Life Lessons

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I think, like most people, I had an idea of what motherhood would be like before I became a mother. (I initially wrote “a very specific idea,” but, if I’m honest, I think I knew on most levels that I probably had no idea what I was getting myself into.)

And, before I get into the subject of this post, I want to confirm that I think I’ve made it pretty clear how much I love being a mother. We’re on clear on that, right? I feel obligated to reinforce that I do before I say what I’m about to say next.

Because sometimes being a mother makes me sad.

Whoa, whoa, WHOA, you say. Motherhood is the greatest thing that can happen to a woman, right? How can you possibly not love every second?

Well, I’m really sorry to be the one to tell you this, but, besides that statement being entirely untrue for some people, it’s also impossible for it to be true for every single woman every second of the time.

And I’m not even talking about postpartum depression, which, I’m told, is a whole other bear. I’ve been fortunate thus far that I haven’t really dealt with that, at least not in full force. My sadness is rather run-of-the-mill, I’m afraid. So sorry.

But whether or not it requires a diagnosis, my sadness is just as real. Because, even though I love being a mother, it is not always easy.

Being a mother means giving up a lot of yourself. It always makes me think of this line from The Bridges of Madison County:

“You don’t understand, no-one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops.”

Because, you guys? That is IT. And even though it’s not always a bad thing, there is always a level of mourning when it comes to letting a part of yourself go.

And besides the existential struggle, there are parts of being a mom that just kind of suck. Your time is not your own. Your body does weird things. You can’t do everything you want to do. You often have to go into hiding to breastfeed. You can’t eat whatever you want to eat. You are almost always tired. You are more often than not covered in some kind of bodily fluid. You get screamed at (a lot) by a tiny, irrational dictator despite your every attempt to please them.

The good part is that your baby usually finds a way to make it up to you (those smiles and sweet coos are life-affirming at times), but the fact remains that often those sucky moments still just suck.

But wait, you say, isn’t this a blog post about joy?

YES. But more than that, it’s about the choice of happiness.

Remember almost four (!!) years ago when I decided to stop being unhappy? That sounds silly, I know. I even acknowledged the silliness when I said it. The Happiness Project was less about truly never feeling unhappiness and more about make a concerted effort whenever possible to choose joy. It probably wouldn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found the more you practice mental discipline, the easier it can become over time.

I’ve found this practice helpful in a lot of areas of my life, from friendships to marriage, from running a marathon to having a baby. I’m not sure I would have been able to enjoy pregnancy as much as I did if not for my previous practice in seeking the good.

And now I find myself putting it into practice again as a new mother.

Before Vivi arrived, I would spend a lot of time thinking about when she was finally here. And I made a promise to myself: I promised to enjoy everything, from the lack of sleep to the discomfort to the frustration.

Because this was my parental rite of passage.

These were the things that bonded millions of parents across time and space. These were the moments that plenty of people who wish to have a baby would give anything to have. So who was I to take my baby’s 3 a.m. shrieks for granted? Who was I to bristle at irrational tantrums when she hasn’t mastered a new skill? Who was I to throw up my hands in frustration after the sixth spit-up and subsequent outfit change of the day?

And besides, who would I be helping if I did any of those things anyway?

So, instead, I shifted my focus. I learned to live in the moment when things were good and to look at the progress when things weren’t. I learned to appreciate the fact that even the worst moments will make for a good story some day and to tell my war stories with a laugh and an eye roll — my baby might be trying to kill me…but at least my tiny tyrant is adorable!

I also think it helped that I was mentally prepared for struggles. I expected frustration and exhaustion and tears (hers and mine). I expected to feel at some point that I had made a terrible mistake or, at the very least, to mourn my less-tethered childless life. What I’m saying is, I deliberately kept my expectations low. But I’m very grateful that I can honestly say I’ve loved every stage of getting to know Vivi. I expected to grit my teeth through her newborn-ness and to tolerate her fussy infant months, but the fact is that I daily find myself in awe of something about this wonderful little person I get to raise.

Maybe she really is just that wonderful (I mean, I know I think she is). But maybe I’ve just gotten better at focusing on what’s wonderful about her.

Because, most of the time, being a mother is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

I get to watch her tackle new challenges and develop an ever-sunnier personality. I get to revel in first smiles, giggles, babbles, and kisses. I get to celebrate her new milestones and soothe her pint-sized frustrations. I get to discover the world again through her big blue eyes. I get to wake up every day and be Vivi’s favorite person. I get to be Vivi’s mama.

And, for me, there are few greater joys than that.

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Joey, Vivi, and I just got back from a long weekend in Lake Placid for a hockey tournament, and I’m looking around my apartment thinking, “MAN, do I have a lot to do!”

So what do I do first? Write a blog post, of course. #priorities

For a while now (let’s call it three months), I’ve been meaning to do a blog round-up of my favorite must-have new baby items. It’s a rite of passage for all mommy bloggers, and I actually found them useful when I was creating my own registry for the Vivster. Because, as we’ve discussed, there’s a lot o’ baby crap out there. A mom’s gotta be choosy.

While there are plenty of baby products I could list that I actually did use, here are the five that made the biggest difference in Vivi’s first three months of life.

5 Things New Moms Need in the First Three Months

 

1. Beluga Baby Wrapbelugababy.ca
I’ve already gushed to the moon and back about how much I love this bamboo cotton wrap from Beluga Baby, but it was especially helpful during Vivi’s “fourth trimester.” During the first three months, babies are still adjusting to life outside the womb, so anything you can do to mimic the uterus (white noise, movement, swaddling, etc.) helps to ease this transition. Now, the wrap is especially helpful when Vivi isn’t feeling well or just needs a bit of help calming down from a tantrum. (Plus, you can still get 15% off of your own wrap with code STOPME — the code is good until February 15th. And due to the exchange rate — Beluga Baby is a Canadian company — U.S. shopper can get an additional 25% off right now. So get on it!)

2. Mommy’s Bliss Grip Waterdrugstore.com (also available at most drugstores)
Honestly, if I could make this products 2 through 5, I probably would. Our little girl had a tough time with gas and reflux, especially in the first three months, and this stuff made a world of difference. I like that it’s made from food-based products (fennel and ginger extract, primarily) because I’m as cautious about over-medicating my kid as I am over-medicating myself. Vivi actually really liked the taste, which made the process even easier. I can’t tell you how many times we were able to cure her hiccups or get an especially difficult burp out. (Oh, the tiny successes of parenting!)

3. Keekaroo Peanut Changing Pad, giggle.com
I purchased this changing pad after hearing my friend Madison say repeatedly that it was the best thing they had ever purchased for her daughter. And let me just say, it lives up to the hype. Not only does the rubbery surface make it super easy to clean if (and WHEN) your baby blows out a diaper or doesn’t wait for a new diaper to go to the bathroom, it’s also super comfortable and doesn’t slide around on the dresser we decided to use as a changing table. And now that Vivi is a bit more mobile, the raised sides keep her in place during changes.

4. Puj Flyte Compact Infant Bath, target.com
I debated quite a few baby baths before ultimately deciding on the Puj, and I’m so glad I did. Not only does it quickly turn any sink into a tub for Viv, it’s also incredibly lightweight and folds or hangs up for easy drying and storage (ideal for those of us in tiny apartments). Now that we’re traveling with the baby more often, it also makes it easier to pack so Vivi can get her bedtime bath anywhere.

5. Deluxe Sit-Me-Up Floor Seat, burlingtoncoatfactory.com 
Vivi has always been the kind of baby that wants to know what is going on around her. The only problem was, she was too little to sit up herself, meaning we either had to hold her all the time (including during meals) or let her cry while she would lie on a blanket on the floor. Even her swing seat was too reclined for her to be able to see what we were doing around the apartment. Then my mother-in-law got us this soft chair. And, can I just say, we use this reclined seat at least four times a day. Vivi loves that she is sitting up like a big girl and can watch me move around the room and kitchen, and I love that she is comfortable and can keep herself occupied for a few minutes with the toys on the tray. Seriously, this one was life-changing.

I feel like as soon as I hit publish, I’m going to remember at least three other must-have items that I forgot to include on this list (oh, mom brain!) but I can definitely stand behind these five products.

So tell me, what did I miss? What were your must-have items with a new baby?

At the close of each year, I typically do the same thing on my blog. I’ll write two posts; one is a recap of the top ten most-read posts of the year, and the other is a recap of myself.

Thanks to SEO, though, the top ten posts have stayed fairly stagnant over the last couple of years. In general, my how-tos dominate every time. (Lookin’ at you, How to Paint a Metal File Cabinet.) So I think it might be time to retire that one.

As for my yearly recap, I generally follow the same theme, answering the same questions so I can look back over the years and think ahhh remember when? (Here is last year’s.)

But before I get to that, let’s do a quick year-in-review.

suprise!

Obviously, the biggest thing that happened to my little family this year was that we got a bit bigger. From the moment we announced our pregnancy, I think virtually everything I posted on here in 2015 was about the baby. Since I got pregnant in January, 2015 will forever be the year I remember as The Year of the Baby.

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2015 was also the year of work trips for me. It started with a week-long jaunt to San Francisco for some training. It was extra fun because I got to see my first friend ever, Jackie, who I hadn’t seen in a few years.

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Then, in early spring, I also started a new job (I know, I know, great timing, uterus!) that launched with a trip to Belgium for even more training. (And frites…lots of frites. I was pregnant, after all!)

First unpacked box!

First unpacked box!

Shortly after the Belgium trip, we moved into our current apartment. It was a relief to finally be able to explain to people why, exactly, we needed two bedrooms in our new place.

And then it was summer! The most notable thing that happened to us? Finding out that the little bean in my belly was a girl.

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That was such a blissful day. I still watch our reveal video sometimes!

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Next, Joey and I jetted off to Florida for a babymoon. I truly can’t remember every feeling so relaxed and at peace with my life as I was on that trip — or so excited for Vivian to join us!

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Shortly after that, Joey checked off a bucket list item: He ran his first half marathon! Even though I was super bummed not to be able to run with him, it was a fun change of pace to be the one proudly waiting at the finish line.

 

Yay for Susan!

Yay for Susan!

Congratulations, Natalie!

Congratulations, Natalie!

Then our lives entered the “party phase,” with a slew of baby showers and two weddings (a welcome change from last year’s FIVE weddings).

After that, it felt like all there was left to do was wait — and get rounder. And then, one magic day in September, we finally got to meet our little girl.

{The sweetest face I've ever seen.}

{The sweetest face I’ve ever seen.}

Have you ever seen anything so perfect? I haven’t.

Since then, my blogging regularity has been shot to heck, but my life has never felt fuller. It’s not always wonderful (as I’m sure any new parent would agree…or any parent ever), but there are a lot more wonderful moments.

2015, you were a hoot.

And now, the moment you’ve all (hahahahaha) been waiting for…my yearly sum-uppance.

Age: 28. And I’ve officially stopped getting carded. (Though the fact that a baby is often strapped to me is probably helping.)

Location: New York City

Occupation: Freelance editor/writer/social strategist. (The other biggest change in my life.)

New favorite food: A few years ago, I changed this question to be a shout-out to a food I realized I loved in the last year. I didn’t really eat a lot of new things this year because I spent a majority of the year mildly queasy, but in the last month or so, I was finally convinced to branch out from my usual Thai order and tried Beef Pad See Ew. And it was awesome.

TV shows I’m watching: I finished rewatching Gilmore Girls, but I haven’t really found another show to take its place yet. I’m a big fan of cooking competition shows like Chopped. Sorry my TV watching is so lame.

Book I’m reading: I just finished The Great Train Robbery (highly recommend), and now I’m bouncing between Replay and Making the Terrible Twos Terrific. (Oh, did I mention I’M A MOM NOW?)(Sigh.)

What’s my hair doing right now: This question started out as a joke, but my answer is literally different every year, and I find it genuinely interesting to look back. (That sounds shallow, but y’all know I have a lot of theories on the link between hair and happiness.) Right now, I’m honestly not in love with my hair. Probably because it is practical right now. It’s a lob (which I like) with no bangs (which I fluctuate on like every woman in the Western Hemisphere). And it’s dark blonde/ombre-ish…which I am not loving. I will probably be blonder in the next month or so. I CAN’T QUIT YOU, HIGHLIGHTS.

How I did on my goals from last year: Just to remind you, these were last year’s goals, along with how I did:

1. Completely pay off our debts: I actually did pay off my credit card debt! And Joey is very close to paying off his! I still have a car payment (though it is also much diminished), but we got very, very close to this goal in 2015. I think early 2016 is going to be our time.

2. Build up a savings account: I actually did this too! Of course, it is in serious jeopardy now that I’m not working full-time, but it was fun while it lasted.

3. Pioneer at least five times: This one was a bust. I hate making excuses, but I have to go ahead and blame pregnancy on this one — it took a lot more out of me than I expected.

4. Find a new apartment in April (still in Queens): Done!

And, just in the name of total honesty, you should also know that one of my secret goals last year was to have a baby. I just didn’t want to put it here because I didn’t want to add any extra pressure on the process. So I’m going to go ahead and check that one off too.

And now…goals for next year:

I would like to travel a bit (mostly to see family and hopefully to visit the area where we got engaged), especially while Vivian still flies free. I also want to simplify a lot of our lives, from cleaning out clutter to cutting back on unnecessary expenses. Other than that, I mostly want to keep raising Vivi and make this whole freelancing thing work. You know, no big deal. (LIFE, YOU GUYS.)

So as we bid adieu to The Year of the Baby, I have to say it’s one I will never forget. Can’t wait to see what 2016 has in store.

{imperfect is the new black}

{imperfect is the new black}

Insecurities are a funny thing. Over the years, I feel like I’ve been pretty open on this blog about mine. In general, I don’t consider myself an insecure person, but that hasn’t always been the case.

For the most part, I’m a person of very cyclical moods. About once a year, I experience what I consider to be some kind of depression or low point. (I say “consider” because I’ve never been officially diagnosed with anything.) It typically lasts anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. It’s usually marked by an increase in mood swings, sensitivity, and a marked uptick in my insecurities. (And, you may have noticed, a lack of blog posts. The blog starts to feel incredibly insignificant during these lows, and I can’t imagine anyone caring what I have to say about anything.)

It’s not fun, but I at least feel more in control of these times than I used to because I’m now able to recognize them for what they are. Anyone familiar with depression can tell you what a liar it is — it tells you you’re not good enough, you’re unlovable, you’re just not enough. So, for me, there is power in being able to feel those things but still step back in my mind and remind myself I won’t always feel that way and that they probably aren’t true.

The insecurities I deal with have evolved over the years, but they’re usually a mix of doubts about something superficial (in high school, the size of my thighs; now, my teeth and nose) and something social (in high school, that my friends and family didn’t really like me; now, that my friends and family don’t really like me).

It’s at this point that I feel obligated to remind you that, in my rational mind, I know my friends and family love me. I do. You don’t need to tell me you do; I know it. Depression just makes me not believe it for a while, or wonder when the day will come that they will stop loving me.

I think everyone handles these feelings differently, for better or worse. For me, I workout (the best therapy for me) and I think about it — a lot. I reason on my feelings, what brings them on and what I can do about it. Often the answer to the latter is simply to ride out the storm and keep reminding myself that depression is a liar. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever really discussed these feelings publicly — I’d venture a guess that most of the people in my life don’t even know I deal with them.

I’m kind of a hermit when it comes to my own struggles. But I’m trying to be better about that because bottling it up (surprise!) doesn’t really seem to help anything.

I’m happy to tell you that, while this post was inspired by my latest bout of low-ness, I can already tell I’m coming out of it. Good talks with some close friends and a weekend with my family were huge helps to reaching the other side of this valley. But even though it’s (hopefully) almost over, the most lingering part of my lows are always the insecurities. Kind of like a bad cough.

I think about my insecurities a lot now as a mother of a daughter. Girls seem to be especially plagued by insecurity, almost to the point where it is weird if you’re confident. I don’t know if I can keep Vivian from having her own self doubts, but I never want her to feel crippled by them.

I want her to laugh loudly even if she thinks her laugh is obnoxious. I want her to wear the sleeveless dress she loves even if she doesn’t like her upper arms. I want her to get down on the dance floor even if she worries someone will think she looks ridiculous.

I want her to live her life bravely, even when she doesn’t feel brave.

And the fact is, I’m going to be her best example of how to do that. So I had better start being a good example.

Which brings me to my new project: Eradicating my superficial insecurities. I’ve decided I’m going to stop only taking photos from what I consider to be my “good side” — just because my nose and teeth are straighter from the left. I’m going to grin broadly — even though in the back of my mind I think my teeth are big and slightly bucky. And I’m going to do whatever I can to stop letting myself slip into the old habit of being who I think people want me to be — and just trust that anyone who does stop liking me was never all that great to have to begin with.

Because I want Vivi to do all those things too. Because, to me, she is perfect. And who else could she possibly be to be better?

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I wanted to wait a few weeks until I wrote this post. Partly because I realized pretty early on that there’s not an easy answer to the question I pose in the title (and even if there was, it changes pretty much every hour). But also because, for the first two weeks of Vivi’s life, my mom was staying with us, so I didn’t really feel like I was experiencing “real life” with a baby until this past week.

So, you’re wondering, how has it been?

In some ways, it’s a lot how I expected. A newborn is really time-consuming. (SHOCKER.) Mine wants to be held as often as possible. She’s hungry a lot. She doesn’t really do that much besides eat, sleep, and poop. I don’t have any time to myself except for a few moments stolen while she naps or when Joey comes home and can spend some time with Vivian. I’m usually not as well rested as I could be. (Hahahaha understatements!)

In other ways, it’s not at all how I expected. And not always in a good way.

For example, I was really worried about breastfeeding. It was something I felt very strongly about and really wanted to do, but I had heard so many stories of women who had trouble — babies that couldn’t latch, milk that dried up or never came in, intense pain or discomfort that deterred them from sticking it out. It seemed like this supposedly natural process was a minefield of potential parental disappointment.

But I was fortunate. Vivi starting nursing literally moments after she was born, and we never had any issues while in the hospital or the first few days at home.

And then the real milk came in. And (apparently) with gusto. Suddenly, I had a baby that was getting too much milk and who would promptly spit up everything she had just eaten after every feeding. There were days I literally changed both of our outfits upwards of three times, and I regularly found myself near tears that this one thing I thought I had down was suddenly (and literally) backfiring on me.

Thanks to some advice from our pediatrician, though, we got through it. Sure, I still get doused in vomit occasionally (the creed of new parents everywhere), but it doesn’t really faze me at all anymore. (Remember this post? It’s so much worse after you actually have the baby.)

My voracious little eater aside, though, most of the surprises of motherhood have been positive for me.

For one thing, I was always kind of worried I wouldn’t be that into the newborn phase. They really can’t do that much yet, and a lot of their (extremely limited) awake time is spent fussing because they’re hungry or tired. We usually get 20-45 minutes of happy, fully alert baby at a time. I was worried I would be bored or, even worse, mildly irritated most of the first three months. But I’m really happy to say that I’ve been enjoying it a lot more than I expected. It helps that I just love this little girl so much, even just staring at her while she sleeps feels like a fun activity for the day. But I also just really appreciate getting to be with her every day and watching her change nearly every hour. She’s extremely curious, and I love watching her slowly discover the world around her. She’s also so strong, and it kills me seeing this tiny person hold her head up for the first time or scoot her body around on her play mat.

You know you’re a new parent when: watching a veritable slug of a person kick on their tummy for five minutes thrills you.

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Basically, the whole experience has been even more fulfilling than I ever imagined. And now that she recognizes me on sight and can make prolonged eye contact? Well, I’d be lying if I said the first few times she looked at me — really looked at me — didn’t draw a few tears from this new momma. (Though we can probably blame some of the weepies on the hormones and sleep deprivation, right?)

Speaking of sleep-deprivation (because I know you really just want the gory details, not any of this “gosh I love my baby” mush), I’m happy to report that Vivi sleeps decently well. She usually sleeps from 6:30-8ish out in the living room with us (either in someone’s arms or in her swing chair), but I try to have both of us in bed (me in my actual bed, her in her bassinet) by 10/10:30. After that, she typically wakes up about three, sometimes four times, but we usually get two 3- to 4-hour stretches of sleep between the wake-ups. Vivian also takes a short morning nap (about an hour) around 10/11 a.m., and a longer nap (2ish hours) around 2:30 p.m (I try to join her for that one). The rest of the evening is a mix of wakefulness and sleep until the process starts all over again.

If it sounds like not at all a real schedule, it’s because it isn’t. It’s just the life of a newborn — they sleep a lot, but rarely for all that long. In fact, there is typically at least one night a week that she throws the whole thing out the window and just wakes up every hour and a half the whole night through.

Fun fact: That’s also how they torture prisoners of war.

True Life: My baby could be an evil dictator.

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{still cute, though.}

But you know what’s kind of funny? Even though I feel like I should be a zombie, I don’t really feel more tired than I usually did pre-baby. These crazy bodies of ours are capable of adapting to just about anything, apparently.

So, yes, I’m tired a lot. And regularly covered in someone else’s bodily fluids. And sometimes (often?) smell. As in, I literally stink. (Post-pregnancy hormones make you sweat a lot.)(GLAMOUR!)

{I'm probably unwashed here. But Vivi manages to make it look good.}

{I’m probably unwashed here. But Vivi manages to make it look good.}

But I really wouldn’t trade a second of it. Because while I’m sure I’m making a million “mistakes” along the way, I feel like I’m good at this. Or, rather, that I can be. I feel like, slowly, I’m figuring this little girl out. And, maybe in spite of everything, having a lot of fun along the way. Because just when I think I’ve hit my limit and might be the worst mom ever, she does this:

{I promptly died of cuteness overload after taking this photo.}

{I promptly died of cuteness overload after taking this photo.}

And suddenly everything feels like it’s going to be all right again.

So what’s it like to have a baby? It’s overwhelming and incredibly trying. And it’s also completely wonderful.

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It seems like there are roughly 8 billion versions of the article “What No One Tells You About Being Pregnant.” And, as in all areas of my life, the last thing I want to do is be cliche.

Which is why I resisted writing this article for so long.

But the fact is, there were several times throughout my pregnancy that I learned a little life pregnancy lesson that I thought to myself, “I should write that down to share with the masses because PEOPLE NEED TO KNOW and I have truly never read it anywhere.”

So that’s what this post is about. I can’t guarantee no one has ever told you these things, just that I hadn’t already read it in one of those 8 billion other articles.

Here we go.

#1 Buy a Tide Pen
Pregnancy comes with a whole host of new things, not the least of which is a new, at times giant belly stuck on your front. If you’ve never had a belly like this before, it takes a bit of getting used to. Especially during mealtime.

While having a new perch for bowls of ice cream or cereal is helpful, your new little shelf is also a breeding ground for spills and spots while you eat. Thus this tip.

A Tide Pen will undoubtedly be useful post-baby (kids are messy, yo), but I highly recommend investing in one to carry around while the little tot is still in vitro. Because you WILL try to wear a white dress one day and eat tacos at the same time, and you WILL walk away from lunch with a zillion little red splatters on your belly. Just embrace it.

#2 Let Love In
When you get pregnant, it will seem like suddenly everyone wants to help you with everything. Seriously — everything from loading something mildly heavy into your trunk to reaching for something on the top shelf will be off-limits according to someone.

My advice? Let them help.

At first, it may seem silly or even irksome, especially if you’ve spent most of your life priding yourself on your self-reliance. But, you know what? Pregnancy is going to tire you out sometimes, whether it’s emotionally or physically or both. Remember that you are still a super tough boss lady who is growing a baby — you just don’t need to carry all your groceries yourself to prove that anymore.

And, perhaps even more important, remember that when people offer to help, it is like they are giving you a gift. When you shut them down or refuse to let them help, you are essentially throwing their gift back in their face. (They won’t appreciate that this is some kind of independent stance on your part — because they just want to help.) So let ’em. When you’re passing out at 8:30 p.m. from exhaustion near the end of your first and third trimesters, you’ll be glad you did.

#3 At Some Point You WILL Say, “I am going to be pregnant forever.”

In my case, it was a text to my friend Darla that said, “I have been pregnant forever. I will always be pregnant. Pregnant is me.”

Clearly, I was near the end of the 40 weeks. But the fact as, it might happen early in your pregnancy and it might happen later, but at some point, you will be tired of nurturing a tiny life in your belly and be READY for the next stage of things. Because having to hold your breath to put on shoes is just not anyone’s idea of a good time.

Do not beat yourself up over this. This doesn’t mean you are going to be a terrible mom. It doesn’t even mean you are bad at being pregnant or that pregnancy is particularly awful. It just means that pregnancy last a long time. And if you’re a super type-A freak who tracks her cycles with the precision of a German general (assuming he has a German-made watch…I guess?), you might find out you’re pregnant right at the beginning and have what feels like the longest pregnancy ever.

You will get through it. If it makes you feel better, some species of shark carry their babies for 42 months. And there’s apparently a thing called the alpine salamander that can go 48 months. Forty. Eight. So…let’s all just take a moment of silence for those little guys, okay?

#4 Lower Your Expectations

I really and truly loved being pregnant about 90 percent of the time. But here’s the thing: Even though I was always vaguely optimistic that I would enjoy being pregnant, I went in with pretty low expectations.

I expected to be sick as a dog for at least three months (if not more…I have a sister-in-law who threw up every single day for two of her pregnancies)(RESPECT). I expected to not be able to exercise or even move like a normal person within a couple of months. I expected to get HUGELY pregnant because, who knows? I expected to freak out over said weight gain. And I expected that I would hate being pregnant over the summer.

None of those things actually happened. Except the summer thing. August? I hate your guts.

So many people build up the idea of having the perfect pregnancy in their heads, whether because they’re possibly a little delusional or just because they think it’s what they’re supposed to feel. You might not always feel moony toward that little wiggleworm in your belly. You might even HATE (gasp!) being pregnant at some points.

None of that matters. A lot of people feel that way. You are not a bad person for feeling that way, and it’s so not worth beating yourself up over.

Which is why I recommend embracing those worries or negative expectations. Because then, you know what? When you don’t throw up every single day, you will feel awesome. You will tell yourself you’re crushing this whole pregnancy thing every time you keep your lunch down. And if you do actually experience one of your fears? Well, you knew it was coming, remember? So no freak-out necessary.

#5 Do a Lot of Research…and Then Only Keep What You Like

Remember those 8 billion articles of things to know about being pregnant? You can drive yourself crazy with those. (And hopefully I’m not contributing to the crazy right now.)

My strategy when I got knocked up was to spend the first few months in information-gathering mode. I read everything. I even read things that I decided fairly early on I didn’t agree with. I read every crazy post on a handful of online forums. (You guys…if you ever want to fall down a rabbit hole of bonkers, get thee to an online pregnancy forum.) I listened to advice from everyone, whether they be trusted confidante or random stranger.

And do you know why? Because listening to everyone is the fastest way to realize that no one has every little thing all figured out. You realize that, no matter what you do, someone out there will think you are spot on and someone else will think you are borderline abusive. You realize that there is no pleasing everyone. And suddenly you stop caring about pleasing everyone. The only person who you really worry about making happy? The one you’re growing in your uterus.

If this is your first time going through this, you probably don’t really know what you even want in the beginning. I never would have guessed that I’d be in my last couple of weeks with a midwife planning to forgo an epidural. So you never know what will end up being the right choice for you. Plus, the more you know, the less scary the whole process starts to become. Yes, I’m a bit nervous about pain during labor, but all my research has also affirmed for me that this is one of the most natural things my body can do, and that’s a really empowering thing to believe.

So there you have it. I’ve been working on this post for the last couple of months, but I feel like I better get to publishing since I (hopefully) won’t be pregnant much longer. And if you read this and thought, “pshhhh what do you know, lady?”, I encourage that too. Don’t let anyone’s advice or tips or whatever overwhelm you. Just be the best pregnant lady you know how to be, ya know?

Momma readers, what did I miss? What’s the one thing you never read in a book or blog post that you wish you had?

{photo by Figment Art & Photo Co.)