I don’t excel at waiting. Some might use the word impatient, but I prefer something like “exceptionally driven”, and in cases where I do need to wait around, I stay sane by doing whatever I can to work toward that goal in the distance. When I’m waiting to leave for a vacation I painstakingly research and plan every stop I want to see, familiarizing myself with maps and studying what the local bloggers like to get up to. When I’m waiting for a special holiday or event I make mood boards, gather supplies, and create fun ways to countdown the days. But waiting to have a baby, something I already felt like I’d been waiting for years to experience, that was a whole other ball game.
Pregnancy can be a great time to rest, and there were a couple months around the middle of mine where I did just that, but for the most part I used every bit of energy I had left over from growing a tiny human to prep for that tiny human’s arrival. Heading into motherhood as a single parent, I knew my time would be even more limited than the average first time parent, and to combat my anxiety about how I was going to manage, I did what I do best – I planned and prepped.
I was so worried I’d regret not taking it easy during my pregnancy, but in retrospect I’m so glad I kept myself busy and accomplished so much, because as predicted it’s a lot harder to stay on top of pretty much anything other than cuddling, feeding and diaper changes after a new baby arrives (just getting this blog post done has been a nearly two month endeavour with Summer around!) Having a big to-do list kept me active and motivated, and I ended up feeling strong and confident right up until the day I gave birth because of it. The best part is despite none of my birth plans going as, well, planned, I still feel like every single thing on this list was helpful and worth my while.
It has taken a lot longer than I had originally hoped to get these thoughts written out, and I have more pregnancy content still coming down the line too – though I’m not pregnant anymore (or planning to be anytime soon!) hopefully some of this wisdom can be helpful to those of you who are newly pregnant or planning to be in the future!
Of course there’s no real way to be prepared as a first time parent, but here’s EVERYTHING I did to get ahead of the curve as best as I could before Summer made her debut:
When I did want to take some slower time to myself during my pregnancy, I tried to read as much as possible. Brain power wasn’t at an all time high for me during those nine months, but I found making notes on the pages and bookmarking important bits really helped me keep track of my thoughts and everything I was learning!
Some of my favourite titles were:
Nurture by Erica Chidi Cohen – If there is one single book you buy and read during your pregnancy, make it this one. It was so informative and I still refer to the new baby chapters all the time even now!
Hypnobirthing by Marie Mongan – This book was a little outdated and not the best for single parents because of all the heteronormative couple-based language, but I read it as part of my Hypnobirthing Course at West End Mamas and the breathing and relaxation techniques definitely came in handy at my birth and beyond.
Body Full of Stars by Molly Caro May – Not a technical book at all, Molly’s personal memoir surrounding having her first child made me feel less alone in my own emotional pregnancy roller coaster. A truly beautiful novel about motherhood!
The Rebel Mama’s Handbook For Cool Moms – This book was a gift and it provided lots of laughs for me on my journey to motherhood. I don’t agree with everything the Rebel Mamas say, but I admire that they have the tits to say it! (tits seemed more appropriate than balls in this context)
The Fourth Trimester by Kimberly Anne Johnson – This book is all about self care and taking it slow after baby, and though I didn’t personally follow all of the suggestions within these pages it was such an amazing resource and I learned so much about how other cultures view birth and postpartum too!
Health and Wellness //
There’s a common misunderstanding that one should avoid the dentist while pregnant, but it’s actually more important than ever to go in for cleaning and check ups because the hormones are causing so many changed in your mouth! I found Gelinas Dental Studio after many years of switching from dentist to dentist here in Toronto, or avoiding it altogether.
Dental visits make my skin crawl at the best of times, but I knew appointments would be almost impossible on my own with a new baby, so I resentfully went in for a very overdue cleaning early on in my pregnancy. I was so pleasantly surprised by my experience at Gelinas – this all-female team is so knowledgeable and actually took the time to teach me all about my teeth and how the dental system works here in Toronto. They believe you should come in every three months during a pregnancy, especially if you’re suffering from severe gum bleeding (which so many women do). I ended up going in for two cleanings, and had a wisdom tooth removed with just a bit of local freezing (terrifying, but the amazing team at Gelinas made it totally doable). They even sent me a care package after Summer was born!
Dog Training //
One of my biggest concerns with having a baby on my own was how I would manage all of my pets, specifically Mylk, who’s still just over a year old now! Being a young, high-energy dog with a lot of anxiety from his Husky half, I had a really hard time controlling him when he first joined our family, and I was really nervous about having him around a tiny human.
A friend of mine suggested K9X training and they were seriously unbelievable! It only took a handful of one-on-one sessions for me to get a handle on Mylk’s behaviour, and the tools K9X provided to not only keep his attitude in check, but also to keep him mentally engaged, were invaluable. We even practiced walking alongside the stroller with a training collar ahead of time, and now he’s amazing on walks with the little one! I can’t recommend this route enough if you’re worried about prepping your pup for your family’s new addition.
Being on the road with baby, especially during the winter was one of my biggest concerns. One of the safety measures I took to make sure my car was ready for all conditions that Canadian life might throw at me was putting Bridgestone’s Blizzak winter tires on my vehicle. They have amazing grip in ice and snow and gave me a confidence boost on the road.
Working out has always been a crucial part of my mental health routine and keeping up my self confidence, so giving up being active while pregnant and already working through raging hormones and massive body changes wasn’t an option.
Though I kept up a lot of my regular activities like spin and jogging as long as I could, it was so nice to take The Belle Method‘s pregnancy-specific pilates classes, especially nearing the end of the nine months. I was always a bit nervous I was doing too much when I was working out on my own, but Nikki’s classes always felt super safe (she’s a new mom herself!) while still providing an awesome workout. I also learned a lot about my pelvic floor and core muscles, and connected with lots of other expecting moms. I’m excited to get myself to her baby-friendly postnatal classes now that I’m healed up from my C-section!
Let me start by saying overall WEM was a total sanctuary for me my entire pregnancy. It can be overwhelming navigating something as simple as massage therapy when you’re expecting because you body and baby seem so delicate, but WEM provides a one stop shop made just for mamas, so you always know you’re in good hands.
Hypnobirthing Course – This course is definitely better suited to couples and people with anxiety surrounding birth. I found the breathing techniques and time spent meditating on the idea of birth helpful, but overall I don’t think I was the most ideal audience for the teachings since I felt so confident and positive about birth in the first place! I definitely think it can be a valuable course to invest in if you or your partner is nervous or unsure about what to expect on your birthing day.
Massage Therapy – A basic when it comes to self-care, this one is pretty self explanatory. I did a lot of massage during my pregnancy and it was the best time to relax and let go.
Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy – We all know about kegels, but did you know there are muscles in your vagina and pelvic bowl that can be way TOO tight? Turns out mine were, and I only found out through pelvic physio. Explained to me as “a deep tissue massage for your vagina”, this was a painful and strange experience to say the least, but I learned a lot about my body and left with the ability to properly release and relax a set of muscles I didn’t even know I had. This one is especially recommended after a vaginal birth and/or if you suffer from incontinence.
Naturopathic Medicine – I had never been to a naturopath before my pregnancy and I expected the whole thing to be a bit too hippie for me, but in the end it was like a super in depth, informative doctor’s appointment that helped make me aware of all the ways my diet was failing me, and some small easy changes I could make to improve my energy levels. I now never leave the house without a protein dense snack, and what a difference!
Acupuncture – I had planned to do induction acupuncture because so many friends used it successfully to start labour, but I never got that far. I did use it to try and help baby turn to the proper position, but no luck, and personally I found acupuncture super uncomfortable because I am scared of needles! Definitely not my favourite treatment on the menu, but it works wonders for many.
Chiropractic Care – Chiropractic appointments at WEM are so much more than adjustments, and I was seriously blown away by all the amazing tools and techniques my chiropractor used on me. I carry a lot of tension in my back and neck, but after this appointment I felt more relaxed and loose than I have in years!
Infant CPR Course – This course was SO valuable and I’d take it 100 times over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt reassured as a new mom that I would know what to do in different emergency scenarios, and that confidence is priceless.
Self Care //
Self care means different things to different people, and however you define it, it’s so important to make it a priority, especially on the path to motherhood. All of my beauty rituals became all the more important to me as my body and sense of self changed so quickly, even if I had to rework them a bit to be more pregnancy friendly.
Low Maintenance Hair Colour – I’ve always said I’d grow out my natural hair colour if I became pregnant, so when I got that positive test last Spring I knew it was time. Amanda and Alyson, my hair team at Blyss, helped make a difficult transition (aka massive dark roots) look stylish, and since their salon uses Davines hair colour (some of the most natural, low chemical products on the market) I felt better about the colour work we did to keep the new growth blended with the old blonde.
A super helpful hair tip for pregnancy and new mama hood – ask your colourist for a take-home toner or tinted conditioner that you can use in the shower to keep your colour fresh, in case you aren’t able to get back in for an appointment for longer than planned.
Negative Space Nail Art – I love having something fun on my nails at all times, and though I kept up my monthly trip to Her Majesty’s Pleasure I found my nails were growing a lot faster than they had before. My trick? A more neutral or negative space mani that makes new growth at the base of the nail look like it’s part of the design! Think half moons, wavy cut outs, or a reverse french!
Hatch Mama Beauty – I used this collection from day one and I credit their belly oil for my lack of stretch marks (I know that’s not how it works, but it can’t hurt right?)
Lash Extensions – Lash extensions always make me feel beautiful with minimal effort – no eyeliner or shadow, just big lashes and a swipe of blush, and I’m ready for anything. I’ve tried so many different salons around the city, but N15 Salon is by far the best bang for your buck. These lashes feel and look great, but most importantly they last for ages, which is my top priority since becoming a mama. Having great lashes is also the key to effortlessly gorgeous birth photos if that’s something on your radar.
Tea for Two – I am a tea addict as is, but I found I was more sensitive than ever to caffeine while expecting, so herbal tea was a constant in my house. Full disclosure: I used to work at Tealish, but that aside they truly have the best selection of all-natural herbal blends in the city. I especially love their dessert teas, like Toasty Almond and Lemon Meringue.
Knix Leak Proof Panties – Comfort is key during the 9 months it takes to make a baby, and Knix moisture-wicking bras and underwear were my daily go-to. There’s seriously nothing softer on the market as far as I know, and the built in panty liners are really good for soaking up discharge (TMI? This was the bane of my existence in the third trimester)
Other things on my list that never came to fruition //
Allergy Testing – Near the end of pregnancy you test for Group B Strep, and if you test positive you will need to be given antibiotics during your birth. If you have a penicillin allergy this can complicate a birth plan, especially for those who hope to give birth at home, as you may need an IV alternative. I wanted to get ahead of the curve and test my allergy to penicillin, something I had never done following a reaction I had as a kid, but unfortunately after being referred I was told pregnant women can’t do the full scope of allergy testing. If this is a concern for you, it’s a good idea to get the testing before baby is already on the way!
Finding a Paediatrician – I was determined to find my baby a doctor pre-birth, but it’s SUPER hard in this city! In the end I took her in to a local walk in when her baby acne got really bad, and the paediatrician ended up taking her on as an official patient on the spot. I can’t promise this method will work for everyone, but it’s definitely worth a shot! There are also lots of great kid’s drop in clinics around town if you’re having a tough time locking a family doctor down.
Float – I was told a float can be a great way to feel weightless during the last couple months when the belly feels its heaviest, but because I had Summer a week early I never got the chance to try it out!
What were the best things you did while you were pregnant? I’d love to know some more tips that I missed!
*Note: I am not a doctor and this post is entirely based on my personal experiences while pregnant.
Bump photos by Scarlet O’Niell