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There’s a slew of things, both big and small, that you give up when you decide to embark on pregnancy. From specific foods to certain physical activities, the ability to sleep on your stomach and full control of your bladder, complete bodily autonomy just doesn’t exist when miniature arms and legs are growing inside of you — and all of that is pregnancy in “normal” circumstances. Now that we’re collectively navigating a global pandemic that has severely altered how people manage and celebrate their pregnancies, and how they give birth, things are considerably more complicated and harder to control.
While it can feel like pregnancy is one never-ending exercise in “letting go” and allowing your body to take over — and the end to the allusion that we’re more than just a brain carried around by our uniquely weird flesh bags — there are more than a few things you actually can control when you’re pregnant.
When you’re being poked and prodded by medical professionals — your weight loudly announced and, in the worst of circumstances, scrutinized — your body hardly feels like your own. Hair begins to grow in places you didn’t know hair could grow, bodily fluids are exiting your body on a whim and often at the most inopportune times, and all the will you can manage to muster won’t make up for a dire lack of energy. And that’s not even covering what is going on with the forming fetus bogarting your life force.
What’s going on inside your uterus is as awe-inspiring as it is completely out of your control — how a fetus does or does not form has nothing to do with the hopes and dreams of future parents. It’s all a crazy biological game of roulette — we throw some sperm at some eggs and hope for the best.
But being in the backseat of a 40 week (more or less) roller coaster ride doesn’t mean you’re completely powerless, or that your life has to descend into lawless chaos. There are still aspects of your life — be it your environment, the people around you, and what you lend your time and limited energy to — that are well within your jurisdiction as the pregnant person preparing to give birth. So whether you’re pregnant during COVID-19, or literally any other time, try focusing on the following and allow these moments of total ownership to help you get through the times when that rollercoaster is climbing upward and you’re left holding on for dear life.
1. Who you share your pregnancy with
You are under no obligation to share the fact that you’re pregnant with anyone. You don’t have to tell your boss, your coworkers, your overbearing mother, or your nosy uncle. Whether you divulge any information about your pregnancy, be it how far along you are, if you’re experiencing any complications, or how you’re feeling, is entirely up to you.
2. Who your support person (or people!) will be
Even the most best-intentioned people in our lives can be, well, a little extra — especially with things related to pregnancy. If your usually wonderful friend is being too pushy about how you give birth (I decide whether or not I use pain medications during labor, Jessica), spend less time talking to her. If your mom is wanting to insert herself into your future parenting decisions, name your future baby, or is attempting to inch her way into the delivery room, tell her to back off and spend less time around her. This is your pregnancy — no one else’s. What makes you the most comfortable, and who is able to provide you with the most support, should trump the needs and wants of those around you.
3. Your future baby’s name
Yes, people will have opinions. And yes, family members will probably insist you name your fetus after a dead relative or something. But if they aren’t growing your child inside their own body, they don’t get to have a say on what you end up naming the person attached to that child.
4. Learning and/or sharing the sex of your fetus
We can all agree that revealing the sex of a fetus in some elaborate way is, like, creepy, right? You’re telling everyone in your life that your fetus has either a penus or a vagina and that’s… just weird. But hey, if you’re into that kind of thing, go for it! Again, this is your pregnancy, so how you want to celebrate that pregnancy is entirely up to you.
But if you don’t want to partake in the performative celebration of the gender binary, don’t! Skip it! It’s OK! No one needs to know the sex of your fetus if you don’t want them to.
5. Whether or not you have a baby shower…
There is no hard and fast rule that says you must have a baby shower. Don’t like sitting in the middle of friends and family, having them all awkwardly stare at you as you open up a mountain of presents? Great! Don’t do it. You don’t have to don some flower crown and cup your pregnant belly in front of a cardboard cut out of a stork (unless you want to!) to appease a family member or enthusiastic best friend.
If planning a baby shower, or even having someone else plan one for you, just sounds overwhelming, skip it. If the only baby shower you could have right now is a virtual one, and that just bums you out, wait until it’s safe to gather with friends and family sans mask and have a post-pregnant party. This is your pregnancy, and whether or not you celebrate it in a big, public way is entirely up to you.
6. …and what that shower looks like
If you’re into baby showers, but want to skip the whole “eat chocolate out of a diaper” charade and opt out of the “guess the flavor of this mushy baby food” business, go right ahead and live your best life! If you’re more of a Miranda than a Charlotte, and would enjoy some fried chicken instead of a “beautiful puttanesca,” do your best Aidan Shaw impression and go to town on a bucket of crispy poultry. (How many Sex and the City references is “too many”?)
It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: how you celebrate (or don’t celebrate!) your pregnancy is entirely up to you, and that includes the ins and outs of your baby shower.
7. What you put into your body
Yes, your doctor, midwife, nurse, or doula will likely encourage you to avoid certain foods and drinks. And, yes, there’s plenty of scientific evidence that shows sucking down a carton of cigarettes while you’re pregnant isn’t healthy, for you or your fetus.
But what you ultimately decide to put inside your body is entirely up to you. A certain amount of bodily autonomy is given up during pregnancy, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t still in control of what goes on in your own person, including the food you eat and the beverages you drink. So if someone wants to shame you for having a sushi roll, feel free to point to the nearest door and tell them where they can go (i.e., far, far away from you).
8. How you talk about your pregnancy
Let’s face it: pregnancy sucks for everyone at least some of the time. Even in the best of circumstances, sharing your body with a fetus isn’t a walk in the park. It’s difficult. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding. Your hormones take on a life of their own and you’re at the mercy of your body’s unruly functions.
All of which is to say: You don’t have to talk about your pregnancy in a positive way if you don’t feel very positive about pregnancy. It’s OK to say, “Yeah, I kind of hate this.” It’s alright to revel in the sh*tty aspects of gestation. It’s not all pleasant! You’re just keeping it real! You’re processing your feelings! Pardon you for being a whole human who experiences things in more than one dimension! The end result — an adorable, potato-look-alike baby — certainly cancels out the negative, but that doesn’t mean the negative aspects of pregnancy do not exist.
So don’t feel bad if you’re not feeling all Mother Goddess when you’re pregnant. There’s no one “right” way to feel about housing a fetus inside your body — it’s an intensely personal experience that is entirely your own, so how you feel about it is just as valid as someone who just loves being pregnant. (That person is lying anyway, right?!)
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