There she was, in all her cool, magisterial glory, strutting across the screen with that smooth roll of her hips in the pencil skirt I was just going to have to buy.
I paused for a moment to stop drooling over Claire Underwood, style idol and fantasy projection of sartorial self. Character aside, we were twinsies, right? No boobs, wide shoulders, long faces, short blond hair…checkity-check-check.
Then I remembered.
Son of a…oh, right. Probably me.
“The Claire” seems to work best on people who aren’t pregnant, at least…MAJOR SPOILER ALERT…during the first five seasons.
How did we get here? (I know, I know–aside from the VERY obvious.) Stupid freaking clean living.
While I have many friends who’ve suffered the misfortune of difficult (or impossible) conception, this has never been my cross. In fact, it appears to be a genetic inheritance as generations of women on both sides of my family have experienced one surprise pregnancy after another. Look at us cross-eyed and bam! twins. (I’m not even going to pretend life is fair.)
Our first child was born six weeks after my 24th birthday. We’d been married six months earlier–mentally envision your very conservative Midwestern family doing that math–and had returned to NYC, where we’d moved after college to pursue what we hoped were fulfilling careers.
“Fulfilling” quickly morphed into “Dependable Paycheck,” and the soul-draining drudgery of the 9-5 quickly killed any spirit and energy I might have had left, considering I had an infant at home who didn’t decide to sleep through the night until he was 18 months old.
One and done, I told folks who pressed me: When were we going to have another? Didn’t our son need a sibling for balance? As a playmate? Didn’t we want to play it safe? (Yes, I was mildly irritated by the invasive questions. And how dare they insinuate the potential demise of our first?)
Our second surprise was born three weeks before my 31st birthday. While I didn’t gain as much pregnancy weight with her (thanks to increased activity levels), I did not carefully watch my diet. I noticed that pregnancy at 30 was far harder and more physically painful than it had been at 23, despite the fact my first pregnancy was fueled entirely by pizza and resentment. (Not to mention that this time, I didn’t snap back. It took nearly a year to lose the last few pounds of baby weight.)
This time I’m 39. The baby will be born well into my 40th year, which summons memories of every time I shook my head in disbelief: “She’s 42. Did she do that on purpose?!” But as they say, Karma’s a bitch and she knew where to find me.
What do I wish I’d known at 23, pregnant with my first, that I know now?
Don’t take prenatal vitamins on an empty stomach, because you’ll probably throw them up. In fact, if you’re careful about your diet and you’re not starting off with deficiencies, it’s possible you don’t need prenatal vitamins at all. But do note, this takes attention to detail and actual maintenance work. Balancing a diet is no easy task even when you’re not pregnant.
It’s not a bad idea to keep up with dental appointments during your pregnancy, if you’ve ever been lax. If you’re not being careful about your diet, chances are good that your precious bundle of joy is going to wreak absolute havoc on your teeth, as any calcium Baby needs will be sucked right out of you.
Maintaining a higher level of physical activity definitely does something to slow the weight gain brought on by Second Breakfasts, Pre-Lunches, Mid-Afternoon Snacks and Late-Night Munchies. If this increased volume of food happens to be clean, minimally-processed food, you’re not going to gain as much in the first place and it may help to eliminate some of the weirder cravings (based upon your body trying to tell you it requires certain additional nutrients for balance).
It’s extremely important to limit your exposure to toxins, as your chemical body burden will now be directly shared with the little life you’re trying to grow. Have your drinking water tested. Toss your plastic food storage and opt for glass or stainless steel. Eliminate exposure to harsh household cleaning chemicals, standard detergents and self-care products. In fact, that’s where a huge amount of junk sneaks into our bloodstream on a daily basis: shampoo, soap, lotion, makeup, deodorant–the average woman uses something like 12 products every morning, which is an astonishing level of exposure to a creepy chemical soup.
Even the “Clean,” “Natural” and “Safe” baby products require some scrutiny. Read those labels. If it sounds like a scary, unidentifiable chemical, it almost certainly is. Look for simple ingredients. You’re not trying to cut accumulated motor oil and grime from an engine compartment, you’re bathing a delicate little person.
I’m not Mommy Shaming anyone here. Unfortunately, these are all things I had to learn the hard way, and my first was the unwitting guinea pig. (Also the child with the most allergies–coincidence, perhaps, but worth noting.) By the time our daughter was born I was already on the organic wagon and phasing out perfumed laundry detergents and dryer sheets, finding “cleaner” personal care products and doing what I could to mitigate the harsh chemicals dumped into our heavily treated city water.
Oh, and pencil skirts won’t work beyond about…well, by the time you figure out you’re pregnant, and it’ll be because you haven’t been able to zip yourself into your favorite pencil skirt.
As I’m sure a great many women say, “You can’t put the genie back in the bottle.” Give up dreams of svelte chic for a minute and realize that your ultimate focus for the next few months will be as simple as not throwing up on strangers. If you manage to leave the house in anything other than pajamas, you’re already winning–double points if your outfit matches! And really, if you also manage makeup, you’re just winning at life.
Seriously, in this time I affectionately refer to as “Moo,” make friends with Pinterest. (Yes, I DO say this through gritted teeth.) There are myriad ideas out there. Full sites dedicated to Mommyhood, to fashion and style, and though the search for comfortable (and stylish!) clothing is just as hard with Number Three as it was with Number One, I will persevere. I’m pretty sure you will too.
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