The night before I found out I was pregnant with my first child, my biggest concern was finding an amazing restaurant where my husband and I could go to celebrate our anniversary during a weekend away. We found the perfect restaurant, where I enjoyed way too much wine. At least it was organic. I think.
The next day, I peed on that fateful stick.
At the airport, instead of paging through Real Simple, I scrolled BabyCenter and nearly spit out the sushi I’d been devouring. I shuddered to think what other pregnancy laws I’d unknowingly violated over the past 24 hours.
I also needed to know: Which fruit did my baby most resemble, five weeks, two days, and 17 hours into my pregnancy?
Two years later, while my toddler sat on the bathroom floor with a board book, an expired pregnancy test I found at the back of the linen closet revealed a faint plus sign. I waited until my daughter was asleep that night to hit the supermarket for a fresh test. I couldn’t muster the strength to take her to the store for one lousy item. That night, I fell into a dreamless sleep. Between pregnancy and toddler-wrangling, I didn’t care if I was carrying a peanut, a kumquat, or a glazed donut.
In hindsight, I wish I could have saved the energy I spent trying to have a perfect pregnancy that first time for other things—like taking my two children, now three and five years old, to the supermarket.
It turns out, I’m not the only one who would do things differently the first time around if given the chance. I talked to a number of women to get their best tips for making your first pregnancy feel like your second.
Like many, mom Elizabeth Waterstraat grew more laid back with each subsequent pregnancy. She summarizes her three pregnancies in simple terms. “First: No coffee, no wine. Second: Some coffee, no wine. Third: Daily coffee, some wine.” Allison Schwartz is a mom who also steadily increased her coffee consumption with each of her pregnancies, noting, “By pregnancy number four, [cutting out coffee] was not an option.”
During the first pregnancy, there are no kids at our feet distracting us from trying to make sure our little bump is becoming the perfect baby. Joy Jackson, a mom of three, says if she could go back in time 12 years when she was pregnant with her first, she’d put down her copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Experience teaches us that we don’t have as much control as we’d like to believe. Waterstraat says, “[Babies] will come out the way they want to come out. Not much you do will influence that, so relax, let go of ‘plans,’ and enjoy the journey.”
Despite the exhaustion of pregnancy plus toddler-wrangling, Caitlin Hardy enjoyed her second pregnancy fully, knowing her fatigue would only intensify once her baby came. Of her second pregnancy, she says, “I didn’t have time to stop and think about how I felt or to complain about the exhaustion, backache, or sore boobs.” Instead, she focused on the experiences she’d have less, if any time for, once her newborn arrived. “I went out to dinner more, hung out with girlfriends more, did prenatal yoga every Sunday, ran around at the bike park with my toddler, nabbed every date I could go on with my husband.”
For Morgan McGarvey, a mom of a toddler and a newborn, enjoying her second pregnancy meant doing less, not more. “I gave myself many passes.” With her first pregnancy, she strictly avoided the prescribed dietary no-nos, went to “every possible class,” and had her nursery decorated well before her due date. With her second, she skipped the classes, enjoyed some brie cheese, and held off on buying anything for the nursery until after her baby arrived. “Both kids are totally healthy and each pregnancy was completely different,” says McGarvey.
Everything in moderation
Many women regret taking the idea of eating for two and getting plenty of rest a little too seriously the first time around. Laura Kurian, a mom of three, wishes she’d forced herself to exercise more during her first pregnancy. A dedicated athlete who enjoys running and triathlon, Kurian says she was glad she only made that mistake once. “I was miserable during my first pregnancy. The second and third were so much better!” Mom Karli Sherwinter also says she wishes she’d had a better prenatal exercise regimen. Only years later, she realized her chronic knee pain stemmed from hip weakness caused by her pregnancies.
Allison Schwartz is a mom who says she gained much more weight than was necessary during her first pregnancy. “It took me a full year and a triathlon to get the weight off.” During her subsequent three pregnancies, she found it easier to eat more reasonably and exercise more, considering she was busy chasing young children around.
Any mom will tell you, you can’t recreate the novelty (or the neurosis) of your first pregnancy… and that’s okay. Mom Liz Willey says she felt guilty about paying so much more attention to her first pregnancy versus the second. “But in the end,” says Willey, whose sons are one and four, “I shouldn’t have worried. They are both nutty, happy boys!”
This article was originally published on Parent Co.