When pregnant with my firstborn, I devoured books on pregnancy and parenting like they were going out of style. I really, really wanted to know what was normal and what was not, along with all the ins and outs of everything baby-related.

Naturally, What To Expect When You’re Expecting had the esteemed honor of landing the place of distinction right under my Bible. But you know that feeling you get when someone doesn’t tell you the whole story? Despite all the wonderfully informative content I gleaned, that’s what I felt after reading it cover to cover—like something was missing.

The “aha” moment came as I drove my six-months-pregnant self away from the store. Bagging my groceries, the cashier had seemed likeable enough . . . until she cocked her head, raised those too-perfect eyebrows, and said directly to my bulging abdomen, “Wow, you look like are JUST about to POP! When are you due?”

“In three months,” I managed to squeak out without making eye contact.

I made it out of the store without making a scene, but totally lost it in the car. Three. Whole. Months! I sobbed against the steering wheel. Just why, lady, did you need to rub that in, along with the obvious fact that I look like an overinflated balloon?

Then it hit me. I knew exactly what was missing from my newly revered book: a section—heck, a sequel—that explained all the faux pas the rest of the world would probably make in dealing with one who was expecting. Because while I felt like I had a pretty good handle on what was going on inside my pregnant body, it was apparent that there were many who did not.  

Disclaimer: I am not currently expecting. However, the buns I baked in my personal oven are fresh enough to remind me that there really ought to be some kind of reference book (required reading?) for anyone (i.e., everyone) who may someday have contact with a pregnant woman, and these are a few things it should point out:

Expect her senses of smell, taste, and pride to be intensified. Deeply.

Expect her to say she’s huge no matter how small her belly actually is.

Expect her to look beautiful, but not feel it.

Expect her to cry a lot, sometimes at the most unlikely moments.

Expect her to partake of odd combinations and quantities at odd times. If she is suffering from morning sickness, there’s a good chance that all things food- or drink-related will be slightly abnormal.

Expect her to be tired. Very, very tired.

Expect her to say no to wine tastings, cardio workouts, and Tupperware parties.

Expect her to say yes to offers of prayer, short walks, and your serving as a backup sitter for older siblings when she goes into labor.

Expect her to nod politely at any names you suggest for the baby. (It’s probably best to avoid suggesting names altogether, unless she asks.)

Expect her to have super weird dreams.

Expect her to feel simultaneous contrasting emotions: elated, terrified, anxious, and impatient all at once. (It’s normal.)

Expect the accessibility of decent restrooms to be one of the weightier factors she considers when deciding whether or not to leave the house.

Expect her to be strong. She may seem weak at times, hobbling around on swollen feet or green-faced and light-headed after vomiting. She may cry out in pain when the time comes to push. But oh, those are the moments when she’s buoyed by God-given grit as all the life within her is surging into another’s.

And when that new life finally emerges? Respect what that mama just endured. Respect her wishes. Respect her battle scars. Respect her. Because not every pregnancy ends with a healthy baby after nine months. Some end sooner, with angels or preemies. Some end later, with complications and hospitalizations. So above all, expect to be awed by her extraordinary resilience as she walks the pregnancy journey that is uniquely hers.

It may just surpass any expectation you might have had.

Leann Clarke

Leann Clarke is an outdoor-loving mama who enjoys riding horses, dancing, soaking in a good book, and hunting with her husband. She’s also mom to two active kiddos who excel at keeping her humble. She believes strongly in prayer, laughter, and eating chocolate for breakfast. Leann shares snippets of her life in Montana and more on her blog, The Hunting Mom.