This is how babies are made.
About half of pregnancies in the U.S. are oopsies, and half are totally on purpose. (Guttmacher) This post is intended for mamas-to-be who are either pleasantly surprised or hoping to conceive.
First, let's address the element of surprise. There is a big trend right now of women who are not-really-not-trying to get pregnant, sort of leaving it up to fate. There are also women who are actively trying not to get knocked up but decide to roll with it when it happens. One of the great things about deciding to have a baby, whether you meant to start it right now or not, is the opportunity pregnancy brings to overhaul your own health and life priorities. You have the best, sweetest, most legitimate excuse and motivation to start eating healthy, quit drinking and smoking, and get regular exercise, sleep, and medical checkups. It can be very difficult to motivate ourselves to make those changes on our own, just for our own sake, especially when we're young and our bodies can take the abuse. But making big health changes for pregnancy can have immense benefits for us, in addition to our babies, in the long run. This is true for both plotters and pantsers!
Pantsers, pregnancy is the ultimate plot twist, the ultimate opportunity to turn it all around. A huge part of my parenting (and life) philosophy is to take advantage of golden opportunities as they come. Golden Opportunity means GO! Also, pregnancy will force you to make some changes you're still not motivated to make, even for the good of your innocent unborn child. For me, that was giving up coffee. Some pregnant women keep on having their morning cup until birth without ill effects, but my body said no. I did cut down to one cup when I was trying to conceive, but as soon as that baby started growing, even one sip of coffee, regular or decaf, would give me the soupy poops all day. So, I learned that I have the strength to live without coffee. It helped to remind myself that it was only temporary. Now when I drink a steamy latte, I appreciate it so much more!
And what about those of us who are plotters, not pantsers? I myself am a plotter. Plotting is what I do. (Woo-hoo-ha-ha-ha! *Rubbing hands together.*) But not like an evil villain, I promise. I plan and overplan and overanalyze life decisions like a crazy person. Like a coffee-guzzling college student who reads Dostoevsky and agonizes over the ethics of every possible action. Because I was that college student. In high school. And sometimes, though far less now that I have been transformed by mommyhood, it still comes out in me.
And speaking of being transformed by mommyhood? Don't fear. Let it happen. Instead of clawing against the current trying to stay just like you are now (which is really for the immature and the cantankerous elderly), carpe diem. Open up and let the stream carry you along. It's not all giant-assed jeans and butch haircuts, I swear. Becoming a mother has made me more sensual, playful, resourceful, confident, wise, and compassionate. And I've made loads of new friends along the way. Don't buy into negative stereotypes or cliched warnings about what parenting will do to your identity--just stay in touch with your deepest desires and celebrate your personal growth along the way.
For plotters, the era of trying-to-conceive (TTC on all those mommy blogs you'll be reading) can be so much fun! It can also be so much anxiety. When I decided that I wanted to have a child at some near time, I told my doctor and went on prenatal vitamins, which I kept taking for a full year before I succeeded in convincing my husband to impregnate me with the promise that he would get to play with lots of toys. I scaled up my exercise routines with lots of yoga, belly dance, and pilates. I started growing some of my own vegetables and learning, with my husband, how to cook healthier meals and where to buy stuff like local, organic apples and nitrate-free meats. My husband got on board, too, by losing weight with healthy eating and exercise--because a man's health habits at the present moment affect the quality of the DNA in the sperm he is making at that moment! Does that make you insane or happy?--so together, we improved our own health while setting the stage to create a healthy baby. What a joyous task! I also cut back on caffeine, though I was reluctant to give it up entirely (see above). I don't smoke and I don't like drinking alcohol that much, so it was easy not to smoke or drink.
But here's where the crazy can override the health benefits of plotting pregnancy: Stressing about being perfect can actually be worse for you than just having that cocktail or eating the chili dog. The Aussies seem to think human embryos like it when you have a few drinks. So should you intentionally drink during your pregnancy? No, I wouldn't say so--but maybe uptight perfectionism is worse for you than having a drink here or there. I've known women who craved beer during their pregnancies and women who couldn't even look at one without puking. My "gut feeling" (ah ha ha) is to follow what YOUR gut tells you, especially after conception takes place. Your body will probably advise you about what it needs. (For me, in the first trimester, it was potato chips.) Unless you get a craving to eat dirt, laundry detergent, or lipstick. There's a clinical term for that and you need to see your doctor now.
Whether you are a pantser or a plotter, happy or hopeful, conception and "preconception" are filled with Golden Opportunities. GO forth and give thyself a pre-baby lifestyle makeover!
Watch for more Middle Path Mother posts on the first