When I was pregnant the first time, people would earnestly tell me, “Enjoy this time!” so often that the phrase became just sounds that entered one ear and immediately exited the other. I didn’t give the advice much merit … until my second pregnancy, when I fully understood the importance of its underlying message: once the baby comes, you will never ever have time to yourself again—not like you used to, anyway.
So take heed: Do things you take pleasure in. Be independent (while you still can). Cherish any moment when you’re able to do something just for yourself, something that feels good, makes you feel pretty, and melts away those prenatal pangs.
Not sure where to begin? Try these ten excellent ways to pamper—and enjoy—your pregnant self:
1. Book a prenatal massage. Inquire with reputable day spas—or get referrals from new moms—to locate a masseuse with training in prenatal massage. The massage therapist must be familiar with the unique characteristics of the pregnant body, from the pressure points that are known to trigger contractions to how relaxing affects your joints. It’s simply not safe to get a massage from anyone else. Ask whether you’ll be lying facedown on a pregnancy table (with a cutout for your tummy) or on your side with bolsters; if you’re scent-sensitive, bring your own massage oil. Drink plenty of water before your appointment … and relax. Your body will love the gentle pressure, and its newly acquired aches and pains will begin to fade.
2. Practice prenatal yoga. It’s been proven that regular prenatal exercise contributes to a speedier postnatal recovery. And believe me, you will want your body back ASAP. Prenatal yoga with a certified, experienced teacher will ease (and can even prevent) back pain, sciatica, edema (water retention), spider veins, and more. Some women find that the breathing techniques they learn in yoga are even more helpful in the delivery room than what Lamaze teaches. Keep in mind that a class that seems easy or slow at first will be a wonderful, welcome retreat when you’re as big as a house. Relish the quiet time you and your growing baby have together while you stretch and strengthen.
3. Slather on belly and breast creams. Treat the skin on your stomach and breasts—and hips and lower back—with specially formulated moisturizers and anti-itch creams (also dubiously labeled anti–stretch mark creams). Only purchase products free of phthalates, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, dyes, and fragrance. These chemicals have been linked to cancer and other problems, and it’s safe to assume that anything your skin absorbs may also be absorbed by your growing fetus. (Trade out any shampoos, conditioners, cleansers, and lotions that contain these ingredients, too.) Companies like Motherlove, Burt’s Bees, and Bella B offer terrific options for these tender areas. Most important, savor the solitude of your skincare ritual; take care in applying the salves and acknowledge the beauty of your curvy body with every rub.
4. Cuddle up with a maternity pillow. A good’s night sleep—pregnant or not—is the ultimate luxury. That’s why it’s essential to add this accessory to your boudoir. And I don’t mean just tossing a standard pillow between your legs and calling it a night—find a full-body pillow with front and back support. Boppy and Snoozer both manufacture full-length maternity pillows, but Leachco takes the cake, with more than half a dozen styles to choose from for the best in support and comfort, leading to those all-important Zs. Ahhh.
5. Have your house cleaned. There’s no better way to pamper yourself than to walk into a clean home and simply do nothing but admire the work you didn’t have to do. So when friends or family ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” you, without hesitation, must answer firmly: “Yes, clean my house!” It is the perfect gift: practical and priceless. Do not feel bad about this request. Relatives especially want to help but don’t often know how. Or if you just can’t imagine your mom scrubbing the floors, hire someone. Ask for referrals, and then sit back and do nothing. Bonus: if you like your housecleaners, you will be calling them back after Baby arrives. Trust me.
6. Get a pedicure. At some point, you will be unable to touch your toes. When this time comes, get thee to a nail salon—one with good ventilation—and pamper your little piggies. Book extra time for a spa chair and an extended foot massage—as long as the beautician is well versed in the pressure points that can cause contractions and steers clear of them. You’ll be wearing flip-flops (see #7) a lot, and your feet will be resting in medical stirrups more often than you’d like, so having pretty toes for others to admire will be comforting and make you feel glamorous, in spite of the basketball attached to your torso.
7. Flip out for flip-flops. At some point soon, your feet will be so swollen that you won’t be able to fit them into anything else. And because you may be carrying anywhere from about twenty to fifty extra pounds, don’t settle for the cheap brands—you’ll wear through the sole before your first contraction. Do look for a dense, sturdy, flexible sole. Make sure they’re as glamorous as possible: try a bright color, or rhinestones, or whatever will best compliment your pedicure. Havaianas are a great casual find; without compromising style for support, try OKA b.
8. Go bra shopping. Twice. Purchase your first upgrade near the beginning of your second trimester, when your breasts will likely be spilling out of the top and sides of your existing bras. This interim brassiere should be comfortable and supportive—but most of all inexpensive, since you’ll be trading it in for the next size up in a matter of months, when you’ll need to shop for your real (and unavoidably pricey) maternity bra. Shop as close to your due date as possible for the best fit, and don’t go anywhere except to a maternity store, where you’ll be fitted into something perfect that will last through the laborious months of nursing and engorgement.
9. Adorn your ears and neck. When you can no longer fit into normal clothes, you’ll find that accessories are a pregnant girl’s best friend. They conveniently draw attention away from your belly to your glowing face and heaving cleavage. Go big here (since you’re big everywhere else, it’ll balance out nicely). Multiple strands of anything bold and shimmery are perfect for the décolletage. For earrings, aim for long and elaborate; choose metallics and something with a lot of movement. In other words, put the pearl studs and half-inch drop pendants away—these will just make you look, well, big.
10. Strike a pose. Pregnancy pictures can be fun, beautiful, glamorous, tender—whatever you want. They’re the perfect way to capture this wrinkle in time. Most department stores offer inexpensive portraits (Target, for example, always has coupons), but you can also enlist a friend to help snap basic shots, or seek out a professional photographer. Bring your personality into the studio, show some skin, and delight in having your center be the center of attention.