Pregnancy is like, so easy.

Happy Mother’s Day! Man, do I know a lot of wonderful mothers. I’m lucky that way. I even received a few sweet messages wishing me my own happy Mother’s Day yesterday, which was so thoughtful on the part of the senders. But I have to say that I don’t quite feel like a mother yet- I mean, I haven’t done anything really hard yet. Especially this trimester!

Women who know told me that the second trimester would be great, and they were right. So far, it’s my favorite of the two I’ve experienced. My nausea has subsided and my energy has bounced back: I’ve returned to eating vegetables and working out regularly. (In the past few weeks, there have been times when I’ve literally forgotten that I’m pregnant until I see my reflection and think, Oohhhh yeah. That’s right.) My little belly is growing, and while some might still think it’s a combination of a macaroni and cheese habit and poor posture, most would guess that I’m expecting. One brave flight attendant took one look at me and declared, “Someone’s having a baby!” Who, me?

So, this part feels easy physically, but because I’ve never been a pregnant lady before, there is a lot I have to learn. Luckily, between my family and my friends, I have access to the large network of afore-mentioned amazing mothers and mothers-to-be, so I know where to bring the questions and recommendation requests I have. They’ve given me such good advice that I feel compelled to pass it on (what pregnant woman doesn’t want more advice?). Here is a short list of a few of the things that have helped me start to really enjoy my pregnancy.
1) Bringing up Bébé by Pamela Druckerman
This is the first book about pregnancy and parenting I’ve ever read, and I loved it. It was recommended by a few of my friends who are mothers, and I have passed on their good advice to other expectant moms in my life. Druckerman is a writer who lives in France with her British husband and three children. She spends most of this book on her first pregnancy and the early years of raising her daughter, but she also writes about her second pregnancy (twins!) and what it was like to add two more infants to her family at the same time. 
What made this book such a good read for me was the author’s perspective. She’s an American raising kids in France, so her observations, experiences, and research about the differences between French parents and American parents throw a lot of what makes me nervous about American parenting and pregnancy culture into sharp relief. Obsessions about weight gain and loss, “mommy wars” over everything from breastfeeding to Baby Einstein, and hyper-vigilant helicoptering put a lot of pressure on women. Druckerman’s book shook my head clear of all the crazy. In her view, French women basically eschew the latest trendy parenting what-have-you in favor of common sense and a sense of balance.
After I finished Bringing up Bébé, I felt like I didn’t need to read any other books to prepare myself for our bébé’s arrival. I would absolutely recommend this funny, well-written title to anyone who’s interested in parenting or who is becoming a parent and does not want to turn into an insane one.
2) Expecting Better by Emily Oster

Technically, this book was recommended to me not by a friend but by a public radio interview I heard. It came out last summer to pretty divisive reviews because the media and People in General, being sensationalistic and possessing short attention spans, glommed onto the chapter about drinking, in which author Emily Oster states that there is no definitive evidence to prove that the occasional four-ounce glass of wine will hurt your baby. Headline-making material, for sure.

But this is a pretty fantastic and well-researched book, and I hope it starts changing some of the conversations around pregnancy culture in this country. The author starts the book by describing her impetus to write it: when she found out she was pregnant, she felt that the information she received about having a healthy pregnancy and delivery was either a) contradictory or b) one size fits all, and all of it was delivered without c) the cold, hard facts.

Oster is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, and she explains her decision-making process this way: What does the research say, and knowing this information, what decision am I comfortable and confident making? It’s probably the former debate coach in me, but using evidence to support decision-making is something I wish everyone, myself included, would do more often.

So the book is one very well-researched chapter after another that either debunks or upholds the standard pregnancy advice. Oster explains what randomized studies are (which, as an English teacher, I appreciated), and then proceeds to choose the best of the best available research to explore these questions.

What the online peanut gallery has failed to grasp about her book is what she makes clear over and over: this is not a book of recommendations. This is a book which explores research. You, the reader, are left with the responsibility to do with it what you will. You, the reader, are left to make up your own now-informed mind. She is also very clear when the research says it’s best to check with your own doctor.

If you’re looking for a book to arm you with evidence about how things outside of your body affect the little miracle within it, I’d recommend this. If you’re more comfortable adhering to standard pregnancy advice, I think that’s totally fine too (sincerely), and in that case, you can probably skip this one. I just like being able to give a coherent answer to someone who says, “Aren’t you not allowed to eat fish?” rather than defensively flipping that person off while stuffing my face with salmon because salmon is delicious.

3) Sea-Bands

I wasn’t quite sick enough during my first trimester to ask for anti-nausea meds, but I was sick enough for long enough stretches to be pretty distracted. My mom’s work friend recommended that I try Sea-Bands, these acupressure wristbands that are supposed to help with nausea. Matt picked me up a pair at Walgreens (I adamantly asked for the regular blue ones, as opposed to the pink- and more expensive- “pregnancy” ones), and even if it was just a placebo effect, they totally worked on me. I still felt a little sick if I didn’t have enough food in my stomach, but these made a huge difference in the quality of my day. Thankfully, I passed my first trimester in weather cold enough to warrant the long sleeves that hid these little bands, but you could rock them in summer too, with a little bedazzling.

4) Blooma Yoga

I will admit that whenever I passed the Blooma Yoga studio in St. Paul, I imagined a lot of earth mothers sitting on the floor with their tiny organic hemp-clad babies, chanting peacefully with their eyes closed. But happily, two good friends of mine- independently of one another- corrected this unfair perception, and I’m so glad they did.

When I was ready to get back into a workout routine, I started with running, but I’ve always enjoyed yoga and also wanted to explore challenging yoga with support and modifications for pregnant women. Blooma is a perfect place for this. I’ve taken prenatal yoga and barre classes at the St. Paul location, and both have left me with that most excellent tired muscle feeling, the one that only comes after a very satisfying workout. Not everyone who attends class is pregnant, and it’s not a studio exclusively for women, but lots of the people who attend are pregnant or mothers, and I haven’t been in a class with a man yet. I have to say that there’s something really special about taking care of my health in the company of women, in a place where women and pregnancy are celebrated overtly.

So, if you’re pregnant and looking for a solid workout, check out class at one of the Blooma locations. (And they’re not crazy-expensive, which I also like.)

5) Gummy prenatal vitamins

My cousin, who is also pregnant, recommended these as an alternative to the iron-packed horse pills that I’d previously been taking. I took those little beasts dutifully, but I complained to anyone within earshot (i.e. Matt) every time I took one about how sick they made me feel. Ugh for everyone involved. For whatever reason, I had no idea that another option existed until my wonderful cousin clued me in. I immediately went to the store and bought Vitafusion gummy prenatal vitamins, and they are amazing! The best part is that the serving size is not one but two gummies! I seriously look forward to taking them every day. Because they taste like delicious, delicious candy.

So, there you go! I have a lot more to write about being pregnant, and one of these days, I will. As soon as I decide to stop taking it so easy.

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