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Kicking and screaming to hugging - the saga of pregnancy pillows and Tums

Non-pregnant woman, sleeping peacefully.
When I think about the attitude I had towards pregnancy going into my first one, it's hard not to laugh.  I had this idea that I wasn't going to let pregnancy "change" me.  I was going to go about my life in exactly the same why I had been up to that point, and then eventually a baby was going to come out.  Then I would be the same exact me I had always been but with a cute new accessory.

Haggard pregnant woman, roaming the night, hoping to pass out in exhaustion.
One of the first places the reality of pregnancy really struck was when it came to sleep.  Pregnancy insomnia is a well documented phenomenon (here is a really great blog essay about it).  However, often throughout my pregnancy, even when I felt like I could fall and stay asleep, other things interfered.


Starting early in the first trimester I began to experience intense, fire breathing, life disturbing heartburn.   It would particularly peak any time I made the mistake of lying down.  Many women experience heartburn in their third trimester when the baby becomes big enough to press on the stomach.  Others of us are lucky enough to start with it a lot earlier.  (First trimester heartburn is caused by a hormone called "relaxin".  As the name implies, relaxin is released throughout pregnancy to relax the muscles and make room for the baby to grow.  However, it also has the unpleasant side effect of relaxing the muscles normally involved in keeping your stomach content where it belongs.)

Pass the Tums
Now being the tough cookie that I am, I was determined to just white knuckle my way through the pain rather than "endanger" my precious cargo with medication.  Thankfully, my husband had a clear head and a kind heart and did me the favor of looking up which antacids were safe to take in pregnancy.  This is how we came upon the incredibly safe (and obvious) solution of Tums.  Many of you are hopefully rolling your eyes right about now because who doesn't know about Tums?  However, since then I have spoken to enough pregnant women to know that many of them are suffering needlessly in exactly the same way I was.  Tums consists almost entirely of one simple and safe ingredient - Calcium.  That's right, it's a highly effective way to treat heartburn with a mineral that you're likely not eating enough of anyway.  Try it once and you'll likely be keeping a bottle on your nightstand, in your purse, at your desk at work, and anywhere else you can think of.

Note: If you also have to take iron supplements at some point during your pregnancy, be aware that calcium interferes with iron absorption.  This is unfortunate since iron supplements often exacerbate heartburn.  If you fall into this situation, I recommend taking the iron mid-morning.  That way you have something in your stomach so the iron is less likely to upset it, but you are hopefully far away in time from desperately needing the Tums to get some shut eye (the iron needs a 2-hour window to be absorbed fully).

Musculoskeletal pain 

This is a gift that just keeps on giving in pregnancy.  It is an extremely under-appreciated fact that a woman's spine literally shifts throughout her first pregnancy in order to accommodate the growing uterus (and never fully comes back to its original position).  Couple that with the weight gain, the round ligament pain, and a million other things, back and hip pain are extremely common, especially towards the end.  This can make getting comfortable in bed almost impossible. (I highly recommend prenatal yoga as a way to help your body cope with the changes.)

Many people will recommend that you sleep on your side, place a pillow behind your back, another pillow under your belly, and then another one between your knees to get comfortable.  Frankly those people are crazy because who sleeps perfectly still like that?  I will admit to resisting the pregnancy pillow for a long time because it looked huge and I surely wasn't going to need it and what was I going to do with it when I was no longer pregnant?  Then, somewhere around 6 months I broke down and got myself a Snoogle Total Body Pillow and haven't looked back.

The Snoogle makes sleeping without pain (at first), and later in your pregnancy with less pain, possible.  Also, unlike the pillow construction described above, it allows you to roll over (assuming you are at a point in your pregnancy where you're still able to do that). I will admit that it is quite large (my husband referred to it as "the great barrier Snoogle" when it was in constant use).   However, the Snoogle people undersell it as a purely pregnancy pillow.  It comes with a handy sheet that tells you all the different ways you can use it for more than just sleeping while pregnant. As a frequent sufferer of colds and sinus infections, it has been a convenient way to prop myself up in bed in the years since. We keep it in a storage bin under the bed for easy access when someone is sick.

I still can't sleep

Yeah.... yeah.  Anxiety about your future, the constant need to pee, the kicking from inside, the Braxton Hicks contractions - all of these will keep you awake much more than you previously thought possible.  I wish I had something helpful to say here but I don't.  Nap if you're able during the day or when you get home from work.  If you're passing out in exhaustion at 9pm (only to be maddeningly awake at 4 am) go ahead and go to bed at 9pm.  Maybe 4am can be a zen time for you to read?  In any case, this will all come to an end eventually (though you may continue to go to bed 9 pm because kids are kind of exhausting).  The baby will be born and babies can always be handed off to a partner/friend/mom while you go and pass out in the other room.

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