14 things you should know about the run-up to birth
Many parents are over the moon when those two blue lines appear on their pregnancy test. Everything looks wonderful through the rose-tinted glasses of impending parenthood, but you should also know that pregnancy is accompanied by exhaustion, anxiety, mood swings and physical changes. Partners can also experience these symptoms! They don't call it a sympathetic pregnancy for nothing, as the non-pregnant partner's stomach can also grow.
I've experienced two pregnancies. I was really relaxed the first time around. I was looking forward to the change, setting up the nursery like thousands of other mothers in my second trimester, feeling great and enjoying my healthy, full-bodied hair and clear skin. I only started thinking about the birth shortly beforehand, but even then, I took a very chilled approach. My attitude was: it'll happen how it happens.
During the second pregnancy, I developed unfamiliar anxiety. I knew exactly how the birth would unfold and how the transition from one child to two would go. I was unconsciously bracing myself and, if I'm honest, this had an effect on the length of my labour. Everything was over in a jiffy the first time, while my second child took 22 hours to arrive. Something that was previously unthinkable for me.
These 14 pregnancy facts will help you cope with the situation.
1. You'll start waddling like a duck
The time will come when your ankles disappear. When you roll out of bed every morning because it's the only way you can manage it now with your bump. When you wheeze and pant like the best of them if you have to climb a few steps. When you miss your train by seconds because you can't run anymore. When your maternity coat doesn't even fit anymore. When you can't get a full night's sleep because you can't find the right position. When you can't see your feet anymore. When you think the baby should really be making an entrance by now. And when your bump takes over and you start to waddle like a duck. Try to see the funny side; it'll be over soon.
2. Forgetfulness and confusion reign
«Where are my keys?», «Honey, could you just... erm, actually, I've forgotten!», «What was it that I was going to buy yesterday?» Many women's memory is affected during pregnancy, making them feel stupid. This is completely normal because their babies are now more important than anything else in the world. This tunnel vision is one of the body's protection mechanisms, which uses whatever resources are available to aid the child's development. Don't worry, your brain cells haven't disappeared never to return and you're not going mad. Your focus will come back after the birth – and/or breastfeeding – and your brain will return to its former peak performance.
3. Skin and hair: miracle or disaster?
Some pregnant women benefit from strong, shiny hair and glowing skin. Others lament greasy locks and blemished, sensitive skin. Both are normal. It's all down to your hormone balance, which is thrown off-kilter during pregnancy and affects every woman differently. In most cases, things get back to normal postpartum. But remember: hair loss can be a temporary side effect until your hormones have evened themselves out.
4. Nursery vs. family room
Anticipation is half the fun. This is why many parents-to-be have put the finishing touches to their nursery some weeks before the birth. I was no different with my first child. The second time around was a different story because – let's be honest – we all know that a baby spends the first few months in its parents' room anyway. You have all the time in the world to kit out and decorate the nursery after the birth.
5. Enjoy this time
Ah yes, the well-meaning advice of «enjoy the time you have before the baby comes» gets very irritating at the end of a pregnancy. I was fed up of it too. But it's true. After two pregnancies, I can honestly say that it's the best advice you can give a pregnant woman. I rue every minute that I didn't enjoy. Just taking it easy and grabbing something to eat – hot food at that. Going to the cinema without having to organise a babysitter. Partying and sleeping in for as long as you want. Going on holiday without having to pack nappies, buggies and so on. Going for a spontaneous drink after work. No, these things definitely don't get any easier. Some of us aren't bothered, while the others think: «Oh, I wish I'd taken that incessant, well-meaning advice more seriously».
6. What kind of day is it today?
It doesn't matter. You know exactly which week of pregnancy you're in, how your baby is developing and what the little one is learning inside the womb. It doesn't matter what day it is. Most problems seem insignificant because the most important thing from now on is your baby.
There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding birth and beyond. You can't put it into words and every woman's experience is different. And everything can be totally different from the first child to the second. You might experience existential angst or worry that you can't love your baby fully. Don't let your fears take over. It can help to talk to your family or friends that already have children, midwives or support organisations. Reading related material can also allay your fears.
8. You have employment rights
Pregnant women have rights because the health of both mother and baby must be protected. You are protected against dismissal from the first day of pregnancy. This means that your employer cannot terminate your contract during the pregnancy and up to 16 weeks after the birth. Your working schedule is limited to nine hours per day, building in rests and plenty of breaks. There are special conditions related to arduous, hazardous or potentially harmful work, as well as night shifts. If you can no longer do your current job due to your pregnancy, you will still receive your salary for a limited time. Swiss Code of Obligations guidelines apply here, with any additional arrangements made with your employer. Read about your rights during pregnancy here.
9. All eyes will be on your stomach
You'll suddenly start having conversations about your bump with all kinds of people. They'll touch and stroke it without asking or stare at it incessantly. A baby bump has immense power and is a big conversation starter. But don't go thinking that someone will always offer you their seat on public transport. Your bump doesn't wield that much influence.
10. Protect your baby
Married? Then you don't need to do anything. Not married? It's worth protecting your baby before they're even born. Firstly, a written custody agreement stipulating who has custody rights (one parent or both) and, secondly, an acknowledgment of paternity signed by the baby's father. Finally, it's a good idea to pre-register your baby with a medical insurance provider. Then you and your child will be protected against any unforeseen complications during pregnancy and birth.
11. Kick the bad habits
Unfortunately, not all pregnant women manage to overcome an addiction within a short space of time. Nevertheless, smoking in particular is hugely damaging to the unborn child. It slows the baby's growth and increases the risk of premature birth. Alcohol, such as wine, is still a contentious issue. Some doctors claim that a glass of wine now and then has no effect on the baby. Others recommend avoiding alcohol altogether. Either way, addictive substances can cause harm to your baby, so you owe it to the new addition to abstain for a while.
12. A real man
There are men and then there are men! It doesn't matter whether you have a loveable, understanding man by your side or an uninterested, insensitive macho type. After thousands of complaints and your mood swings, even the best companion is bound to reach their limit. Gentlemen, I know: pregnant ladies aren't always easy to deal with! You're brave and can cope with a lot. But the pregnant body has to go through a lot too, so be understanding and support your partner as much as you can. And ladies, thank your partner every now and then. They are often doing more than you realise.
13. There's no shame in accepting help
Gaining ten to 30 kilos within a short period of time can test your body and its circulation to its limits, so you shouldn't be lifting more than five kilos at work or at home. Listen to your body and accept help when it's offered. If there's no help on offer, ask for it. No-one can turn a pregnant woman down. Now you can take over your command post for a little while.
14. Food-related infections
You can't eat that. It's not healthy. It's raw. It contains alcohol. There's too much sugar in it, and so on and so on. The list (in German) of things not to eat and drink during pregnancy is a long one. And there's a good reason for that. Avoiding risky foods can prevent serious infections and illnesses. Again, try to avoid anything that could harm your unborn child. On the plus side, this allows you to indulge in your harmless cravings a little more. When you're happy, so is your baby. That said, you don't need to eat for two.
I'm sure there are some important things that I haven't covered in my list. If you think something's missing, let me know in the comment field. Your experiences will help others during their pregnancies. I'd also love it if you followed me with just one click, so you'll never miss my articles.