When those two pink lines confirmed I was pregnant with Baby Number Two late last year, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Not only had the ovulation predictor helped ensure conception, but I was now a veteran pregger—and much more relaxed about the next nine months.
I thought about all the things I wished I had known the first time—realities about pregnancy that would have saved me a lot of worry and hand-wringing. Like the fact that lower abdominal aches don’t mean you’re necessarily having an ectopic pregnancy—it’s just your ligaments stretching to accommodate your growing uterus. Or the fact that morning sickness can suddenly disappear, and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong.
In hindsight, I wish someone had told me that my well thought–out birth plan might run smack dab into hospital procedures or physician practices and have little effect on the actual day of delivery. I also wish someone had whispered in my ear that my ob/gyn would probably not actually show up until the last 20 minutes—and that unfamiliar (but great!) hospital nurses would be the ones primarily caring for me during those long labor and postpartum hours. Or that my newborn baby, Max, might have no interest in breastfeeding for the first 48 hours—and that he would be just fine anyway.
Every pregnancy is different, of course, but there is some mother wisdom to be passed along from those who’ve been there to those just beginning their journeys. The following are quotes and musings from experienced moms who shared their second- (or third-) time secrets. Read it and relax.
Nutrition and Exercise
“I have 3 boys (11, 9, and 6), and definitely learned lots after each pregnancy, such as how to control a craving to eat an entire pizza. I was coming home one night and all of a sudden got an intense craving. I raced through town and restaurants were only selling by the slice, so I kept driving. I got one and I ate the better part of the pizza. I was starving and excited and ‘eating for two.’ Lo and behold, when my son arrived I had gained 60 pounds.”
Amy Smith, Potomac, MD
“I have diabetes. With my first pregnancy, there was a lot of anxiety about blood sugar. You just kind of realize that you have to be careful and vigilant, but no one is perfect, so you just do the best you can. If you’re lucky, it will go well.”
Liz Stone, Portland, OR
“I gave up exercising way too soon. I’d always heard that you should continue what you were doing but shouldn’t add anything new. I’d been going to the gym pretty regularly, three or four times a week, doing cardio and weights. I exercised through the sixth and seventh months. I should’ve gone all the way. I would’ve gained less weight. With my second and third pregnancies, I still gained 40 pounds, but that’s 20 less pounds than the first. It was much easier to take the weight off.”
“Don’t buy maternity clothes right away, not everyone will get a big belly so soon. I wasted a lot of money and clothes because things didn’t fit.”
Jessica Pearson, Burnaby, British Columbia
Labor and Delivery
“I used to take this prenatal yoga class. It was mostly young women in their first pregnancy. We spent so much time talking about birth and delivery. Everybody wanted to have births at home. The birth is the easy part—it’s when the kid gets home that’s hard.”
Trusting Your Instincts
“The ob/gyn resident on call at the hospital refused to give me an epidural when I checked myself in, despite my screams and tears, because she said I was not in labor. I wondered how this young doctor could possibly know what it was like to be in labor. I was ready to rip her head off and she conveniently disappeared for the rest of the night. When the attending physician finally came in that morning, he checked how far I was dilated and said, ‘You’re having a baby this morning.’ I quickly got the epidural and delivered very soon thereafter.”
Amber Hsu, Potomac, MD
“I wish I knew the first time that 9 months meant 10! My son was cooking in my ‘oven’ for 39 weeks and 5 days!”
Jama Lenig, Dwight, IL
“I had to have an emergency Cesarean with my son the first time. I was really overwhelmed. I went through birthing classes but they never talked about Cesareans. This time, I know how the C-section is going to work, so I’m not scared or nervous. It’s not so bad. The thing that’s nice is you know when you’re going to have the baby—you set a date. You don’t have to worry about going into labor. And the recovery wasn’t too bad.”
Kendra Ferrer, Federal Way, WA
“I received quite a bit of advice about the types of books, DVDs, and magazines to bring to the birth of my first child. I dutifully packed everything since everyone told me I would be in labor for hours on end with nothing to do.
Well, the joke was on me. I had ‘rapid dilation,’ which meant I dilated from 3 to 10 centimeters in less than 2 hours. When I told the nurse that I wanted to push, her face blanched. ‘That’s impossible,’ she said. ‘You are only 3 centimeters.’ After a quick peek down below, the nurse put it into high gear, rushing me into a room, shepherding a gaggle of doctors, and denying my request for an epidural—it was too late. With the help of some very unfortunate gizmos (suction, clamps), Cole was born minutes later. Needless to say, I did not read any of the aforementioned books or magazines.”
Kendra Stitt Robins, San Francisco
“The girl who taught my yoga class was pregnant. [In her birth plan] she had a huge list of how she wanted it to be, but her delivery turned out differently. She had a C-section and she had all this sadness about it. We said, ‘But you’re baby is so healthy.’ It took her a while to come to that. You really don’t have a lot of control over a lot of things.”
“If a lady has to go through a C-section instead of vaginal birth, I would tell them to not feel as if they have failed. We delivered ours C-section and we were blessed that we had not asked for her to be turned, in our case there was a knot in my daughter’s umbilical cord.”
Christine Rice, Fairview, WV
“The thing I wished I had known the first time is that being induced because I was ‘uncomfortable’ [was not an improvement]. Using Pitocin was way, way more uncomfortable than natural labor.”
“With my second pregnancy, I had all the lines to shut people down when they asked intrusive questions: ‘Can you eat soft cheese?’ Um, yes. You cannot eat unpasteurized cheese. Just check your labels. ‘How much weight have you gained?’ However much produces this big belly.”
Jessica Bryan, Twinsburg, OH
“I am more prepared to brush people off when people offer unsolicited advice about child-rearing. I would sit and listen intently with my first. With my second, I knew within seconds if I wanted to hear the advice or not.”
“My first child didn’t successfully breastfeed until she was 6 weeks old. My son had it down in less than a week. The difference? I’d learned lots of tricks and tips from a half dozen lactation consultants with my daughter. But more importantly, I had the confidence with my son not to borrow all the worries of all the people around me intent on weighing in on the process. I was able to stay calm and relaxed.”
Andrea Hartsough, San Francisco
“If you are unable to breastfeed, you should not feel like you have failed your child. We tried several times with no luck, and my daughter has been healthy and happy despite the fact we could not breastfeed.”
“Following the birth of my first child, Cole, I dug into my hospital bag to retrieve my ‘going home’ outfit. I had selected a cute pair of khakis and a cozy sweater from my regular wardrobe. No maternity clothes for me anymore! I put my legs into the khakis and pulled them up…or tried to. They didn’t go higher than mid-thigh. My sweater was so tight with my porn star-sized bust that I couldn’t move my arms. I had to send my husband home to retrieve some maternity wear for my departure. I wore the maternity clothes for the next six weeks.
Kendra Stitt Robins
Asking for Help
“The piece that I learned from my first child is that I needed more help, and so I have a lot more family support around me now. We moved in with my parents. This means that my mother can really step in when I need her to. For example, recently my husband was on a business trip and so he couldn’t help. My mom came in, took the baby, changed him, and got him food—all of which are especially hard at 7:00 in the morning. Then my dad took my son and me out to breakfast. I don’t know how I’d do it without them.”
Seraph White, San Francisco
Ziba Kashef is editor at large at Pregnancy and the mother of two.