What lessons did you learn after your first pregnancy?

Kristin writes about how exercise and a healthy diet helped make her pregnancy so much better the second time around

When I turned to him and asked him if wanted a baby of his own, I was secretly hoping he’d say no.

“We travel,” I’d envisioned him saying. “We barbecue, we hang out on the deck and laugh at pubs with our friends. We take care of our bodies and have so much time for living life for ourselves.” It seemed likely to me: our lives were filled with late mornings and leisurely coffees, summer docks and winter ski weekends.

And then the silent question would come: “Why would we mess with what we have? Why would we turn our lives upside down when everything is so perfect right now?”

I remember my fingers circling my stomach as I asked him about a baby. My belly, I remember, was flat and taut and strong from devoted exercise; more toned than it had ever been in my life.

I knew he’d never say that he liked my body the way it was too, but I wondered if he had considered whether it would alarm him to see me ballooning into an unrecognizable form. Would he care? Would I feel sexless like I had once before: a walking, human incubator in pregnancy pants?

I was so lost in my own babbling stream of fear that I barely heard him say something about already having a son, my son.

And then I realized what he was saying, and was flooded again with the understanding of the generosity of his love. 

“If anyone deserves a baby, to experience the love from the very beginning, it’s him,” I thought.

And then he said, “Yes, let’s go for it, let’s have a baby,” and my heart exploded before it started convulsing with fear once again.

“OK”, I whispered. My mind scrambled to rapid-fire images: tear-stained eyes, a scolding scale, overflowing ice cream bowls, shouting, barren branches, dismay. Depression. Images from my first pregnancy — dark places I’d hoped never to visit again.

Now that I’m days away from giving birth, I can admit what I haven’t before: once I married Corey, my intense fear of pregnancy was perhaps my only hesitation in having another child. I love being a mom, adore the experience of inhaling life via the fresh eyes of innocence and remembering things via Nolan, that would have long been forgotten in the unused recesses of my brain.

But, I didn’t love pregnancy at all with my firstborn and remembered the entire 10 months as an exercise in misery and self-doubt.

I had gained more than 75 pounds, experienced crippling depression, lost my self-esteem and my confidence. I cried more than I smiled. I felt soul-wrenching guilt at my despondence and loneliness during my pregnancy, knowing that there were countless women who yearned to feel life inside them.

In retrospect, I think my sadness and fear was part hormones and part circumstance.

When I found out I was pregnant this time round, I called my best friend, who’d held my hand and knocked down my door when I refused to answer it during my first pregnancy.

“I hope this time is different,” I whispered. “I am so bad at pregnancy, Mel.”

“It’s so different this time, Tally,” she assured me. ”You have Corey. You have Nolan. You are fit and motivated. You’re in a totally different space and you will be fine.”

And to my amazement, I have been fine. I’ve had bouts of annoyance: twinges of frustration when I can’t bend down to put on my boots, irritation at the third trimester insomnia, varicose veins and undignified body changes. But I’ve felt more joy than anything: “ginger ale” baby kicks, the ability to breathe and exercise, a feeling of family unity with this baby’s dad and this little infant’s big brother.

Exercise and attention to diet have made an enormous difference in my self-confidence too. This pregnancy, I’ve gained a total of 22 pounds versus the 76 I gained with Nolan. I was able to exercise wholeheartedly until about 38 weeks in (versus no exercise at all the first time around) when my OB recommended I slow down to walks and swimming only. Exercise minimized my back pain and facilitated the release of happy hormones that kept my mood at an even keel this time around. A mostly-clean diet fostered weight gain and a healthier outlook and, though I indulged a bit more than pre-pregnancy (when I was a pretty strict Paleo diet follower), limiting sugary foods and carbs contributed to a sense of power during this pregnancy that was completely lacking in the first.

All in all: regular exercise was a godsend in keeping me sane. I did Crossfit three to four times a week throughout my pregnancy (except for over the holidays when I had pneumonia). I ran hard, lifted as much as felt right and drank tons of water. I learned that my body tells me quite clearly what its limits are and that I don’t have to listen to the advice of everyone who gives it to me.

My best lessons: my own body knows best and eating healthy food tastes way better in the long-term than a daily ice cream.

At 39 weeks pregnant, I’m definitely ready for this experience to move along to the next chapter, to seeing the eyes and fingers of our new baby. But I’m not uncontrollably bawling into my pillow and I’m ready to bounce right back into heavy weights and long, hard sprints.

All that’s left to do until then is be grateful for the remaining days of this second chance to experience the miracle of a new human life.