Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pregnancy Accoutrements - A Buyer's Guide

Many thanks for your comments on my deep ethical dilemma over hair highlighting. I kept my appointment and now will make every effort to turn off my brain until I leave the salon having reclaimed my rightful place in the world as a streaky blonde. Seriously, I really do appreciate your encouragement – it's sometimes hard to find perspective in my own, worried head and I needed your help on that one.

The highlights issue got me thinking about pregnancy-friendly beauty products I've discovered, and generally about what items have worked for me – and what I've found to be a waste of time and/or money – throughout these months. While I know that these things are quite subjective and for every rave review on something you might find three negatives, I thought I'd share my own experience and maybe get a conversation going (what have you loved? hated?) so the newly pregnant (ahem, Sprogblogger) and soon-to-be-pregnant can start stocking up on gear.

**So worth it**

-Basq Rebalancing Facial Cleanser – I'm always looking for new ways to deal with my combination skin, and pregnancy hasn't exactly been its BFF. So I tested this product at a local maternity shop (Basq is specifically for pregnant and new moms) and felt it was worth a try – it's designed for rebalancing oiliness and contains microbeads that gently exfoliate (many exfoliating cleansers contain harsher ingredients not ideal for pregnancy). And I'm seriously glad I did – it's made my skin look brighter and feel less oily, and may be something I keep in my product lineup indefinitely.

-Basq Cucumber Tea Eye Gel – Another one from Basq, this cooling eye gel feels fantastic on my puffy, overtired (sure to get even overtired-er in the weeks to come) eyes.

-Mamma Mio Tummy Rub Stretch Mark Butter – Okay, so I did not get off scot-free in this area. After bragging for months about no stretch marks, they finally appeared on the scene around my eighth or ninth month. I truly believe this had to do with my transverse baby – my belly was quite wide around and very oddly shaped for longer than normal and I think it stretched out the skin more than it otherwise would have (excuses, excuses). And I never have believed in topical "belly butters" anyway – stretch marks do not happen because one forgot to apply some lotion. But if you're going to use one (because, why not?), this one feels luxurious, smells fresh and is just generally pleasant to use.

-Karma Organic Spa Organic Nail Polish Remover – I can't stand the smell of regular nail polish remover normally, never mind while pregnant. And I hate how it strips and dries out your nails. Not only does this actually smell good (I got lavender), but it really works (took off my professionally manicured fortress of polish with the same number of swipes as regular remover) – and leaves your nails shiny, not stripped. Oh, and of course there's the benefit of knowing you're not pickling your unborn child while using it. The $12 price tag is steep compared with the drugstore variety but well worth it for the above reasons.

-Zoya Nail Polish – If you're looking for polish that's also free of all the yucky stuff that sounds scary when you're pregnant, this line is great and some regular salons now make it available. This was one area where I became really laid-back (seriously!) over the course of my pregnancy, but in the beginning I was paranoid about using the regular brands so it was nice to have this option.

-What to Expect When You're Expecting – I'd been warned by lots of people (including OBs) that this book was no good, that it dwelled on the bad things that can happen during pregnancy and frightened poor, unsuspecting newly pregnant girls. I found the opposite (and you know if there were fear to be found in it I would have found it). The scary parts are mostly in a separate chapter at the end, and the rest of it made me feel, surprisingly, normal and healthy. It's been my absolute pregnancy Bible.

-Baby Bargains – This is a must-have for navigating the intimidating world of baby gear. It breaks everything down for you, tells you what you realistically need and rates each item across multiple brands. Go to any BabiesRUs store and you'll find couples trolling the aisles with it. I'm sure I'll end up disagreeing with some of their recommendations, but I don't know what I would have done without it.

-Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy – This one tells you in plainer language the real deal on the stuff you don't want to ask your OB. Its author is a mother of four, so you figure if she doesn't know what it's really like, no one does.

-Belly Laughs – I didn't know I liked Jenny McCarthy until I read this book (in fact, I thought I strongly disliked her). It's just pure entertainment. I seriously laughed so hard at one of the chapters it concerned my husband. I also bought Baby Laughs, which I plan to read once the baby comes (in all my spare time) so I can relate.

-Waiting for Birdy Part memoir, part survival guide, this is one woman's truthfully funny, beautifully written, birds-eye view of pregnancy and parenthood. I'm holding onto my copy to read again when I have a toddler (her son's age).

Gap Maternity Pants – When I first grew out of my clothes (around 10 weeks) I tried going up a size in pants, which clearly didn't work. So I went to a maternity store and bought a pair of real maternity pants with the rollover belly panel. I thought they fit until I started walking and realized I didn't have enough of a belly to keep them up. I subsequently discovered through a lot of trial, error and frustration that Gap makes the best maternity pants, IMHO. I particularly like the "demi" panel pants, which lose the big panel in favor of smaller, stretchy waistband panel. This was all I needed for a good amount of the pregnancy, and continues to fit now (though eventually I got some full-panel pants as well).

-Maternity Underwear – I smugly thought for several months that I'd outsmarted the maternity manufacturing industry by avoiding maternity underwear. I bought one pack about midway through and didn't see a huge difference, so I figured I'd keep wearing mine for the duration. I was sorely mistaken on this one. What happens when your belly gets giant is that the top of your regular underwear won't stay up and starts to roll over. Which is very, very annoying. So spring for the maternity fit – they make all styles of these so it doesn't mean resorting to grannies.

-Motherhood Light Support Nursing Sleep Bra – So after my tirade over the nursing bra situation, I decided to order a bunch (mainly from Target, which someone recommended) in hopes that one or two would fit. I ordered two of these sleep bras from Motherhood, which have turned out to be quite comfortable, fit normally and keep the girls where they should be.

Citrucel – Okay, you know how much I love talking about what goes on in the bathroom so I'll make this quick. If you have any – ANY – signs of difficulty (Most pregnant girls do at one point or another, particularly if you're put on bed rest. I have had episodes that will never be recounted but would have you either laughing or crying on my behalf.) in this department, you must head them off at the pass. Run, don't walk, to your nearest pharmacy and pick something up. Some people swear by Colace but for me, Citrucel caplets (don't bother with the powder) twice a day have worked like a charm. This is not something to "wait out" in efforts to avoid taking anything, my friends. Trust me.

Snoogle – Despite a seriously unfortunate name, this full-body pregnancy pillow has been a constant companion for me these months. In the beginning, the bottom part (which fits nicely between your knees) alone noticeably helped the sciatica I developed in my hips. Now I fashion various formations using the whole thing as leverage on top of my existing pillows to keep my head propped and my hips somewhat comfortable. My husband calls this activity "roosting."

**Save your pennies**
-Palmer's Cocoa Butter – Not impressed. As I said above, I don't even necessarily believe in stretch mark-antidotes except as a way of making you feel action-oriented in combating them. So I think the experience of applying the lotion should be uplifting and luxurious. The Palmer's smell is just not olfactory friendly. It smells exactly like they tried to get a rich, tropical-esque scent into a drugstore-priced bottle. No thanks.

-Girlfriend's Guide to the First Year – As helpful as I found the pregnancy guide, I found this second book to be disappointing and depressing. Reading it, one begins to believe that the only emotion they will feel in the first several weeks of parenthood will be a strong urge to commit hara-kiri. I mean, I'm prepared for it to be hard (I'm even prepared that I have no idea now how hard it will be). But I want to try and be somewhat optimistic about my chances of emerging alive.

-Pregnancy Journals – I bought a pregnancy journal (which detailed what your fetus was doing every day) just after getting my BFP, and I think I looked at it for all of one afternoon. For me, blogging was my pregnancy journal and the once-weekly updates on fetal growth, etc. from What to Expect were more than enough for me. As excited as you are, especially in the beginning, there is only so much one can talk about what fruit one's fetus most resembles that day.

-Maternity Tights/Hosiery – Unlike maternity underwear, these I found to be a complete waste of money. They're basically regular tights with a maternity label stamped on them. I found no discernible difference between these and regular hosiery.

-Belly Bands – I know these have their devotees, but I was not one of them – I found them to be far too constricting around my belly (which was still bloated from IVF meds and quickly getting bigger). What I did instead was MacGyver a bigger waistband on my pants using a hair elastic from the inside button of one side to the regular button on the other, and wore long tops. For me, this bridged those few weeks between regular clothes and the discovery of the wonderful Gap demi panel (which really can be worn from a few weeks on).

That's all I can think of at the moment, but I may do another future installment on pregnancy/new mom "stuff" as I think of things. Because, let's face it, you don't really feel pregnant until you buy something that says "maternity" and realize, with a start, that it's made for you.


Amanda said...

I love my motherhood bras sleep bras, their was a couple of months where I think those saved my life, and even the other week when I was having woeful bra issues, those were about all I had and I wore them during the day, GASP, and at work, double GASP!

And although I have had an envienable relationship with my digestive tract all pregnancy, I have tried citrucel before and it is wonderful and never caused any excess gas then, so I would think it would work very well now. And not unpleasant at all.

Heather said...

I agree with everything except the maternity tights. They did work great for me. I lived in them most days with loose dresses. I agree with the belly butter. I also bought the oil by the same company as I was pg with twins. I think it helped.

the Babychaser: said...

Good list. A few things I'll have to check out.

Glad you highlighted. It was one of those things I just wasn't going to give up during pregnancy. :-)

My first stretch marks are coming in now. I had hoped (without any reason) that maybe I'd skip that one. But with two and a half months to go, it's not looking good. I think I'll buy the nice belly cream, though. My cheaper stuff just ran out today, and I feel like treating myself.

Glad you're holding up well!

JamieD said...

Thanks for the list! My complexion is doing better now but once my period returns I know it will be wacky again. Thanks for the Basq recommendation.

I will definitely bookmark this post!

Queenie. . . said...

I ordered a bunch of different nursing bras, and the Majamas wireless was my favorite, followed closely by the Japanese Weekend "Hugs" bra.

The only maternity hosiery that I thought were worthwhile were the Gap tights. They were comfy and attractive, to the point where I was constantly washing them at the end, because I wanted to wear them almost every day. They sold out really quickly, so I wasn't able to buy another pair.

Cotes in Amsterdam said...

All good stuff. One thing I would add to the list of things to get - a Timex sport watch. While it seems really silly, I haven't taken mine off since I went into labor 3 months ago. It's been great because you can keep track of time and it has an "Indiglo" light so you can see what time it is without having to turn the lights on. (Great for those middle of the night feedings!) One thing I've learned is, you time everything - when the contractions start/stop and when the baby comes, if you're breastfeeding, you check how long they've been eating, at what time,and you can use the alarm button to let you know when the next feeding should be, or to wake you up (quietly) from a quick nap, etc. It's been a big help to me so far..