My husband and I were thrilled (and surprised) when I found out I was pregnant. I kept staring at the pregnancy test in the bathroom to be sure it was positive. When the surprise wore off and I settled into the idea of our expanding family, I started to read up as much as I could about pregnancy.
I signed up for pregnancy apps, googled anything and everything (a dangerous game to play) and got pages deep in pregnancy forums. The result – I was left feeling incredibly overwhelmed by all the advice, which can seem conflicting or even fear mongering. The list is endless: Salmon is good for you so eat up, but wait be careful of mercury levels! Don’t drink caffeine! Okay, just one or two cups of coffee a day is fine (we think). Exercise is great, as long as you avoid outdoor cycling, contact sports, gymnastics, lying on your back, holding your breath, sit ups and backbends. You get the idea. Expectant mothers these days have the blessing and curse of so much information at their finger tips.
I wanted to find a reliable source of information I could read to help me get through my first pregnancy that also didn’t leave my head reeling. The Pregnancy Encyclopedia (DK Publishing, 2016) has been a lifesaver. The book’s Canadian consulting editor, Dr. Beth Cruickshank, a mother to twins, can relate. She thinks new moms should “Try not to get caught up with doing everything by the books. There are so many rules and recommendations out there but I don’t think parenting is black and white. Trust yourself. And enjoy every minute. It goes by so fast.” I’ve read the book from front to back in preparation for becoming a first time mom. It’s a beautifully illustrated, informative guide for soon-to-be parents that covers a range of important topics in an accessible way.
5 Pregnancy Tips for First-Time Expecting Moms
Following your baby’s development can help you bond with your baby and enjoy your pregnancy.
One of my favourite sections of The Pregnancy Encyclopedia is the pregnancy timeline, which walks you through all the changes happening to your baby week by week, right from conception to delivery. Knowing important details – like when my unborn baby can recognize my voice – has helped with my bonding process and led to belly rubbing and one way conversations as a regular part of my shower routine. The book also has some great tips for the different stages of pregnancy, such as when to take a babymoon (second trimester, Portugal, check) or when to ditch the high heels (years ago, actually).
All About Mom
What is happening to my body? Is this normal?
My body has changed so much that sometimes it can almost feel foreign. When I first got pregnant I remember naively thinking that I was off to such a great start with no symptoms that the rest would be a breeze too. Almost immediately the nausea, dizziness and exhaustion hit. Then came the backache, round ligament pain, dry skin and trouble sleeping. It’s reassuring to read about common complaints and to check in with my doctor when I’m not sure about something. I’ve found the best thing is to take each day as it comes and try to find ways to rest and relax, such as with evening walks, warm baths and prenatal massages. Dr. Cruickshank advises expectant moms to sleep as much as they can. This is great advice and the giant pregnancy pillow I use has certainly helped with this goal, though it does leave my husband complaining about the ratio of pillow to person in bed.
Find ways to optimize your health, but don’t obsess.
The moment I found out I was pregnant I started scrutinizing everything I put into my mouth. I’d scour food labels – Is this cheese pasteurized? Is that burger cooked enough? It was exhausting and the stress wasn’t helping. I’ve found that focusing more on the overall picture – eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins has been a much better approach. The Pregnancy Encyclopedia has helped by laying out what a healthy diet looks like, what vitamins are most essential and what foods can help with energy levels and calcium intake.
Nesting is fun, second hand is great and babies go through so many diapers.
I wanted to get all the big purchases out of the way when we still had time and while my energy levels were high. Plus, our baby is due at the end of August so I didn’t want to spend my whole summer stressing about everything we needed. There are so many options for cribs, strollers, bassinets and car seats in huge price ranges. The Pregnancy Encyclopedia helped me with a lot of my practical planning, from figuring out what equipment we’ll need, to the pros and cons of cloth vs. disposable diapers and what to pack in my hospital bag. Polling my mom friends for their recommendations has also been hugely beneficial. I’ve found it calming and exciting to focus on the practical by stocking up on cute baby clothes and setting up the nursery.
Labor and Birth
Ask me when it’s over.
Labor and delivery are, admittedly and unsurprisingly, what I’m most nervous about. It seems incredible to me that this watermelon-sized baby is entering this world through my legs. Being a first time mom I don’t really know what to expect and the unknown can be intimidating and scary. Having a better understanding of what the early signs of approaching labor are, the different stages of labor, birthing positions and how my partner can best support me have helped to ease some of my anxiety. The book also provides some really interesting facts. Did you know that some people eat the placenta? Apparently some believe it can help the mother by increasing her iron and warding off postpartum depression. I don’t think I’ll be bringing any Tupperware to the hospital with me though.
Written by Sarah Topa