Sunday, January 5, 2014

You're Barely Pregnant....Now What?'re barely pregnant.  Now what?

I know this feeling all too well.  You've taken the positive pregnancy test.  You've waited a few days.  You've taken another test (read: every test you have in your house).  You believe it.  You've told your husband and maybe even a few friends.

And now...what?  Especially with my first pregnancy, I walked through the house for a few days, in a sort of daze, feeling like I had nothing to do...but really wanting to do something involving the pregnancy.  I wasn't feeling bad, so I didn't need to eat differently, I wasn't showing so there wasn't any need for maternity shopping (not that I let that stop me from online window shopping), and not that many people knew yet, so I couldn't even really talk about it.

There are a thousand lists out there for what to do when pregnant, that cover the basics: call your OB/Gyn, figure out insurance coverage, read a bunch of stuff (that will probably freak you out) about how your body is going to change, and of course, immediately begin to think about your birth plan. Because, somehow, the Birth Plan seems to be the main focus of this pregnancy thing.  Not the child you'll have for fifty-odd years afterwards.  The one day of Birth.

Anyway, I digress.

Since I'm on the third go-round of this whole pregnancy thing, I found myself with a full list of things to do before I started feeling or looking pregnant.  And I wished I had known these things the first time around.  Or done them the second. This is for the first 2-3 weeks in between that Early Result test and the first moment of bone-tired zombie exhaustion, or the body-engulfing nausea that will, most likely, attack you out of nowhere one morning in the very near future, and be your constant companion for weeks after.

One more thing before I begin: fair warning.

Even if you have light, less-than-average symptoms, you're still in for a huge change in the way your body will work for you.  Pregnancy means that your body's priorities shift from being at your beck and call (and your willpower's), to being absolutely devoted to your baby. You're just along for the ride. Like to stay up late with hubs a few nights a week watching Office reruns and then have a few extra coffees to make it through the next day? No more. Hate making time in the morning to eat breakfast, so you just go on the cream in your coffee until lunch? I'd like to see you try that at 9 weeks. Wait till you have no more underwear and then do 15 loads of laundry all in one evening? Not. gonna. happen.

This feeling of powerlessness over your own self is especially frustrating your first time around. Plus, adjusting your brain to the new regime while simultaneously trying to fend off flu-like symptoms AND go on with your normal life (cause you can't call in "pregnant" to work!) is dang near impossible. Usually, what happens is, you surface a few weeks (or months) later, and look around you to find Disaster Zone. Your house has not been cleaned in weeks, laundry is piled higher than you have ever (even in college) seen it. The fridge is empty except for the things you forced your husband to go out and get you RIGHT NOW (pickles, chocolate, red meat, etc).Your husband, who is suddenly constantly eyeing you with a wary look, has made his own way through the last few weeks with takeout (which you made him eat in the car so you didn't have to smell it), rewearing clothes as he can. Your phone is full of messages and texts from friends, as is your email.  You have overdue library books you never read, your sheets only got changed when you couldn't make it to the bathroom fast enough that one morning (TMI?) and the dust on your shelves is half an inch deep.

THIS list is to help lessen the horribleness of that moment.

Not that, in that moment, you really will care. If you're anything like me, you'll be so relieved and so unbelievably grateful that you're well enough to smell toothpaste without gagging and make it through the day without needing a three-hour nap that even Disaster Zone can't kill your buzz.  And, in your new found lease on life (it's called Second Trimester, oh blessed, blessed time), you'll happily reengage and your life will be back on track fairly quickly.


Do these things now, and you'll be glad you did.

1.  Clean, clean, clean. 
Nothing produces housework malaise like the first trimester. Things that seemed non-negotiable, quality of life requirements suddenly seem utterly superfluous. Who the heck cares if the sink is full of dishes when you can't eat anything anyway?
A few specific suggestions in this general area:
The bathroom (most especially the toilet). It may seem clean enough for general, or even guest use, but when you have your entire face inside the bowl, and you're leaning on it, holding it for dear life, you want that thing to be spotless.  I promise.  That goes for the area around the toilet as well, which you may or may not be lying on for significant periods of time in the near future.  If you can, designate one bathroom as the Pregnancy Bathroom, and set it up spotlessly clean, with towels, antiseptic wipes, toothbrushes/toothpaste, paper cups, and maybe even a small pillow. Think I'm crazy? I lost 20 pounds during my first two trimesters of pregnancy with Caleb, and I threw up around 8 times a day.  I know what I'm talking about. Your husband will thank me, and so will you, when you have your own private, clean Throne Room to retreat to as needed.
A schedule. If you're able, design a routine for cleaning that gives you 20 or 30 minutes of housework a day. You can, most definitely, keep your home livable that way. Do a room-a-day kind of thing, or a task-a-day (like dusting, or floors). Regardless of whatever else, do a load of laundry a day (or every two if you don't need it that often). Check out for a ton of suggestions. Getting plugged into that NOW will do you good. No way will you choose, adopt and carry out a new routine once you're in the thick of it.
Iron, fold, organize, clean out: but please don't overdo it. What I'm talking about here is that pile of ironing you go through in the morning, grab a shirt out of, and iron right then. Or that clean laundry basket you just pile up and live out of until you get sick of it and fold the whole thing while watching a movie. Or the fridge that smells kinda funky but doesn't really bother you.  It will.  Ohhhh, it will. Basically, catch up on things that you need for daily life, but don't always stay on top of. I am NOT talking about the garage, the backyard, the attic or your out-of-season clothes. That would be a waste of the limited amount of time you have right now. Save those things for nesting in your last trimester, or for a year from now after the babe is sleeping through the night.

2.  Stock Up
On everything. The grocery store is a pit of torture and near-death in the first trimester. Smells, sights, long aisles...ugh. But there are lots of ways to keep yourself from having to go there (husband included).  Specific stock-ups:
Cleaning stuff. Dishwasher detergent, laundry soap, etc. You may have a shining hour or two of feeling great after that protein infusion, but if you don't have the tools on-hand, getting them will take it allll up. If you have everything you need on hand to wash a load of laundry or dust the living room when you feel up to it, you'll get alot more done.
Freezer meals.  Cook. Cook breakfast you can microwave, dinner you can crock pot, or throw in the oven. Cook things your husband can heat up and eat without bothering you in the Throne Room. Cook things for when you think, "ohmygosh I need a hamburger RIGHT NOW and if I have one I will feel great!" because it might work and, again, the trip to get it will probably be all you've got. Timing is crucial. A taco in the next 10 minutes from the freezer is heaven.  A taco in 30 minutes after a drive (or languishing on the couch waiting for it) may cause major problems. I kid you not. Also, think especially about protein. Nothing staves off nausea like a great protein infusion. And it's usually not the kind of thing you can make quick: meat takes time.  For some great ideas, check out Pioneer Woman's freezer meals, or Pinterest, where you can find thousands of recipes and ingredient lists.
Your Personal Needs. Know how successful it's going to be to send hubs to Sephora to get your eyeshadow? Or how much it stinks to finally drag yourself into the shower just to discover you're out of shampoo? Look through your personal stuff and see if anything is going to need replacing in the next month. Get it now. Also, think of the smell of things. Maybe grab an unscented body lotion or a soap that just smells clean instead of being pomegranate raspberry yogurt. Everything smells stronger when you're knocked up.
Your favorites. Love that specific tea in the morning? Or just one of those chocolates every night? Stock up, because even though there are no guarantees you'll want anything you love right now, at least you'll have it if you do.
Also, if you're an addict. (To caffeine). This has been a problem for me each time. I love coffee. Passionately.  Generally I like to maintain a fairly constant daily intake of the stuff. Except during my first trimester. Then it makes me want to rip off my own nose so as not to smell the stuff. This always becomes a big problem, because while I don't want anything to do with it, my body is still heavily dependent on the caffeine. Adding a serious withdrawal-headache to the other symptoms of pregnancy is a bad, bad idea. I found my salvation from the headaches with chocolate-covered espresso beans. 4-5 contain one cup of coffee's worth of caffeine, and, for me, 2 or 3 meant instant, literally instant relief of the headache. After the first day, I just had one every time I felt the headache coming on, and then weaned myself off from there. Another solution would be black tea, but that didn't get rid of the headache for me.

3.  Look ahead.  What's happening in the next two months.  Christmas? Hubby's birthday? Anniversary? Get the gifts now. Get the decorating done (if it's not too ridiculous). Plan now to simplify whatever you'll have to do then. Get the anniversary dinner frozen and the gift wrapped. Order your mom's birthday present to be delivered to her on her day. Schedule alarms in your phone/preferred electronic device for friend's birthdays, work deadlines, bill deadlines, etc. But again, don't overdo it. This is the stuff you can't NOT do, or your water will be turned off, your boss will be furious, etc. If you put too much silliness into your calendar or you'll ignore it all.
Practical stuff: renew your driver's license, have your car inspected, etc. Don't put yourself in a position to have to deal with more rather than less (like a ticket plus getting your overdue car registration).
Now, obviously, a good bit of these things can be done by hubby if he's willing.  But, for things you usually take care of, it's helpful to be able to say to him, "Hubby, the cable bill. Would you go online and pay it tonight? It's due." Instead of going for your next recorded episode of Downton Abbey and not having any tv at all.  Horrors.
Also, look ahead and cancel things if you can. Have a monthly at-school serving lunch? Switch with someone and cover two this month. Bring breakfast to your co-workers? Reschedule. People will be much more forgiving of you taking something extra on now so you can flake later than they will be of you just constantly flaking for a month or two later. Plus, bonus, you're warning people now, when you can actually tell them respectfully and appropriately, instead of "Ohhhh, guys. I'm so sorry. I don't have breakfast...I threw up on it."

Speaking of Downton Abbey,
4. Entertain yourself.  Stock up on books, tv shows, movies, crafts. Think about what you'd want to do if you had the flu, and then get lots. When I was pregnant with Caleb, I read the entire, 7 book (then) series of Outlander by Dianna Gabaldon in a matter of weeks (that's somewhere around 1,000 pages per book, give or take).  I was so sick it was all I wanted to do. I may or may not have read a few chapters on the bathroom floor. I was blessed to have been lent the entire series by my mother in law just before I got sick. I would never have gotten them myself. Also think through your happy movies or shows. I could watch The Office any time anywhere for forever. Anything like that, get online and order. Get a kindle and get books magically.  Amazon prime and you can order movies the same way.

5.  Don't expect anything. Of yourself, of your body. Don't be upset if you can't stick to the routine you carefully post on your fridge. Don't tell yourself you're going to be one of those women who doesn't have this kind of a pregnancy. Don't tell yourself you're going to die. Just wait it out, you'll know quite soon enough.

6.  Remember to say "thank you." Hubs will probably be doing more for you than ever, ever before. Maybe other people, too.  My mom went grocery shopping for me and fully stocked my kitchen when I was pregnancy with Caleb. Heaven. Your coworkers will probably be picking up a little slack for you. I had a teacher friend who would see me racing down the hall to the bathroom, and would immediately head to my classroom full of kids to take over until I got back. Multiple times a day.  For months. Peer through the haze of sickness and exhaustion, remember how to smile, and thank these people sincerely and warmly. They will make your life livable. Remember what they've done and, when you're feeling better, thank them better, with a coffee or a candle or note or something.

Good luck!