Buckle up, friends, this is gonna be a gross one, because we’re going to talk about bodies.
More specifically – pregnant bodies.
The first time I got knocked up I was twenty years old, halfway through college, and terrified out of my mind. I had a zillion questions about the now-and-laters of pregnancy, none of which google would comprehensively answer. My best online resource was Pregnant Chicken which, while helpful, wasn’t nearly as extensive and content-heavy as it is today, and I was left mostly to relying on the experience of girls (women?) who had gone before me in the realm of baby-having.
It was scary, and confusing, and super intimidating, but I did it. And now I’m doing it again, because I don’t know when to leave well enough alone.
This time, though, I’m better prepared. I know what’s to come and I know what to expect, and it’s way more chill than the last time. I wouldn’t say I’m enjoying it but I’m able to just not think about it as much, which is still an improvement. And now I want to help you via answers to some of my most pressing, superficial, embarrassing questions from my first pregnancy, along with some not-so-fun facts that might make you gag.
Here is a good stopping point if you want to maintain the illusion that women are empyreal, beautiful creatures who poot rose-scented glitter and never sweat. If you’re down to get dirty, forge ahead.
1. You don’t have to get stretch marks. I know this is a shallow one, but it was a massive, massive concern for me, and one I felt embarrassed to vocalize. I did once, on the pregnancy subreddit /r/babybumps, and was immediately shouted down with women saying ‘THEY ARE TIGER STRIPES BE PROUD OF YOUR BODY AND THE MARKS YOU’VE EARNED YOU PLEBEIAN!!’ Like, yeah, that’s cute, and sure, I am 100% behind embracing your stretch marks as a mark of pride. Still, though, this defensive response didn’t answer my question, which wasn’t ‘how do I handle my post-baby body?’ and was instead ‘is this for sure gonna happen, though?’
Good news – it’s not for sure. The bad news is it’s primarily genetic and out of your control, so checking out your mom’s tummy is a good indicator to what you can expect. However, if you exercise and eat well while pregnant and maintain a slow, healthy weight gain, there’s a good chance you can reduce (if not diminish) the amount of stretch marks you’ll get. Science!
That being said, I did come out of my last pregnancy with a smattering of stretch marks. I have a few baby-given lines on my hips and a dozen on my boobs, none of which I noticed until months after the fact. I know it’s not everyone’s experience, but it’s all I have to share: you might get stretch marks, but you also might not. Or if you do, they could be few, and you can still look fire in a bikini.
2. The ‘mucous plug’ is a thing, and it. Is. Disgusting. I don’t really need to elaborate on this any more than I already have, since whatever horrifying, nightmarish image you’ve conjured in your brain is likely accurate. The mucous plug is basically the self-made goo stopper keeping your cervix all blocked up, and it’s not uncommon for women to shed bits of it throughout the pregnancy. Are you gagging a little? Great! You’re going to be so prepared for childbirth.
If you find snot-like discharge in your panties, don’t panic. Consult your OB if it’s vividly colored or just looks infected, but if it’s got an inoffensive, light color and is clumpy/sticky/vom-worthy, that’s just the beautiful miracle of life. Hallelujah.
3. Your boobs are gonna be fine. They are. Especially if it’s your first or second pregnancy. I know it seems unlikely given how huge and veiny they are right now, but they’re gonna be a-okay. I breastfed my kid for nine months, silently mourning the loss of my boobs’ perk the entire time, only to realize when I was done that they were anticlimactically totally fine. Less perky, yeah, but in a sexy, cool way. I no longer had the tiddies of a teenager; instead my boobs were bottom-heavy and bigger, reminiscent of the woman’s silhouette at the start of a Bond movie.
Again, that’s only my experience, but I wish someone had told me as much four years ago so I could’ve stopped losing sleep worrying about my nipples expanding or whatever.
4. Cravings are real, but you can trick ‘em. I’m not doing nearly as well on this one this time around, since my pregnancy is extending over the holiday season and I’ve eaten like two packs of Oreos in the last three weeks alone. But with Lucy, I had a nifty system for keeping my ‘indulgences’ at least a little healthy: for chocolate cravings, I’d eat a chocolate chip Chewy bar. For ice cream needs, I’d have frozen yogurt. For milkshakes, it was spinach-and-banana smoothies. You get the picture. You got this.
5. Exercising while pregnant is awesome. This one sounds counter-intuitive, since you spend the majority of your pregnancy feeling achey, sleepy, nauseous, and just generally crummy. But listen: if you go to the gym when you’re pregnant, you feel so much better and people will actually cheer you on. Sound shallow/stupid? It is! I am! You nailed it!
But that doesn’t erase the satisfaction of doing weighted lunges up and down the gym floor with a visible bump, feeling like freaking superwoman and basking in the impressed/judgmental glances of your fellow gym-goers. Also, it supposedly makes labor go more smoothly if you’re in decent shape, among all of the other usual boring health benefits. It also makes re-attaining your pre-baby body a quicker, simpler process.
Grace’s Lazy Pregnancy Workout
- Brisk walk (3.5-4.0 mph) on the treadmill, preferably while watching Say Yes to the Dress or Chopped. 45 minutes or three miles, or just however long you can handle watching that annoying bridesmaid try to micromanage everything.
- Abs! However you feel comfortable. Some ab exercises, like crunches, are no-nos when pregnant but I always liked planks – regular and side – and leg lifts.
- Walking lunges, weighted. I would do reps of 20 with five pounds in each hand, but if that’s not what you’re used to, start off unweighted and go from there. You’ll still reap the adoration of your gym peers.
- Some other stuff, like back exercises and butt stuff, but mostly those were my three basics. The key for me was really the walking, since I found whenever my legs would feel tight or swell-y, usually walking would relieve that. But I’m not a frickin doctor, so do whatever you want!
6. Not everyone poops on the delivery table. I’m not saying you won’t, I’m just saying it’s not inevitable. I had an epidural with my last pregnancy, and even with everything numb down there the difference between ‘bear down’ and ‘surprise the nice nurse with a twosie’ is still pretty obvious. Basically what I’m saying is, I didn’t poop during labor and it seems an avoidable occurrence. If that makes me sound smug and you sort of want to punch my face, don’t fret. There’s always this round of childbirth to put me in my place.
7. Pregnancy ‘fatface’ is NBD. I always noticed that no matter what, women sort of get moon-faced towards the end of their pregnancies. I feared it, and mastered contouring just in case my cheeks decided to round out. Much to my relief, they didn’t! I dodged the bullet! Whew!
… Only for a few months post-partum to have one of my really sweet, really lovely friends say to me, ‘aw, you’re so thin now! I miss my round-faced pregnant friend!’ So, like, shit. That one’s on me. I played myself. Apparently I did get a little fatfaced, but I didn’t even notice. Probably because I was too busy grappling with my mucous plug.
8. Your vagina goes back to normal; kegels help. I feel like high school is where most misconceptions take root, especially about women’s bodies. I personally didn’t even know women had three holes down there until I was 20, which is shameful but not the issue at hand here. To think that childbirth ‘ruins’ your vagina is not only wrong, it’s dumb. Vaginas were literally made to stretch and snap back, and that’s exactly what they do. At the risk of oversharing, I compared some before and after photos of what’s really going on below (thanks Leonard Cohen), and the two are basically indistinguishable. You might tear, or you might need an episiotomy, but the doctors are super profesh. They’ll stitch it right up and you’ll be none the wiser.
The biggest physical change that happens down there post-baby is that the muscles inside relax a little. This can mean that, in basest, starkest, grossest terms, you might queef more, or when you take a bath, you might find that water is still coming out of there even after you’ve stepped out of the shower. Don’t stress, just do some casual kegels whenever you think about it and snap that puppy back. You’re doing them right now, aren’t you? Because I reminded you? Cool, so am I. Now think about your breathing and regulate that, too. Ha ha sorry.
9. Sorry about your nipples. Yeah, this one’s just… Sorry. Don’t worry, they’ll look the same, and if they do get any bigger, it’s not going to be by much. Visually, you will still have a gorgeous set of knockers. But sensationally… Babies wreck ‘em. Breastfeeding is awesome for a whole host of reasons (more on that in a sec) but afterwards, you might experience a decrease in sensitivity in your nips. You know how sometimes you like to have them pinched or bitten during foreplay? Yeah, well. It just might take some harder biting.
10. Breastfeeding is bomb. Okay so I’m going to preface this by saying, if you CAN breastfeed, here are some reasons that I think you should. It’s not an option for everyone, and that’s okay too. No judgment, you do you, your body is a wonderland, etc.
But if you can, I suggest you do. Aside from the fact that it’s like, super healthy for the baby and all of that, it also makes life SO EASY. Initially, it sort of sucks. It hurts a lot on the onset, and sometimes babies don’t latch well, or your supply is wonky, or a whole list of other reasons that only exacerbate your frustration. Once you get going, though, you save so much money. Like, so much freaking money. Thousands of dollars. It also helps you lose the baby weight faster and it makes midnight feedings so simple. You just plug the baby into your boob and the two of you can sort of drift off into a hazy semi-sleep while he eats.
Plus, there are few things more endearing than when your baby stops mid-meal to glance up at you, suddenly realizing ‘oh, hey! Mom! You’re here attached to this boob! I love you!’ and gives you a gummy, milky grin. It’s gross, but rewarding. Sort of like the mucous plug.