Okay, I know. That’s a long title. But the word count resembles the depth of my frustration. I mentioned in my last post that I’m pregnant. Obviously, we’re so excited and already love this little guy so much–even though I could live without the karate moves under my ribs–but there are also so many things about pregnancy and planning for maternity leave that are unbelievably frustrating.
And let me clarify, when I say frustrating, it has nothing to do with being pregnant or the baby, it has everything to do with the system. From the doctors, to insurance, to the workplace. I know this isn’t news to most women, and probably more men than I give credit to, but damn, America makes bringing a child into this world unnecessarily difficult.
Granted, my pregnancy wasn’t planned. No shame, but that’s the truth–it wasn’t. So I’m sure if we had had that hallmark “let’s get pregnant” moment, we would have discovered some of the harsh realities of pregnancy through many hours of googling. But that’s not what happened. Instead we learned as we went. So here are some things I learned along the way:
You don’t see the doctor as often as you think you should
In one afternoon you’ll be told there’s a human growing inside you, a parasite, if we’re being frank. And then the doctor says, “See you in 4-6 weeks. Good luck with the persistent vomiting.” (Or something to that effect). Um what?
That was the longest six weeks of my life. Not only did I just learn that my body will be going through the greatest transformation ever and I have a fetus inside me, but I have no way of knowing if everything is okay. Absent of bleeding and cramping, you just wonder every minute of the day if you’re still pregnant or not. People will say, “don’t worry,” “try not to think about it.” But how can you not? So I spent 4-6 weeks knocking on a lot of wood and trying not to jinx anything.
I also thought I’d be seeing my doctor more frequently than every four weeks during the first and second trimesters, if for nothing else but reassurance. Feeling your baby move later in pregnancy is one of the most reassuring feelings you’ll ever experience.
So I had to get comfortable with waiting, but I do wish I used the time I did have with my doctor more wisely. By the time I had an appointment I was just so relieved to know my baby was doing okay that all the questions I had went out the window. So write down all your questions! Even the ones you already found answers for on Google (it doesn’t hurt to verify). And make sure you ask for the best number to call with questions between appointments. I didn’t do this and reaching nurses or doctors who could help me was extraordinarily difficult. Turns out there was a direct line that I didn’t know about.
I also waited too long before booking my first OBGYN appointment and had to wait even longer than the standard amount of time between appointments. So book fast! And find a doctor who doesn’t shove her whole arm in you to check your cervix . . . it’s unnecessary.
Pregnancy forums and apps are not safe spaces and no woman should join one until they’re well into their third trimester
Actually. Scratch that. Don’t join one at all. Some of the women on these boards are vicious! There is constant fighting about things like weeks vs. months in pregnancy, trigger warnings, and breastfeeding etiquette. The judgement looming over these boards is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I was so disappointed.
Also, these boards only scare you during your most vulnerable moments. I joined to find comfort during those moments of uncertainty but instead I discovered horror stories, false diagnoses, and really terrible advice. Which leads me to my next lesson.
Never take advice from pregnancy forums
I mean it. Never. I’ve seen women talk other mothers out of going to the hospital or calling their doctors when they felt something was wrong. I know they probably meant well, but advice from people hidden behind avatars should NEVER take the place of advice from your doctor. If you think something isn’t right–even if it’s just a gut feeling–call your doctor.
Also, believe it or not, I’ve seen women on these boards trying to convince other women to leave their husbands, families, or boyfriends. I’ve seen women trolled and straight up bullied for the way they look to, seriously, their grammar.
It’s okay not to take “bump pictures”
I know this sounds silly, but for a long time I felt guilty about it–like I was breaking some sacred pregnancy rule. Or, worse, that I didn’t have the same connection other women had with their unborn child. At every weekly milestone I’d stress out about whether or not I should take a photo of me holding a lemon–or whatever fruit represented the size of my child that week.
Finally, I just decided to be okay with not doing it. Bump pictures aren’t my thing and I don’t need to justify why. It’s also okay not to be “in love with your bump.” Your bump isn’t your baby. I love my baby more than anything but I definitely don’t love being round and uncomfortable and I’m very much looking forward to being able to wear my regular jeans again . . . God willing.
Maternity leave benefits suck
Not that this is breaking news, but it’s not until you need it that you really realize how much it sucks. If you don’t already have a chunk of money saved or have rare, fully paid maternity leave, you’re pretty much set up to fail.
My less-than-impressive benefits are considered better than the bare minimum and knowing that the standard is that low is devastating. In case you didn’t know, a lot of women in America are guaranteed nothing. No paid leave, no time off, and no job when they return.
Telling your work you’re pregnant is really hard
I had so much anxiety about telling my work I was pregnant. I was a relatively new employee and even though I’m 26 years old, every time I told someone I was expecting I suddenly felt 16 and pregnant. I feared the worst judgement for being young and pregnant–not to mention being newly married . . . it wasn’t hard to do the math.
I felt ashamed and like I had something to apologize for. But when I finally did inform my bosses, I received nothing but support. Actually, so much support that I felt bad for having assumed they’d react differently.
I wish all women received the same happy ending to that dreaded conversation that I did, but I know that’s not true. The best advice I can give is stay confident and know you haven’t done anything wrong–no matter what people might say or how they try to make you feel.
If you have insurance and are planning to use a breast pump, your insurance might pay for it
I learned this one from a stranger! I’m still mad my insurance and doctors didn’t make sure I had this information. I found out my insurance covered a breast pump, that would normally cost me well over $200, at 100 percent! And the ordering process was so simple. For a while, I had a much cheaper pump on my registry assuming it was an out of pocket expense.
You have to register your hospital and due date with your insurance
On the same note of things my doctors and insurance should have made clear, you have to call your insurance company and register your hospital and due date before they’ll pay for your delivery.
Now, this might be prior knowledge for people who know the ins and outs of health insurance, but as a young person who wasn’t planning on getting pregnant, I didn’t know. I only learned this when I read an article online that suggested you call your insurance company and ask about your maternity benefits–beyond just your deductible, out of pocket maximum, and copays. So I called and learned about registering. However, they failed to mention the breast pump. . .
You have to find a pediatrician before your baby is born
I learned this one on that same call. A call I probably wouldn’t have made if I hadn’t read an article I found on Pinterest. Apparently, you need to find and register your child’s pediatrician before he/she is born. The pediatrician also needs to come visit the baby in the hospital. I feel very strongly that my doctor should have told me this.
While some of these items like bump pictures and baby forums are personal preferences, the knowledge gap in insurance benefits, maternity leave, and patient rights have serious implications on a woman’s pregnancy and delivery experience.
I understand that we are all responsible for finding the answers to our questions–however, when you’re a first-time parent, you don’t always know what questions you should ask. I just wish insurance companies and doctors, who are supposed to be well-versed in this area, made sure all the families under their care had the information they need.
p.s. updates to come since I know there are SO many more things that I haven’t thought of or still haven’t found answers to–like tax deductions and birth plans.