With the feast of the Queenship of Mary (August 22) coming up soon on the calendar, it’s a great time to talk about motherhood and pregnancy. My fifth child, Cecilia, was born August 13, and I remember that summer as feeling particularly hot! In honor of Mary and with special prayers for all you expecting moms out there, here are 9 tips for the 9 months of pregnancy.
Tip for Month #1: In the first month, you might not even know that you’re pregnant unless your symptoms are really obvious or you’re using a cycle-charting technique like Natural Family Planning. But if you already know that baby is on the way, then take a deep breath and follow this advice from Sarah Reinhard’s A Catholic Mother’s Companion to Pregnancy: “pray a Hail Mary and brew some tea. Picture Mary across from you, smiling gently, and know that you’ll be blessed.”
Tip for Month #2: Research Your Medication! At your first pregnancy check-up, the doctor will probably prescribe medication like prenatal vitamins. All medicines are not created equal, even something as simple as vitamins. Although I experienced only mild morning sickness for my first two babies, I threw up like clockwork every morning with baby number three. Right after I took my morning prenatal vitamin. “It’s your vitamins, dummie,” exclaimed my outspoken mother with whom we were vacationing. I protested strenuously until she suggested I stop taking the vitamins for a few days. No vitamins, no vomiting. When I called the pharmacist, they explained that the brand of prenatal vitamins I was taking had more iron than many other brands, and that extra iron might have been irritating my stomach. So the doctor switched me to a different vitamin prescription. Problem solved, and thank goodness. If I had gone to my doctor complaining of nausea, he might have prescribed an anti-nausea drug like Zofran, which is thought to have awful side effects including anxiety, seizures, and even birth defects. So always research your meds, especially if you’re experiencing problems!
Tip for Month #3: Look Cool in Your Clothes. When I was pregnant with our eldest daughter, I was still working. I wasn’t sure how my bosses in the high-pressure law firm environment would react, so I hid the pregnancy as long as possible. Instead of buying maternity clothes, I just kept buying clothes in bigger sizes. The day I showed up in size 16 pants, one of the secretaries snarkily remarked that it looked like I had borrowed pants from my dad’s closet. The pants fit on the waist, but were way too baggy on my hips and legs. Maternity clothes are sized for pregnant ladies. Surprise, they fit and look good! In the third month, it will probably be time to break down and buy some.
Tip for Month #4: Eat Well. In the second trimester, morning sickness tends to fade away. Then you can concentrate on eating something more than dry toast, crackers, and ginger ale. For our first baby, we had a super-cool Manhattan doctor who said I could eat pretty much whatever I liked – even sushi, if I trusted the restaurant. For every baby after that, we got different advice on what not to eat. No cold cuts, no soft cheeses, no this, no that. It reminded me of the advice my grandmother received on what to feed her baby. The pediatrician for her first child told her to add a raw egg to the baby’s formula bottle, and so she did for every one of her five babies. Until she told the pediatrician for baby number five, and he freaked out. Diet advice will change. Follow what your doctor says, of course, but there’s no need to stress or obsess about it.
Tip for Month #5: Adjust Your Wedding Rings. Like a lot of expecting moms, I had super-swollen fingers when I was pregnant. Apparently, this problem (called edema) gets worse in your fifth month of pregnancy and even worse in hot weather. Hello, August! I actually had one of my rings re-sized at the jeweler’s since it was tight to begin with. But lots of moms just move their rings to a pretty gold chain around their necks. The problem should go away pretty soon after baby is born.
Tip for Month #6: Have Fun Picking Baby’s Name. If you’re like me, you picked out your first child’s name when you were twelve. If you’re like a lot of other people, you’ve let it wait. Picking your baby’s name is great fun. For me, it felt like naming the hero or heroine of your very own novel. In the South, there’s a huge tradition of using family names. Catholics like to use saints’ names, and Spaniards like my husband like to have a lot of middle names! If you want help with ideas, check out The Catholic Baby Name Book by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur.
Tip for Month #7: Lounge in the Pool. The seventh month of pregnancy can bring more aches and pains with it. Your hips can feel painfully stretched out, and it might feel hard to walk. And in the summer, the heat just makes everything worse. Especially if you have toddlers to take care of, baby pools can be the best. Slip on a maternity bathing suit and lounge in the baby pool while your toddler splashes around. You’ll both be a lot happier.
Tip for Month #8: Make a Hospital Visiting Plan. The birthing class we took told us to pack a bag for the hospital, buy a car seat, and pick an object to focus on during contractions (like that worked! :not: ). If they mentioned a visiting plan, I don’t remember it. So for our first baby, my extroverted and enthusiastic husband invited the whole family to the labor and delivery wing. All one dozen of them, it seemed. I even met the sister of my husband’s cousin’s wife for the first time in my hospital gown. “En – can – ta – da,” I puffed out in Spanish in between contractions while gamely extending my hand for a handshake. Years later, my husband still expressed surprise that I would have wanted it any other way. For babies five and six, I finally felt strong enough to voice my wishes that people visit me and the baby at home after I was discharged. Hospital time was my time. Whatever visiting rules you want to lay down, decide on them before you go into labor!
Tip for Month #9: Don’t Forget to Pray! Childbirth can be a spiritual experience – not a hearts and flowers and dancing angels moment, but a reminder that weakness can generate greatness. We need help to get through this last stage of pregnancy — help from medical professionals, birth coaching partners, family and God. Recognizing that we need help is a humbling but amazingly enlightening moment. Pray that God will bless you and your baby, and keep you safe for many years to come.
Copyright 2015 Karee Santos
Image courtesy of Pixabay.