July 30, 2006

No beer and no caffeine make Monica something something

Homer Simpson: All right, brain, you don't like me and I don't like you, but let's get me through this, and I can get back to slowly killing you with beer."
Homer's Brain: It's a deal!

Replace the word "brain" with "body," and that could be my internal monologue of the past 20-some years.

My passive-aggressive abuse of my body has not been limited to beer. When I think about all the suntans, late nights drinking Vodka Red Bulls, brutally long work weeks, cigarettes, fad diets, car rides without seat belts... it seems like a wonder that I've survived this long.

Homer Simpson: Shut up, brain, or I'll stab you with a Q-Tip!"

I've always been aware of my body's signals, and I always responded with a good fight. If I felt tired, it was time for a Starbucks Doubleshot. If I felt stressed, I'd plan a night of drunken revelry. If I felt sick, I would cram every available cold remedy down my sore throat and drag myself to work anyway.

Then, I got pregnant.

My entire perception of my body changed. Overnight, it went from being my brain's adversary to being somebody else's home.

That somebody is the size of a grain of rice, and yet he or she has influenced me more than all the doctors, friends, relatives, classes, TV specials, and books that have tried to warn me I should take better care of myself.

I'm not claiming to be the model of perfect health. Hell, I've waited my whole life to use the phrase "Baby needs ice cream;" I'm not giving that up now. Still, I have made some huge changes in my life over the past month. I gave up smoking the day my baby was conceived, and I haven't looked back. I now start my day with Special K and juice instead of quad-shot mochas and chocolate croissants.

And even though my efforts are being repaid with heartburn, restless nights, and more breast-related angst than I've experienced since junior high, I'm not one bit resentful.

There's a secret to the pregnancy adage, "Take good care of yourself." It goes much deeper than just avoiding unhealthy temptations. It's a kinder, more forgiving state of being.

If I had taken this approach years ago, I might have discovered this gentler, more mellow version of myself earlier. Maybe I wouldn't have needed the constant flow of caffeine and nicotine just to function day to day.

So, if you're not pregnant - heck, even if you're male - I encourage you to try some of these tips I've gotten from pregnancy books, websites, and helpful friends.

Monica's Pregnancy Tips For Everyone!
1. If you are tired, lie down for a nap. Caffeine only temporarily masks the problem: You need more sleep.

2. Don't turn down people's assistance because it's your instinctive reaction to say "No, Thank you." If someone offers to help carry your groceries, pump your gas, or bring you a sandwich, don't just dismiss them out of hand. They probably offered because they genuinely would like to help you.

3. Don't wear clothing that is tight around the waist or abdomen. Don't you think people would generally be happier and kinder to each other if we all followed this advice?

4. When buying clothes, shop for your real size, or one size larger. Give up on the "If I diet, I might be able to fit into these," or "If I buy anything larger than a 12, I'm admitting failure." Be comfortable with your actual dimensions, and acknowledge that, even when you gain weight, you can still look fashionable and attractive.

5. Stop sucking in your stomach. How much energy do human beings collectively waste on this task?

6. If you have a strong craving, eat a little bit of what you crave. Unless it is dirt or laundry detergent. Then call your doctor; you might have a mineral deficiency.

7. Wear a comfortable bra with good support. Well, OK, maybe this one doesn't pertain to the men quite as much, but ladies should always heed this advice.

8. Stop thinking of the worst-case scenario. Worrying will not only fail to make things better, it can almost certainly make them worse.

9. Avoid negative people. Toxic attitudes are more contagious than most diseases. They can adversely affect everything from your blood pressure to your digestive system.

10. If it hurts, rest it or ask someone to massage it. Don't immediately jump for the painkillers and ignore the real problem.

11. Wear comfortable shoes.

12. Turn to your mother and friends if you need advice or support. If they care about you, they will be delighted that you called.

13. Stop worrying that you are doing everything wrong. Remember that we have thousands of years of evolution (or divine intervention, if you prefer) on our sides. We were designed to do things correctly. It's when we stop trusting ourselves that we run into the serious problems.

14. If you feel like crying, go ahead and cry. If you feel like stabbing someone, try to channel that energy into something else, or go take a nap.

15. If you make a mistake, forgive yourself and move on. Whether it's accidentally eating a container of expired yogurt or saying something stupid to your boss, no good will come of dwelling on it.

16. Don't feel like you have to listen to every bit of advice people give you. Let it all in, take what you want, and let go of the rest. And, of course, that includes everything I have written here.


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