Pregnancy has a way of, shall I say, shifting priorities. Taking up life space. Refocusing your attention.
And I have found, with any major life change or transition, it’s helpful to choose a very few things to prioritize (i.e., 3–5). Rather than still try to plow through at normal speed and a full docket of roles and responsibilities (which for me inevitably ends in frustration and burning out), decide on the few things you will fight for. And let the rest go.
When I had my first prenatal appointment, something my midwife said helped me decide upon my pregnancy priorities: Pregnancy is like training for a marathon. Labor and delivery is one of the most physically (not to mention mentally and emotionally) strenuous activities you will ever do, and you need to prepare for it much in the same way.
That really shaped how I thought about pregnancy, and what I prioritized when push came to shove.
Eat healthy. As anyone who has trained for a major athletic event knows, proper nutrition is essential. And it looks more like salads and smoothies than sweets and sodas.
Yes, for the first trimester, as many a preggo, I was often only able to palette white foods — bread, pasta, crackers, and the like. That’s totally ok, and normal. I definitely had several weeks where I couldn’t even think about vegetables without getting nauseous. But over the course of pregnancy, I focused on eating whole, real, unprocessed foods and minimizing sugar and junk food. I’ll likely write more thoughts on food during pregnancy at a later date, but that’s where I’ll leave it for now.
Stay hydrated. If I’m training for a marathon, I’m definitely going to need to drink a lot of water.
I have learned that water helps with all kinds of things during pregnancy, including helping you absorb all the nutrients you need; preventing UTIs, constipation, and hemorrhoids; and helping reduce likelihood of headaches, fatigue, and swelling. As for quantifying ‘a lot’ of water, the rule of thumb I tried to go by even before being pregnant was drinking half my body weight in ounces. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, the goal would be to drink 75 ounces of water a day (1 liter = 32 ounces). I definitely don’t always get to that goal. But throughout my pregnancy I would keep a 32 ounce water bottle with me and try to drink one by lunch, and another by dinner (or before I left work), in addition to whatever other sources of hydration I consumed.
Exercise regularly. Stating the obvious here, but if you’re training for a marathon, you need to work out. As in, seriously train.
But I wasn’t setting out to train for a marathon, and pregnancy certainly places some limits on what you can and cannot do (e.g., cycling or skiing later in pregnancy isn’t quite as feasible as yoga or swimming). Assuming you already exercise regularly, I’ve generally heard that if you can maintain your pre-pregnancy exercise regimen throughout pregnancy, that’s great (again, with caveats). My midwives strongly encourage 30–60 minutes of daily exercise (and walking counts!). I swam 3–4 times a week before pregnancy, and for the most part maintained that through pregnancy, while also adding in one day a week of great pregnancy video series that I happened upon. Plus living in a city, I get in a fair amount of walking day-to-day. Let me tell you, in weeks 8–12 when I had serious morning sickness, and in weeks 36–40+ when I was big and tired, it was not easy to actually exercise 3–4 days a week. But because it was one of the very few things I chose to prioritize and fight for, I won the battle more days than I lost.
Rest well. When my friends who have run marathons talk about their long training days, they basically say they get up early and do a long run, then sleep. Training is tiring, and the body needs rejuvenation for all the extra work.
That being said, this was a hard one for me to prioritize, because I couldn’t always “see” the work I was doing, especially in the first trimester, which is in some ways the most exhausting (now, carrying 25+ extra pounds around all day at the end of pregnancy, that’s a different story). I also am a Do-er, and it was difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that rest wasn’t doing nothing, but SOME(very-important)THING for me and my baby. My husband was better at helping me prioritize this one. He would say, “You are growing a human. That is a full time job on top of your full time job! You need more rest.” And he was 100% right. So I slept in when I could. Took baths. Got massages. Streamlined my/our calendar so I had more unscheduled nights/weekends. Let the dishes sit in the sink. And napped like a champ. I regret exactly 0 of that.
That’s it. Really and truly. Yes, I still lived my life and did other things while pregnant. But for me it was helpful to decide very early on what I would fight for and work to maintain as my life got jostled by pregnancy. Things I thought would ultimately be the most important to promote a healthy and sane pregnancy.
What did you choose to prioritize during pregnancy? How did this practically play out for you?