22 things we want every man to know about pregnancy

Couple Expecting | www.angeliquelee.co.uk | szefei/123RF

1. We’re scared (terrified in fact) and worried about absolutely everything: the pregnancy, the birth, the baby (when she comes). Please don’t say “you’re going to be fine” because that’s not going to make us feel any less nervy. Pregnancy is not just our thing, it’s also your thing (we won’t be pregnant without you!); so, we really want you to be there for us and support us – talk to us, listen to our worries, come to as many antenatal appointments as you can, and to the antenatal classes, and know what’s happening to the baby and us every week.

2. We can’t wait to meet our baby, but we’re terrified about childbirth, and we can’t make up our mind about it. We’ll want a natural birth because c-section sounds awful. No, wait, actually, c-section doesn’t sound too bad; at least, we’ll know what to expect. But we prefer to give birth at home; we’ll be in a familiar environment and it’ll help relaxes us. Although, we think birth centre is a better choice; at least, we’ll be near the hospital (just in case). Or maybe, we should just go to the labour ward. We’ll want an epidural anyway. Or not. The point is, we’re faced with a very difficult decision to make. We’ll make it eventually, but we’ll want to consider every possible option very carefully and make that decision ourselves. In the meantime, whatever it is that comes out of our mouth, please don’t say “I think it’s better that you…” or ask “are you sure?” – just agree with us and reassure us that whatever decision we make, you’ll be there to support us and be the best birth partner you can be.

3. Yes, our boobs are bigger (and they will get bigger), but don’t get all excited; they’re also sore and unusually sensitive. So, no, you can’t touch them, or if we let you, you have to be very gentle.

4. Wherever we go, whoever we meet, we’ll be the centre of attention (not you) – people will want to know how we feel, what our plans are and talk to us about ‘mummy’ and ‘baby’ stuff. At times, you’ll feel overwhelmed and you’ll get the urge to walk away from the conversation and leave us to face it on our own. Don’t! Trust us when we say that some of us too feel overwhelmed sometimes. If we have to sit through it, be supportive and sit with us. You should start getting used to this kind of talk anyway because…

5. When the baby comes, the baby and us will be the centre of attention (again, not you), and people will (again) want to know how we feel, what our plans are and talk to us about ‘mummy’ and ‘baby’ stuff. But hey, you should be used to it by then.

6. No, sex won’t hurt the baby (we know you want to know). Although, in some cases, it might be a good idea to check with the doctor or midwife.

7. Speaking of sex, we suggest that you take our lead on this one. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. But everyone agrees that you shouldn’t expect a lot in the first trimester (in between morning sickness and everything that’s happening to our body, we really just want to sleep). The best time for you to ask is midway through the second trimester. Some women will want to do it again much later into the pregnancy; but be careful – sex can induce labour (although, that’s probably our intention if we initiate sex at that point in time).

8. Food… this is the thing… when we’re pregnant, we must have what we want and when we want it. So, when we say we’re hungry, please don’t say “but it’s almost lunch time” or “it’s almost dinner time” – sure, we’ll eat at those times, but we also want to eat now. Otherwise, our pregnancy hormones will almost always take over and… let’s just say, it’s not worth the risk.

9. Still on the subject of food… ours are off-limits to you. And yes, we get the bigger and better part of everything. There’s a baby growing inside us, so hush!

10. When our nesting instinct kicks in, please don’t tell us “but it’s still early days” or that we’re “behaving irrationally” – it will not bode well with us. Either stay out of our way and let us get on with it or help us out. Whatever you do, don’t comment on or un-do the thing we’ve done. We get very possessive over our ‘nest’. You won’t go and mess up a lion’s nest, will you? We thought so!

11. We’re hormonal. There, we’ve said it. So, we may be a tad more emotional and moody (okay, we admit that ‘a tad’ is an understatement); we may scream or cry over absolutely nothing and go berserk every time you do or say something we don’t agree with. It really is the hormones. But, whatever happens, never ever say that we’re hormonal. Just act as though we’re right and completely normal. Otherwise, you might have to face more of those hormones.

12. Please don’t point at our belly and say how big we’re getting. Yes, yes, we know that belly of ours is supposed to get bigger. It’s only natural that it gets bigger. And when you say how big our belly is getting, we know you don’t mean we’re getting fatter, but say it often enough and it’ll mean the same thing to us.

13. Do think twice before using the word “we”. Like, “we” prefer to deliver the baby at the labour ward or “we” didn’t mind you coming over to visit us as soon as we have the baby. When it’s really us (and not you) who will have to endure the worst part of the experience, using the word “we” is an absolute no-no.

14. When anyone, and we mean anyone (yes, that includes your family), tells you that we shouldn’t be doing this, we shouldn’t be doing that, and gives you pregnancy, childbirth and parenting advice, don’t glance at us with that “you should listen to this” look or tell us that we’ve been doing it wrong all this time. We’re already feeling vulnerable and patronised enough (especially if we’re a first time mum). Don’t be one of those people who make us feel that way. Besides, everyone has their own preferences and everyone does things differently. So, trust us, be on our team, stand by our side, and support our decisions (even if we get defensive from time to time, and we will!). You know we’ll ask for advice if and when we want or need it.

15. As our pregnancy progresses, our brain will also shrink in size (yes, it’s medically proven). Please be more understanding if we become more forgetful. And no, please don’t say “can you please remind me to…” because we will certainly forget.

16. We love to build a fortress (made of pillows) around our sleeping space. You see, it’s not easy finding a comfortable position to sleep when your belly feels like it’s stretched in every direction. And as it gets bigger, it’ll need to rest on something fluffy and soft. We’ll also need support for our back, legs, arms… The point is, we need to be as comfortable as possible, so, just give us the space and don’t invade.

17. We know we’re pregnant and we can’t or are not supposed to do certain (particularly strenuous) activities. As much as we appreciate your help in, for example, carrying the groceries, picking up heavy objects, etc, we won’t appreciate it if you constantly treat us like a princess in need of a rescue. But, come to think of it, if you don’t do anything at all, we won’t be happy either. Oh well, you can’t win either way – we’ll bitch if you treat us like a princess and we’ll bitch if you don’t! Just do it moderately (a bit more than usual is okay, but don’t go overboard), and we’ll be fine.

18. Pregnancy makes us feel tired… not lazy… tired! Please don’t say “you’re not doing anything, how can you be tired?” The truth is, pregnancy is hard work, it really is – we’re not doing nothing; in fact, we’re doing a lot of things (backstage), like, growing a life inside us. You can’t imagine how hard our body is working to make sure that the baby is developing well; we couldn’t imagine it ourselves before we were pregnant.

19. Pregnancy also makes us feel awful – the morning sickness, the backache, the headache, the leg cramps, the indigestion, the heartburn, the constant need to pee, etc… etc… It will probably make us whine a lot, but if you ever feel annoyed at our constant whining, know that we’re also annoyed at all the pregnancy symptoms we’re experiencing. So, be supportive and look after us…

20. And yes, we’ll want another massage, and another massage. Please don’t moan…

21. In fact, please don’t moan and complain about anything. We’re in pain looking after a tiny little life inside us; we just want to be looked after too.

22. Finally, when the baby comes, we want your help and we want you to want to help. There’ll be a lot of crying and feeding at ungodly hours, and we can’t do it on our own, we need you on board. We know we’re probably going to be on a maternity leave and you have to go to work in the morning. But please don’t ever think that when you’re out at work during the day, we’re having a leisurely time at home napping. Caring for a baby is a 24/7 job and it’s hard. Please don’t ever say “it’s okay for you, I have to go to work in the morning!” and let us do it all on our own; if you do, you might soon have to deal with not 1 but 2 grumpy and crying people at home.

22 weeks in: pregnancy symptoms that just refuse to go away!

Tired | www.angeliquelee.co.uk | racorn/123RF

I haven’t felt nauseated since the 15th week. I think, my morning sickness has left me for good. I’m really glad! It’s what I’ve expected of the second trimester – after all, it’s supposed to be the ‘golden’ trimester; the easiest one to go through. But I’m far from being okay; there are other symptoms that are overstaying their welcome; in fact, I think some of them are getting too comfortable that they’re cranking up their behaviour! For me, they’re just as annoying as morning sickness:

1. Constant tiredness

That energy boost everyone says I’ll get in my second trimester has yet to show its face! I’m still feeling tired all the time. In fact, I think it might be worse than the first trimester. I mean, yes, I was tired back then, but I could go about my day and do normal activities without running out of breath. Now, I’m tired and I can’t even walk 30 minutes without huffing and puffing. I still cycle to work (because exercise is supposed to make me feel energized!), but I’m finding it so much more difficult to pedal – it feels like I don’t have the stamina to do it. It’s really weird and it’s starting to disrupt my routine and I don’t like it. A friend of mine told me yesterday that her doctor gave her some medicine to take when she was pregnant to make her feel less tired – I’m going to find out what she took and probably give it a try.

2. Feeling hot, hot, hot!

Ever wondered why they say “you have a bun in the oven” when you’re pregnant? Because your body gets so warm that you literally feel like an oven. It’s almost winter, but for me, it feels like it’s 30 degrees outside. I still have to wear very light clothing to keep cool (I find sateen and organic cotton help) and I still have to sleep with my electric fan on (my poor husband – he must be freezing at night; but at least, he can go under the duvet to keep warm!). There’s no consolation for me – this symptom is not going away any time soon; every article I read says that my body temperature will soar even more as I get further into the pregnancy. One article even suggested: “Ditching the duvet, and sleeping with just a cotton sheet, is an obvious way to feel more comfortable at night. But if it’s not enough, pop your pillow in a plastic bag and stick it in the freezer for a couple of hours before bed – sooo refreshing.” Pretty serious, huh?!?!

3. Dry eyes

Okay, so maybe I didn’t really have this problem in the first trimester. My eyes started feeling dry at week 18, and I mean, really dry. I can’t wear my contact lenses; even when I’m wearing my glasses, they’re still very dry and uncomfortable; bright light hurts; and OTC’s eye drops don’t seem to work. I’m being referred to an eye doctor; hopefully, he/she will be able to give me a stronger drop.

4. Lower back pain

We can’t fun away from this one, can we? I just thought that I’d get it towards the third trimester and not now. The pain is beyond mild and it hurts the worst when I try to get up from lying down. I went to a pre-natal yoga session last week hoping that it would help ease the pain. But, as I’ve mentioned in my previous post, it made it worst. I struggled to stand up from the ‘relaxation’ position in the end! It’s got nothing to do with yoga, I’m sure; it was just a very badly-run class: there was no introduction, no question whether or not anyone had any injuries, no stretching – just breathing exercises, which I’m sure is very important, but I don’t think we should be doing that for the entire hour.

5. Feeling bloated and stretched

In the first trimester, I mainly felt bloated. Now, I feel bloated and ‘stretched’ – my stomach feels like a balloon that’s been blown too much until it’s so hard that it could burst at any time. I know it’s a sign of the baby growing and the uterus expanding, which is a good thing, of course. But it just makes walking so painful at times.

6. Constant need to pee

I feel like a river! I constantly need to pee… all day, all hour, all minute, all second, all the time! Especially at night, right after I found a comfortable position to sleep in, or just after I left the office when I’m on my bike on the way home. I try to limit my liquid intake around those hours, but it never seems to work.

7. Difficulty sleeping

Most nights, I’m just tossing and turning. An article at Baby Centre says: “Wide awake at 4 a.m.? Is that watermelon where your belly used to be making it impossible for you to get comfortable? Or is heartburn, nausea, or a constant need to pee keeping you up? You’re bound to have trouble sleeping at some point during your pregnancy, especially during the first and third trimesters.” Oh well, it’s just my luck that I’m also getting it in my second trimester! The article also includes suggestions for how to improve your sleep quality depending on what you think causes the disruption – for me, I think it’s a combination of “can’t get comfortable“, “frequent urination“, “sharing a bed” (despite the fact that we’ve got a super king bed!), and just plain “insomnia“.

If you have any thoughts or would like to share your experiences, please do leave a comment – I’d love to hear from you.

Looking back at the first trimester

“Just found out you’re pregnant and not quite sure what to do next? Why not start with these first trimester essentials?”

Pregnant Woman Thoughts | www.angeliquelee.co.uk | mirosh17tatyana/123RF

I kid you not, being pregnant is exhausting. Sure, it’s exciting – you’re bringing another life into this world after all; and sure, there are some magical moments that you’ll never forget, like when you first see your baby on an ultrasound or when you first feel your baby kick. But that doesn’t change the fact that being pregnant is exhausting, both physically and mentally, and the first trimester is the worst (at least for me): that’s when my energy level was at it’s all-time low and my morning sickness was at its prime. If you’re a first time mum-to-be like me, chances are, you’ll also find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the amount of information available about pregnancy.

So, I thought I’d create a list of first trimester essentials based on my personal experience, and I hope it would provide a useful starting point, especially for first time mums-to-be, to get organised.

1. If you haven’t already, start taking your daily folic acid (400mcg) and calcium (10mcg) supplement

These supplements are really important for your baby’s development. Ideally, you should start taking them when you’re trying to conceive, but if you haven’t done so, then start as soon as possible. You can buy them separately, or if you prefer, you can take an all-in-one pregnancy tablet – that way, you can be assured that your body will get all the vitamins it needs. I’m taking Pregnacare, but there are quite a few all-in-one pregnancy tablets out there – just pick the one that you like.

2. Book your first antenatal appointment with your midwife

Get a referral from your GP or if your local hospital has a midwife hotline you can call (mine do), by all means, refer yourself and save the trouble of having to make a trip to the GP. Ideally, you should do this between 8 weeks and 12 weeks as it can take up to 2 weeks for them to give you an appointment (possibly longer if you have to first made an appointment with your GP). At your first antenatal appointment, you’ll be given a record book (that is, your pregnancy notes, which you have to bring to all your subsequent appointments) and a Bounty pack, which contains money-off coupons, a mum-to-be pack voucher you can redeem at Boots, Argos or Asda, and a week-by-week pregnancy guide. Your midwife will take your weight, height, blood and urine sample, check your blood pressure, and calculate your BMI. She’ll also ask you about your medical history, lifestyle, etc, and give you information about eating healthily, exercising, who to call if you have any questions, and where to go in case of an emergency. Although, you won’t be able to see your baby or listen to your baby’s heartbeat at this appointment. If you haven’t heard from the hospital about your dating scan, tell your midwife and she’ll sort it out for you.

3. Follow up on your dating scan appointment

If one week has passed since your first antenatal appointment and you still haven’t heard from the hospital, call the antenatal clinic! I’m glad I did. The first time I called, I was told that they were dealing with a backlog of scans, but my name was on the list and I should receive an appointment letter from them within the next couple of days. One week later, I called them again; this time, they couldn’t find my name on the list. By then, I was almost 15 weeks and anxious. So, I was told to come in the same week. The scan itself lasted about 20 minutes. It was magical – I saw my baby for the first time and saw (not only listened to) its heart beating! Don’t forget to bring some change if you want to buy photos of your baby (mine was £4 each). At the scan also, you’ll be asked if you want to get your baby tested for down syndrome. If you’re too advanced in your pregnancy (like me), you’ll be offered the quadruple blood test instead of the combined test. Either way, you should receive your result within the week (earlier if your baby is in the high risk category).

4. Decide if and when you want to share the good news with friends and family

I’d wait until after you had your first scan, just to be sure that everything is okay. Not to be mean or anything, but sadly, miscarriage is an all too common event, particularly during the first trimester. It happened to me and it happened to some of my friends. That’s why most people prefer to break the news when they’re in the second trimester. Of course, the decision is ultimately yours.

5. Watch what you eat and listen to your body

No alcohol (or if you really must, limit it to no more than 1 or 2 units, once or twice a week). No raw or partially cooked meat, fish, eggs, etc (I think it’s easier to just avoid anything raw and make sure your foods are piping hot; I even grill cold cuts, like ham, etc!). No liver. No pate. No soft cheeses with white rinds. No soft blue cheeses. No unpasteurised milk. No vitamin A. No fish liver oil supplement. No shark, swordfish or marlin. Cut down on fish with high mercury level. Cut down on oily fish. Cut down on caffeine (limit it to 200mg a day). Cut down on foods that are high in sugar, fat, or both.

Other than that, I’d say, listen to your body and eat whatever makes you feel good. For example, certain kinds of food (like, cold sandwiches) make me sick, so, I avoid them; starchy foods, on the other hand, help with my morning sickness and keep my energy level high, so, I eat more of them. Seafood has no effect on me, so, I continue to eat them (despite people telling me that I shouldn’t be eating shellfish – but hey, as long as it’s properly cooked and piping hot, I don’t see why not). For me, there’s really no right or wrong way of eating when you’re pregnant. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I can say this because I had a miscarriage back in April and I did everything ‘right’. Go figure. Oh, and it’s a known myth that you have to eat for two.

6. Check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before taking any medicine

Certain medicines are not safe for your baby. If you’re not sure, ask. Better be safe than sorry. Paracetamol is fine (I’ve confirmed it with my midwife) – that’s about the only medicine I take ever since I found out I was pregnant.

7. Get a flu jab

Just because there’s a higher chance of developing complications if you get the flu when you’re pregnant. And it’s free, so why not? You don’t have to go to your GP if you don’t want to or if it’s not convenient to do so; I got mine at Boots during my lunch hour and my husband got his at Tesco. Remember to tell them you’re pregnant, otherwise you’ll have to pay.

8. Keep yourself active

Exercise! It’ll help maintain your weight gain, combat fatigue, and prepare you for labour. To be honest, I’d do anything that would help ease labour! Wouldn’t you? Be safe though – this is certainly not the right time to try out some adventure sports! I do yoga once a week and I cycle to work every day. Other kinds of activity that you could try include walking, jogging, and swimming. And don’t forget to do your pelvic muscle exercises daily.

9. Get enough rest

You’ll be exhausted… really exhausted… all the time… I know I am, and I’m in my second trimester. Yes, it’s worst in the first trimester (blame the rapid change of hormones level!), but it never truly goes away. So, rest whenever you can! Lounge in front of the TV, relax, sleep, or get a massage (pure bliss!).

10. Wear something comfortable

Chances are, you’ll feel hotter and you’ll sweat more than usual. So, wear comfortable clothing to stay… well, comfortable.

11. If you smoke, stop!

It’s bad for the baby. Enough said.

12. Take extra care when you clean the house or handle chemicals

My husband freaked out the first time I cleaned the house as a pregnant woman! I had to assure him (Google was my friend) that most cleaning products are safe to use during pregnancy. As far as I know, the only two things that you must absolutely avoid when you’re pregnant are oven cleaners and insects’ killer. Just make sure that when you clean, the room is well ventilated, and wear protective gloves (obviously).

13. Start organising your finances and prepare for your new arrival

It’s never too early to start. In fact, start now to get your hands on amazing bargains. You’d be surprised at how much you could save. Let this post be your guide: “For all those bargain and freebies hunters out there“.

You might also want to start looking into life insurance (if you don’t already have one). Some companies (such as, Asda and Post Office) offer up to £10,000 free life cover for new parents effective from the day you apply until your baby’s first birthday. Let me say it again, it’s free, so you’ve got no excuse!

14. Start looking into antenatal classes

There are NHS-run classes, which are free and held in your local hospital, and there are NCT-run classes, which can be quite expensive and held in a number of your local community centres. The NCT-run classes are supposed to be the Queen of all antenatal classes (at least, that’s what people say). Based on my research online, I decided to sign up for these; I can tell you it’s quite pricey: my husband and I paid £190 for 5x 2 hours classes. But, our first class is not until January 2015, so I can’t tell you yet whether they are worth the price. Nevertheless, start doing some research – apparently, these classes get booked up very quickly (I booked mine back in September). You might also want to start looking into pregnancy yoga. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you the benefits of doing yoga. Even if you’re not a fan of yoga or have never done yoga before, this might be the perfect time to take it up – why pass up something that would help increase your strength, flexibility and muscles endurance needed for childbirth? After all, I thought we’d agreed that we’d do anything that would help ease labour, right?

15. Get dad-to-be involved

It’ll make your journey easier if your partner is aware of and understands what’s going on with your body when you’re pregnant. As I’ve said earlier, being pregnant is exhausting – physically and mentally – so, don’t do it alone! He’s sharing your joy, why not let him share your pain as well? Get him to download your favourite pregnancy apps on his phone or buy him a book. I bought 2 books for my husband: “The Expectant Dad’s Survival Guide: Everything You Need To Know” and “Pregnancy for Men: The Whole Nine Month” – they’re now his bedtime reading; he said they’re not particularly good, but at least, he’s ‘in the know’ and I’m sure he’ll find some of the information useful at some point.

16. Educate yourself about pregnancy, follow your baby development, and talk to other mums-to-be

It has never been easier to do all the above today – there are plenty of great apps you can download, newsletter you can sign up to, websites you can go to, forums you can join and even free books you can order. Here are some of my favourites:

  1. Mobile apps: Baby Centre and Ovia Pregnancy.
  2. Websites: NHS, Baby Centre, Mumsnet , Netmums (one thing I like about Netmums is that you can search for news and events within your locality), and Tommy’s.
  3. Free books: Tommy’s Having a Healthy Pregnancy (they’ll post it to you if you order it from their website), Bounty‘s Pregnancy Guide (which you’ll get at your first antenatal appointment) and Baby Product Guide (included in the Bounty’s mum-to-be pack), Boots’ Bump, Birth and Baby catalogue (you can get this in store), and Babies R Us catalogue (you can order this online). I know the last two are catalogues, but they are pretty good and there are quite a few money-off coupons in there.
  4. Forums: Baby Centre Community and Birth Clubs (where you can connect with other mums-to-be, including those due in the same month as you, and share your experiences).
  5. Newsletters: NHS, Baby Centre, and Bounty (which includes weekly offers on maternity and baby products).

17. Call your midwife if you’re experiencing one or more of these symptoms or if you’re just feeling anxious generally

I suppose that’s it. I hope you find this post useful.

Leave me alone, I am nesting!

“That irrational need to clean when you’re pregnant: it’s not irrational, it’s just your nesting instinct kicking in.”

Nesting Instinct | www.angeliquelee.co.uk | halfpoint/123RF

I like a neat and tidy home. Don’t you? Although, at times, I feel like I may have gone a bit overboard with cleaning and organising. There’s a place for everything in my home and it’s really important for me that everything has to be in its place; I get really annoyed otherwise. Think of something, anything, and ask me where it is, and I can tell you immediately where to find it. Let me give you an idea of the extent of my compulsive cleaning and organising behaviour:

  1. I have a ‘filing’ box which houses all my important documents;
  2. I have a ‘memory lane’ box where I keep my travel stubs – properly labelled according to the trip, of course;
  3. I have an ‘electrical’ box with many different compartments inside labelled ‘adaptors’, ‘phone chargers’, ‘SD cards’, ‘batteries’, etc;
  4. I have a ‘keepsake’ box which houses all my greeting cards;
  5. The drawers in my bedroom are neatly divided into compartments where socks, belts, gloves, etc, go;
  6. I have a few of those pretty baskets in my bathroom where I put my everyday beauty products, home spa products, perfumes, etc;
  7. I have to clean the surrounding area as I cook; and
  8. I have to wipe the kitchen sink dry every time I use it…

Some would say that it’s an OCD. But is it really? Well, I don’t think so. At least, I don’t think I have the full blown disorder anyway. I just hate clutter and not being able to find something when I need it – it’s such a waste of time and it often causes unnecessary annoyance and frustration.

The thing is, this compulsive behaviour of mine has been getting worst since I’m pregnant. I’m finding myself re-organising my storage system, obsessing about sanitation and cleanliness around the house all the time, replacing old stuff (like curtains and bedding sets) with new ones and throwing away the old ones, and getting all stressed up at the slightest mess. Is it a behaviour that is more prominent in pregnant women, I wondered, or am I getting the full blown OCD? A little research on dear old Google revealed that this irrational need to clean and organise is actually not an irrational behaviour at all – it’s all to do with a woman’s ‘nesting’ instinct, i.e. “an inbuilt need in a mum to ‘protect and prepare’ for her unborn baby.”; “Females of the animal kingdom are all equipped with this same need. Just as you see birds making their nests, mothers to be do exactly the same.”

Read more about it in these articles (or if you prefer to do your own research, google up ‘nesting instinct’, ‘nesting pregnancy’ or something along those lines):

“Nesting and cleaning the house. What is nesting and why will I do it?”

“Why pregnant women are obsessed with tidying and nesting: it’s all to do with their inner cavewoman”

So, turns out, I’m not weird and I’m not irrational. Far from it, I’m nesting, so leave me alone!