As we wind down to the end of this wild ride called pregnancy, I thought it might be helpful to other, newer mamas if I pointed out some of the items that became essential to me over these past nine+ months. Early on, and especially previously to actually becoming pregnant, I had a lot of crazy ideas about minimalism. It's OK to dare to dream and all, but I quickly became disillusioned about my own dreams of buying little to nothing to accomodate my pregnant body. I thought if I just kept a thrifty head, I'd come out on the cheap. I mean, did I really NEED maternity clothes? Couldn't I just wear leggings?
While I am sure there are plenty of women out there in posession of either magical bodies or magical wardrobes that allow for maternity store avoidance, I did not turn out to be one of them. In fact, I didn't even get out of the first trimester in regular pants. My chest and midsection bloated immediately, and before I knew it, I was sporting a pair of elastic-band jeans and a cup-size larger bra.
That was just the beginning. By the time the second trimester was in full swing, I couldn't even wear normal leggings! Almost all of my normal clothes either hurt, or didn't fit. I was shocked.
Without further ado, I give you my maternity MVP's.
Full Panel Jeans
These can be found most cheaply at Target, Old Navy, and baby consignment shops. Occasionally there are good sales at maternity stores too. I recommend going cheap on the jeans for a couple of reasons. You might wear them out by the end of your run, but then again, you might grow out of them when your body changes shape later on in the pregnancy. Keep in mind that even if you don't gain a lot of weight, your hips literally MOVE. There is no guarantee that the jeans you buy at three months in will fit six months later. Also remember that pregnancy lasts the better part of a year. You might need to trade those jeans in for shorts or capris by the end of your term.
Cotton Sleep Bras are sort of like sports bras, only a million times more comfortable. They are great for sleeping, of course, but also for bumming around the house or lounging in bed. Your boobs will be on a crazy rollercoaster for the forseeable future, so giving them a break from underwires and padded cups is pretty awesome. Sleep Bras are also great for delivery. You can strip down to the bra if you aren't interested in being totally naked. This is ideal for shower time, laboring in the tub, or just plain old huffing and puffing. Birthing is hot business, y'all. Oh! You can also nurse pretty easily in a Sleep Bra, so they'll come in handy later too.
This is one of those things that sounded totally stupid to me early on, but when my belly really started growing, I found that granny panties really took the edge off. Maternity Underwear are like granny panties designed specifically for pregnant bellies. The come with a high panel on top, and extra room around the waist, giving your poor aching tummy just a little extra help. I bought two three-packs, and curse the gods every time I run out, wishing I had more. (Pro Tip: six pairs might sound like a lot, but not when you are preggo. Pregnancy is juicy business.)
A Really Good Body Pillow
I started out with a standard el-cheapo body pillow from Target. It was a big rectangle with a fuzzy white cover. I called it "Big Fluffy" and it took up about 1/3 of our bed. Scott Bobleo pretended to hate Big Fluffy, but I knew the truth. Every night I'd have to shake him off and steal it back from his clutches. I liked Big Fluffy well enough, but when we went on a trip to CT, my sister-in-law loaned me her own body pillow, a Snoogle. That thing was amazing. Shaped like a six-foot candy cane, it wrapped around my head and shoulders, and gave me great support between my knees. I loved that thing. When we got home I ended up ordering my own Snoogle and never regretted it. Eventually, I ended up adding a few more elements to my "sleep nest", including a king sized pillow between my knees and a foam wedge under my belly. It might sound crazy, but without all of this I wake up feeling like my hips are going to break off of my legs.
A Giant Water Bottle
Get ready to drink more water than you thought humanly possible. Staying hydrated has been a big challenge throughout my pregnancy. If I don't chug water constantly I become dehydrated, which is incredibly uncomfortable when you are pregnant. Not having enough water can cause everything from headaches to charlie horses to constipation, and quick! I've learned to arm myself with quart-sized mason jars and oversized Nalgene bottles while I am out and about. At bars and restaurants I have learned to skip formalities and just order an entire pitcher of water as opposed to a single glass. I also used an app called Waterlogged early on to make sure I was actually drinking as much water as I should be.
Ok, so this one could be argued to be a luxury item, but I stand by it's status as an MVP. Some women always feel beautiful while they are pregnant, and that's great for them. Other women, like myself, might just need a little extra confidence to rock some of those well-fitted, super cute maternity dresses. Spanx help, they really do. Plus, they provide a little extra comfort and support while wearing dresses. As your belly grows, you'll notice that the weight can get pretty intense when you aren't in full-panel pants. Spanx are a great alternative, especially when they are paired with some maternity undies.
At Least One Super Cute Maternity Dress/Outfit
It's worth investing in at least one outfit that makes you feel like the beautiful, sexy, mama-to-be that you are. For me, this was a $30 maxi dress from Old Navy. I felt so good in that dress that I almost feel sad when I realize I won't be wearing it anymore. There may be times when you feel like your body has gone completely crazy - that you don't even recognize it in the mirror. Having one outfit on hand that makes you feel really great about yourself can be a great tool for getting through those crumby moments. If I was flithy rich, I would have loved to have a closet full of those outfits, but one turned out to be enough.
Really Comfortable Shoes
Just like the rest of your body, your feet are subject to change during pregnancy. They can swell, flatten, loosen up, or even grow. It's pretty weird. Meanwhile, your center of gravity shifts, your joints loosen up, and your flexibility changes. Basically, walking may become a more challenging sport than usual. I rocked a pair of wool felt Dr. Weil clogs for the first two trimesters, and was truly bummed when the weather became too warm to wear them anymore. Since then, I have been muddling through in a pair of loafers, wishing I had an extra $60 for some summer orthopedics. When I have a long walk ahead of me, I wear a pair of comfortable sneakers with plenty of ankle support. These are great for hiking, neighborhood walks, and days spent out enjoying Austin. The one time I shirked resposnsibility for fashion was during SXSW. I ended up taking a dive into the sidewalk thanks to my cute, but completely unsupportive pair of Converse.
Belly Balm or Body Oil
There are tons of different brands of belly balm out there, but I can tell you from a formulator's perspective that most of them really suck. They are packed with fillers like water, alcohol, and silicones - ingredients that do nothing for your skin. They might feel good when you use them, but with a belly that is growing and stretching at the rate that it is, you'll benefit from much more intense nourishment. I made my own belly balm and body oil using recipes that I shared on The Natural Beauty Workshop. If you'd like to buy a pre-made balm, look for something that doesn't contain water or alcohol, only pure butters, oils, and wax. If you want to make it even easier on yourself, just pick up a bottle of extra virgin or cold-pressed oil at the grocery store. Olive, Almond, Hazelnut, or Grapeseed will all work perfectly well to keep your belly (and sides!) moisturized. Whatever you use, do your best to apply it to your belly, waist, and boobies every single day.
Prenatal Vitamins and Supplements
This one should be obvious, but just in case, I'll add it to my list. I used cheap prenatal vitamins while we were trying to conceive, just to have something in my system. As soon as we got pregnant, I switched to a brand that packed a heavier punch. Every day, I take a prenatal multi-vitamin and a separate DHA supplement. At times during my pregnancy where I felt that my body needed even more support, I took extra supplements for fish oil, probiotics, and potassium. What your body is doing - building a whole new person - takes a lot out of you. While baby might be able to scrounge what he or she needs from what's available in your body and from your diet, you also need to continue nourishing yourself. Between the two of you, it could take a lot to keep nutrition on track.
Sometimes you just need a beer. Since you can't have one, I suggest stocking up on fizzy water. I took to squeezing grapefruit juice into glasses of Topo Chico. This habit increased pretty much in perfect harmony with Scott Bobleo's beer intake. Of course, mineral water can never be beer, but it's better than nothing. Some folks will go for the occasional half a beer, non-alcoholic beer, or watered down beer over ice instead, but that just didn't work for me. Until I can really HAVE a beer, I'd just as soon forget the whole thing.
People are going to tell you all kinds of crazy ways to battle heartburn. I hope that drinking pickle juice, doing special yoga poses, and chanting hoodoo-voodoo works for you. I really do - but it didn't work for me. No sir. The only relief I found from the constant volcano in my midsection was in the form of tiny little chalky circles. I prefer the fruit-flavored kind. You'll find Tums and Gas-X in my purse at all times. (Apparently growing human beings makes me gassy.)
Snacks are key. I keep a few Kind Bars in my purse in case of hunger emergencies. This practice has not only saved me from suffering, it has more than once saved my husband from grevious bodily harm. If sugar is a concern, look for the bars marked "Only 5g sugar". They make a few varieties that are low sugar and high protein, the perfect mix for a pregnant lady on the edge of hunger-rage.