10 Things I learned During my First Pregnancy

I’m now officially a few days away from my due date. And it’s crazy to me that by the end of the weekend, this child who has been growing inside me for ~40 weeks will be joining this external world.

Though I haven’t yet actually delivered the child, I can’t help but reminisce on the things that I’ve learned during this pregnancy.

Lesson 1 – The internet is evil.

Researching medical problems on the internet is a terrible thing to do and that also applies to pregnancy. There are the obvious things that you know are OK, but when researching things you may question like whether you can eat cheese, drink coffee, workout, etc., your likelihood of receiving a positive response is very low.

Even the articles you receive from pregnancy apps are littered with lists of “things to avoid”. At a high-level, they’re all great to know, but majority of these “facts” haven’t actually been proven; they’re just risks. So when in doubt, ask your OB and not the internet!

Lesson 2 – No matter how many times people tell you to get as much sleep as possible because you won’t get it later, it’s so hard to control.

I can’t tell you how many people told me to enjoy my sleep now because I won’t get it later. It makes sense logically, but sometimes it’s just not realistic. Some people get great sleep during their pregnancy, which is amazing. But good sleep for me became a rarity once I was in my second trimester and could no longer sleep on my back.

I’m a back-sleeper, so sleeping on my side through the entire night, even though I was switching sides was so painful for my hips and IT bands. It was manageable through my second trimester but got much more painful as my bump grew. So if you’re someone that says this, or someone that hears this, please know that it’s relative. At the end of the day you can only do the best you can.

Lesson 3 – Pregnancy care varies based on the country you live in.

I know that every country may have different laws around maternity leave, but I never thought about how the care could differ as well. Three differences that I’ve noticed between Hong Kong and the US are:

  1. “Fit to Fly Notice” – If you live in Asia you are not allowed to fly without an “Fit to Fly Notice” provided by your healthcare provider if you are 28 weeks or over as it’s considered a liability for the airline. That said, they won’t ask if you’re not really showing or if you’ve hidden it, but if you mention it even to get a better seat, be prepared to show the notice. In the States however, there doesn’t seem to be an issue with travel as long as you’re feeling well. My sister-in-law was 8 months when she flew into town for our wedding and I had another friend who was flying at 34 weeks. Neither were once stopped from boarding their flight.
  2. Sonograms for every check-up – One of the things that is amazing about Hong Kong healthcare is that sonograms are part of every visit. That’s how they confirm how the baby is doing, and I loved seeing the baby each time I went. I didn’t know, however, that this is not normal in the States. Most people in the States typically get sonograms based on need and/or for the milestone check-ups. Their providers might offer it for regular ones as well, but most people turn it down because it’s an additional cost.
  3. The help – The type, amount, and affordability of help in Hong Kong is by far the biggest and most impactful difference to me. I was so nervous about being pregnant, moving here, and starting a new career all at the same time, but I quickly learned that affordable help is not only super accessible, it’s also common. That said, daycare doesn’t exist in Hong Kong. So if you want your child to bond with other kids before they start school, you have to find playgroups which might take a while to find and definitely don’t last all day. So thank goodness for the help!

Lesson 4 – Mom guilt starts from the moment you realize you’re pregnant.

I found out that I was pregnant right before rehearsal for a performance that was two weeks away. My mom was pretty nervous about this of course, but I had been rehearsing without knowing I was pregnant this whole time, so what’s another two weeks? That said, our performances are never anything short of intense so I understood her concern.

The performance went well, but the next day, I had a very minor spotting situation that freaked me out so I called my mom. I’m her first born so she’s naturally anxious about my significant life events, but pregnancy takes the cake. She immediately freaked out and responded by saying something similar to, “Omg, what did you do…”

I felt HORRIBLE. But my sister contacted her gynecologist friend who helped me understand that whatever was happening wasn’t my fault, that it was OK to have performed the night before because my body was used to it, and most importantly that that spotting is common and there’s no need for concern unless it got worse (which it didn’t). She made me feel better, but I still felt pangs of guilt about performing the night before; that I may have done something to hurt my baby. And I know I would have felt like this even if my mom didn’t respond that way.

I used to think mom guilt was something that you only felt once the the child is born. I had no idea it could start while they were still growing inside of you. But the reality is that unless you intentionally do something that you know can cause harm, whatever happens during your pregnancy is not your fault. That said, it’s so hard to not blame yourself. The struggle is real, so if you ever feel it, know that it’s normal! PS – my mom became more easy-going after this 😉

Lesson 5 – Mom-shaming also starts at the time you realize you’re pregnant.

Just like any kind of shaming, mom-shaming is something that occurs both consciously and subconsciously. And also like mom guilt, I thought it only really started when the baby is born, so I was a bit surprised when I experienced it during my pregnancy. At ~16 weeks, I was talking to a woman in Hong Kong and mentioned that I had just started pursuing a solo career. Her immediate response was, “Do it before you have the baby because once that happens, you won’t be able to do anything else.”

I know that some women feel that way, so it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. I later learned that she had a great career that she stopped just after she her first kid and never went back. This may have been the right decision for her and her family, but it was not OK for her to project that on me.

In any case, I quickly realized that mom-shaming starts as soon as you discover that fetus. So if it ever happens to you, take it with a grain of salt and continue doing what works for you.

Lesson 6 – Watching yourself physically slow down can be tough.

At least it was for me. I started noticing this at ~26 weeks when we were in Sydney, Australia for our babymoon. We did the coastal walk from Bondi Beach to Coogee Beach which we were told should only take 30-40 minutes, but 20 minutes into the walk, we had only made it less than half way. We, of course, stopped to take pictures and enjoy the view, but it was then that I realized how much I was slowing down.

And it’s not just your walking pace that changes, your overall stamina changes as well. This is normal of course, and the amount of change varies for everyone, but it was difficult for me to come to terms with it. I started thinking about what it might be like for people who were mentally resilient even though their body wasn’t, and felt so sympathetic for them. It was really hard to watch myself slow down, but it helped knowing that it’s temporary, hopefully.

Lesson 7 – You may forget what you used to look like until you see a picture.

This might be another “me” thing, but as I started getting into my third trimester, I would see pictures of myself pre-pregnancy and be surprised that I ever looked like that. In the grand scheme of things, pregnancy goes by quickly. But as you get further into it, it’s as though your mind convinces you that you might have always looked like this. In some ways it’s great because you can get away with wearing things that you may have felt awkward in before, like a two-piece bikini. But it also made me wonder if I’ll ever get back to my old body.

I have friends who have slowly gotten back to their old body over time (this is more common), some who have snapped back in a month, and then others who after time ended up looking better than before!

So if you ever feel this way, come back to the present and remember that you’re doing something amazing!

Lesson 8 – It’s OK to take advantage of your pregnancy – you’ve earned it.

You’re actively building a human. I used to feel bad about people doing things for me, standing in the “special person’s” lane when going through the passport check-in, but this was mainly during my first and second trimester. As soon as I hit my third trimester, I stopped feeling bad and started accepting it.

The reality is that if I didn’t want to injure or tire myself too much, I needed to accept that I couldn’t do everything on my own and take the help when it’s offered. It’s really amazing how people come out of the woodwork to support you during this time, and it makes me excited to return the support!

Lesson 9 – If you never liked rewearing your clothes, you might need to accept it for now…at least to some extent.

I never knew how annoying it is to dress a continually changing body until I saw that clothes that I’d be able to wear one week may no longer fit the next. Even maternity clothes only start to fit when you get to a certain point. Thankfully, I figured out how to  take advantage of my existing wardrobe (click the link for suggestions), invested in a few flowy dresses that I could wear post-pregnancy, and then only bought maternity clothes to fill whatever gaps I saw.

I was trying to avoid buying maternity wear unless I absolutely needed it so I made sure that whatever I bought were items that I could re-wear as much as possible. I thought I might get bored of what I had, but I ended up making it a little interesting by playing around with accessories and makeup. It’s been a fun little rewearability project!

Lesson 10 – Your pregnancy will not only be different from what you might have expected, but also from everyone else’s.

This might be my biggest take away from my pregnancy: I didn’t realize until the very end how different my pregnancy would be from what I expected. Based on what I had heard from friends and family, how I tend to gain weight, and my general anxiety about being pregnant, I had a slew of expectations for my pregnancy. I expected to blow up all over and that I’d get a mix of the symptoms you typically hear about – nausea, gestational diabetes, sciatic pain, swelling, etc. None of that happened, thankfully, but I was instead greeted with a bunch of symptoms that I hadn’t even heard of – bleeding gums every time I flossed, constant sinus congestion, pain in my hips and legs when I slept, nerve pain by my ribs (in my 38th week), etc. Comparatively, they’re not symptoms to complain about given what all could happen, and maybe that’s why I hadn’t heard of them, but they still made me question whether my pregnancy was going OK.

The negatives and the positives of pregnancy will vary so much for everyone; from person to person and from the first pregnancy to the second, etc. So while it’s easy to compare yourself to people you know and things you read, take it all with a grain of salt. Whatever may occur during your pregnancy is your normal so take it day by day and try not to compare. You’re creating a human, and that’s the most amazing part of it all.

Blog edited by: Betty Ho

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