things i learned when pregnant
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20 Things I learned while pregnant

Pregnancy. We look forward to it so much, but when it hits is it really what you expected? Johanna O’Connor-Maguire, mum to baby Henry, shares her experience in ’20 things I learned while pregnant’.

1. I didn’t ‘show’ for the first 5 months.

I stayed in this awkward phase of looking like I’d had too many doughnuts over the summer but not quite pregos, and that stage lasted for a whopping five or six months so most people only figured out I was expecting towards the end. This happens to a lot of people but I just assumed that you look pregnant pretty early on.

2. I had a romantic idea of pregnancy that involved kale smoothies and pre-natal yoga.

The reality is more like salt and vinegar crisps and bed straight after work. I swapped my usual porridge and honey and chia seeds for cornflakes because they were the only things that would stay down at work. Pregnancy does really weird and unexplained things to you.

3. Brushing my teeth became a dreaded experience.

I love flossing and brushing my teeth and I’m one of the few people that loves going to the dentist for a check up but almost every time I brushed my teeth for TEN MONTHS I was nauseous, it was horrible.

4. Caffeine was my best friend.

Everyone asked me if I cut out coffee, even people who knew nothing about pregnancy and didn’t really care were asking me if I’d given up coffee.  I just couldn’t part with my best friend. In fact, I was so tired that even when I would read things like caffeine in pregnancy is linked to ADHD; I didn’t care. If I was going to haul a baby around and teach all day then a cup of coffee was going to help me through it.

5. I never thought I would miss lying on my back so much.

So apparently there’s a large vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the middle of your body to the heart that prevents you from lying on your back as it can lead to problems with blood return or decreased cardiac output which can ultimately harm the baby. Try lying on your side ONLY for nearly a year, total torture. Ironically after lying on my back for three days in hospital after giving birth I couldn’t wait to get back on my side.

things i learned when pregnant

6. Trying to get out of bed in the final weeks is like watching a slug haul itself down a mountain.

Those final weeks *sigh*. Only those who have been there will understand.  You see first time moms saying they are thirty two weeks pregnant and “nearly there” and you’re thinking she has about two months of the real crap to get through (where just bending down is a royal pain) and that’s if the baby doesn’t decide to stay in for another two weeks.

7. The first trimester can be the hardest.

This was definitely the case for me. Eighteen weeks of nasty nausea. I tried the ginger tea and crackers-the whole nine yards – nothing worked. I expected things to be bad when you are visibly pregnant but it’s when you don’t look pregnant that it can be the toughest.

8. Round ligament pains are scary.

In the first trimester any twinges you feel may lead to a freak out. Some of the “twinges” can be quite painful, apparently this is the ligaments in the uterus stretching out but you can find yourself constantly worried something is going wrong with the baby. You don’t really get a heads up on this one.

9. Germs are everywhere.

I’m blessed with good health, I’ve only been on antibiotics once in my life and I’m rarely sick but during pregnancy my immune system was low. I work in a school of four and a half thousand pupils so germs everywhere basically. I avoided door handles, banisters, shared markers, and other peoples books because a cold would knock me back for a week where ordinarily I would have an iron clad immune system.

10. Random nausea.

Simon and I went on a romantic stroll through the Eastern Mangroves in Abu Dhabi one December evening only for me to start projectile vomiting as I crossed the road. It came out of nowhere and there was no logical explanation. It went as suddenly as it came. Needless to say I looked like I was going to kill Simon when he exclaimed “That’s disgusting!” as if I had had some control over it. Pregnancy is weird.

things i learned when pregnant

11. Conflicting advice.

There is so much conflicting advice. In the end you just do what your body is telling you and what feels right and ignore everyone.

12. Pregnancy gives people a licence to ask inappropriate things.

People think it’s their business how you eat, how you will birth, where you will give birth, how much time off you will take –whatever they feel like asking you or telling you. No matter what your response is, it will more than likely be the wrong one. Just nod and smile and do whatever suits you.

13. Your feet can grow during pregnancy.

I’ve always been a UK size 5.5 but now I’m a definitive 6. Some women I know have gone up by two whole sizes! Imagine that. A new shoe collection doesn’t seem so bad. I guess.

14. Heartburn made me cry.

I never knew what heartburn was but boy did I find out! Waking up in the middle of the night with acid so bad in your throat that no amount of Gaviscon can cure is not pleasant. It’s an oldwives tale that women who experience heartburn in pregnancy have hairier babies.

15. You can get pregnant while you are pregnant.

This is not a joke. It’s super rare but it does happen and it’s called superfetation.

16. Baby kicks can be really sore!

I always thought it was super gentle little flutters but towards the end the baby really let me know he was in there. It was super weird in meetings when you are trying to concentrate or speak and you are literally getting kicked from the inside. Because no one else can see anything, it’s kind of weird if you start making random noises so you just have to act like you are not being internally beaten up. When he came out at 58 centimetres I wasn’t at all surprised, there were times when I thought his foot surely must be in my lung.

17. I didn’t shave my legs for 6 months.

I’m not a particularly hairy person anyway but by some weird miracle I didn’t have any hair growth on my legs for the last two trimesters. Weird but a definite plus!

things I learned while pregnant

18. Weird pregnancy related issues.

I got my doctor to take a look at a little thing that had formed (for all intents and purposes it looked like a little red mole) on the back of my neck and she confirmed it was a pyogenic granuloma aka “a pregnancy tumor”, which is basically just an overgrowth of tissue that results from a trauma to the area, irritation or hormones. Apparently most pregos who get this find it in the gums so I was glad mine was at the back of the neck (even if my sisters referred to it as my little extra brain!).

19. I was shocked at how much my bladder let me down.

Not exaggerating, but about three or four trips to the bathroom every night. A baby literally sitting on your bladder is horrendous. Laughing too hard was a walk on the wild side!

20. No matter how hard it is, there is always a pregnant lady who has it worse.

You think you have it bad until you hear of some other pregnant lady someone knows who is suffering from piles or sciatica or there’s an issue with the baby and you thank your lucky stars you are getting through it all in one piece.

Every week is a milestone: checking for an ectopic pregnancy, hearing the baby’s heart beat for the first time, the 20 week scan, the baby finally becomes viable outside of the womb, you breathe a sigh of relief as you pass the premature stage, you finally reach your due date, the hopefully safe birth where you both make it out ok, the first check by the doctor to see if he’s all good.

Then the penny drops that you are going to spend the rest of your life worrying about this baby.

And that’s motherhood.

You can find Johanna’s blog at Expat mum and dad and on Facebook

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ASK LOUISE

Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.