Hey you guys: None of this should be misconstrued as medical advice- always discuss lifestyle changes with your care provider and use your best judgement before, during, and after pregnancy!
I make mistakes so you don’t have to. Here, from personal experience, are some things I truly wish I had done (and some things I’m so glad I did!) BEFORE I got pregnant.
- Clean out your car.
Like most things on this list, I didn’t realize what an important concept this was until after I got pregnant. Now, I’m sure most people keep their car pretty clean and aren’t total slobs. If you’re like me, however, yours may may need some serious work. As a doula, I pretty much live out of my car. With a thorough search one might find some bottles of essential oil, breastfeeding magazines, pillows, my infant massage instruction doll, socks filled with rice, gallon-size ziploc bags (for placentas, of course), a stuffed uterus… you get the idea. There are also snack wrappers, empty water bottles, a massage table, cds, a step stool, some bolsters, and a wide variety of books in there, among other miscellaneous items. If my car ever got broken into, thieves would be epically disappointed.
The whole inside needs to be cleaned out and reorganized, and now that I am on hiatus from birthwork until after our daughter arrives, this needs to be done during pregnancy. That nesting urge you hear so much about is a real thing, and just the thought of my car in its current state makes me crazy. It’s also now about 1000 degrees out, which means I’ll be out there in the heat of the day, in my hot car, making trips back and forth from the car to the house. There’s also, you know, no room for a car seat in there, which will sort of be an issue in the coming months unless I get this situation taken care of.
So do yourself a favor, and if your car needs a cleaning, just do it now. Your car will have plenty of time to be a mess once you have a child, so enjoy the so fresh and so clean opportunity while you still have it!
- Take selfies.
- I used to hate having my picture taken. I don’t like the attention, I don’t photograph well, and I much prefer to be behind the camera. Now that I’m pregnant though, I so wish I had more pictures of myself, and of my husband and I. I’ve reached a point in my pregnancy where I’ve realized that my body is not solely mine anymore and I honestly don’t know how it will look and feel after our daughter is born. Some things will go back to normal, sure, but other things will never quite be the same (which is OKAY!). Now that I have lots of nifty belly shots, I realize I don’t have anything to compare them to from Life Before Child.
So if you’re comfortable with the idea, take some pictures now. They don’t have to be for anyone’s eyes but your own, and hopefully looking back on them will be a lovely nostalgic experience. And take pictures with your partner as well, as your child will someday love to laugh at how young and weird her parents were back in the day.
- Start a self-fertility massage practice.
Whether or not you have ever struggled with fertility challenges, self-fertility massage can be an amazing way to learn more about your body, tune in to your personal monthly rhythms, and develop stronger body literacy. Not only can a regular practice help clear blockages, help with cysts and fibroids, promote egg health, and help relieve the intensity of painful ovulation and periods, it can be a relaxing and holistic way to just relax and take time for yourself. Self-fertility massage can be a great addition to your regular self-care.
Practicing good self-care in all forms is as vital before pregnancy as it is during, and while healing during the postpartum. Self-care may look a little different for everyone, and can be anything from monthly acupuncture, to weekly dinners with family, to saying “NO” a little more often. During pregnancy you’ll find that you and your growing baby physically and emotionally need the best care, more rest, better food, proper hydration. Self-fertility massage before getting pregnant (not to be performed during menstruation, or if you are or think you might be pregnant) is a relaxing, non-invasive, and holistic way to take better care of yourself while learning more about your body and creating a healthy womb for your baby to get cozy in when he or she is created.
Certified Fertility Massage Therapists, such as myself, and Mayan Abdominal Therapists can not only perform massage on your upper and lower abdomen, but also teach you how to perform the techniques yourself. If you are interested, I highly recommend booking an appointment with a qualified therapist- our abdomens never get any attention in our daily lives or during a typical massage, and you will walk away from your session feeling happier, lighter, and peaceful (and smarter!).
- Incorporate a low-impact exercise into your daily/weekly routine.
I know, you’ve probably heard this a lot. It’s very cliche, but something I absolutely wish I had done pre-pregnancy. I say “low-impact” because you want to choose something that you can safely do in every trimester. In your first trimester, you may not have the energy to do a damned thing, and this I understand on a personal level. I also know there were many days during those first few months that I did have a few spare moments of no nausea, and I wish I had chosen to use those moments for taking a walk in the sunshine, or floating around in a pool.
I’m in NO WAY an exercise expert. The most I like to do is hike, swim, kayak, and the occasional kundalini yoga video with Gurmukh. I’m realizing now that my body has these things called limits, and that due to my lack of… shall we say, fitness? my body is a bit more weary than it should for someone who is approaching 30.
Before I got pregnant I would tell Steve, “When I get pregnant, I’m going to swim 3 times a week, and walk every day.” And he said, “No you won’t- you don’t do that now.” And he was right. Start habits now, so that when you’re pregnant they are second-nature, and your body is already used to your routine. Trust me. I walked only 3 miles at a quick pace for a Mark Mulcahy concert last night, and I can count on two hands where it hurts.
Talk with your care provider about enjoying a more fit pregnancy, and follow your body’s cues. I don’t feel pregnancy is a time to push your limits by any means, but a short walk after dinner each night can do wonders for your body, your sleep, and your racing mind. Remember that labor is a marathon, and no one enters a marathon without a bit of training! Your training should involve eating well and moving your body every day in some way, to prepare for the greatest event of your life.
- Make friends with coupons.
Seriously. This goes along with “starting good habits now.” I never realized before I got pregnant how much my appetite would increase. I mean, wow. We go food shopping twice as often as pre-pregnancy, and even that is not enough. I crave different forms of takeout once a week, and that plus the extra shopping has almost tripled our grocery expenses. Steve and I are excellent shoppers and love a good deal, so that helps, but coupons have helped us immensely.
I encourage you to start perusing the websites of your favorite brands (NOTE: these might become your least favorite brands after you become pregnant… but there’s no way of telling!) and signing up for their mailing lists. Companies often send out special coupons and deals, and even have printable coupons on their sites every so often. This is especially true of specialty brands that can be pricey. Websites like coupons.com and common kindness (for crunchy folks), offer a pretty simple way to find, print, and clip your own coupons, and most grocery stores have weekly “deals.”
Become a smarter shopper now so that you’re not pummeled when your appetite kicks in and there’s no turning back. Pregnancy hunger is different from any type of hunger I’ve experienced before- it is INSANE.
- Take your vitamins and Omega 3’s.
I didn’t do this. I wish I had, because now, my skin has never looked better! Also, lots of benefits for overall health and setting the stage for a healthier pregnancy and wee one. If nothing else, taking prenatals pre-conception will give you time to find one that works well with your unique body. I tried 8 different prenatals of varying qualities, prescription and plant-based before finally finding one that doesn’t make me sick, gives me energy, and that I don’t dread taking (Nature’s Bounty Prenatal + Melaleuca Omega-3).
Prenatals come in all different forms- some are giant with DHA included, and others are smaller and you may want to take your Omega 3’s separately. Some vitamins even come in gummy form… which is really tempting, but I haven’t been brave enough to try. Some pills you have to take twice a day, some only once. Get into the habit of taking your vitamins every day to get your body on the right track and to find what makes you feel great before entering pregnancy.
- Go to therapy.
Last year, when Steve and I were discussing a timeline as to when we wanted to start tempting fate and then seriously trying to conceive, I realized that I needed to go to therapy. I, like most people, had/have a bunch of baggage, and knew that I wanted to work out as many of my issues as possible before bringing a child into the world. This was especially important as most of my “stuff” involved mothers, childhood, and parenting. I knew that I didn’t want any of my negative history to affect my future hypothetical offspring. I also knew I couldn’t afford typical therapy, and so began to research early last fall.
I luckily came across an organization within walking distance of our home, that accepted clients on a sliding scale. I was partnered with a fantastic therapist and was able to make good progress in a short amount of time. I still go to therapy, and feel that this was single-handedly THE most important thing I could have ever done as a parent-to-be. Now that I am pregnant, I already have an established relationship with my therapist and life is just sweeter than it used to be.
It’s amazing what can come up in therapy, and how just talking and being listened to can make such a difference in how you feel about yourself, your life, and all that comes with it. Even if you feel like talk therapy might not be your cup of tea, you might want to just give it a shot and see how you feel about it. If it’s not for you, there you go, but if you have benefited from it, your future child and family will, too.
- Research doulas and care providers.
Once you’re pregnant, you have a million new things to think about. One thing to consider early on is who you want your birth team to be. This doesn’t mean you have to choose everything right off the bat, but by researching doulas in your area before you get pregnant, you can get an idea of what sort of services they provide and what their fee ranges are. Doulas are a WILDLY valuable investment for women and families, and pre-conception is a great time to start putting a small bit of money away each week if possible, as part of a doula fund.
For us, pregnancy has been… expensive. As I mentioned earlier, food costs have nearly tripled. My car is no longer in working order, which was an expense we hadn’t planned for. We’re also having a home birth, which is has consumed every last dollar we received from our wedding. (TOTALLY WORTH IT. I can’t wait to share our experiences with our midwife with you!) Luckily everyone is healthy, none of the cats need veterinary attention, etc. But yeah, pregnancy has been more expensive than we ever thought it would be, and that is with the luxury of health insurance.
While you’re dreaming of pregnancy, start looking into your birth options- do the hospitals by you have midwives? Do you feel comfortable with your current OB/GYN? Do you have a free-standing birth center by you? What do you know about homebirth? Yes, pregnancy comes with a lot of options, and sometimes having so many choices can feel overwhelming! Maybe check out The Business of Being Born on Netflix, or rent the movie Doula! from your library- you’ll get to see some beautiful births and learn more about labor and birthing options while relaxing and being entertained.
Out of all of the myriad choices you’ll have to make during pregnancy, choosing your birth team is, in my opinion, the most important one you can make. Being informed and knowing your options is half the battle! And it can make life in pregnancy much easier by learning what and who is available early on.
- Talk to your partner.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but really, talk to your guy or gal. Dream a bit together, and learn what he or she thinks of when imagining a life with a child. You may find that the two of you have completely different scenarios in mind- and that’s okay. During pregnancy, it’s easy to fall into a routine of every conversation and activity revolving around your baby. Sometimes weeks can go by without talking about stuff other than money, or cravings, or diapers, or the registry. It’s so important to keep the lines of communication open now (again, a healthy habit), so that everyone is on the same page. Pregnancy can also slow down physical intimacy, so you’re going to want a way to stay connected outside of the bedroom.
What are some things you wish you’d done before you got pregnant/ had children?