Products for an Invisibly-Ill Pregnancy and First Year


There I was, pregnant in Germany with no family, friends or even an unpacked house. My husband was in Kosovo on a peacekeeping tour for 6 months and my flares got worse and worse. I was having Braxton-Hicks already in my second month and even when my husband did come home he was of limited use at best. How did I get through pregnancy and that first year? Not just luck! I had some of the best products and knowledge at my disposal. Here are my Top Picks for both pregnancy and then the first year! Twenty products and tips you cannot live without and why!

1. Preggie Pops- These are all natural lollipops that calm an upset stomach and soothe your mind! For me the ginger and lavender flavors were the best! They come in PROVEN flavors to help ease a tummy without chemicals or rolls of chalky chewables. I used them well after my son was born even! They are also AWESOME when you are in labor to give you something to suck on. These are number one on my list for a reason! You won’t be disappointed if you try them!

2. Birthing Ball- Yup a ball. Why? When your back hurts and your hips ache, NOTHING feels as good as sitting on this sucker! I even fell asleep with my head and arms folded on my bed, while I sat balanced on this ball because it was the only way to get comfy. When you have the baby it can double as an exercise ball, so you will get plenty of use out of it. You will want this wherever you go!
3. A Pregnancy Belt- Since you CAN’T take the birthing ball everywhere you go, this is a lifesaver. Most are just big elastic bands with Velcro enclosures to sling under your belly and around the back. They work on much the same premise as a bra. While even after a day with this your back might hurt, it’s better than without it in the later stages, where you feel like you swallowed a lead version of your birthing ball. Your back, will thank you.
4. Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Palmer’s Stretch Mark Lotion, etc.- Some natural lotion will help some. While it’s true you may get stretch marks regardless, it does help take away that stretched feeling on your belly and calm you as you lay there and smooth it on over your bump of a baby. It gives you a moment of relaxation if nothing else. You will have plenty of time to be in a hurry the next 18 years or more … just sit and relax for now. This is a great excuse. (Also don’t forget your lips!!! They dry out so fast when you are pregnant and it’s often not something you think about! Jack’s Magic Beanstalk sells lip balms with Shea butter which are long-lasting and soothing on dry lips!)
5. A Partner and Knowledge- This can be your husband, a friend, a family member… anyone who you can have close when you need them and will be with you at the labor. I will be honest, I think birthing classes for some people are a waste of time. That being said I also realize many people like the safety setting and if it makes you feel better, by all means go to one and learn more about the pregnancy process. For me a good book and my husband were all I needed. I learned all I needed to know about the process in my health class in high school . Either route you go (and you should go one of those two routes because you need information to make you strong! That goes for you AND your partner), you need a human element. We always feel like it’s ours to endure and push through, but you will need that hand in yours. If it’s one exercise I can recommend, it is practicing the following: Look into your partner’s eyes and breathe slowly and deeply in unison. Focus on those eyes and your breathing and let the rest of the world melt away. I had a labor with no drugs and it went on for 16 hours from water breaking to baby in my arms and this got me through. I figured I faced pain on a daily basis, this would be nothing and I did what I set out to do. (Not that drugs are bad, just know how you feel one way or another. Even with drugs keep in mind they will wear off eventually for most women and you will feel something. Good to have a trick like this in case.) Also in the same strain, a tape of music you like of ANY genre is a nice thing to be able to put on and let wash over you. The human brain thinks in the same ordered chaos as music lives in, so it sits in the same harmonics and can help you through stress, pain and worry. A holophonic meditation tape might be just as good, however.
First Year:
1. Co-Sleeper- A Co-Sleeper is basically a crib that hooks to the side of your bed, so the baby is in their own space, but right within reach without much moving or fuss. (If you are smart you will have diapers and wipes there and a diaper pail right there for midnight changes, so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night!) If you are chronically ill, and let’s face it most have our own sleeping disorders attached, then the last thing you want is to get up, walk down the hall to some fru-fru nursery and then come back. Not only have you expended more energy then you need to those first months, but you are waking yourself up more by all the movement. I agree, not everyone will fit with this and that is fine, but for me this was a life-saver! It converts into a playpen and I have to say I got three years of use out of the thing with only one child. It is much better then a cradle or bassinet and has other uses when they move into their fru-fru room and crib. (This is DUALLY so if you breastfeed.)

2. Sling- Even better is an ABC (Asian Baby Carrier) model sling. These either wrap around one shoulder crossways or hook in an x-across your back to cradle the baby to you, but leaves your arms free. (See my review for Mei-Tai Carriers.) ABC’s are better, in my opinion, because they spread out weight and I still can use it with my 46 lb boy without feeling in pain or at least not more then I feel even without him on me. Also, ABC’s are more crutch-friendly if you are on and off these allot. You can get bathing slings that you can have your baby in a bath or shower with you or go swimming with them. There are even models made out of sun blocking material! This too will get years of use! Don’t waste your money on the fancy convertible slings, though. They are hard to use often and are ridiculously priced. Not to mention in my experiences, the baby tends to outgrow them too quickly. The best bet is something simpler in design and proven for hundred of years by many cultures all over the world!
3- A C-Shaped Pillow- Like a Boppy pillow! These have 101 uses and are too numerous to recount here! Everywhere you go many mothers who have used them can talk your ears off about why they are great. They position a baby in your lap, help with feedings, help them learn to sit up on their own, etc. I had a real Boppy, a homemade and a work-at-home-mommy made version! All three were well loved and well used. One even was used to the breaking point! My son still loves his pillows and I have an odd image of him going to college with it. Also as a mommy, it makes a nice pillow to cuddle into yourself, as it supports the neck in alignment with the shoulders!
4- LOTS of linens and One-piece Sleepers- Don’t waste money on fancy fru-fru baby clothes. Find one cute outfit for the baby box to bring them home in and get a TON of sleepers. I loved Carter’s brand terry sleepers the best. My son lived in them for months! Most all of them are EXTREMELY serviceable still! Lots of clean bed sheets are essential as well. No matter if you go cloth or disposable, babies wet through diapers with the ease of a hot knife through butter and often in the middle of the night. You need to be able to have a stack waiting to change them, change the bed and get back to sleep! I know this sounds silly or common sense, but you would be surprised at how this gets overlooked!!! Everyone wants to buy you rattles and teddy bears, but you need lots of these kind of essentials. (If the baby is born more mid-hotter-then-heck-summer time, baby t-shirts and diapers will be the most common attire in the house.) You may not believe me now, but wait. (In the same strain, have a ton of diapers. Don’t think you can buy more later, go buy two big economy packs of diapers and wipes or several cloth diaper packages and at least 4 dozen cloth baby wipes. Don’t buy a ton of newborn size though, unless you know you are having a tiny preemie. They grow out of NB size in no time. The small size is a better bet! If you need to be secure and buy them anyhow, consider donating any leftovers to Vera House, your local orphanage or your church! Also a word on diapers, maybe no one ever told you how much your periods will come back to haunt you as well, but have plenty of pads for yourself! Make them the nighttime kind!)
5- A Battle Box- What is a battle box? It’s like an emergency disaster kit for having a baby! Get a big plastic bin with a locking lid and place in it the following: PLAIN light corn syrup, activated charcoal, an ear thermometer, bottles, breast pads, hot/cold breast cushions, lanolin nipple ointment, pacifiers, canola oil, a cd of Asian or African drum beats, a nightlight, extra burp cloths, baby Tylenol, baby lotion, baby safety cotton swabs, cotton balls, cornstarch, Aveeno Baby soothing bath treatments, nasal syringe, extra blanket, a card with emergency phone numbers, gas drops, teething gels/teething homeopathic pills, plug-in waterless vaporizer and pads, Lysol and disinfecting wipes/sprays, a cold-mist humidifier, baby saline drops/spray for nose, band aids, extra rash cream (Jack’s Magic Beanstalk carries one called “Rash Magic” and I highly recommend it for not only diaper rashes, but for every rash, nearly. This stuff is better then magic.), formula, a small stuffed animal and a book that lists first-aid and common baby ailments like “What to Expect the First Year”. WHY all this stuff? Because there will be a night you need one or most of these and it will be 2 am and you will not be able to go out. In fact, every few months add new age appropriate things and change out expired things, like when they hit the infant cold medicine ages, get a few of these products and add them to the box even if they aren’t sick. I know it almost seems silly, but being prepared can keep you calm, keep your baby calm and help you in any situation. Corn syrup, for instance, can help ease constipation and that came from my pediatrician. For a fussy baby, a massage is helpful and the best oil you can use is plain, unscented canola oil. If that doesn’t work studies show strong drum beats soothe better then many lullabies! (Think about it they lived with your heartbeat, the whoosh of a circulatory system, etc!) SO you’ve made up your mind on if you will breastfeed or bottle feed?? Be prepared for the other anyhow, because things happen and minds change back and forth, sometimes several times. If your baby starts to teethe or has bad gas, believe me when I say it will hit at 4 am on a Sunday. Think you will be calm the first time your baby wakes up with a 103 degree fever at that hour and is crying uncontrollably?? Think again. A reference may be a good thing to have. This is an AMAZING baby shower gift, by the way! I know as newly expecting mothers we get things in our head we will do things this way, having a baby will be that way, but they will do their best to disprove most all of your theories often several at a time. You are right, half of this you may never ever touch and that is great! Most everything on that list is inexpensive, though so why chance it? If you don’t use it, I am sure a friend could or a program in your area, so it never goes to waste anyhow. On the other hand, if you do use it that bit of foresight was a good investment. It really is a no-lose situation in investing in it, so I highly recommend it! After all you pack disaster boxes in your basement for a flood and put first aid kits in your car, why not do at least that much for your baby? (A word here about medical equipment like Otoscopes: Don’t get them unless you know how to use them and what you are looking at. If you don’t have medical training, don’t play doctor!)
This is really just a short list of what I recall over these last three years and from watching my girlfriends, but if I had to say the things I couldn’t live without, these would be the big ones. I hope it helped someone out there who is expecting wade through all the hype and hone in on the essentials or maybe it just helped spark interest in looking further into the world of baby products. Good luck!
Jennifer Altherr,, © 2008
Additional Resources: (Preggie Pops)

  • Mandie

    I babysit as my job (i cant do anything else) and i have found a wonderful source. they have potty training aids, toys, health products and much more. Most of it is all natural too! some of my favorite products are tinkle targets for potty training for boys. it teaches them how to “aim” which can be difficult to teach. also, a fear buster kit to help children overcome their fears so that us adults can get some sleep. My all time favorite though is something called Walking Wings. it is a unique padded harness that goes around a baby in the learning stages of walking. Almost all of us know how painful training baby is and this honestly helps! it has two handles so instead of pulling the hands of baby and possibly damaging their shoulders AND now we don’t have to bend over! check out the site!!

  • Stephanie

    Great article!!!!