Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Pregnancy Must-Haves (and Must-Not-Haves)

Being pregnant is overwhelming enough. Being pregnant and suddenly being bombarded by every maternity and baby store known to man? Forget overwhelmed, you might as well check yourself into the psych ward for a couple of days until you can catch your breath again. There are a million websites out there telling you that you absolutely MUST have this item, because if you don't utilize it multiple times per day during your pregnancy you'll be hospitalized and on bedrest for 4+ months. Or if you bypass this ONE baby item, then you might as well save yourself all the $$ you were planning on contributing to a 529 account for your child, because that kid's going to end up in juvie at the ripe old age of 9. Not to mention, what works for one mom and one baby is not necessarily going to work for another. By no means take this list as a do-all end-all of necessities; I'm just telling you what worked best for me during my pregnancy, and what was very nice to have during Tony's first year (this post will follow soon). That being said, all babies are not going to like the same thing, and who knows what T-Quad will like or dislike?

However, there are a couple of tips I can give every newly pregnant woman and every new parent. Just trust me on this.

-If you're planning on having more than one child (or if you even THINK there might be a remote possibility of having more than one child), do yourself a favor and buy as much gender-neutral gear as possible. Will and I honestly don't ever plan on finding out the sex of our babies, but most of our friends do. A few of them made the colossal mistake of buying EVERYTHING-I'm talking stroller, car seat, high chair, baby carrier, bottles, etc-pink pinkity pink pink pink. Some of these friends are having boys now, and they're kicking themselves for not buying more gray, green, tan, etc colors for bigger ticket items. Trust me. Buy whatever colors you want for clothes, but think twice before decking out your entire nursery and baby gear collection in one color.

-Whenever you buy something like a car seat, stroller, high chair, exersaucer, whatever, ALWAYS fill out the info card and send it back to the company. If an item is recalled the company will notify you. You definitely don't want to skip this part.

-Resist the temptation to buy a ton of clothes before the baby is born. There are a couple of reasons for this. One, just because a baby is 2 months old does not necessarily mean they will be wearing the 0-3 size. As someone who gave birth to a much larger than average baby, who is just NOW (at the age of 2) wearing the "correct" size for his age, this is especially true. I was not a particularly big baby. Neither was Will. Clearly, that didn't mean a damn thing, as we produced a very large and very long child. Tony only wore the newborn size for 3 weeks, tops, and he didn't spend a whole heck of a lot of time in the 0-3 size either. Your best bet is to buy a couple of newborn and 0-3 months sizes, and wait and see how they fit your baby. Different brands will also fit differently (while Carters was relatively true to size for Tony, the Gerber brand seemed terribly small). Not to mention, the very day that people found out we had a boy we were bombarded with more blue clothes than I've ever seen in my life. Which brings me to my next point...

-If you are planning on finding out the sex of the baby, make sure you REALLY know the sex of the baby. I can think of 8 women off the top of my head who were told "you have a little girl in there!!" Guess what? Come delivery day, that little "girl" actually had a penis. One woman had painted the entire nursery pink, bought (and removed the tags, and washed) pink bedding and baby clothes, etc. End of the world? No, of course not, since she had a healthy, beautiful baby boy. Serious financial setback? You'd better believe it. Do not rush out and buy a Mack truck's worth of pink or blue clothes if the ultrasound tech says "I'm 85% sure it's a...." If you're dead set on finding out the sex because you're a serious planner who wants to decorate and buy before the baby arrives, your best bet is to go to one of those 3D or 4D ultrasound places. Keep in mind, the goal of the ultrasound tech at the 20 week anatomy scan is not to tell you the sex of the baby. They are making sure that the baby is developing properly, and serious abnormalities are not popping up. They really don't care if you're desperate to buy a little ballerina set or a "Daddy's All-Star" onesie.

-Lastly, and this is one of the most important things I will write...do not, under any circumstance, buy anything for your baby that is labeled as "dry clean only." If someone gives you an item that needs to be dry cleaned, wrap it right back up and re-gift it to your worst enemy.

So! Now that we have that out of the way, I'll give you my list of favorites during pregnancy. 

1. Pregnancy bras. Sorry if this is TMI, but I've always been kind of a busty girl, so I figured I couldn't POSSIBLY get any bigger during pregnancy. Nope. I'm giving Pamela Anderson a run for her money, and within the first month of me being pregnant, I couldn't wear my normal C-cup bras without red welts appearing on my skin. Invest in a couple of good bras from a store like Motherhood Maternity or Destination Maternity. It's just not worth being uncomfortable for nine months.

2. Pregnancy clothes in general. For my first pregnancy, I was able to wear my regular clothes up until I was about 3/4 months pregnant, then I desperately needed to make the switch. This pregnancy? I was so bloated by the time I was in my second month I gave up trying to zip up my jeans and just started wearing my maternity pants. Don't make the mistake of buying bigger "regular" clothes. They won't fit you well during your pregnancy, but they WILL make you look like you've gained a ton of weight...but not another person. Why would you want to wear a bunch of frumpy looking clothes when you're already feeling your most unattractive? (Or maybe that was just me). You don't have to go all-out and spend hundreds of dollars on designer maternity wear, but you can find great, simple pieces at places like the above-mentioned stores, or Target. They are affordable and flattering, and they highlight your bump, rather than your butt. Or hips. Or thighs. Or...yeah you get the idea.

3. Prenatal massages. Believe me when I say you can brighten up your entire month with one of these. No, they aren't necessarily cheap, but oooohhhhhh my goodness are they ever a lifesaver. Most spas will not perform them until you are in your second trimester, because they don't want to be held liable if something were to go wrong and  you were to miscarry (there are pressure points that need to be avoided pretty much right up until you're ready to deliver. A good, licensed massage therapist will know this). Prenatal massages can relieve stress and lower back pain, improve your circulation, and if nothing else, give you a much-needed hour of relaxation.

4. Heating pad. If you really can't afford a prenatal massage but you're experiencing a lot of aches and pains, pick up a heating pad from Target and use it when necessary. (I don't recommend using the highest setting, however). It's much safer than popping pills to relieve pain, and it was also pretty relaxing for me to use on my back at night.

5. Prenatal yoga, either through local classes or a DVD. Right now, T-Quad is in a weird position and I'm having lots of pain in my lower back and my hips. I may even need to see a chiropractor at some point, one who is trained in the Webster technique. But until then, I'm sticking with my prenatal yoga. I have a DVD that I use a couple of nights a week, and it really does make a difference. It's obviously geared toward pregnant women, and the stretches/positions are safe for you and baby. My back always, ALWAYS feels better afterward, and this is a good way to prep your body for labor and delivery as well. The DVD I use is Crunch Mama Yoga, and it's available on Amazon. The cheese factor is so high even Switzerland (or Wisconsin!) would be proud, but it really does help.

Things I Thought I Would Need But Definitely Didn't 

1. The Belly Band. A lot of women swear by this, but in my experience, it wasn't worth the $$. The belly band promises that you can wear your regular pants, and the band will hold the zipper and button in place. I tried it and it looked awkward, and felt even worse. I put it away in my drawer and haven't seen it since my pregnancy with Tony.
*To be fair, I've heard doctors/midwives recommend using the belly band if you're experiencing a lot of pelvic pain during your pregnancy. If this is the case, you would wear it UNDER your pants for the extra support, and I can see how this would be useful.

2. Oils, creams, butters, anything that promises to help you avoid stretch marks. I've got some unpleasant news for you, ladies. If you're destined to get stretch marks, you're going to get them, and no amount of $70/per bottle cream will prevent that. When I was pregnant with Tony, I was determined to have a stretch-mark free body if I could help it. I drank tons of water. I ate healthy (for the most part), and according to my OB my weight gain was perfect. I exercised, and I used those damn butters and creams like my life depended on it. Guess what? It didn't matter. By the time I reached the end of my seventh month, my lower abdomen looked like it was clawed by a mountain lion. I always laugh when I hear women say "oh you DEFINITELY have to use the Mama Mio belly oil! It's expensive but it works! I don't have a single stretch mark at all!" No honey, it didn't work. You just hit the genetic lottery. If it's any consolation at all, I assure you once that baby pops out stretch marks will be the furthest thing from your mind.

3. The pregnancy pillow. This initially seemed like a great idea, and my mom was generous enough to purchase one for me. (Thanks Mom! I'm really sorry to tell you that that $100 went to waste...) I'll be honest, I hated it. While it was true that I had a difficult time sleeping in the later part of my pregnancy due to extreme discomfort, the pillow didn't help at all. If anything, it made sleeping even MORE awkward and painful. I had much better luck taking extra pillows (decorative and non-decorative) from our bed and having Will build me a "preggy cave," as he called it. I needed back support, belly support, and a pillow between my legs since you pretty much have to sleep on your side all through your second and third trimesters.

4. I hesitate to put this on the list, because I would like to think common sense dictates that this isn't scientifically possible, but there's always at least one person on the 1st Trimester board on The Bump asking if it's a good idea. The stupid, ridiculous Intelligender test. I have never used it (even if I DID want to find out the sex of my baby I wouldn't use it), but I know people who have. Sorry to say, folks, but I seriously question the intelligence (haha!) of someone who thinks it's possible to determine a child's sex by the mother's urine. You can't. Just trust me on this. Use the $25 for something that you actually need.

That's all I can think of off the top of my head. If I suddenly remember any other things that were beneficially during my pregnancies, I will add to this post. Coming up soon: Baby Must Haves (and Must-Not-Haves).

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