegant European design honestly just looks good in my living room and I appreciate that parents can enjoy it as much as baby.

It's adjustable:

With three height settings that let you prop baby up to be entertained, or lay back to rest, we get years of use. And the bouncer can actually be adjusted for bigger kids and used from newborn to toddler age. It's that good.

It just works:

I wouldn't be swooning over the BABYBJÖRN bouncer after eight years and four kids if it didn't work. But I have used the seat as a safe space to put baby while I've worked (I once rocked my baby in it with my foot while I reported on a breaking news story for the Washington Post), and as a cozy spot for my second child to lay while his big brother played nearby. It's held up for almost a decade with almost-constant use.

So for me, looking back on what I thought was a splurge eight years ago, was actually one of the best investments in baby gear I ever made.

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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