Reflecting On My Smooth Pregnancy
Today my firstborn baby is NINE MONTHS old. I'm in denial... How could it possibly have been that long already??! Sure, each day seemed long [and often tiring] when I was in the thick of it, but as a whole, it's been a mere snap of the fingers. As I think back on the rollercoaster of adventures, growth, emotions and transitions that have been birthed (pun fully intended) in this short amount of time, it's impossible to ignore the fact that this baby has now been outside of me as long as he was inside of me. Nine months in, nine months out! Reminiscing has me thinking all about my incredibly smooth, active, healthy pregnancy. I am ever so grateful and feel so blessed to have had such a positive experience.
NO, this is not a brag post. YES, I did have challenging times during pregnancy, including the initial acceptance of the whole idea, many super emotional days, a few annoying and embarrassing (yet normal) symptoms, frustrations with feeling physical limitations, and an unquenched desire for alcoholic beverages on occasion. But to others, the simple facts that I never experienced morning sickness or swelling and the appearance of my baby weight was "all belly" (at least in their eyes) caused them to often ask me, "What's your secret?" Well, some say that it's the "luck of the draw" or that genetics or the gender of the baby deem the smoothness of your pregnancy... Could be. But I'm finally ready to share some of the aspects of my pregnancy that I was very intentional about controlling to aid any "smoothness" I may have been blessed with along the way.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS: I fully realize that every single woman and every single pregnancy is different; I am not a doctor or nutritionist or pregnancy expert of any kind. THIS POST IS MERELY MY OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE. If you are pregnant or planning for pregnancy, please do your own research, consult your own experts and come to your own conclusions of what's best for you and your baby.
- I narrowed my research to a few trusted sources and then stayed off the internet. I quickly learned that reading information about any little symptom on medical websites or open forums would lead me down rabbit holes of unnecessary fear—which caused me (and the baby) unnecessary stress. You know that whole, "It could be totally normal, orrrrrrr you might have five minutes to live." Haha! It was a much wiser idea when I stopped Googling things and simply chatted with the small handful of people I trusted.
- I chose a great prenatal vitamin—Garden of Life Prenatal Multi available through GNC, WholeFoods, Thrive Market and elsewhere. It is loaded with all the vitamins and nutrients my baby and I needed, contains the natural version of folic acid (folate), and I took it alongside my regular omega supplement.
- I remained super active! Before I was pregnant, I led a very active lifestyle. From exercise and daily walks, to photography events & sessions that had me constantly on my feet, kneeling, squatting and carrying heavy gear, my body was used to moving! I continued that lifestyle through most of my pregnancy and just paid close attention to my heart rate and physical limitations. During my entire third trimester, whenever sitting, I was on an exercise ball or on the floor to strengthen my core, relieve tension, keep my hips aligned and move that baby down.
- I continued my weekly chiropractic care. I didn't do this because of back pain (and no, I never ended up having any back pain during pregnancy), but because I wanted to keep my nervous system healthy. A well-aligned brainstem and spinal cord is the key to health; when you keep the lines of communication in your body clear of interference, your body functions properly. Also, during pregnancy, chiropractic adjustments helped guide the baby into the perfect place and position within my body. Huge shoutout to my Maximized Living docs at Triangle Health Center in Cary, NC!
- I maintained a high protein, low sugar, balanced diet. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I was eating 80 to 100 grams of protein every day in addition to a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables and healthy fats. (It was helpful for me to use an app to track all of these numbers to make sure I was getting what I needed and avoiding what I did not need.) Also, I drank water like it was going out of style and tracked my ounces to ensure my baby and I were well-hydrated. Since I don't drink coffee or soda, it was easy to keep caffeine completely out of my diet and I was extremely careful about keeping sugar consumption very low.
- My husband and I took the 12-week Bradley Method course. This husband-coached all natural child birth approach (available locally all over the country) was the wisest choice we could have made. Chad and I walked in with 0% knowledge/confidence and 100% fear and walked out of the course with 100% knowledge/confidence and 0% fear about the birthing process. Plus, our awesome instructor, Susan Rotman, became a resource for any questions we had and an amazing support!
- I chose a birthing team and location that shared my views and that I was comfortable with. I fell in LOVE with the midwives, nurses and staff at one of our local birthing centers (Baby+Co. in Cary, NC). They became my extended family during my pregnancy and I had so much faith and trust in them. My healthcare experience there was absolutely wonderful during every step of the way (from personal touches, to education, to prenatal care, to billing, to postnatal care and beyond). This not only put my mind and body at ease, but also included my husband in the whole process and gave us both something to look forward to for our childbirth experience. I encourage anyone who does not feel this way about their currently planned place of birth to look elsewhere immediately. It will make an incredible difference!
- I eliminated toxins from my life. For the most part, I was already leading a fairly "clean" lifestyle, especially in the food department. Before becoming pregnant, I had already limited my diet to nearly all organic foods that were hormone and pesticide-free. We also did not use chemicals in our home for cleaning or otherwise. Although I had already transitioned into some all-natural health and beauty products, this was the area I adjusted most. From shampoo and conditioner, to soap, lotions, make-up, deodorant, and even fingernail polish — it was important to me that no harmful chemicals were getting to that baby. (And, when you think about it, if it's not good for a baby, why is it a good idea for me as an adult, right?? This was the perfect motivation we needed to kickstart a healthier lifestyle!) In addition to that, we were renovating our new house at the time, so we also took great measure to use only organic and all-natural home goods, including non-toxic, completely natural paint on our walls. I learned so much about double-checking ingredients in EVERY kind of product while being pregnant and I am thankful for that new habit.
- I slept a lot and didn't feel bad about it. Yes, I was definitely much more tired much more often when I was pregnant, but my body was developing another human! That's hard work, so I gave myself grace. I feel like I slept through most of my first trimester and enjoyed much-needed, early bed times for the rest of the time (except when I was in full nesting mode – that's a different story... Haha!). Sleep was so important to keep my body healthy and rested.
- I kept my skin hydrated to avoid stretch marks. Recommended from a friend, I'll join her in swearing by sweet almond oil—available at WholeFoods, Target, Amazon and elsewhere. Stretch marks were never a problem anywhere on my body after applying this each time I got out of the shower. It's much more hydrating then coconut oil and doesn't have all the unnecessary ingredients like many of the popular creams available.
- I took steps to be completely stress-free, especially in my last trimester. Many studies show how stress can negatively effect you and especially your baby during pregnancy (and beyond). It was VERY important to me to keep my cortisol levels and other stress hormones to a minimal. During my last couple months of pregnancy, I kept a close eye on anything that was causing me stress, and cut it out of my life (even if temporarily possible). I ultimately decided that no other thing—be it my email inbox, paying jobs, commitments at church, response time to friends, schedule, dirty dishes, or whatever—was more important in that time than the health of my baby.
- I surrounded myself with trustworthy support. My husband was the major support to me during this trying season and I would not have made it through without him. I shared my [seemingly illogical] feelings and [ever changing] needs with him often and he always came through for me. I also kept a couple of my closest friends up to date on my feelings and needs, so that I never felt alone, confused or overwhelmed.
- I grew some thick skin. There had never been a time in my life up to that point when people (even strangers!) had offered me more unsolicited advice, criticism or feedback than when I was pregnant. There had also never been a time when I had been physically touched more than when I was pregnant—haha! (What is it with your baby belly, even in way-too-early stages, being a magnet for people to touch without permission??) At first it all annoyed/frustrated me, but I eventually learned to let it roll off my shoulders with a [usually awkward] smile.
- A few resources that I, personally, found especially insightful / helpful were: The Business of Being Born documentary, Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way book, Baby Designed by God book, The Vaccine Book (impartial guide to current vaccines), KellyMom.com blog, a Natural Mamas group on Facebook, as well as countless articles and resources given to me during my Bradley course, from my midwives/birth center and chiropractor.