Excerpts

Chapter 1: You’re Pregnant! Now What?
What Do You Do Now?

Whether it is a pleasant surprise or a result of years of planning, when pregnancy hits infinite questions and quandaries immediately follow. For me they started with simple, predictable puzzlements like, “What about the champagne I threw back on our vacation?” “Are my tight pants still safe to wear?” “Is my daily morning run, hair and beauty products, and mani-pedis dangerous?” “Are hot baths—with bubbles—kosher?” “What shouldn’t I eat?” and “Can I safely have sex, and if so, is it okay to use lubricant?”

And then there are the mental and physical changes. If they haven’t started already, you’re bound to begin feeling some pretty peculiar things and at first not know what to do about them. My second month kicked off with insatiable hunger, soap opera-worthy weepiness, and wide-eyed and inexplicable hour-long wakeups each night at 3am. If you haven’t experienced these treats, don’t get anxious just yet—symptoms are different for everyone and besides, they are bound to change just as soon as you get used to them. (Incidentally, the same can be said for any sleep schedules, behaviors, and rhythms of your baby once he or she is born.)

It only gets more exciting—and weird—from here, so brace yourself, kick up your feet, pour yourself a tall glass of water—especially since now you should be drinking it like it’s your job—and read on for fast facts on what you need to know right now. Once you get through this chapter you’ll have answers to many of your immediate questions. Then you can flip through subsequent sections—which give tons of comforting tips as well as greater detail on many of the cheat sheets listed in this chapter—when you’re in the mood to know more.

Chapter 2: Call A Doctor!
Sorting Out the Medical Minutia

Once you discover you’re pregnant your doctor may see you to confirm your status with a blood test, but you usually won’t begin that oh-so-personal journey with the person who will guide you from inception to delivery until you’re eight to ten weeks along. Why? Because that’s the time they generally like to do the first exam and give you a vaginal ultrasound—the first of many not-so-modest interactions—and tell you whether you’re safely on your way or not. Yes, the days leading up to it can be frustrating and full of anticipation, anxiousness, and impatience. But on the bright side, you can put all of your nervous energy toward setting yourself up with the perfect medical ambassador and palace in which to welcome your baby into the world. In other words, this waiting period is the prime time to get down to the business of picking a birthing facility and delivery doctor, midwife, or whomever else you want to oversee your birth.

Some women follow the prevailing path of using a doctor and giving birth in a hospital. Others go alternative routes with home deliveries and midwives or something in between. Regardless, whether you’re in a position to pop bonbons and linger over soap operas all day or barely have time for a bathroom break, you can—and will—benefit from investing time upfront in sorting out the medical minutia, making some birthing decisions, and taking the following steps so you can rest assured that you’re set up for success. Read on to learn more about your choices and take a peek at this chapter’s pregnancy timeline cheat sheets, which will be here for you any time you want to be reminded how far along you and your baby are in the developmental path to family life.

Chapter 3: Food fun
Thought For Food

Food takes on a whole new meaning to the pregnant woman. For some, cravings can result in quests of biblical proportions; I have one friend who made a three-hour round trip just for a specific brand of fresh salsa. For others, especially women experiencing nausea, edibles are dreadful conduits to nutrition that come up with more ease than they go down. And then there’s the dilemma of weight gain—an activity that has such a stigma among women in this country that it can be very hard to see yourself as hot and heavy.

I’m not going to lie to you. What you put in your body right now matters not only for the health of you and your growing tot, it will also help determine exactly how hard it will be to lose your baby weight afterward. But if you ask me, a lot of the material out there about how we should eat while pregnant is enough to make any mommy who munches on the occasional candy bar feel like she’s committed a fetal-related felony.

If you are the type who feels most comfortable following a strict dietary regime and monitoring every morsel, good for you, but unfortunately, you won’t find bite-by-bite direction here. (Though you can find online and print sources on page 238.) This chapter isn’t going to give you a guilt trip about what you should and shouldn’t eat. It will, however, give you the basic guidelines, tips and facts, a hearty dollop of sympathy, and some tasty cravings recipes. Eat up the details here and you can make informed decisions, go about your daily business, and rest assured that you’re taking good care of your baby even if the only thing you can hold down on a particular day is a burrito from Taco Bell. Besides, there’s no reason to sweat your swelling: If you’re becoming Violet Beaurigard minus the blueberry hue, your practitioner will let you know.

Chapter 4: Cruisin’ for a Snooze-In
Beauty Sleep

I don’t have to tell you how important sleep is during pregnancy. If you haven’t already, you’re likely to soon experience bouts of exhaustion that make zombies seem as energetic as NFL cheerleaders compared to you. The way to remedy it? Sleep! And sleep a lot—whenever you need it and have the luxury. While you aren’t likely to feel tired for the entire prenatal duration, you will face a variety of changes that require you to continually alter your rest routines. But you can and will look and feel your best—even when you’re ready to fall face-first into your soup during dinner—if you create and make the best use of an environment and routine conducive to beauty sleep. Read on for A-list ideas on how to get the best Zs. While some of these tricks will be more relevant early on and others will become important later in the game, all of them can help you turn your bed into your best friend.

Chapter 5: The Moody Blues
Lost That Loving Feeling?

During the course of writing this book several mommies expressed to me how unprepared they were for the emotional side of pregnancy. The physical effects were obvious enough, but apparently not everyone knew that the crazy hormone cocktail the pregnant body is continually swilling can momentarily propel even the most relaxed, jovial mommy-to-be into states of belligerence, hopelessness, or fury over things as trivial as a television commercial or missing tub of ice cream. Tack on common pregnancy concerns, such as what the future will be like, the state of your fetus’s health, strained familial relationships, or how your marriage, job, or friendships will change after you’re a mom and you’ve got every excuse to have full-blown freak-outs on a regular basis.

If you’re not feeling funky, don’t future trip that you will. Not everyone internally combusts. Some mommies are in a perpetual state of pregnant bliss, others find the experience to be about as fun as an IRS audit, and some cruise through the trimesters hitting the occasional PMS-like road bump with nary a bruise to show for it. But should you find yourself falling into a deep dark hole of sadness, anxiety, fear, or just plain pregnancy insanity, read the following measures that can help you find your emotional footing.

Chapter 6: Home Remedies
Cures For Common Calamities

While the Medication Cheat Sheet on page 27 lists a few over-the-counter relief options that doctors give the a-okay, most medicines are no-no’s during the baby waiting game. Still, there’s backache, absurdly sensitive breasts, constipation, hemorrhoids, frequent urination, chapped lips, bloody noses, scary skin changes, headaches, gas, mood swings, nausea, vomiting, swelling feet, and stuffy noses to contend with. And those are just a few of the common calamities. So what can you do to mitigate the endless, unfortunate, but totally normal prenatal problems? First, aim for good nutrition as best you can. Anyone who’s felt the unpleasant after effects of dining on little more than caffeine or sugar for even a day knows how nutrition or lack of it can affect your overall state—and that’s without pregnancy hormones kicking in. Second, browse through this chapter for safe, sane, and fast ways to sooth maternity’s mental and physical sagas, or at least have a good laugh.

Chapter 7: Everyday Indulgences
The Art of Pampering

To me, “pampering” is anything you do specifically to take care of and treat yourself in a special way that goes beyond the everyday. A pampering gesture can be as simple as a breath of fresh air or a soothing bath, as elaborate as a spa weekend or a shopping spree. It can range from a guiltless fruit smoothie or a shameless piece of triple chocolate cake. It can cost nothing but a few free moments, or enough to make your credit card company place your account on hold.

In the throes of morning sickness, exhaustion, forgetfulness, and the awkward experience of the ever-expanding body, even the most proactive pregnant woman can forget to pamper herself—not to mention how to do it. If you need a little schooling or just a few fun ideas on how to perk up your day, flip through the following pages for heart-tickling treats, Mommy Menagerie favorites, and–when times get really tough–ways to help you forget for a moment that you’re a human zeppelin on stumpy bloated stilts.

Chapter 8: The Essentials of Exercise
The Benefits of Breaking a Sweat

I’ve always been a physical person and have long appreciated the self-confidence, heightened energy level, and euphoria that come with working out, so it seemed perfectly logical to me to continue exercising throughout all three trimesters. However, today’s paranoid and decidedly delicate view of pregnancy can make even the most active mommy-to-be fear that a simple morning jog might run that little fetus right out of your yoo-hoo. If you fall into the fearful camp, it may be soothing to know that according to virtually all current medical sources, including top pregnancy resource The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now may not be the time to take up boxing, football, snowboarding, or other intense new sports. But creating or continuing some kind of exercise regime can dramatically improve everything from your state of mind to the state of your behind. Still married to the couch? Consider all of the perks: According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, exercising now will increase your energy level; relieve constipation, leg cramps, bloating, and swelling; lift spirits; help you relax; improve your posture and quality of sleep; promote muscle tone; control gestational diabetes, fight back-pain, give you the extra stamina and strength to help with labor and delivery; and possibly even shorten and ease the efforts of getting your Mini Me out into the world. Need more reason? How’s sheer vanity? A little athletic investment now will give you a head start in getting back in shape after the birth.

What more do you need to know, other than that forgiving and comfy yoga pants may quickly become your new best friend? Read on for fitness facts, tips on how to ease pregnancy pains, and plenty of encouragement to work it out.

Chapter 9: Pregnancy & Your Partner
Transitioning to a Threesome

Many partners don’t feel particularly connected to pregnancy or understand that you have new needs that must be addressed. And given that the party is all going on inside your body, it’s no wonder. They don’t sense the queasiness that arises from a whiff of lobster bisque, experience the intense internal changes (though surely many of them revel in the expanding bust line), or feel inclined to disown family members for eating the last bowl of cereal. And from what I’ve heard from mommy friends, they generally aren’t reading pregnancy books to help enlighten them. Unless they are pregnant or have been pregnant, it’s impossible for partners to wrap their heads around the new you. In fact, they may not truly grasp that their pregnant partner is indeed changing until there is physical evidence in the form of a midsection metamorphism—and I’m not just talking big breasts; I mean a full-blown basketball tummy.

Plainly put, you’re having a very intimate and exclusive new relationship with someone else while your partner stands on the sidelines without the faintest idea of what’s really going on—other than perhaps that he (or she) is now supposed to be supportive in some new and different way. For some couples navigating the nuances of this new threesome is as effortless as sailing along with a blowing afternoon breeze. But for others it can be as strenuous as trying to go against the flow without a mast—without the proper steering equipment, there’s no knowing whether you’ll crash onto the rocks or sail into the sunset. Should you feel as though your relationship has been cast into the wind without solid direction, read on for perspective, understanding, and communication tools to help turn the tides.

Chapter 10: Pregnancy Preening
Waddle With Some Style

From my perspective there is absolutely nothing worse about pregnancy than fashion. It’s one thing to feel like a walking barf bag, bundle of raging hormones, or overstuffed sausage. But to feel like that on the inside and look just as miserable on the outside can be a real downer for even the most upbeat mommy-to-be—especially since beyond having to surrender your body, you may also sense your personal style going the way of your waistline. I’m here to tell you that needn’t be the case.

More and more clothing companies are catering to the maternity shopper, but apparently many of them also know that there’s little a pregnant woman won’t do or pay for something—anything!—to make her look better and feel more comfortable. Thus, you might reach a point where spending $80 on a cute fitted T-shirt seems like a small price to pay for a little style sanity. But if you read these pages, you’ll have more affordable escape routes should you choose not to blow your unborn child’s college tuition on a wardrobe that you are guaranteed to despise in less than a year. Of course if you have that kind of money to spend, power to you, sister!

Regardless, this chapter offers myriad ways to feel and look at least somewhat like your old self as you waddle down life’s runway, including practical guidelines for what to buy and what to avoid, Mommy Menagerie fashion tips, beauty basics, and lots and lots of empathy. Once you’ve got it dialed, flip to page 182 for shopping sources.

Chapter 11: The Weighting Game
Healthy Ways to Size Yourself Up

Losing your self-esteem is not a pregnancy prerequisite. In fact, you may feel more fabulous and purposeful than you ever have before. I, for one, definitely wish that for you and hope that you have no reason to read this chapter. But if you ever find yourself looking through the judgmental, self-critical, weight-obsessed mirror that most of us regularly reflect on, you might enjoy a few tips on how to healthily approach and embrace your royally round body. You’ll find ‘em here, along with insight and empathy from the Mommy Menagerie.

Chapter 12: The Ins and Outs of Pregnancy Sex
Romancing While Round-Bellied

A pregnant sex life can be sensational, stifled, or depressing, depending on the circumstances, parties involved, emotions and communication skills at hand, and desire or lack thereof. Fortunately, there’s more than one way to keep the romance alive. You’ll find ways to do that here, along with important facts, preferred positions, and everything else you may not want to ask Mom.

Given that you’re reading this book you obviously know how to have sex. But you may not be as well versed in the particulars of pregnancy sex. If you’re the least bit curious—and who isn’t? It’s sex after all!—read on for things you might want to know before you stumble upon them beneath the sheets.

Chapter 13: Shop ‘Til You Pop!
Shopping for You

Whether you want maternity jeans, belly-hugging shirts, or snuggly PJs, this section gives you enough choices to traipse through all three trimesters in comfort and style. But be sure to brush up on each store’s return policy before you commit. Most of the online sources listed below accept returns within a specific timeframe ranging from one week to three months, although intimates and sale items tend to be final. A receipt and the attached original tags are usually required and refunds rarely include shipping costs in either direction, which is one more reason to shop with care.

Shopping for Baby
Buying for baby is a slippery slope. You head to the store with the specific agenda of finding a changing table pad or nose aspirator, but stumble onto infinite painfully adorable things that you don’t need but absolutely have to have.

I found this to be especially true of clothing, although when I was five months pregnant I did rationalize buying a ridiculously expensive rocking horse that neighed and made galloping sounds when you pinched its ears; it’s been two years and counting since then and Viva’s still not old enough to ride it, but boy does it look cute in her room.

Then there are those treacherous layette lists, which dictate everything you should load up on before baby comes and often include more than you really need. (A layette is just a fancy word for a set of newborn’s essential clothes and accessories.) Invariably, shopping for baby becomes a combination of wants and needs. The trick is balancing those without breaking the bank.

There so many stores hawking crazy-cute baby stuff that an entire book could be dedicated to the best places to shop to fill your nursery, car, yard, and heart. But for the sake of space and your bank account I’ve listed only a smattering of favorites, from cheap and practical to fantastically frivolous. Before you browse, you might want to check out the tips in Chapter 14, which offers insight into how to save money, skip foolish purchases, and shop sensibly.

Chapter 14: Ready Or Not…
Preparing for the big day and beyond.

Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible to be truly ready for the next phase, unless you are already a mommy and know the drill. However you slice it, the transition is that dramatic. But you can make the change easier by planning ahead and stocking up on essentials. Take a peek here for fast information on how to prepare for the delivery-room dash, the gear you’ll need for your newborn, and must-have new mommy equipment.

Chapter 15: You’re A Mom! Now What?
Welcome to the Club!

Congratulations! You made it! You’ve officially joined the ranks of the mommy menagerie. (Or maybe you’re reading this chapter before the big day, which isn’t a bad idea since new parents have little time to read.) I’ve kept this section short and sweet because there really isn’t much to caring for a newborn other than to repeatedly feed, burp, diaper, cuddle, and soothe him or her. Besides, the minute I had my daughter I dropped the pregnancy books and picked up the baby-care tomes. I imagine you’ll do the same. So, brush up on the need-to-know details and get on with enjoying that wrinkly ball of deliciousness, squeezing in naps, or arguing with your partner because you’re too damned tired to do anything else.