“You’ve survived the first trimester! Congratulations! But there’s still plenty to do before your baby arrives. Here’s a checklist to help you get organised.”
1. Keep taking your daily folic acid (400mcg) and calcium (10mcg) supplement
I’ve talked about the importance of taking these supplements before (see my post “Looking back at the first trimester“), so I’m not going to repeat it here. But I’d like to reiterate that if you’re like me and you can’t be bothered with buying different supplements separately, you can always take an all-in-one pregnancy tablet (such as Pregnacare) which contains all the vitamins your body needs. I just find it so much easier.
2. Keep going to your antenatal appointments with your midwife
If this is your first pregnancy, you’ll have 3 antenatal appointments during your second trimester (one at 16 weeks, another one at 25 weeks and the last one at 28 weeks); otherwise, you’ll have 2 at 16 weeks and 28 weeks. Your midwife will test your urine sample for protein, check your baby’s heartbeat, bump size and your blood pressure at every appointment, and at your 28 weeks appointment, she’ll also take your blood sample. They’re all pretty routine really and each appointment lasts about 40 minutes or so (depending on whether you have a lot of questions to ask or not).
3. Go to your anomaly scan appointment
This is a detailed scan, which checks how your baby is growing and for physical abnormalities in your baby. This is also the scan at which you’ll be able to find out the sex of your baby (if you want to, of course). It’s supposed to last about 20 minutes, but mine took almost an hour because my baby just refused to move so the sonographer couldn’t check everything properly the first time. I had to move around, jump up and down to encourage my baby to change position. Luckily, she did; otherwise, I’d have to come back for another scan and that would be a pain. As with your dating scan, don’t forget to bring some change if you want to buy photos of your baby.
4. It’s probably time to break the news to friends and family
At the end of the day, this is your pregnancy, so you should have the ultimate control as to when to tell your family and friends and how to go about it. My husband and I did it in stages – we told our family after my first scan and we started telling our close friends when I was in my second trimester. But that’s about it; I suppose, we’ll tell more people after the baby’s here.
5. Keep yourself active, healthy and comfortable
Basically… watch what you eat, listen to your body, take extra care when taking any medicine (check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist if you’re not sure), exercise, get enough rest, etc, etc. I’ve written about this in my post “Looking back at the first trimester“, because, well, you should start doing all the above right from the start anyway and continue to do so throughout your pregnancy.
6. If you haven’t already, start organising your finances and prepare for your new arrival
Again, this is something that I think you should look at from as early as possible, especially if you want to get your hands on amazing bargains. So, if you haven’t done so, make a checklist of what you need for your baby and slowly buy them when you spot a good price. My husband and I managed to save more than £1000 just by being organised. If you’re interested to know how we did it, read my post “For all those bargain and freebies hunters out there“. While you’re at it, don’t forget to think about insurance, childcare, benefits, etc. On that note, you might also be interested in “From bump to baby: understanding your benefits entitlement and financial options“.
7. Go for a holiday
You and your partner might not get the chance to go on a holiday alone together for a while after your baby is born. For most couple, the second trimester is the perfect time to book a vacation – you’re not feeling as sick and tired as you were in your first trimester and you’re also not feeling the strain of being heavily pregnant yet. My husband and I went to Tenerife for a week when I was 28 weeks pregnant – it was perfect, it was a beach holiday, so I was able to relax and it’s nice to be able to get some sunshine when it’s freezing in London. If you’re flying, remember to get a letter from your midwife stating that you’re fit to fly. I didn’t have to show mine but it’s good to have it with you just in case.
8. Start shopping for maternity clothes (if you need to)
I didn’t. I’m now 33 weeks pregnant and I’m still wearing my normal clothes. I just stay away from jeans, tight-fitting skirts, etc, and embrace leggings, loose dresses and jumpers. I personally think that if you choose your clothing smartly, you can get away from not having to spend money on maternity wear. My post “Style bible: ‘non-maternity maternity’ wear” should give you some ideas on how to choose what I like to call ‘double-function’ pieces.
9. Decide which antenatal classes you’d like to go to and book your place
The free NHS-run classes or the pretty expensive NCT-run classes or both – the choice is yours. I signed up for the NCT-run classes and paid £190 for 5x 2 hours classes. Why? Because I read and heard that they’re much better than the NHS-run ones. Unfortunately, I was wrong. In my opinion, they’re just not worth the hefty price tag. You can read all about it here and here… the classes are not finished yet, but I’ve come to terms that I will not learn anything from them. I’m utterly disappointed – I’ve attended 3 classes, that’s 6 hours, and I think it’s worth 10 minutes on google. So if you asked me, I’d say, go to the free ones and google everything else. And of course, bring your partner along to the antenatal classes.
10. Start thinking about your maternity leave, benefits and entitlements
Remember that you have to tell your boss that you’re pregnant by the 15th week before your baby’s due date and you also have to tell your boss in writing the date you propose to go on maternity leave. If you’re not entitled to receive statutory maternity pay, you may be able to apply for maternity allowance, and there also other benefits that you may be entitled to depending on your circumstances. So it’s a good time to start sorting these out and don’t wait until the last minute.
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.
When people find out you’re pregnant, that’s it… all social conventions and boundaries magically disappear. Everyone suddenly becomes an expert in pregnancy and childbirth (yes, even those who have never had kids or been pregnant!) – they love telling you what to do, how to do it, and they become more critical and judgmental of your choices and decisions… because “it’s what’s best for you and your baby”. It’s as if you (this smart and responsible adult) are not capable of making your own choices and don’t know what’s best for you and your baby.
So, anyway, here’s my list of the 12 most annoying people you’ll meet when you’re pregnant:
1. Those who love giving unsolicited advice
“You shouldn’t be eating that!” “You shouldn’t be doing that!” “You shouldn’t be touching that!” Or worst: “You shouldn’t be standing (or sitting, or lying) that way!” (Yes, I actually get these statements thrown my way). Listen, I’m not ill, injured or incapacitated. I’m pregnant. And I’m not an idiot or an irresponsible being. I’m a smart and responsible adult who knows what’s right and wrong. From time to time, I will make a decision you don’t agree with (and that’s fine, you don’t have to agree with me), but I know what I’m doing and I’m careful; so, respect my choices, don’t be judgmental, and move on!
2. Those who think your bump is too small or too big (in my case, it was the former)
“Are you sure you’re eating enough?” “You must be dieting… you know it’s not good to go on a diet when you’re pregnant?” Yes, I’m eating enough, and no, I’m not dieting (don’t just assume I am!). In fact, I eat a lot, and I eat a lot of carbs (rice, pasta, etc); I’m just not eating more than I normally do (hey, it’s a known myth that you have to eat for two when you’re pregnant). Besides, there’s this thing called an “ultrasound” where they take your baby’s measurements and weight, and check whether your baby is developing well. So, should we just give this belly size discussion a rest? Oh, and yes, I know that it’s not good to go on a diet when you’re pregnant (thank you very much!).
3. Those who think it’s okay to ask personal questions
“Was this planned?” “How long have you been trying for?” “Have you decided where and how to give birth?” “Are you going to have an epidural?” “Would you consent to an episiotomy?” “Do you plan to breastfeed?” “So, when’s the second one?” Seriously?!
4. Those who are overly concerned
Literally every 5 minutes they go: “How are you feeling?” Or every time they meet you they go: “How are you sleeping last night?” Or with a sympathetic look they go: “That bag is really too heavy for you to carry!” Yes, yes, they mean well, but I’m not sick, bedridden or dying… I’m pregnant… and no, that bag is really fine, it’s just a handbag!
5. Those who think they know best when and how you should announce your pregnancy to the world
“Just tell people you’re pregnant, what’s the big deal?” “You should tell work now, why wait?” Or worst: “Why don’t you just announce your pregnancy on Facebook?” Excuse me for not wanting to share my personal life with any Tom, Dick and Harry out there, or bare it all on the social media. It’s my pregnancy, I will tell people the way I want to, when I want to!
6. Those who think they know best when you should go back to work
“Why are you going back to work so soon?” “You should spend more time with your baby!” “Take at least a year off.” “It won’t be the same when it’s your own, you’ll change your mind.” I find it really annoying when people think I don’t know my own mind. Look, I don’t think motherhood is beneath me. On the contrary, I think being a mother can be very fulfilling. But it doesn’t mean that I have to sacrifice my career and be a stay at home mum to be a good mother. I’ve worked tirelessly to get to where I am and I’m not willing to let it all go and change my whole life for a baby. I don’t care what people say. I happen to have a dynamic and stimulating career, one which I love and one which I can’t wait to go back to. It’s not like I don’t have any arrangements in place for childcare and it’s not like I’m just going to leave my baby in the hands of some stranger; as a matter of fact, I already have a very good arrangement in place for childcare. So, stop being judgmental and mind your own business. I’m certainly not going to stop you from giving up your career to be a full time mum if that’s what you really want.
7. Those who, for some odd reasons, only have negative things to say
“You’re so gonna balloon up!” “It’ll take you forever to get back in shape!” “You know you’ll never sleep again, right?” “You should sleep (or go out or have fun) now while you still can!” “You’ll never have time to yourself anymore.” “You’ll have to bid farewell to childless holiday!” Honestly people, is your life that miserable that you also want me to be miserable? You know what, don’t worry about me! I’m going to be just fine. Besides, I’m sure you’ve got plenty of other things to worry about already.
8. Those who think they know it all and should police everything you do (there are 2 categories of people in this group: those who say you can do everything you want and those who say you absolutely can’t do anything)
“You know you can drink right, I drank when I was pregnant and my baby’s just fine!” “Don’t you worry about caffeine, my mum literally lived on caffeine when she was pregnant and look at me!” “No, I don’t care what people say, you should avoid alcohol and caffeine altogether!” “You really shouldn’t be eating that, you could get food poisoning and it’s bad for the baby!” Whichever way I do it, I can’t win, can I?! Why don’t you just leave me alone and let me make my own decisions?
9. Those who love sharing their experiences (in the most annoying way)
“You’re not supposed to be that tired (or sick, etc)!” “I was never that tired!” “I was never that sick!” “My labour was hard, you can’t imagine…” “You know, if they cut you down there…” (and then go on to tell you about every single thing that can go wrong in labour and delivery!). Thank you, I’m feeling better and more confident about childbirth already (*sarcastic tone*).
10. Those who think that natural birth is the only way to go
“You really should be giving birth naturally at home, women have done it for centuries, don’t go against what’s natural!” “You don’t want an epidural, the side effects are just not worth it!” “You don’t need it anyway, your body is made for childbirth after all!” “Seriously, a c-section? You do know it’s a major surgery, right?” Look, I don’t have anything against natural birth. But I take no stand in which “birth method” is right or better. I think, every woman is different and every pregnancy is different. We all have the right to our preferences. If you think that natural birth is the only way to go, great, go for it. But for better or for worse, people have learnt so much about childbirth and we now have a number of medical intervening methods that could help ease labour. Whether you agree with them or not is beside the point, but under no circumstances should you judge those who prefer some or full ‘assistance’ when it comes to giving birth. What’s important is I’m healthy and my baby is healthy. Don’t tell me where and how to give birth! The right to make that choice belongs to me and me alone!
11. Those who are extremely pro breastfeeding
“You ARE going to breastfeed, aren’t you?” “It’s truly best to breastfeed your baby!” “I’m sure you know of the consequences if you don’t breastfeed.” “You must do it for at least a year!” Hey, let me get it straight… I’m also pro-breastfeeding and I’m aware of all the benefits (not just for the baby, but also for me). But I don’t think formula-fed babies are any less healthy. If you disagree, tell that to those women who are not lactating! At the end of the day, it’s again my baby, my body and my breasts you’re talking about. Have you ever heard of the right to personal autonomy?
12. Those who think they can touch and rub your belly without permission
Keep your hands off my bump, people. It’s creepy!
Ultrasounds scans are definitely the highlight of pregnancy. Seeing your unborn baby moving about (or in my case, lying calmly) in your belly is a very exciting and magical experience. I’ve had both my scans already (I wish there would be more), but my Baby G (yes, it’s a girl!) is developing well and my husband and I are very happy!
Left: dating scan at 15 weeks Right: anomaly scan at 20 weeks