For the over-thinkers and planners of the world, there's something very comforting about the phrase: what to expect when you're expecting. I mean, there's even a whole book with the same title. With my personality, you'd expect that I read that book cover to cover. I really have no idea why I didn't, it's not like I didn't have free time when I was pregnant.
There are a few things you can definitely count on during pregnancy.
- Your feet will swell, perhaps to an unrecognizable size requiring a search to find a sandal that will accommodate the new size of your not-so-little tootsies.
My extremely swollen feet, and this was just around 20ish weeks. Things were about to get a whole lot worse.
- Sleeping will become uncomfortable; it may take a tremendous amount of effort to swing your bump to the other side when you roll over, and then you'll have to spend a good five minutes readjusting pillows.
- Oh, and your normal walking pace will slow significantly. Ryan is a fast walker by nature, so I do my best to keep up with him. But pregnant? Holy cow. My pace was basically a crawl.
Walking laps. My dad and sister lapped me and thought it was just hilarious. Not that big of an accomplishment if you ask me, the tortoise (ya know, the one from The Tortoise & The Hare) could easily lap me at this point.
Aside from those tried and trues, there's so much during pregnancy that can change. You should get a pregnancy starter kit at your first official OBGYN appointment--good snacks, chocolate, and a sign you can hang on your fridge with the slogan: You're pregnant! Always expect the unexpected! Good luck! (come to think of it, pediatricians should hand out a new baby starter kit too with a similar catchphrase).
My original due date was August 23. I planned to keep those babies cooking until at least 38 weeks. Making it to that point significantly lessened any potential detour to the NICU. We'd also get to take the obligatory "leaving the hospital" picture: Ryan pushing me out in a wheelchair, while I (glowing, beautiful, and totally put together, obviously) hold a baby in each arm. We're elated, excited, and know exactly what we're doing. Ladies and gentlemen, this was so far from reality that it was comical. Like, I'm actually laughing as I type.
As a firstborn myself and classic perfectionist, this was black and white to me: establish goal, achieve goal. Keep your eye on the prize, they say. I did. Well, I really tried. A for effort on this one.
In early July, my parents came up for the weekend. My mom took me to Target (I rode on the motorized scooter again) and helped me pack my hospital bag. I use the word "help" loosely because in reality, she did all of the work while I attempted to "supervise," but I could barely see her over my bump (at this point, it was bigger than a bump, it was a mountain).
My dad also requested that I hold off labor for at least two more weeks, enough time for him to celebrate his retirement and start his new position at a different police department. Understandable. I told him I would try my best.
One of my last bump pics, some time in late June/early July. Believe it or not, this bump got even bigger. Yikes.
Now picture this: it's the day after my parents left, I've been on modified bedrest for 11 weeks and Ryan is driving me to my weekly OB appointment (I would have insisted on driving myself if I could have fit behind the wheel). We both had important activities later that afternoon: golfing and a manicure. Who was doing what? We'll never know now.
After what I EXPECTED to be a routine weekly appointment, I UNEXPECTEDLY found out I was actually in labor. I was 3cm dilated and had been having contractions all weekend. Who knew? Not me. I had no idea what a contraction felt like (I'm a visual learner, so I only realized what one felt like when I was hooked up to the machine at the hospital and could see the waves on the screen). I assumed the hard and tight feeling at the top of my "bump" was a head or a butt (I mean, I had two of each in there). Ya know what they say about assuming...
All hooked up in triage, just trying not to think about food.
Good thing my mom packed my bag! That's where the preparedness ends though, my friends. The rest of the day was like a series of unexpected events that may be helpful for another overthinking, somewhat panicked, likes-to-have-a-plan, first time mom. Ya know, just in case.
- Labor and Delivery is not like Open Table. Despite your doctor calling ahead for your reservation, you still have to wait in triage first. I am not exaggerating when I say Ryan and I waited in that tiny room for hours.
- Triage may be your own version of pregnancy hell. You can't eat or drink anything. Had I known, I would have opted for a more filling breakfast instead of just cereal. Like, is this even fair to do to a pregnant woman who spends her entire day eating for THREE?! Oh, and your husband may lie to you, specifically about the rating of the chocolate chip cookie he snuck in from the cafeteria. (He told me it was a 2. I tried one the next day, it was a definite 10+).
Ryan really hooked me up with all my faves once we were out of triage.
- Hospitals don't have the latest live streaming TV service. So be prepared, it's almost like stepping back in time to the early 2000s. The channel selection is subpar, especially if you're a Bravo fanatic like me. The wireless internet is pretty fast though, so not totally like you're roughing it with dial up or anything. You may disagree with your husband over what news channel to watch. Remember, marriage is all about compromise, my friends.
- Shaving your legs may be even more of a challenge than you're used to. You see, our shower at home conveniently had a ledge I could rest my very swollen leg on to get the job done. Heads up, the hospital definitely does not have one, so you may need to call in reinforcements. I knew I would ask Ryan to do a lot of things during our marriage, but shaving my legs was not something that crossed my mind. He did a great job around the ankles, and I gave it a solid A.
We did a jail break so I could get a little fresh air. By fresh, it was still in the high 80s and humid at 9pm at night, but it felt glorious.
- The hospital is not a hotel (although it felt like it to me because I was there for two weeks). So even if you have a room with a view, don't count on fancy bath products or comfortable pillows. I'm very particular about smells and scents, so I always pack my own toiletries when traveling anywhere. Also, the thickness of a hospital pillow pales in comparison to a hotel pillow. Always better to be safe than sorry, so BYOP (bring your own products + pillow).
- Whatever remaining shred of dignity you are desperately clinging to during the final stretch of your pregnancy will vanish in an instant. There were no less than 5 different medical professionals (none of which were my actual OB) that saw God-knows-what just when I was in triage, and even more as my time in the hospital stretched on. Just go with it.
- Your anticipated birth plan may be the exact opposite of what actually happens, and that's ok. Beyond making it to 38+ weeks, I did not have a preference on how the babies arrived (so unlike me, right?). We decided very early on that we would do whatever was safest and healthiest for the babies.
Spoiler alert: I did not make it to 38 weeks. Jack and Nick were born at 35.5 weeks after a 2 (long) weeks and 1 day in the hospital. During that time, I discovered what a contraction felt like (stored that helpful info away for later), became friends with quite a few nurses (watched many of them leave and return from vacations), walked countless laps, and lucky for you, picked up all these tips to share.
OR ready and sporting his new scrubs.
Stay tuned for the low down on when we met Jack & Nick for the first time and their little stint in the NICU.