Two lines. Positive. Bun in the oven.
Finding out that you’re expecting can bring a thousand different emotions--from joy and excitement to shock and anxiety, and maybe an extra dose of panic. A whole lot of things can also run through your mind.
If you’ve been dreaming about this positive sign for months (or even years), I can imagine that you must be jumping for joy right now. But, if getting pregnant wasn’t in your five-year plan, relax and know that this isn’t the end of the world. And regardless of whether a pregnancy is planned or not, you’re definitely not alone if you find yourself wondering, “Now what?”
I remember when life first flashed those two red lines at me. I was 23 when my stick turned positive, and to say that I was in a complete state of shock is an understatement.
“I’m going to be a mom. What do I do now?!” were the first things that came to my mind.
Of course, when you’re unwed, fresh out of college, and bursting with so much energy and promise, the next most logical thing to do is tell your parents. My boyfriend and I tried to find the most painless way of breaking the news to our parents (spoiler alert: it didn’t go well. It never goes well, but that’s completely another story).
Breaking the news literally meant breaking their hearts. But once the dreaded moment of telling them is over, once the anger, disappointment, and hurt subsided, I embraced a whole road of joy, excitement, and of course, challenge, that was headed my way. And boy, that’s when the real work started.
So what exactly comes next after you confirm that you’re expecting? Whether this was a planned pregnancy or not, there are a few important next steps you should think about and take as you wait to meet the miracle growing inside your belly.
In this post, we break down the top things you need to do when you find out you’re pregnant.
First Things First...
Set an appointment with your doctor
Once you’ve taken a home pregnancy test and see those two bright red lines, you’ll want to confirm it with a professional. Your obstetrician will help you determine how far along you are and will address any concerns you may have.
Since you'll be seeing a lot of your doctor in the next months, I couldn’t stress enough the importance of finding a good match. Back in my early pregnancy days, I had to see two other doctors before finally committing to the right one who can help take care of me throughout my pregnancy.
The first two doctors I met were highly experienced, but it wasn’t enough. Being one of their youngest patients, I could sense that their questions were thinly disguised judgments. Their eyes were searching my face for an age; my finger for a ring.
Or maybe it was all in my head. Either way, I never came back after one session.
That’s why more than experience, new moms also need to find a practitioner who can provide them with genuine support and encouragement, and whom they can also be open, honest, and comfortable.
Take care of yourself
Now is the time to ensure you are living a healthy lifestyle and stay in tip-top shape. Quitting smoking and drinking, eating well, taking prenatal vitamins, getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, and having a bit of exercise are all ways to encourage a healthy pregnancy, easier labor, and a healthy baby.
I should know. I quit the gym, ate for two, binge-watched Game of Thrones in the wee hours of the morning, and basically just let my pregnancy hormones get the best of me. (Kids, don’t try this at home.) Taking care of yourself and your unborn baby can be challenging especially if your raging pregnancy hormones are just too much to bear. That’s why it’s essential to have a solid support system that can help you stay motivated throughout your pregnancy.
As I have previously mentioned, having a support system is crucial to help you cope with the ups and downs of pregnancy. So much will change in your life, and you will need somebody to help you navigate the crazy, tricky world of pregnancy and motherhood. So it’s important to surround yourself with family or friends—they can be virtual, even—who can help you talk things through.
In my case, although my partner, family, and friends offered love, support, and care throughout my pregnancy, I felt like they didn’t truly understand what I was going through. Being the first in my circle of friends to become a mom, I had to process a lot of things, especially how to combat the stigma of young motherhood. So I took to the internet to learn about other people’s experiences with surprise pregnancies. I read tons of forums, blogs, and boy did I learn! I learned that while you are the one carrying your baby, you do not have to walk through it alone.
Step 2 - Plan Ahead
Who would have thought that the best things in life—as well as the most expensive—come in small packages? I’m not talking about diamonds, but babies. A 2017 survey estimates the cost of a baby's first year to be up to $21,248. Others say it can be even more. So as soon as you confirm your pregnancy, save up—stat!
Start with a list of baby essentials and work from there. If possible, take on some side hustles to augment your savings, which is what I did. I accepted writing jobs on the side to add to our ‘baby fund.’ My partner also worked more hours to get more pay.
Take note that the costs don’t stop after baby arrives too. There are a whole lot of ongoing costs to think about, including clothing, food, childcare, and more.
Come up with a birth plan
Your birth plan is a comprehensive list of your instructions on a host of things concerning childbirth and after delivery. Since childbirth is no easy process, it’s vital that you consult your doctor about the best options for you and your situation. You don’t want to be making these decisions while you are going through labor pains.
The birth plan can cover a range of instructions, such as how you want to do fetal monitoring if you want your water to break naturally, how you want to be coached when pushing, if and when you want an epidural, and the like.
Of equal importance is the after-delivery aspect of the process. This includes particulars such as when to clamp the umbilical cord, who’s going to cut it, or whether you’re storing your baby’s cord blood or donating it.
Get your partner involved
He is equally responsible for your pregnancy for obvious reasons, even if he’s not doing the physically taxing aspect of delivering the baby. He can still help you during the actual process of giving birth. Discuss in advance about the support you need, how he can help you during labor, and for when after your baby comes out. Sometimes even the mere presence of the dad or a partner during the entire process is reassurance enough.
On the rare possibility that a newborn would need immediate medical attention right after delivery, and if the mother is not in a state to make sound decisions, the partner can take the decision-making responsibility of the parent, while the mother is on recovery.
Head to the benefits department
Also, make sure to share the news to your employer and learn more about maternity leave options and perks. The Family and Medical Leave Act allows new moms to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid lead, granted that you have worked with the company for a year and your employer meets certain federal requirements. Make sure to ask your company about adding your baby to your health insurance.
Third, Get Baby Smart
Learn what’s in store for you and your baby
The next nine months (and beyond) are going to be a long and often unpredictable ride, so it’s important to learn as much as you can about the tenant inside your tummy.
While I loved babies even before getting pregnant, I was surprised to realize how little I knew about them. So I read. I devoured books, blogs, websites, and anything with advice for would-be parents. I also religiously tracked my baby's growth month-by-month and observed the many changes happening to my body.
It’s important to note, though, that nothing can completely prepare a new parent for the rollercoaster ride ahead. Having said that, there is no harm in learning everything you can about motherhood.
Prepare baby names
Brainstorming baby names is one of the most exciting parts of the pregnancy journey. You don’t have to choose a name just yet, but It’s also never too early to start making a list.
My partner and I had to play a game of rock, paper, scissors to settle our baby naming dispute. Very mature, don’t you think? He won, anyway. Now my child is stuck with a name that would probably give people a clue where he was conceived. Kidding!
Last but not least -
Enjoy your bump
Pregnancy, at any stage, serves a rollercoaster of emotions (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner)—it’s not a surprise why not all women find pregnancy enjoyable at all. Sure, there are so many aches and inconveniences that pregnancy brings, but along with it also comes a whole host of surprises and strengths you never knew you had. 40 weeks may seem like forever, but it will go by in a blink! So take a breath and enjoy all the perks of pregnancy.
Who would have thought that two lines—no words required even—can change anybody’s life in an instant? So brace yourself, mama. It’s going to be a bumpy ride (pun intended)!
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