Before getting pregnant, I was sure I’d be one of those glowing, Earth-mama types who’d spend nine months in prenatal bliss. After all, I’d spent years as a nanny, read tons of books on birth and pregnancy, and had major baby fever. But it wasn’t long after that positive pregnancy test that I realized: Growing a baby is full of surprises!

The First Trimester

The beginning of pregnancy can be a difficult time — your body is working nonstop and the physical and emotional adjustment can be bumpy. It’s normal for the initial excitement to wane as you navigate the ups and downs of these first few months, and don’t be surprised if it’s not as magical as you thought it would be.

Morning sickness is a misnomer. A few of my friends have skated through pregnancy without a wave of nausea and I am quite happy for them (and a bit jealous). For the rest of us, morning sickness can put a real wrench in the excitement of early pregnancy. I spent much of the first 16 weeks in bed, and not just in the morning — it was an all-day, every-day affair. I even lost weight, which was super nerve wracking, but apparently quite common.

You might not be that busty. I’ve always been a small-chested lady, so when my husband and I started trying for a baby, I was not-so-secretly excited for the enviable “pregnancy boobs” that everyone talks about. Granted, my breasts have grown over the past nine months, but not by more than half a cup size — not what I had in mind!

The “glow” won’t come until later. Another aspect of pregnancy I was looking forward to: the radiant pregnancy glow. But the first trimester is your body’s time to adjust to the demands of a growing baby. And that means there will be kinks to work out. My early pregnancy “glow” consisted of nausea-induced sweating and chin acne…not so glamorous.

The Second Trimester

By the time I hit the second trimester, I was drained and sure that all the books on “what to expect” had it 100-percent wrong. But they call this part of pregnancy “the honeymoon” for a reason. And although it’s never easy to grow a baby, months 4 through 6 are pretty magical most of the time.

Feeling the baby move is as wonderful as they promise. Though you may second guess yourself the first few times you feel that flutter or poke, you’ll soon realize that it’s indeed your sweet baby wiggling around and making her presence known. And suddenly, you’re in love. I spent countless hours on the couch enjoying those subtle (and then not-so-subtle) movements.

Your partner’s excitement will increase. When you’re growing a baby, you’re involved in the process every step of the way. But it can be difficult for your partner to feel included when there’s nothing he can do to help out. Don’t be discouraged if at first it feels like your other half is disconnected; the second trimester milestones will get him involved. Have him pitch in on the nursery projects (nothing makes the reality of a baby sink in like having a designated room for her!). And once your significant other feels the baby kick from the outside, he’ll be hooked to your belly and full of excitement.

Embarrassing moments happen. Though the second trimester is typically the easiest part of pregnancy, your body is still rapidly changing and your baby is growing bigger by the day. Sometimes these changes can create embarrassing situations (like audibly breaking wind in public or peeing your pants a little every time you sneeze…oops!). Do your best to roll with it, and maybe keep a change of underwear in your purse, just in case.

The Third Trimester

My pregnancy felt like it was going by so slowly for the first 30 weeks or so. In fact, every time someone mentioned how quickly I seemed to be progressing, I’d snap back with, “That’s because you’re not the one growing a human inside your body!” (We’ll blame those less-than-sweet remarks on pregnancy hormones). Although time speeds up in the final stretch, I found that my body started to slow down, and the transition wasn’t always easy.

Grooming is hard! Seriously, try bending over to shave your legs while holding a watermelon at your torso and you’ll swear off shorts entirely. (A little tip: It’s easier if you’re sitting down in the bathtub, though not by much). As you near the end of pregnancy, it’s nice to feel groomed and put together, since so much of your body can get uncomfortable while you grow at an exponential pace. But take it from someone who attempted to paint her own toenails at 34 weeks pregnant: It’s worth investing in a little help.

Sleepless nights arrive before your newborn does. Everyone knows to expect very little sleep in the first few months of parenthood. However, I was shocked to find that sleeping toward the end of pregnancy is no easy task either! My very active baby often chose the middle of the night to practice her karate moves, and let me tell you, it’s impossible to sleep when someone is kicking you in the ribs. Add to that the achy shoulders and hips that come with sleeping on your side and frequent trips to the bathroom, and you’ll likely forget what a good night’s sleep feels like.

Strangers get friendly. This starts to happen in the second trimester and becomes even more pronounced in the third, when your belly gets so irresistibly round that strangers can’t help but comment. Yes, the constant advice and attempted belly rubs from random ladies at the grocery store are not always so fun. But the benefit is that people go out of their way to open doors, give up their seats, and check in to see how you’re feeling. It’s really lovely!

Despite the ups and downs, pregnancy is a sacred time and a wonderful gift. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all? Even with all the mishaps and surprises, I’d do it again in a heartbeat just to snuggle my sweet babe!

A Path to Natural Childbirth

The importance of having a labor plan before giving birth.

5 Ways To Thrive In A Changing Body

Read on for five tips on how to psych yourself up for outings and events.

Increase Fertility by Improving Your Health

Tips to help you thrive and improve your health.

Is a C-Section Right for You?

The reasons for and risks of Caesarean delivery.