I’m still ambivalent about posting about this whole pregnancy thing, but I figure now that the bump’s out of the bag, I might as well write something to help make pregnancy a smidgen easier for someone else going through the miracle of temporarily having your internal organs reorganized. Because, seriously, miracle that it is and immensely grateful as I am, everyone knows that pregnancy is no five course meal at a fancy restaurant — in fact, it’s a lot more like steering clear of all restaurants, kitchens and places where people congregate to eat for the first several dreadful months, because where there is food, there are food smells and where there are food smells, there is nausea. It’s just science.
This post will not answer the quandary I googled repeatedly in early pregnancy: “How to survive the first trimester”. None of the responses I got were satisfactory and I’m convinced that it’s because there is not a satisfactory answer. Aside from the obvious: “Just don’t get pregnant in the first place.”
Okay, that sounded cynical and ungrateful and as desperately unhelpful as when people tell me that I’m never going to sleep or have a moment to myself again. But I honestly meant it to be funny. And true. Because when your body is doing the most important work of its life and needs only the best of what nutrition can offer, but you're eating Oreos for breakfast, because you're all out of chocolate pudding -- and chocolate-flavoured junk food is the only thing you find remotely palatable -- well, you question the sanity of all your life decisions and wish you hadn't gotten yourself into this mess in the first place.
Nonetheless, I imagine that if you’re reading this, you’re either already in the midst of this glorious mess or you hope to be soon or you’re not at all in that stage of life and you just like me a lot. If you fall into any of the above categories, the “just don’t get pregnant” joke is profoundly unhelpful. Sorry about that.
Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of products that were profoundly helpful, because while it can't buy happiness, money sure can buy you a little more comfort. My husband rolls his eyes whenever I find something new that I need to buy and/or try for this pregnancy, but honestly, I haven't regretted any of these purchases and he’s not the one growing a person in his body, so he’s learned to close his mouth and hand me my credit card. There were, of course, a few things I could've done without, like Preggie Pop Drops (which somehow made me even more nauseous) but that's a post for another day.
1. Comfy Clothes
This comes first not only because this did start as a fashion blog, but also because maternity clothes were my first pregnancy-specific purchase. This is not a look good, feel good kind of suggestion, but an honest to goodness, feel good, feel good suggestion. My regular skirts and tops lasted me a while, even after I’d gone out and bought special, bump-accommodating threads. But I bloated/popped early and got pregnant when it was still cold out, so my regular tights/leggings were the first thing to go. I picked myself up a pair of Pea in a Pod maternity leggings when I was just 7 weeks and I never looked back. They are kind of expensive, but they are also insanely comfortable. They are soft and stretchy and the belly panel can either be worn over you bump or folded under it, so that there’s nothing tight on your tummy — a fab feature when any tight clothing on your torso immediately sets off your gag reflex. I wore the same pair almost every day until the weather got warm enough to skip tights/leggings all together. Moral of the story: When it comes to maternity clothes, ignore the calendar and let your comfort determine when it’s time to break out the stretchy pants.
2. Pregnancy Body Pillow
This was my second big purchase, around 11 weeks. I totally thought these things were for belly support and unnecessary until at least the end of the second trimester, but how wrong I was. Sleeping on your side is usually the best/most comfortable option while carrying a tiny person in your belly, but for some reason this position wreaks havoc on your pregnant hips. Also, for some reason, pregnancy brings on a need to sleep inside a fortress of pillows. A fortress, I’m telling you. One between your knees, one behind your back, another to hold onto and one or two beneath your head. While a fortress of pillows is great and all, it all comes crashing to the ground when you try to roll over (another frequent necessity) and you have to wake up to retrieve your fortress from the floor beside the bed. I’m exhausted just remembering the fitful sleep from that tumultuous time in my life.
Enter the pregnancy body pillow. These come in several shapes and sizes. My personal favourite (and the only one I’ve tried) is called the Snoogle. Yes, my mother makes fun of the name and of the pillow itself, but it is a lifesaver — er, a sleep-saver, but you can let me know when you figure out what the difference is. It’s not too big, not too small, stays put through my all-night adventure of tossing and turning and provides great back/hip/head/arm/bump support regardless of whether I face it or turn away from it. Take that, pillow fortress!
3. Belly Support Band
This is one that I held off on buying until recently, because I didn’t want to buy it and then hate it/find it unnecessary/find that the symptom du jour that it was meant to alleviate would dissipate as suddenly as it arrived, never to be heard from again. I knew, deep down, that the second I bought it, I’d wonder where it had been all my life and why I hadn’t bought it sooner. I (as always) was right. I got this one, because it’s the one my doulas recommended and they insisted it’s the best one out there. I have no point of comparison, because I took their advice and only got this one, but it’s pretty damn fabulous. It soothes my aching lower back and hips, helps me with the whole holding-up-my-belly thing and majorly soothes with round ligament pain. It’s especially helpful when I go for a walk or I’m out and about all day, because all three of these issues seem to be most prevalent when I’m particularly active. If you can call waddling down the street at a toddler’s pace "active." I should have gotten it months ago, because even then, the effort of holding my belly up for the duration of a long walk made my muscles feel incredibly sad and this thing makes them happy.
The one caveat is that the material it's made of doesn't breathe at all, so it makes me incredibly sticky and sweaty, whether I wear it directly on my skin or over a layer of clothing. This is an annoyance I can deal with (because let's face it, I'm pregnant in the summer, so my body's a furnace anyways) and the relief it provides is way worth it.
4. Exercise/Birth Ball
For this I got a regular, inexpensive exercise ball from Walmart. I’m not sure how much I’ll use it/want it during my birth, but it’s great for sitting on at my desk (like I’m doing now) because it really relieves my hip/lower back pain and allows me to bounce/roll around while typing (because I just can’t sit still). I also see myself sitting/bouncing on it with the baby, because that seems like it’ll have the same soothing effect as bouncing/swaying with the baby, with the added bonus of not having to stand.
Pro-tip: I had never owned such a ball before and I thought it was completely inflated before it was even close -- it looks full of air before it's fully full of air. Get someone who knows what they're doing to help you if need be and make sure it's neither over- or under-inflated. You should be able to sit on it with your knees bent at a ninety degree angle.
5. Compression Stockings
I got these before a few-hour flight, because they say you should wear compression stockings when flying to help with circulation and avoid blood clots. I bought them out of a sense of duty and kept them out of a sense of love and gratitude. They help so much with uncomfortable calf and foot swelling — a glamorous solution to a glamorous problem — and also make leg cramps a lot more bearable.
I’m not sure exactly which ones I got, but I have two pairs: one pair is a drugstore brand in a "flattering" nude color and one is an actual brand (don't ask me what brand!) in black. Go for the non-generic brand, they’re more comfortable and clearly better quality. Also, please get black, they look much less revolting. On days when you must wear these beauties out of the house and it's the middle of the summer and/or you're only wearing one because you only need relief in one foot/leg, I'd advise pairing them with a maxi-length skirt or dress. Out of sight, almost out of mind.
6. A good ice-bag/hot water bottle
First, these are adorable and that should be enough said — not enough pregnancy-related things can/should be described as adorable. Second, these help with everything. You can fill it with hot water or ice, depending on what ails you and what you feel you need. It's the perfect size to easily use anywhere on your body. (Disclaimer: the actual product listing on Amazon says nothing about using it with hot water, but my mom says it's fine and my mom knows everything.)
A few things I’ve used mine for, thus far: Heat on my shoulders/neck/head for stress/hormone-induced headaches. Cold on my head for these same headaches. Heat on my calf for leg cramps. Heat on my very sore first-trimester-breasts. (Did I just use the word breasts on my frum modest fashion blog? Sorry, not sorry.) That one time I thought that a nice warm compress on my tummy would help with the nausea.
When I wanted something that I could wrap around my tense neck during a bad headache, I once filled a tube sock with rice, tied off the end and microwaved it in 30 second increments until it was nice and hot. This worked really well, but the hot water bottle is nice because you can use it on Shabbos by filling it with hot water from the urn and it doesn’t even need to be half-way full to “work,” so you don't need to use that much precious urn water. This is an important consideration because for some reason I always end up needing it on Shabbos.
7. A strong, Hand-Held Fan
I would never have even thought of this, but one night I was hanging out with my mom and (way past my first trimester) I suddenly became incredibly nauseous and uncomfortable and anxious. I needed something to eat, no, I needed some space to breathe, no, I… “Mommy, what is HAPPENING?”
No, this was not a reprise of morning sickness, it was my entry into the wonderful world of hot flashes — they’re not just for menopausal ladies, apparently. They’re also for pregnant ladies, because… of course they are. We randomly had an amazing little fan lying around the house and it is perfection. It is a godsend when those fiery flashes of hell begin to rise through my body and make me wonder if my sweet little babe is lighting a bonfire in there.
There you have it, seven incredible products to help you survive the most exciting time of your life. What helps/helped you make it through the never-ending list of symptoms that make up pregnancy?
*The companies that manufacture and sell these products have no idea I exist. All opinions are mine and mine alone.*