There’s a whole section at the book store of pregnancy and baby related advice books. There are books about natural child birth, books about all the things that can go wrong, books that can’t wait to tell you about all the stuff “no one tells you”. Here’s the summary of all those books: labor’s going to hurt, your baby might have three arms and you will probably poop on the delivery table. Even knowing this, if you’re pregnant you’re still going to buy these books. You’re going to Google words that should never be Googled. I did it too. But even with the Girlfriend’s Guides and What to Expect and the crazy iVillage message boards and a dozen mommy friends ready to tell me about The Pooping, I still found ways to be surprised. So here is MY pregnancy advice.

1. When you’re ready to give up on normal pants, try on every single style of maternity jeans. Buy TWO pairs. Stop buying maternity jeans. My favorite were the ones with a stretchy band that goes under your belly. I hate the “roll panel” style. I hate the kind that goes over your belly even more. Buy all the maternity dresses and sweatpants and knitwear and leggings you want – but stop wasting your money on maternity jeans. If you live somewhere warm or you’re pregnant in the summer, skip the jeans altogether.

2. Yes, you should call your doctor. You’re right, it’s probably nothing. That pain is totally normal. Your body is supposed to be doing that. Call you’re doctor anyways. I suffered through fours days of a horrible UTI because I thought peeing fourteen times an hour was just part of pregnancy. I swear to you one of my hemorrhoids actually fell off before I was scared enough to make a phone call and by the time I saw the doctor she thought I was making it up. I only had one ER visit and one non-scheduled appointment the whole pregnancy. That was NOT ENOUGH. Doctors are wonderful people who want to give you things to make you feel better (i.e. DRUGS). Even if they’re secretly rolling their eyes at your silly pregnant woman question, they are also writing you a prescription or checking your baby’s heartbeat, both of which will allow you to sleep tonight.

3. Speaking of sleeping, go buy a giant bottle of Tylenol PM. If you don’t have the horrible kicked-in-the-crotch pain that I had, regular OTC sleep aids are good, but without the pain killers I would have been completely sleepless from month 5 on. My doctor said either kind of medication was fine (ask yours, of course) since being well resting and not homicidal was more important to my child’s development than being totally un-medicated. I found even just a half dose helped me fall asleep – and stay asleep – long enough to feel well rested even with a midnight bathroom break.

4. My worst heartburn wasn’t caused by weird, spicy, greasy food. It was caused by water. Plain old boring water, the kind everyone keeps reminding you to drink, the same water that you keep on the nightstand for when you wake up feeling like you’re going to die of dehydration. Instead of just switching to vodka (I heard that might be frowned upon) I tried to avoid drinking anything right before bed. Or before my morning nap. Or my noon nap. Or my afternoon nap. Tums also helped, so invest in a big bottle of those too.

5. Buy all the stretch-mark preventing creams and oils and lotions you want. They won’t help but you’ll feel better knowing you’ve done something. And no gloating about remaining stretch-mark free until you actually give birth. My stomach was smooth and unblemished right up until Baby E dropped (my hips and thighs not so much). Now I look like I’ve been attacked by wild badgers.

6. Although mathematically, 20 weeks is half way through a pregnancy, the first 20 fly by compared to the second 20. The real “half-way” point is more like 30 weeks, so count up to there and then count down. Do yourself a favor and line up work, plans, books, movies, projects, anything that can distract you from staring at your belly silently willing your baby to HURRY UP ALREADY. If you read or join a pregnancy message board, stop reading around 38 weeks – the number of people who have had their babies before you EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE NOT DUE YET will make you want to throw your computer across the room. And then you won’t have the internet to distract you.

7. People will buy you lots and lots of adorable, plush, super-soft baby blankets for you shower. Unless any of them have had a baby in the last ten minutes, they will have forgotten exactly how quickly a baby can pee/puke on these things. Go to Wal-Mart and buy at least a dozen cheap spit-up cloths. That will get you through the first three or four days until you can get out of the house for more.

8. DON’T BUY TOO MUCH STUFF. OK, so that one was in all the baby books. I didn’t listen – and I know you won’t either – but it really is good advice. Newborn babies don’t need swings and exersaucers and toys and high chairs. They actually don’t even need cribs. My baby sleeps best in his car seat, so my pack’n’play sits lonely in the corner and I just trip on my co-sleeper on the way out of bed. If you want to register for all those things or if people want to hand them down to you right away, that’s fantastic. But the checklist for things you actually need right away is much much shorter than the baby stores want you to think. If you do buy stuff ahead of time, try to resist tearing off the tags or throwing away the boxes and be sure to keep the receipts.

9. All advice is not created equal. Even without discussing parenting styles or serious debate topics, you can get totally different information on the same issues. The amount of caffeine one book says is ok is different from the one in a pregnancy magazine. 99% of the time you should just listen to your doctor, but don’t hesitate to get a qualified second opinion. No, the internet is not qualified. But be prepared, it actually gets worse once you have the baby.

10. Bring a pillow, slippers, mini toiletries and  pair of pajamas to the hospital. Bonus if the pajamas are dark colored, stain resistant and have easy access to your boobs. I brought a huge bag of STUFF but those are the things that really made days two and three bearable. I also got a cute pedicure right before my due date and wore fun socks during labor. I felt it was a nice distraction from The Vagina Show and all the nurses agreed.