My first and second babies will be almost exactly two years apart. They were both due on the same day (October 1st)! My first pregnancy was fantastic, but I didn’t know then what I know now. Let’s just say I’ve learned a few things in two years! The changes I’ve made in this pregnancy have made this one even better than the last, even though I’m now working from home with a toddler instead of working in an office full-time (and moving to a new state at 37 weeks!).
As this pregnancy comes to a close I thought it would be helpful to list out what I did differently – both the good and the bad. Whether you’re currently expecting or looking ahead, I hope you can learn from my mistakes and what I’m “doing over” this time around!
I should note, I am not being sponsored by any of the programs or companies mentioned in this post. All of these are my recommendations based on personal experience.
1. Performed Ab-Safe Exercises
In my first pregnancy I worked out – both cardio and weight training – the entire time. This made a HUGE difference in my labor (even my midwives, who barely knew me, asked if I had worked out during pregnancy after the delivery!). However, I didn’t know that certain exercises can cause major damage to your abdominal wall during pregnancy. Because I continued to do planks, full push-ups, and other exercises that incorporated my abs, I gave myself an ab separation: diastasis recti.
Fortunately, I found out about it immediately after delivery and spent three months closing the separation. I then went on to strengthen my abs with Kayla Itsine’s BBG program until I found out I was pregnant again. At that time, I switched to Erica Ziel’s Knocked Up Fitness program for the duration of my pregnancy. All of Erica’s strength training exercises are core-safe for pregnancy.
I continued running until about 18 weeks – when I ran a 5k with some friends – and then switched to walking three times a week, three miles each time. Even though my workout routine was less intense this time around, I gained less weight and felt better my entire pregnancy – and protected my abs!
2. Got Serious About Nutrition
Last time, I thought I ate pretty well. I could have bought stock in Claussen pickles, and I ate enough broccoli for Josh and myself combined. But I also ate a lot of bread and refined carbs – and in the last trimester consumed an inordinate amount of ice cream!
After Addie was born, Josh and I completely changed how we eat. We now eat a mostly gluten free, low carb, sugar free lifestyle (Trim Healthy Mama/Paleo) that is easy to maintain – and we love it! I came into this pregnancy with better eating habits, but I also had amazing nutritional support from my midwife team. Unlike most OBs, midwives spend a lot more time educating about nutrition. I received a laminated sheet with my recommended daily intake of grains, dairy, oils, vegetables, etc. I also turned in a food journal at most appointments and was encouraged to track my protein – 80-100 grams a day.
This accountability made a huge difference. In my first pregnancy, I gained 50 lbs. In this pregnancy, I gained 20 – and I was never once hungry or starving myself. This single change to healthier eating made the biggest difference in the pregnancy, and I credit it with the following changes:
- Less nausea (fight nausea with protein)
- No awful gag reflex (my midwife has never seen this reversed one pregnancy to the next)
- No swelling – including in feet and fingers
- No constipation
- Much better sleep
- Stabilized blood sugar
3. Didn’t Find Out Gender
Another thing we did differently this time was to not find out gender! I’ll be honest – this was Josh’s idea. We may or may not have fought about it for more than a week! But now that we’re getting close to delivery, I’m actually glad we’re being surprised. While we’ll have to buy boy stuff if, by a miracle, we have a boy (Josh has six sisters!) we’re all set with girl items and I have quite a few gender neutral outfits for the newborn stage.
I think this will add an awesome element to our home birth and it makes me look forward to labor even more.
4. Walked as Much as Possible
As previously stated, I stopped my running routine at around 18 weeks. Instead, I took Adeline for walks near the house or at the waterfront, and through the summer met up with a friend three times a week at 6 AM to walk three miles. Other than a brief two week period where I was asked to stop walking (to prevent preterm labor) I walked as much as possible this pregnancy! Along with better water intake and nutrition, I believe this has a lot to do with why I didn’t swell this time around.
5. Made Freezer Meals
I distinctly remember thinking, “I could get started on freezer meals,” the night I went into labor with Addie. Instead, I went to bed. Fortunately Lancaster hospitality made sure I didn’t need those meals! But this time, even though we have an awesome church and community, I wanted to stock up for those postpartum weeks.
As I’ve shared in the past, we eat a Paleo/THM meal plan. I used Mixing With Michelle’s amazing freezer to crockpot recipe list (THM compliant) to make 20 meals, each of which will probably feed us two or three times. I also made and froze low-carb breakfast burritos and cookie dough, as well as any extra enchilada filling or leftovers from dinner. I’m so glad we have something Josh can simply toss into the crockpot – the instructions are written on the bags!
6. Used Spinning Babies
When I went in for my 29 week prenatal, my midwife pointed out that the baby was transverse. It stayed like this for several weeks after – and let me tell you, it was NOT comfy. Babies are not supposed to sit in there sideways!! I turned to the website Spinning Babies for advice on turning baby head down – and am so glad I did! By 32 weeks, baby had turned head down – although posterior (sunny side up), which it continues to hang out in for the time being. I’m currently following Spinning Babies’ recommendations for turning posterior babies as well as seeing a chiropractor.
7. Got a Better Bed
Biggest mistake of our newly married life: Buying a memory foam mattress. Because it had no springs, in only one year the bed developed a hollow in the middle. I found out I was pregnant on our one year anniversary, and spent the duration of my pregnancy sleeping at an angle in that hammock of a bed (I think this is why my poor chiropractor could never get rid of my low back pain!).
When we moved to Pennsylvania we splurged on a hand crafted Lancaster mattress that is an absolute dream. I think I may actually be in love with it. It made a HUGE difference in this pregnancy and my sleep quality throughout (although taking a Cal/Mag supplement has also done wonders!).
8. Didn’t See a Chiropractor
Okay so here’s one thing I DIDN’T do this pregnancy that I wish I had from much earlier on. With Addie, I saw my chiropractor the entire pregnancy because I’d been seeing him before. Even though I gained more weight that time, I think seeing him regularly made for a wonderful experience and I even credit him with helping Adeline be in an ideal position for delivery.
This time, I hadn’t lined up a new chiropractor in Michigan. Then Josh lost his job when I was seven months pregnant, and we couldn’t afford any extra expense. I finally made it to the chiropractor in my 37th week and we are seeing some progress in turning the baby!
9. Traveled Smarter
In both my pregnancies I traveled extensively – by air and by road – during the first trimester. This time I had a few tricks up my sleeve to travel smarter!
- Bring ginger kombucha and ginger chews on planes. I get nauseous during landing while pregnant, so these came in handy.
- Wear comfortable, professional travel wear. Because I travel for work, I try to look nice for arrival. My favorite outfits were maxi skirts, palazzo pants, fitted tees with a blazer or jacket, or dresses (I’m a huge fan of dresses during pregnancy). *One thing I didn’t buy the first time and TOTALLY wish I’d bought sooner: maternity leggings and maternity underwear! Complete lifesavers!
- Pack light and check your bag. Though I prefer to only use carry on, lugging a big bag through the airport (especially since I have the worst luck with layovers) is not fun for pregnant women. I bit the bullet and checked my bag, bringing only a bag big enough for my laptop.
- Bring a water bottle. It took me years of traveling to figure out I could bring my water bottle through TSA and fill it up myself. Ugh! How did I not realize this sooner? Being pregnant means you NEED to drink a lot of water and that’s hard on the road, so having my water bottle reminds me.
- Pack protein rich snacks. This saves money in the airport, prevents impulsive Cinnabon runs, and keeps your blood sugar level (which helps prevent nausea, unhealthy cravings, and much more). I try to pack nuts, beef sticks, nut-based granola bars, and cheese sticks.
- Don’t cross your legs. I have a habit of always crossing my knees on planes, but it can cause varicose veins.
10. Drank a Gallon of Water a Day
Okay, if a gallon is a little much for you – shoot for four water bottles a day. For my first few prenatal visits I was consistently on the line between hydrated and dehydrated (my midwives check every time). Since implementing my four water bottle rule, I’ve felt better AND “passed the test” with my midwives.
I didn’t think it was possible to have a better pregnancy than last time, but these changes certainly proved me wrong! This is despite the fact I have a rare pregnancy condition called pemphigoid gestationis, an autoimmune disorder where the immune system attacks my skin in the form of a blistering rash (it also attacks the placenta, often leading to early labor). I am currently working with my midwives on a solution to this now, but if you have this condition and have not received help, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info! Meanwhile, try making some of the above changes – especially as a first time mom – and save yourself some trouble!
For more pregnancy posts, head up to the menu and click the “Motherhood” category. Blessings!
Photo Credit: Natalie Puls Photography