As I sit here on my firstborn's due date, twiddling my thumbs and waiting to feel the first twinges of labour, I can honestly say that being pregnant has been much better than I expected.
My immediate reaction when I found out was one of fear – what was going to happen to my body?
I'm not sure if it's because pregnancy itself gets a bad rap, or because I only listened to the negative stuff until it actually happened to me.
So I was relieved when a couple of women told me that being pregnant was such a minimal incursion on their lives that they sometimes forgot they were up the duff. Others said they loved being pregnant and missed it when it was over. This was all news to me.
I'm grateful that mine has been a smooth pregnancy – I know for some it can be a pretty miserable time.
But I wanted to put together a list of the surprising benefits I wished I'd known about before I fell pregnant and got all anxious about it.
1. You'll have some of the best hair days of your life
Thanks to increased levels of estrogen and androgen, most women start to wake up with shinier, healthier-looking hair. Some also get a beautiful natural curl. Hair also grows quicker than usual (as do our nails) and because it's so nicely hydrated, it just sits really well. And it's a benefit that lasts throughout pregnancy.
So while I may have cankles, skin tags, a bigger nose and a face so swollen that my eyes look like peanuts, I still have a great head of hair.
2. Your wardrobe budget shrinks
As my belly expanded, the amount of money I've spent on clothes shrank to a fraction of what it used to be. If I see something I love, I know there's absolutely no point buying it. What size would I get? I certainly won't be this big forever, but I don't know how long it will take to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
Even shoes are out of the question, because my feet have swelled so much. Ditto for rings – I had to take off my wedding ring months ago. Instead, I've raided Kmart's maternity and plus-size department as the seasons changed – I even got a stack of tops for a dollar each.
3. You stop drinking
This is a plus if you see it from a certain perspective. Sure, I miss being able to have a glass of wine when the view is beautiful and friends are near, but it's been great to reset my relationship with alcohol.
I would never have gone nine months without a drink unless it were medically necessary, but this long stretch of time has forced me to relearn how to have fun without it. I'm pretty sure I'll be a better drinker when I do take up a tipple again. And I've saved an absolute bucketload of money.
4. It can enrich your professional relationships
Yes, that's right – enrich. I always thought that pregnancy would be a negative in the career sense – I even worried that some of my work associates would think me distracted or less committed. Yet when the time came to share the news about my upcoming maternity leave, I realised that being pregnant could actually have professional benefits.
Most of my interactions are online and sometimes I feel like just another supplier on the end of an email exchange. But news of my pregnancy kind of humanised me and gave us something in common other than work. An editor I hadn't heard from in ages got in touch to wish me well, while another, who I find intimidating because she's so accomplished, coached me for 20 minutes on how get through those tough early weeks.
5. You can say no to doing stuff and not seem lame
Growing a human is tiring work, so it's okay to pass up an invite. No one will judge you for it – not even if you're meant to be a on a royal tour. I think most of us actually thought it was sweet when Meghan Markle cut back on some scheduled activities while visiting Australia. It made her more human and (if possible) more endearing.
As for me, I've enjoyed spending several months of Saturday nights watching Call the Midwife on Netflix.
6. You get showered with attention
Smiles from knowing mums as they pass you on the street, strangers helping you with your shopping, cards and gifts arriving in the mail, your friends and family being extra attentive.
Case in point: last week I asked for a baguette at a deli, but was told they'd sold out. Suddenly a second staff member came up to me holding a baguette – she'd been keeping hers in the freezer and gave it to me. She wouldn't even let me pay for it. And while I suspect the attention is about to shift to my bubba, it's been a lot of fun while it lasted.
7. You realise that women are kickass
When I started pregnancy yoga classes in my second trimester, I was filled with gob-smacked awe at the women in their final weeks who were still able to hold a downward dog with a watermelon-sized human lounging in their abdomen. I was also gobsmacked when women told me about their extremely painful labours, which they brushed off by saying something like, "Oh but you forget all the pain when you see your baby."
Women's bodies do some incredible things during pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting – I have developed a newfound respect for all that we're capable of.