How I prepare for pregnancy

Pregnancy is grueling. I’ve heard twin pregnancies are especially so, but of course I have no point of comparison. After three twin pregnancies, I figured out a few things about how to prepare for pregnancy.

This to-do list is most important to me during the first trimester and late third trimester, but it can make the entire pregnancy easier too.

Move, move, move

For me, a focus on fitness starts at the end of my last pregnancy (or before getting pregnant if you don’t have kids yet). Don’t worry if you’re already pregnant and don’t work out. Just stay as active as you can relative to your pre-pregnancy activity level.

As soon my OB clears me for exercise, I start doing rehab. This includes things like bird dogs, ITYs, box squats with minimal to no weight, and glute bridges. These exercises are meant to get my muscles and joints moving in the correct patterns again. Since I was wearing a 30-pound beach ball on my abdomen until very recently, my biomechanics are kind of screwed up by the end of pregnancy.

This is the first step I take to prepare for pregnancy… again. I set goal weights for dead lift, barbell squats, dumbbell bench press, and dumbbell rows just to give myself a concrete metric of strength before the next pregnancy.

If you find it difficult to make time for workouts, look for a YMCA or another gym that has childcare cheap or free with your gym membership. Your health and happiness are worth leaving your child in someone else’s care for a few hours each week. You’ll be a better parent for it.

Cook ahead

One of the highest priorities on my to-do list right now is coming up with a loose meal plan for the next 2-3 months. Assuming this embryo transfer succeeds, I expect morning sickness and extreme fatigue for about 10 weeks starting the second to last week of August.

Feed the children!

To prepare for pregnancy in the first trimester, I need to make my days as simple and low energy as possible. I can make grilled cheese or noodle salad ahead of time, freeze it, and then thaw it in the microwave right before serving it. If I were to make it the day of, it’d take at least 5-10 minutes of active prep time. Microwaving takes about 10-20 seconds to dump it into a dish, shove it through the door, and push some buttons. Most of the work is passive prep time. While the microwave works, I can lay on the kitchen floor and conserve energy.

You can bet I’ll be using my Quick meals for kids (and tired parents) because I will be one tired mama!

Feed the pregnant lady!

I have some idea of what I can eat. I’ve never had much in the way of cravings, but I have some very strong food aversions. Garlic and onions are out. Spicy food might be okay in first trimester, but it’s not after that. Acidic foods are also out after first trimester. Basil and mint are good during first trimester since they help with nausea.

One of the best dishes for me is sort of like pasta primavera. I cook noodles, mix in roasted veggies and maybe canned tomatoes, drizzle it with olive oil, maybe sprinkle some parmesan and salt, and then add liberal amounts of fresh or dried basil, depending on what is available. If I can stomach it, I’ll add extra mozzarella for protein. More likely is that I’ll have a couple of breaded chicken fingers on the side or a protein shake. Meat is really hard for me during first trimester.

To prepare for pregnancy, I’ll stock up on the chicken fingers I’ve been able to eat during past pregnancies. I’ll make sure I have plenty of basil and protein shake options. I might even have bags of cooked pasta in the freezer. Remember active versus passive prep time for the kids’ food? Same for mine.

Set up babysitting

We have cultivated a handful of babysitters. To prepare for pregnancy this time, we have several sitters who are 12-15 years old. I wouldn’t use them for a date night out, but they’re good with the kids if an adult is on call for any problems. We usually need two sitters to keep up with all six kids and two 12 year olds have enough energy to do that even if they lack the experience to do things more efficiently.

Our current schedule of childcare gives me free time 9:30am to 1:30pm Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and 4pm or 5pm through the kids’ bedtime free on Sundays, Mondays, and Wednesdays. The only time I’ll have all the kids while Jeff has to work is Tuesday mornings because the preschool teacher takes the four big kids on Thursday mornings. Saint that she is, she’s also offered to try to help with the babies if I need to lay down for a bit.

It takes a community to raise a child, and it also takes a community to get mom through the pregnancy to have the child (or children, in my case). I suppose you can be stubbornly independent and do everything yourself, but I don’t recommend it.

Brainstorm low-energy stuff for kids

Meaning low energy for me. The kids can burn all the energy they want!

Screens: harmful or helpful?

Screens get a bad rap in society right now. I can see where they have the potential to cause behavioral problems and brain rot, but occasional use of the electronic babysitter will not turn my children into delinquents. I am very careful about the content I allow my kids to watch. Unless it is music, I strive for some educational component even if it is a bit beyond my kids’ understanding right now. As long as the content is not inappropriate for their ages, it’s fine if they don’t understand everything.

I admit that YouTube is part of prepare for pregnancy survival plan. So are the Magic School Bus DVDs, maybe Schoolhouse Rock or Liberty Kids, and probably some other wholesome shows I have yet to find. I highly recommend some of Jack Hartmann’s content. It is educational, the kids like it, he speaks clearly, and it doesn’t drive me to throw things at the TV.

Low mess toys

We may not us play-doh, play in the sand box, or do many crafts on my watch for the next couple of months. I may also remind the kids that the dogs will eat all their toys if they leave them outside the toy room. Sometimes the “why” of cleaning up has to be more compelling than a more pleasant environment or preserving mom and dad’s sanity.

Look at the husband’s calendar

Actually, it’s my calendar. He puts stuff on it sometimes and, just as often, I put his stuff on it so I can plan around his appointments and travel. I am thankful that he doesn’t travel much. Unfortunately, this month is particularly busy. Fortunately, all of his travel is before morning sickness kicks in.

I may have considered that when agreeing to the embryo transfer date.

I also considered that Jeff needs ankle surgery soon-ish. He could schedule it in as little as 2-3 weeks, but neither of us is ready for that. The best time is in early second trimester so that the surgery and the bulk of his recovery fall during the relatively easy second trimester. Part of the way I prepare for pregnancy is I make sure we’ve considered all major events and time or energy sinks that we can anticipate.

Stock up!: Meds and supplies

I know I’ll need miralax and ranitidine at some point. I’ll probably want ondansetron (a.k.a. Zofran) on hand. In addition to these as-needed medications, I take magnesium and a B-vitamin complex nightly to stave off migraines. My third pregnancy was the first time I had a problem with them, but I’m not taking any chances. I always take a daily prenatal vitamin, whether or not I’m pregnant.

On the more… personal and TMI side of things, I’ll have a healthy supply of panty liners for pregnancy-related discharge. You all who have been pregnant know what I mean. If this is your first pregnancy, at least get a small pack. You can always get more later.

Lastly…

I need to mentally prepare myself to let things go. If the table isn’t as clean as I’d like, good enough. If we use paper plates a few times a week so I don’t have to wash dishes as much, fine. Part of preparing for pregnancy is preparing oneself to lower standards and acknowledge that the pregnant woman probably cannot do everything the non-pregnant, better rested (relatively) woman can.

I also need to prepare to lean on others and even ask for help so we don’t get too far in the hole as far as house upkeep or quality time with the kids.

Pregnancy is not a disease. It is quite natural and normal, but it is still a gruelling marathon from first trimester through third and even into the fourth trimester.

Wait, fourth trimester? That’s right, the marathon doesn’t end when the babies come out. Postpartum survival is a separate post for a different day.

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