The Most Important Thing To Know About Pregnancy

Welcome to Risky Baby Business! As of last week, the topic here at More Cowbell each Saturday will be BABIES. Having a baby was some serious risky business for me. Though I wouldn’t change anything because I did get a fantastic daughter out of it, there are pieces of information that I wish I’d known much earlier.

In a nutshell, that’s what this Saturday series is about. . .All the stuff I wished people had told me.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a specifics girl. I like to at least have a ballpark idea of where to set my expectations. I don’t even mind when I have to set those suckers low but, like most control freaks, I like to have at least a glimmer of an idea about a situation before I get into it.

Unfortunately, pregnancy rarely works that way. High risk pregnancy NEVER works that way.

One of the downsides (for me) of having a baby is that the process differs from woman to woman and child to child. There is no possible way to set your expectations. Nope. You wake up one morning and find yourself strapped on the Pregnancy Surfboard, adrift in the Ocean of Gestation (and not anywhere near ready to ride the waves).

Whether you’re in calm waters or stormy riptides, you just have to roll with it and trust that things will be fine. Seriously.

To be fair, I believe God has a compassionate sense of humor and reserves the High Risk Riptides for the moms who can handle the crazy ride. And it is crazy when you think of all the stages and steps that occur in the development of a baby in the womb.

As my hubby told me when he compared computer projects to pregnancy:

We can’t get a project off the ground in nine months. And here you’ve conceived a life, built a placenta and grown a baby. That’s incredible!

Yeah, I felt pretty studly that day. Like Xena, the Warrior Princess Baby-Maker. Hug those  Xena days close, Ladies. Treasure those moments and keep them ready – either for childbirth or when your child throws their first tantrum. Those are times when you NEED to feel like a Warrior Princess Baby-Maker.

Getting back to the “no way to plan” part of pregnancy…

Think about the things most normal first-time moms want to know:

  1. Will the baby be all right?
  2. Will I get morning sickness? If so, how long?
  3. What do I eat or not eat, drink or not drink?
  4. Will I look heinous through all this?
  5. Are there activities that are restricted?
  6. Can I have sex? Are there restrictions to that?
  7. What will I do with this child when they’re born?

Plus all the high-risk questions:

  1. “Will I get to keep this baby?”
  2. “Will I have to go on bed rest?”
  3. “Will I die?”

Most first-time moms are afraid to even utter most of these questions out loud. Like saying the words will make them true. So these moms read and read, looking for the answer to questions that are either unanswerable or just slightly off the beaten path.

Even when the amazing books like What To Expect When You’re Expecting cover a topic, there’s often a tiny disclaimer at the bottom that says, “Unless you have a high-risk pregnancy.”

I hated that disclaimer when I was pregnant. That disclaimer made me want to hyperventilate. It was the #1 source of calls to my high-risk OB.

That little seven-word disclaimer is the primary reason I’m writing a memoir about high-risk pregnancy.

Don’t get me wrong, you get a metric ton of information in nine short months. Some of it is important and useful (prize those people!), but a lot of it is not. People tell you ALL kinds of creepy details when you’re pregnant, whether you want to hear them or not.

Talk about kicking some poor lass when she’s down….Yeah, you know who you are, you torturous ladies that share war stories with first-time mamas. Just admit it…you do it when they’re too fat and slow to run away. I’m on to you.

Like I said, I was told hideous stories – everything from fetal demise to holes in the baby’s brain (not kidding for either of these). But the tidal wave of minutia people flooded me with had little to do with the things I really wanted to know. If every pregnancy is different, how can your 45 hour breech baby labor story do anything but scare the crap out of me? I’m just sayin…

This all brings me to the real point of this post:

The most important thing to know about pregnancy is how to manage your stress.

I got this lesson from my high-risk OB in my 15th week. Yep, if you do the math, you’ll realize I suffered through 3.5 months of CrazyTown Worry. I also suffered from vicious migraines, spending days at a time under ice and herbal packs because I couldn’t take any medication yet. Or so I thought…

When I went to my second monthly visit with the high-risk guy and we told him what was up with the migraines, he scolded me for the first and only time in my pregnancy. He was pretty forceful about it.

“Jenny,” he said, “the most amazing organ in the human body is the placenta. About twelve weeks into your term, the placenta takes over the whole project of pregnancy. It’s most important job is to regulate your baby’s environment.

“The placenta can correct for malnutrition. It can correct for dehydration. The one thing the placenta can NOT correct for is stress on the part of the mother, especially physical stress.

“Your pregnancy works like a parasite/host relationship. As the “parasite” your baby
will get what it needs from you, the host. UNLESS you undergo extreme stress. When the mother’s body is stressed, it triggers a fight or flight response that diverts blood flow from the parasite to the host.”

In other words, crazy levels of stress from the mama can actually make life harder for baby.

Keeping calm is the new mommy’s #1 job. Yes, you need to sleep as much as possible and eat really well but those are job #2 and #3.

How do you control your stress levels?

  • By knowing that, in doing so, you are protecting your baby.
  • Find your force field of Zen and step inside it. Carve that area of calm out like a nest in a tree and live inside it for the months that you’re pregnant. This is the most important thing you can do for your baby.
  • Do whatever you must to find your Zen. Some women knit, some take up yoga. For me, it’s work that will keep my mind off problems. I started my current job when I was almost 5 months pregnant.
  • Find that calm center and embrace it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s trashy magazines or meditation that keep you calm. I knew one pregnant woman who did loads of laundry multiple times because folding it soothed her.

Remember, God’s in charge of the pregnancy and you’re in charge of the Zen.

I hope all is well in your world. My regular More Cowbell readers know, I love hearing from you! Please do take a moment to say hi and let me know how you found Risky Baby Business. If you are having a difficult time getting pregnant, click here for one of my tips.

What things are the most worrisome to you about pregnancy in general and high-risk pregnancy specifically? What surprised you the most about pregnancy? Enquiring minds always want to know here at More Cowbell.

Jenny

OPPORTUNITY:

Doron Ofir Casting is looking for expectant mothers in their second trimester for a new documentary series about the journey to motherhood in the city of Los Angeles.

This new series celebrates the adventure from your point of view. Take us on your journey through the sometimes irrational, decidedly demanding, high maintenance wonderment of pregnancy. Share the miracle of your body taking you to places you never thought it would; the lower back pains, mood swings, cravings, exhaustion and new-found appetites.

If you are at the end of your first or into your second trimester and within 40 miles of the greater Los Angeles area, you could be eligible to star in a new exciting series that celebrates the roller coaster ride of pregnancy. Email lamoms2b@gmail.com or click here for more information.

About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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36 Responses to The Most Important Thing To Know About Pregnancy

  1. Laura Drake says:

    Great advice, Jenny. I’m sure it’s hard to put into action…but I’d think it’d help just to know being panicked is normal!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG…every first time mom is absolutely panicked. I kept it together pretty well until I read that “92% of pregnant women worry that they worry too much.” That one opened my floodgates, because I was in that 92%.

      Like

  2. No high risk pregnancy stories. No pregnancy stories. I married my DHs well-adjusted, wonderful children when I married him, and have two beaUtiful grandbabies as my bonus. I always thought I’d have my own babies, so it took time to gain peace with marrying a man with clipped — er — wings.

    Popped in to say I’m glad God decided to bless you with that daughter, and you found your ZEN ZONE. What would I do w/out COWBELL??

    Off to SBUX to craft my DIRTY FIGHTING entry.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Gloria,

      I dated a man with clipped wings in my early 30’s and it was terribly hard to make choices like that. More than 50% of my friends have never been pregs – most of them did so by choice. I think my pregnancy was almost harder on them than on anyone.

      Thanks for popping in to say hi. This Saturday series is for everybody because we all know friends, kids and grandkids who are getting pregnant. I can’t wait to see your Dirty Fighting entry!!!

      Like

  3. Stacy Green says:

    My pregnancy was very stressful. I have a chromosome translocation that puts me at a much higher risk for Downs, and as a result, it took us five years to get pregnant. I had already suffered a miscarriage, so I was very paranoid. When I first saw the little plus sign, I had one intense, clear moment of absolute peace: I knew it was a girl, that I would carry her to term, and that she didn’t have Downs. Then I spent the next 9 months worrying, even after various tests showed us she likely didn’t have it. And she didn’t, thankfully. Happy you made it through and ended up with a healthy baby girl:)

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Oh, Stacy…that is so hard. I’m glad you got Grace, and that you had that single, precious moment of peace to hug close through all the tests and all the worry. We went through a Down’s high alert period ourselves and there are such big mental decisions to make. Plus, you never know how you’re going to feel until it’s you.

      High five over our baby girls! I will always wish for more kids, but I’m happy for my one.

      Like

  4. K.B. Owen says:

    Jenny, your first post of this series is WONDERFUL! Looking forward to next week’s. The only thing I’d like to add is something that goes hand-in-hand with the stress issue: GUILT. Yep, the gift that keeps on giving. Our society is hard-wired to impose guilt on mothers, and it begins with the pregnant mom-to-be.

    I read “What to expect when you’re expecting” (19 yrs ago, so I don’t know what the current edition is like), and found a ton of things to feel guilty about. Food was a major one. I’m a picky eater as it is, and food aversions were even worse during my first trimester, when I was queasy all the time. And yet, here was this perky Birkenstock babe, telling me not to eat refined flour or sugar, only whole grains (and there weren’t a lot of palatable products out at the time the way there are now), along with a bunch of fruits and veggies that I just couldn’t stomach. Heck, I couldn’t even swallow my vitamins without gagging. She really laid it on thick, too, talking about how later health problems could arise if I didn’t do it this way. And don’t even get me started on exercise, and what she said about THAT.

    I just felt like every time I went out in public, someone had something critical to say about what I was doing, and were nosy as hell. I felt really guilty, and super-stressed.

    But the second pregnancy was way better; I didn’t even look at Birkenstock girl’s book (I found better ones that were more balanced), and was able to tell those know-it-alls I’d run into to shove off. I’d like to see more women feel that sort of calm and confidence during their FIRST pregnancy.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      And here, 19 years later, you find out that the almighty placenta would have helped you out when food was the enemy. I craved watermelon for weeks – we went through 2-3 every week. I just couldn’t get enough of it. But what if I’d craved ice cream or Cheetos?

      The What To Expect book has tons of diets and recipes and I’m gonna confess it right here: I ignored every single one. I just looked at the no-no list and ate my watermelon🙂

      Like

  5. jamilajamison says:

    “Keep Calm and Carry On” — what great advice! No pregnancies for me, but both of my mom’s pregnancies were high-risk. With me, she was working a high-pressure job during the beginning of her pregnancy, and tells me that whenever she would stress out, she could feel me tense up inside of her. She ended up having contractions in her 5th month, and was placed on bed rest. Because of that, her second pregnancy was also considered high-risk, so she was on bed rest the whole time, and monitored daily by the doctor’s office (she had this device that she had to hook herself up to, and it transmitted data that would show if she was moving around too much).

    I’m so excited for this book, because it sounds like it is going to be wonderful, and much-needed.😀

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Thanks, Jamila and that’s a great summary! It’s not like you can get the baby out or anything so you’ve just got to roll with it.🙂

      That’s interesting to me that you mom could feel you tense up in her womb. I’m gonna have to ask around about that phenomenon.

      Like

  6. I’m excited for this book to come out Jenny, it is such a needed resource.

    Like

  7. Sherry Isaac says:

    Grandmas like me are too old to remember pregnancy.

    Glad your high risk pregnancy turned into zen level motherhood, Jenny.

    Like

  8. Linda Burke says:

    You have such great advice even if I am past all that. I would like to add that I was surprised that my sense of smell increased by around 2000% (yes, two thousand) when I was pregnant. I could smell everything! Strongly. I could walk in the front door and smell the Dial soap in the bathroom, the cooking odors, dust, etc. I told the doctors when I was pregnant for the second and third children based on the increased smelling ability. I was also nauseated the entire nine months for all three children. Often wondered if it was due to the increased ability to smell.

    And heartburn! Ugh. I could eat saltine crackers and get heartburn. One time we were going out to eat and I told my husband since I got heartburn anyway we should eat Mexican. Surprise! No heartburn. We ate a lot of Mexican food after that.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      OMG, I laughed over the Mexican food. I got wicked heartburn too but now they can give you something. Before it was “take a tums.”

      Baby girl sat soooo high that I was rarely hungry when I was pregnant – I called her “my little lap band.” But it meant that my heartburn was the kind that woke you up choking – I’d have to walk for at least 30 mins in big circles around the house, then sleep sitting up for the rest of the night. The medicine (Protonix) was a godsend, but I couldn’t have it until I had a placenta.

      Your sense of smell sharpens as a survival mechanism to keep you from eating food that has spoiled or is bad for you. Typically, it continues for a while to make sure you get the same benefit while you breastfeed – was that your experience?

      Like

      • Linda Burke says:

        I don’t remember when my sense of smell subsided to normal. After all it has been more than forty years.

        I just started reading a book by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo, Eat Right for Your Type, meaning blood type, which was published quite a while ago. But I wonder if eating for your blood type would help during high risk pregnancy. Something to ponder.

        Like

  9. Having not started a family yet, I can already tell just how much I’m going to enjoy this series. Thank you for sharing with us, Jenny! I stress out over the smallest things….seriously. I’m like the stress-queen. I gave myself an stomach ulcer in the 2nd grade because I didn’t think I was the best in my class. Even though I’m older now, and know better about certain things, I still find myself stressed out in situations where I shouldn’t. Starting a family? STRESSES me out!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Tiffany,

      Here’s what I know about you: You love fully and keep trying till you hit the goal line. If you bring that big heart and grand determination to the pregnancy game, you’re gonna be a rockstar. The only thing I’d say would be a big mark in the plus column: try to learn how to compartmentalize and/or breathe your way to Zen.

      In fact, based on the comments on this single post, I’ve already decided on the next two Saturday columns. One of them will be a journey about how and why I was able to find Zen. I don’t know if it will help, but it’s worth a try.🙂

      Like

  10. Julie Glover says:

    What a fabulous take on high-risk pregnancy! I loved your insight. I had placenta previa and a preemie the second go-around. Somehow, the smaller stuff about your feet hurting or not seeing those hurting feet don’t matter so much anymore. You just want to come out of the experience with healthy baby and healthy mommy. Stress is definitely a factor. For myself, I read a lot (novels, NOT how-to books that told me about the “average” pregnancy), watched relatively mindless TV, visited with friends, and prayed often from my bed. Everyone’s fine now. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      See? That’s all I’m saying! Good for you for taking good care of your mind and stress level. That letting go is part of why the experience was positive.

      Everyone wants to “give you the benefit of their experience,” which is hilarious because it’s so rare that THEIR experience is anything at all like YOUR experience.

      I really couldn’t understand why no one just listens to first time moms and maybe suggests things like sitting on a yoga ball to help your back or going to the chiropractor to carry easier and get rid of the sciatica.

      So glad all was well with both your little tykes.🙂

      Like

  11. catwoods says:

    I’m new to your blog, Jenny, so missed all your pregnancy troubles. I must say you seem very centered about it all and are an inspiration. Your book will benefit all moms, not just those with high risk pregnancy.

    My fourth pregnancy was considered high risk, as my daughter (second born) had tried entering the world far too early and my third pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 12 weeks (though my body refused to give it up and after a month I had a D&C). Ironically, my fourth pregnancy was nearly text book perfect, as was number 5.

    God works in mysterious ways and he gives us the strength we need if we are willing to tap into it.

    Thanks for sharing your story and helping other moms let go of the guilt and stress that come with not being the “perfect” mom in a “normal” pregnancy.

    hugs~

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Hi Cat!

      To be fair, the pregnancy was over for almost a year when I started this blog. Also on the fair side, I had prep for the stress due to the near-death experience that opened the floodgates for the high-risk in the first place.

      It does seem like I wouldn’t have had those experiences if I wasn’t supposed to share them. I hope any mamas reading this feel just a little better and smile just a little more to know they aren’t alone.

      The comments alone have made this topic worthwhile. I had no idea my More Cowbell Posse had walked such a crazy path on the pregnancy front!

      Like

  12. I was so worried when I was pregnant with my daughter. I needed to be on heparin. I spent so much time worrying whether my baby was going to be okay and if I would carry her to term that I had a hard time just enjoying being pregnant. I realized later that the worry didn’t do me any good. I was doing all I could to have a healthy pregnancy. Everything beyond that was out of my hands. I swore to myself that I would enjoy my next pregnancy and not stress my poor baby out. I was able to relax a lot more when I was pregnant with my son, even though I was on heparin again.

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Sonia, do you have a clotting disorder like Factor V (that’s me), MTHFR or some other thing entirely? Heparin burns like holy fire, doesn’t it? I was on Lovenox throughout the pregnancy, then Heparin for the last 8 weeks. I was on 8 more weeks of Lovenox after the baby came. Nothing like a shot in the belly…

      I’m glad you got two pregnancies out of it with healthy happy children. Congrats on your Zen.🙂

      Like

      • I have anticardiolipin antibodies. Well, had them then anyhow. I read an article from a Japanese study a couple of years ago indicating that some women can spontaneously clear anticardiolipin/antiphospholipid antibodies. So a woman who tested postive with one pregnancy should still be tested with each pregnancy. I don’t think that study was out when I was pregnant with my son because I wasn’t retested.

        Heparin sure does suck. It gave me empathy for anyone who has to take daily injectable medication of any kind. And the bruising. Whenever anybody new saw my belly, I had to explain that I took heparin (cause it really looked like somebody was beating up my poor belly).

        It did show me that I was strong though. As much as I came to loathe that freakin’ needle, I could do it because I wanted to keep my baby safe. Most mothers would do anything to protect their children (which is why it really gets my knickers in a twist when OBs use that to manipulate pregnant women).

        Like

        • Jenny Hansen says:

          Yep, I hid my belly for many months too. I did take pictures of the bruises though to whip out later if I need to say, “Look what I did for you!” I don’t see it happening but I took them just in case.

          I’ll tell you, as much as Heparin feels like a hot poker under your skin, i preferred it to the Lovenox shots because I could draw my own syringe instead of using one that was pre-loaded. The pre-loads that I got in the 1st trimester had about 80% barbed needles and it was MISERABLE.

          Like

  13. Excellent, excellent, excellent post. I love how your husband compared pregnancy to a work project!

    Even though I didn’t have *high-risk* pregnancies, I did get similar advice from a doctor with my first pregnancy. My father died early into my pregnancy and I ended up in the hospital. The doctor who saw me told me how sorry he was about my father’s death, but that I had to protect my baby from the stress in the best way possible. Somehow, his words pierced my sadness and I was able to see how important my thoughts and actions were to the baby.

    I really believe that doctor kept me from spinning further into depression. It was my first signal to change my ways and put my daughter’s interests above my own. (And *that* turned out to be the real journey!)

    Looking forward to Saturday!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Bridgette, I’ll tell you it was a funny moment.

      I can only imagine how stressed and lonely you felt to have your father pass before he could meet your baby. My mom died 7 years ago and I continue to mourn being pregnant without her. I felt like an orphan when she died and can only imagine how much pregnancy hormones would have amplified those feelings.

      It sounds like you and your daughter have a beautiful bond.🙂

      Like

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  15. Oof! Ouch about those barbed needles.

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  19. Sara says:

    I just found out I am pregnant for the first time. I was certain that it would never happen. I am one of the highest anxiety/stress people I know. This post really made me think about the importance of lowering my stress levels and focusing on what the little life inside of me needs. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Sara, CONGRATULATIONS!

      Pregnancy is actually sorta fun (once you stop freaking) – you’re doing something really cool, and only you can do it. Your hubby is mainly along for the ride to make your job as easy as it can be, and to rub your feet and bring you snacks. He’ll get to hop into the fray a bit more when the baby comes.🙂

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