Happy weekend! To celebrate, I present you with a short novel entitled, “I Have Strong Feelings on Pregnancy.” Feel free to skip this if it isn’t relevant to you, or share with any future moms in your life. I’ll be sending a more general newsletter this week (get excited for the most stupidly easy and tasty yogurt sauce ever).
Pregnancy. This is my take—what I discovered, what worked for me, what I wished I had known. While long, it isn’t exhaustive; I focused on the categories that were most important to me.
Before we dive in, a couple ground rules.
First: Everyone experiences pregnancy differently. I was lucky to have a very easy pregnancy, and I was also working for myself so I had more time to cook, go to yoga, stare at my rapidly disappearing navel etc. Take my advice with a grain of salt and remember that you know yourself better than anyone else does.
Second: Pregnancy is not an illness or a disability. Part of my frustration with pregnancy content and advice was that it was so heavily weighted toward the don’ts and the fears. I recently listened to an interview with Sarah Lacy where she talks about her new book and how when she became pregnant she felt like a superhero. I couldn’t agree more, and want every woman who is pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant to remember how strong they are, and how wild and incredible it is to grow a human inside your belly (ok, uterus).
Now, on to the advice!
On being terrified: Totally normal. I was so scared that Rob and I were going to upend our happy existence, and that we’d stop doing the things we loved, that we wouldn’t see our friends, that our relationship would suffer. I was also worried that I’d never lose the pregnancy weight, that I wouldn’t know how to be a mom…and so on. These are all valid fears but what I have found is that you figure it out. (And yes, your life is turned upside down, but in the best and most joyful way possible.) It is ok to worry. But you will be great, I promise.
Books: I didn’t set out to buy a lot of books but ended up with a stack that were helpful at various points. Ones I liked:
- Expecting Better: I found conventional pregnancy advice frustrating and opaque—very little information why you shouldn’t do things, and rules based on outliers rather than norms. This book, written by a statistician, was extremely refreshing and made me better about trusting my gut on things like coffee, alcohol, exercise etc.
- Bringing Up Bébé: Breezy read and will make you want a French daycare in your neighborhood. Also reassured me that we’d still be ourselves (i.e. throw dinner parties and talk like adults) after having a baby.
- Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth: Pretty hippie (includes a lot of first-person accounts of midwife births) but I was fascinated by the descriptions of labor and reframing the experience as something unique, singular, and not simply painful.
- The Birth Partner: Rob found this super useful and it gave him a sense of what I would be feeling during late pregnancy, labor, and birth.
- Mayo Clinic: Bought this as our kind of basic “What is happening” book—a little outdated but moderately useful for understanding what was happening to my body at any given time.
- Birthing class: I highly recommend taking one. I was pretty terrified of labor but felt much more empowered and confident after our class at Tribeca Pediatrics— it made me realize that our bodies are built for this. Rob loved it too, and learned ways to support me before and after labor.
Apps and online: I found most apps and pregnancy sites to be pretty click-baity and annoying in tone, though I did enjoy The Bump’s fruit/vegetable comparisons. (Side note: how does a baby look like a melon one week and a romaine lettuce the next?) I also skipped the forums because I had a handful of mom friends who I felt comfortable asking silly/irrational/TMI questions.
Clothing: My strategy was to accumulate as few maternity items as possible while still feeling good. It’s hard to stock up because you don’t know how you are going to grow so just buy as you go. Borrow long tops from taller friends (thanks, Hayley!) and invest in pieces that give you confidence (i.e. a flattering pair of maternity jeans, comfy tights, a fun dress) as well as items that are basically disposable like tank tops. Some of my best finds:
- GapFit Maternity workout pants: I wore these nonstop for my last two trimesters. Size down.
- Jeans: I tried a bunch of brands but ultimately my Topshop over the bump maternity jeans ended up being my MVPs because they were flattering and felt like leggings. I also bought two pairs of Current Elliott (one on Hatch and one on EBay) and they were fine but felt a little silly because of price.
- Non-maternity: Look at stretchy dresses or flattering sack-like things at Club Monaco, Splendid, madewell, Uniqlo, Gap etc. I ended up wearing a lot of my looser tops pretty far into pregnancy. And don’t be afraid to try on regular pieces in a size up—I found a black jumpsuit at Marine Layer that was stretchy enough to fit over my beach ball up till the end!
- Layers: Get a couple long tank tops (mine were non-maternity Jockey from Target) for wearing under things and for nighttime. These will come in handy after the baby is born too so make sure they’re soft and comfy. You’ll also want a pair of black leggings if only for hanging around the house. I liked my Ingrid & Isabel ones and have heard great things about Splendid.
- Nursing bras: Your chest will likely grow (mine basically doubled) so go ahead and invest in nursing bras early. I bought multiples of Boob’s no-wire nursing bra and have loved them; other people really like Bravado but the clasp was tough for me.
- And finally—comfortable shoes! While I have friends who wore heels till the end, I highly recommend finding cute flats you can wear with jeans or dresses. I wore my leather Sezane sneakers till the end, and have friends who swore by Birkenstocks.
Clothing, Bonus Round: I got maternity clothes fatigue so didn’t try all the new brands out there and new ones are launching constantly. A couple things worth mentioning: a few friends swore by ASOS Maternity but I am a terrible online shopper and was intimidated by the wide catalog. I loved the look and vibe of Storq but didn’t end up getting anything from them, and my friend Becca just told me about Sonnet James, which as started by a mom who wanted dresses she could wear while playing with her kids (so fun, and Becca says she’s already bought five pieces!). Finally, Rent the Runway has added maternity styles to their Unlimited Subscription, which is genius and is also perfect for fluctuating size before/after birth.
Vitamins and whatnot: Take them! I used Thorne Research’s Basic Prenatal, which my cousin Corina, a naturopathic doctor and women’s fertility expert, recommended—though you do have to take three pills, which is not ideal. My friend Allidah found a magical single pill version by Rainbow Light. I also took a Prenatal DHA for extra omega-3 (brain development!), a probiotic, and used Calcium-Magnesium powder on and off through the second and third trimesters to help with leg cramping and, ahem, regularity.
Food and drinking: I did my research and found that many of the rules were very conservative and/or based on edge cases (Expecting Better was a good resource here). Ultimately I used my judgment and ate pretty much what I did usually, including the occasional fancy ham and butter baguette from Arcade Bakery and crudo at Eventide Oyster Co. I worked in plenty of dark leafy greens and protein and also found myself wanting more carbs (grains, bread etc.) than before. I tried to stick to low-Mercury fish like salmon and sardines and ate fish once weekly especially toward the end. Some random things:
- Coffee and alcohol: I had 1-2 cups of coffee a day my entire pregnancy. I drank a small glass of wine once or twice a week through second and third trimester (great excuse to drink the best wine you can find) and by the end I didn’t even want it because of acid reflux.
- For when water got boring: I had never been a seltzer person but started to drink Spindrift just for something different. My go-to faux cocktail was good tonic (Fever Tree is my favorite) paired with lime and bitters—basically a fake G&T—or any seltzer with bitters. Toward the end I also became addicted to lemonade and Arnold Palmers because they were refreshing and gave me a sugar hit.
- Snacking: I had to snack constantly because when I did get hungry I’d feel sick in addition to hangry. By third trimester, I was also running out of space and would get full quickly so I had tons of mini meals. Smoothies, nut butters and fruit, and animal crackers (yes, I’m a child) were great.
- Acid reflux: No fun. Tums and ice cream to the rescue!
Fitness: I stayed pretty active my whole pregnancy and really, really helped me feel good mentally and physically. As with nutrition, many of the rules are pretty conservative and don’t take into account your fitness level. Because of that, I tried to learn the why behind the do’s and don’ts so I could make my own choices, and also just listened to my body—it definitely told me when it was time to slow down!
- Types of workouts: This is personal! I kept up my usual routine (a mix of interval classes, spin, and yoga) and did research on which exercises I shouldn’t be doing (for example, side core is great but center core is a no-no).
- Online resources: For days when I couldn’t get myself to the gym, I did short workouts at home using YouTube videos like BodyFit by Amy Prenatal workouts and Heidi Kristoffer yoga. It was a way to get my endorphins fix without a full class.
- Taking control of your workout: You can’t assume the teacher knows how to teach pregnant women so if a move doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. I went to teachers I trusted (Angela at Mala Yoga was incredible—follow her and Mala on Instagram for pre and postnatal tips) to understand what to avoid and why and I was able to carry that knowledge to classes at other studios.
- Pregnancy-specific classes: You may love these, you may hate them. I thought prenatal yoga was snoozy until the very end, at which point I started to really appreciate the breathing and stretching. Give them a try a different points of your pregnancy to see what works. If you’re in New York, check out Area Yoga, Bend & Bloom, or Love Child Yoga.
- And if you can swing it… I had a prenatal trainer once a week and it was really helpful because he made me do stuff I never would have done (kegels!) and had me focusing on areas (core stability, hips) that helped me avoid back pain and recover from labor quickly.
Beauty: My routine is already pretty clean so I didn’t make that many changes. I did nix anything with salicylic acid or retinol and started buying only from Birchbox’s Ingredient Conscious category. Two big changes: I slathered my belly in coconut oil morning and night (It worked – no stretch marks!) and got monthly facials at Heyday, which kept my skin in check throughout the hormonal ups and downs.
Travel: Don’t be afraid of travel! You’ll have to pee more, and you may be a little uncomfortable sitting for long periods, but it’s important to get away. I highly recommend taking a babymoon (and would love for someone to come up with a less annoying word for it) and picking a destination that fits with what you need. Some of my friends craved lounge chairs and beach but I wanted to explore a new city with Rob so we spent a magical eight days in Portugal. For flying, make sure to invest in a pair of sexy compression socks for the flight and drink more water than you think is necessary.
Whew! Congratulations on making it this far. I know I’ve left a bunch of things out (picking a doula, hospital packing, and registry advice coming in a future newsletter!) so email me if you’ve got a burning question!