(First-time mommas, you are welcome here, too. The humor is geared towards veteran moms, but the tips apply to all pregnancies.)
You remember your first pregnancy, right? The one where you religiously read your daily updates about how your baby is now the size of a kumquat; how you napped at leisure; how you decorated the nursery to the envy of Pottery Barn by the time you were in your sixth month. I don’t need to tell you that those days are over, honey. This is your second (3rd, 4th, 5th) pregnancy. You know, the one where exercise involves digging under the car seat for a banana peel that smells suspicious; wrestling a 30 lb toddler onto the changing table; and sleep, while better, is still an illusion. The pregnancy where, when a stranger asks how far along you are, you look down and think, “Dang — I’m pregnant? Haven’t had time to remember that today.”
You know in your head that this new baby deserves just as much careful planning and preparation as your first did, and guess what? Mom-guilt kicks in long before he’s born. It’s not fair to you, it really isn’t. You have enough on your plate keeping the other precious angels alive, while keeping a modicum of self-preservation. So, here’s a few handy tips from your friendly OB nurse on how to keep this pregnancy as healthy as your first.
1) Prenatal vitamins.
Here’s an easy one. Your diet is not likely to be as healthy as your first pregnancy was (see #4), so this handy-dandy daily pill will help to fill in the nutritional gaps. Don’t worry– your precious little parasite will take the good stuff first and leave the doughnuts to go to your thighs. If you’re like me, chances of actually remembering to take your vitamins daily are pretty slim. Set them out in plain sight where you’ll see them first thing in the morning (next to the coffee maker, maybe?). If all else fails, set an alarm on your phone to remind you at the same time each day, like you did for your BCP when you were scared of this whole pregnancy thing ever happening.
2) Kick counts.
This is one of the very first questions I ask every pregnant woman who checks in to Labor & Delivery: “Is your baby moving normally today?” You wouldn’t believe how many people respond with, “Um, I’m not sure– I haven’t really noticed.” I found that so strange… until I was pregnant with my second baby. Especially in the earlier months, movements can be so subtle that unless I was totally still and quiet, I could go the whole day without noticing movement. I mean, what mom of a toddler is totally still and quiet ever? Here’s the thing, though, ladies. Outside of your caregiver’s office, your baby’s movements are your only window into his health. Those kicks are the only way you have any inkling that all is good in there. It’s a big deal. Once you get into your third trimester, your OB or midwife may give you more specific guidelines about kick counts and when to contact them. If they have not, here is my recommendation: pick at least two times a day when you can quietly pay attention to your baby. For me, the best times were first thing in the morning before I got out of bed, and last thing at night before I fell asleep (don’t fall asleep yet!). Another time might be when your kiddos are napping. Take those moments to just be still and bond, feeling his movements and mentally tracking that they are similar each day. As time goes on, he’ll get bigger and stronger and you will recognize patterns in activity that will reassure you of his health.
With water! And lots of it. Cut out the soda, the juice, definitely the alcohol, and most of the caffeine (recommended amount is less than 200mg of caffeine a day, roughly 12oz of coffee). Is drinking water hard to do? Try tracking it. Choose a water bottle that you use daily and calculate how many you need to drink per day. Maybe try a handy app on your phone like Daily Water or Waterlogged. You can flavor your water naturally with fruit, cucumber, lemon, etc. My trick at work is to drink coffee out of my travel mug first, then keep refilling it with water for the rest of the shift without washing it. My water tastes subtly of coffee all night long– I love it! Just today, I saw an ad for a cup that is infused with different scents that trick your brain into thinking it’s drinking juice. I don’t know much about it, but it sounds pretty awesome.
4) Eat healthy.
I get it, I really do. With baby #1, you followed THE LIST religiously. No lunch meats. No soft cheese. No sushi. No soft serve ice cream. This time around, you are lucky to sit down for two minutes to eat, let alone give much thought into what it is you are eating. You spend so much time preparing food for your littles that you find yourself raiding the M&Ms during naptime. Then you think, “Oh, everything turned out great with my first pregnancy– what harm can this rare blue cheese burger do?” (True confession: I was addicted to ChickFilA’s frosted lemonades during my second pregnancy, and I’m positive that they are mostly soft serve ice cream.) Do your precious little one a favor, and check out the list again. Believe it or not– complications like listeriosis aside– your eating habits can affect your baby for life. On the flip side of this, don’t beat yourself up if you are not following the perfect diet 100% of the time! Practice healthy habits overall, and you can occasionally eat popcorn for dinner with a side of rocky road.
Pushing your toddler on a swing for 11 million minutes? That counts. Pulling him to the park in the wagon that never steers easily? Totally counts. Picking up the carpet of food he’s managed to drop on the floor at mealtime? Girl, you are rocking this exercise thing. It doesn’t really matter how you move your body, just keep it moving. Kitchen dance-offs with the kiddos are the best.
6) Keep your prenatal appointments.
This is a biggie. It may seem like the only thing happening is being weight-shamed and peeing in a cup, but getting regular prenatal care is super important. Remember how I said that kick counts are your only window into your baby’s health? That’s true, but your obstetrician or midwife sees far more than that during your appointments, and trends are important. Take the kids with you if you don’t have access to childcare– as far as I know, most doctors’ offices will allow that. Bring your questions, too, and don’t be afraid to admit to any weird symptoms or just a “gut feeling” that something isn’t right. You know your body better than your doctor does, and what you tell her can help her fit the pieces together about the health of your pregnancy.
7) Sleep. I have two reasons for this.
First, sleep is vital to your health and energy levels. What energy levels? Exactly. You need all of the reserve you can get these days. I want you to think back to your first pregnancy. You woke up feeling nauseated, so lazily lounged in bed until you could stomach a bite to eat. You took long, luxurious naps and then slept 10 hours at night, too. Doesn’t that sound like a piece of heaven? Now, you are up at 7am (if you’re lucky) every day of the week, and the only chance you have of a nap is when your other littles are sleeping. If you work outside of the home, you don’t even get that. Secondly, when you have newborn #2, people will stop telling you to “sleep when the baby sleeps.” This is because they know that it is even more of pipe dream than it was with the first. The other littles don’t just magically go away when the baby is napping! If they all nap at the same time, don’t you dare go to sleep. Go out and buy a lottery ticket because this is your lucky day, friend.
I could write another whole post about your fears about this pregnancy. Not just health concerns, but whether or not you will bond with this baby like you did your first. (Spoiler alert: you will.) It may happen early, or it may not happen until sometime after she is born, but don’t fret, mama. You are doing a great job. And you are beautiful. (I just like to throw that in there, because I figured you needed to hear it one more time today.)
Grace Godwin is a wife and mom (Sawyer, 3 and Spencer, 1), night shift labor and delivery nurse, and a lifestyle blogger at A Literary Feast. When she’s not coaching moms through labor or taking care of her own babies, she spends most of her time reading or mindlessly phone-surfing. You can connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.