A mother-to-be’s survival guide

Paintings of the author's daughter by Patrick de Veyra

Congratulations and happy first Mother’s Day, dear mom-to-be! Today is a reminder that you have already started to embark on what is possibly your most challenging journey yet. Depending on how far along you are in your pregnancy, you may still feel a bit lost and confused. Being a mother may be one of the scariest and most overwhelming experiences you’ll ever go through. Nevertheless, when the dust settles, I promise it doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. 

To help you get your thoughts in order, here are some things I did or were shared with me during my pregnancy that made a big difference in my experience. These are meant to be practical tools and quick tips but every pregnancy is different. 

Please be reminded to listen to your doctor’s advice and make sure you have medical clearance when necessary.

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Take it slow—you’re not in a hurry

Try to enjoy every minute of being pregnant. You may find this hard to do, considering that your hormones may make you nauseous (or crazy), your baby might be playing futsal with your organs, and the extra weight you’re carrying may feel like a boulder you can’t put down. Nine months may seem like a long time, but it will pass like nothing happened. Live your days thoughtfully and intentionally as you make your transition into this exciting new chapter.

Drink lots of water

Remember, your pregnancy is taking an immense toll on your body, so make sure you’re staying hydrated and constantly replenishing your electrolytes to avoid dehydration. Your baby’s amniotic fluid levels are also being monitored and you have to make sure you’re within a healthy range. My fridge was constantly stocked with fresh buko juice because it made me feel more awake and energized, and it was also good for keeping my hair and skin healthy.

Go on a “babymoon” when and where you can

If your doctor determines that you are of low-risk and that it is safe to do so, take this opportunity to go on vacation. Choose places that have easy ground transportation, light scenic strolls, and lots of good (and clean!) food to eat. Prepare a slow-paced itinerary that allows you time to rest and relax as well. If you can’t travel far, going for a walk and getting some fresh air can already do wonders. Always remember to ask for a medical certificate if you’re flying because most airlines require it.

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Be kind to your body

The aches, pains, and fatigue that come with carrying a child can be unbearable sometimes. Go to sleep and treat yourself to a midday nap when you feel like it—maybe it’s your body’s way of making up for all the sleep you’ll end up losing once the baby is born. If your doctor allows it, stretch, move around, and do some low-impact workouts to boost blood circulation. Meditate and try some mindfulness techniques to calm your nerves. Eat well and indulge your cravings, but be careful about having too much sugar and salt. Remember that what goes into your body goes to your baby too—not just food but also the energy and vibes you absorb. 

Communicate with your partner

It takes a village to raise a child, but the person whose cooperation and understanding matters the most is your partner. Have a serious conversation with him about your expectations and the roles you will both play in your pregnancy and during parenthood. Be honest and open about what you are feeling and going through physically, mentally, and emotionally, and let them know how they can help you. A lot of conflict can be avoided by having these talks and establishing boundaries early on.

Consider taking a birthing class

Something that helped me immensely was attending a birthing class with Doula Ros. Other popular options that I’ve come across are Birthing is a Blessing, Birthing Gently, and Birth Times PH

They usually tell you what to expect when you’re at the hospital, the different phases and types of labor, how to create a birth plan, and some pre and post-natal care pointers. These classes are usually done as a couple, so it’s also a great way to understand what it means to be birthing partners. You may also opt to take newborn care or breastfeeding classes, which are normally recommended after this first course.  

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Pregnancy is a very complicated topic and lengthy process, and it’s better to be extra safe than sorry. Make yourself aware of what’s going on in your body by conversing with your healthcare provider no matter how trivial you think your issues are. 

Prepare for your checkups with lists of things you’re curious or concerned about. During your scans, make it a habit to talk to the sonographer about what is happening on-screen. When you’re in labor, keep your mind at ease by chatting with the nurses and doctors who are monitoring your vitals. 

Basically, don’t feel shy—no matter what is on your mind, people are there to help, and it’s easier to ask about something than it is to second-guess.

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The resources are endless

Being a mother can be a lonely experience until you find the right people who understand exactly what you’re feeling or going through. There are many different ways to learn from and interact with fellow moms, even online. It can also be something as simple as messaging a friend or fellow mom on Instagram. I guarantee you mothers are always more than willing to help and guide each other. 

You can join Facebook support groups for advice and information—Glam-O-Mamas is a popular one where you can search different topics by just typing out keywords. There is also a pregnancy tracker called Amma that gives more insight and a week-by-week breakdown of what is going on inside you.

Invest in the right fashion staples

Skip the maternity wear. Instead, opt for loose-fitting and versatile clothes you can easily wear even after you give birth. Flowy dresses, oversized button-downs, and bottoms with gartered waistbands are great options to consider. The only maternity-exclusive items I purchased were maternity jeans and leggings—I only wore them in my last trimester and they are now gathering dust in my closet. You’ll also want to find shoes that are comfortable to walk in and have ample support.

Borrow what you can

As tempting as it is to fill your baby’s nursery, you’ll soon realize that they outgrow things so quickly. In reality, most of the things you buy will remain shiny and new. You’ll also end up going through so many clothes within the first few months because your baby will constantly be growing. 

Save yourself some money by using hand-me-downs or secondhand items. Things like cribs, highchairs, bassinets, toys, bags, rockers, and books are all great examples of things you can get from someone else, as long as they are still fairly new and usable—one of the things I looked forward to the most was getting bags of old outfits and accessories from family and friends to sort through.

Allocate your money for 1) things that you consume, like diapers, wipes, soaps, and milk, 2) items that are more hygienic to buy new like mattresses, bottles, breast pump parts, sterilizers, or anything else that gets soiled regularly or goes into your baby’s mouth, and 3) safety gear like car seats and strollers that get really worn out or have an expiration date.

Start with just a pack of something

Just because a product has good reviews doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you and your baby. There were certain things I purchased in bulk even before I gave birth because I thought I was being prepared. I have thrown out or given away countless formulas, soaps, lotions, diapers, wipes, and all sorts of other things because they simply were not the right fit for us. Every time you buy something new, ask for samples or choose the smallest size container to do a trial run before committing. 

Do what’s best for you and your baby

Your motherly instincts start even before you give birth. There will be a lot of unsolicited advice thrown at you about how to care for yourself and your child, but only you know what’s best for your goals and lifestyle. Listen to your gut and listen to your doctor above anything else. Do research on how you would like to parent, feed, and raise your child, and ultimately stay true to whatever aligns with your values and abilities. Don’t let the trends fool you, don’t succumb to the pressure of your elders, and most importantly don’t compare yourself to other people.

Your mental health matters

The entire journey of motherhood—from conception to pregnancy and birth, and all the years after that—will be filled with anxious thoughts, long exhausting days, and moments that make you question yourself. Ask for help from someone you trust, and see a professional if you have to. Mood swings, crying spells, existential crises, meltdowns—all these things may come and they are absolutely no joke. Don’t feel ashamed to take a breather or know when to slow down. Be proud of every little win and let go of all your expectations. If you start framing your way of thinking this early, then you’ll be better equipped to handle all the ups and downs that are coming your way. 

Leave the mom guilt behind

You are not a bad mother for doing what you need to do. Forgiving and being kind to yourself starts with understanding that your mind and your heart will never function the same way as it did before you were pregnant. Remember, the amount of energy that goes into making a baby is literally like running a marathon. Don’t overwork yourself doing other things. The amount of pressure that is put on being a mother and having to be a functioning adult at the same time is insane. You will continuously make mistakes and learn from them because motherhood is an ever-changing adventure that will throw curveballs at you nonstop. There is no single correct way to be a mom. It’s really okay. You’ll be okay.

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