The Stages of Pregnancy
Motherhood is the most rewarding, yet challenging job of a woman’s life. It all starts with conception and implantation. When a woman ovulates, the egg cell that is released can be fertilized within 12-24 hours by a man’s sperm cell. Once the egg is fertilized, the gender of the embryo is determined by whether the sperm cell that met the egg had an X or a Y chromosome. Within three to four days, the embryo implants itself to the lining of the uterus, where it will grow into a fetus.
The first trimester is the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. At this point, the hCG hormone can be detected in a woman’s urine, which will trigger a positive pregnancy test. This is the stage where the woman starts to feel the infamous morning sickness along with other pregnancy symptoms such as fatigue, heartburn, constipation, bloating, gas, tender breasts, and emotional ups and downs. The embryo will be considered a fetus after the eighth week of pregnancy. It grows from the size of a pea to the size of a kidney bean in the first two months. By the end of the first trimester, the majority of the fetus’ organs have developed. The fingers and toes also develop. The muscles and bones begin to develop.
The second trimester is the thirteenth week to the seventeenth week of pregnancy. The earlier pregnancy symptoms tend to dissipate. The woman may begin to feel pressure in her pelvic area. Weight gain is the most significant occurrence in this trimester. The woman will start feeling the fetus moving. The twentieth week is the halfway point of the pregnancy. The gender of the fetus can be revealed between 18 weeks to 22 weeks. The fetus can sleep and wake in cycles, swallow, hear, bend limbs, open his/her eyes, and produce urine. The hair starts to grow, and the brain is developing at a fast rate.
The third trimester is twenty-eighth week to the fortieth week of pregnancy. The woman may feel shortness of breath due to her lungs not having as much room to expand due to her uterus pushing against her diaphragm muscle. She may experience swelling in her ankles, hands, feet, and face due to fluid retention and slowing of blood circulation. She may experience frequent urination and aches in the back and pelvic area. Colostrum may leak from her breasts. The woman may experience Braxton Hicks contractions as her due date draws near. The fetus can kick, stretch, and respond to stimuli. The fetus gains weight at a rapid rate. All of the bones, except the skull, become rigid. Its lungs are fully functioning. It turns head-down during the ninth month of pregnancy. It is typically born after 39-40 weeks.
The Pain of Labor
Labor pains vary from woman to woman. Labor pain is caused by the uterine muscles contracting, cervical pressure, bladder pressure, bowel pressure, stretching of the birth canal and vagina. It can be felt in the abdominal area, groin, back, thighs, and sides. Some women may feel it as a pain similar to menstrual cramps, and some women may feel it as immense pressure. While other women may feel it as intense waves of pain that are comparable to lower abdominal cramps. Most women say each individual contraction is not the difficult part; it is the fact that the contractions keep coming with a shorter duration in between each as labor progresses.
Challenges of Being a New Mom
First time mothers face a variety of challenges in the early months of motherhood. Many new moms struggle with breastfeeding. Contrary to popular belief, it does not just come naturally. It requires a lot of effort and practice before it comes naturally. The ways a new mom can cope with this struggle is to seek the help of a lactation consultant and other mothers. If it is not going well after a month, switching to formula may be a viable option.
Many new moms struggle with possessing resentment towards their husband. They may feel their husbands do not have empathy towards them because their husbands do not understand the struggle related to giving birth and also with caring for a newborn around the clock. They may also feel like they are being bombarded with all of the work regarding the baby and that their husbands are not sharing equal responsibility. This can be coped with by understanding that the husbands are doing the best with the tools they have, communicating feelings, and dividing the responsibilities.
Many new moms struggle with feeling fat after they have given birth. This can be coped with by having them remind themselves that the extra pounds served a good purpose, not obsessing over losing weight, and understanding that their husbands most likely do not mind them not having the same pre-pregnancy bodies.
The ambivalence of a new mom’s job situation is a distressing issue. It may be the most distressing issue because even more money is needed to support the baby. This can be coped with by new moms seeking the help of other moms who had the same experience, working part-time, working from home, requesting a flexible schedule from an employer, and realizing this decision can always be changed if it does not work out.
The most important fact that new moms need to know is that they do not have to be perfect. They need to know that they do not need to beat themselves over needing a break to eat, shower, and simply relax.
Coping with Stress
Stress is inevitable for new mothers. A new mother is absolutely entitled to be stressed, but she needs to be able to cope with that stress. One way she can cope with this stress is by merely unwinding. She should make an effort to keep some time everyday just for herself to do a relaxing activity such as reading, taking a hot bath, watching a favorite movie, listening to relaxing music, etc. Connecting with other people at local mother and baby groups, playgrounds, daycares, etc. can help alleviate the stress as well. She should make an effort to spend time with her partner. The time does not have to be spent at a fancy five-star restaurant; it can simply be time watching television together. Communicating her feelings to others is a great release for all of her emotions. While communicating to her partner and family members can be helpful, she should consider talking to a non-family member who can be objective. Most importantly, she should be able to accept the help others give and relax. She needs to know that there is no bonus to being a supermom.
Mommy Wars and How to Stop Them
Mommy Wars refer to mothers judging other mothers on their parenting style. For example, a stay-at-home mom judges a working mother. Another example is a mother not approving of another’s mother’s choice of stroller. According to a recent survey, 97 percent of the survey participants admitted to criticizing other parents. Mommy Wars are caused by some mothers thinking their parenting style is superior to other’s parenting styles and judging other mother’s parenting decisions.
The Mommy Wars can easily be solved. A mother should focus on and do whatever she feels is right for herself and her child. When one mother feels like criticizing another, she should realize that not all mothers and children are the same, so there is no uniform parenting style or decision. Starting non-judgemental, respectful conversations with other mothers can combat mommy wars. These conversations should consist of the mothers being honest about what works for themselves and respectfully addressing the mothers who are on the other side of the issue. The Mommy Wars can also be solved by mothers realizing that they are all on this difficult journey together, creating supportive communities, and simply reminding themselves that at the end of the day they are all striving to be good mothers.
The internet is a place where a lot of Mommy Wars are declared. Basic netiquette can solve this problem. If one mother has nothing kind to say and/or can not express her opinion in a kind manner, she should not write it. If she would not say it to a person’s face, she should not write it online either.
The journey of motherhood begins at conception and implantation. Then the mother has to go through nine months of pregnancy, which are divided up in three trimesters. After the adversity of labor is over, there are many new challenges and lots of stress that go along with being a new mom. It is important that the new mom can find the ways to cope with these challenges and stress. As children grow up, there are many issues that present themselves, which may lead to Mommy Wars between mothers. It is important throughout the entire journey of motherhood for a mother to do what she feels is best for herself and her child and not judge or worry much about others.