by Jeanette Issa
When you're pregnant and gift-giving occasions come around, the low-hanging fruit for the gift givers in your life is, of course, baby things. Case in point: check out Christmas at my in-laws' house this year:
My husband and I each received a couple of lovely personal gifts, but the bulk of these packages were for my in-laws' very first grandchild, that little girl that is currently baking in my belly. And as Christmas is truly more about fellowship with family than about exchanging gifts, their decision (and that of other friends and family members) to go baby crazy was perfectly fine with us.
My birthday is MY birthday.
It's not a holiday with a greater significance or a focus on the family intent, like Christmas and Easter, nor is it a bonus baby shower. Birthdays are nothing more than selfish, indulgent celebrations, a day when your loved ones gather to celebrate you and only you with cake and presents. And on those grounds, I would like to keep my upcoming birthday for myself, knowing that my baby will have her own birthday (literally, on the day of her birth!) in May and it will undoubtedly be acknowledged with flowers, toys, and all the pink onesies she could ever imagine. I recognize that not all pregnant women will agree, that maybe some view a birthday during pregnancy as an extra opportunity to rake in more baby loot before their little one arrives. But if you suspect that the pregnant birthday girl in your life is already knee-deep in baby paraphernalia and could use a little pampering for herself, here are some smart swaps for classic gifts that might not be as appealing to the mama-to-be as they once were.
Traditionally, I LOVE flowers. Look, here's a photo of me actually hugging a bouquet of flowers from my husband. But I don't want them for my birthday this year.
Reason: Pregnant women are sensitive to smells, even good ones. Add to that chronic nose bleeds, recurring post nasal drip, and heightened allergies, and the gift of flowers quickly transitions to the gift of hay fever symptoms, except I can't take medication to counter the reaction.
Smart Swap: If flowers are your usual M.O., go for a fruit basket, a nut sampler, a set of gourmet oils and vinegars, or a gift box of herbs and spices instead. It's likely the pregnant birthday girl is trying to eat healthfully, so a nutritious epicurean bounty might just tickle her fancy. Go organic if it's an option. Even if she's generally not the crunchy type, I promise you everyone is scaring her with their unsolicited advice on the dangers of chemical farming and the impact it will have on her unborn baby.
Bath & Body Works Doesn't Work
Reason: See "Flowers Stink." Smells are, quite simply, smelly, plus pregnant women are supposed to avoid various ingredients in bath products and fragrances, including parabens, salicylic acids, Rentinol A and phthalates. Screening labels for all those big words kind of takes the joy joy out of shopping.
Smart Swap: If your pregnant birthday girl is lamenting the loss of her fav luxury bath products, come to her rescue with Belli Specialty Skincare Products. It's allegedly the only skin care line out there that's teratology screened for all those shady ingredients, so they're pregnancy safe while still maintaining a posh (as opposed to clinical) pampering effect.
Sugar: Not So Sweet
Reason: Pregnancy means giving up a lot of culinary indulgences, including sugar. Even if she has a sweet tooth, that two-pound box of See's is probably on her "do not eat" list for now.
Smart Swap: The exception to the rule is high-quality, minimally processed dark chocolate. Eaten in moderation during pregnancy, dark chocolate may reduce the risk of preeclampsia by as much as 70%, so it's actually a gift that keeps on giving! Yum!
Wine Makes Me Whine
Reason: Well, I hope you know why you shouldn't gift booze to a pregnant lady.
Still, your pregnant birthday girl might miss it, especially in moments of celebration. Smart Swap: Props to my own mama for giving me this little stocking stuffer at Christmas: Preggatinis: Mixology for the Mom-To-Be. Now when celebratory occasions come around, my hubby makes sure I feel included by whipping up a tasty mocktail from this recipe book, including this Pomegranate-Blueberry Spritzer that he made us on New Year's Day: To Spa, or Not to Spa?
That is the question. While it does have its restrictions, spa day isn't totally off limits. In fact, with all the aches and pains she's feeling right now, the pregnant birthday girl could probably use a good rub down. Just make sure the spa of choice has prenatal massages or other pregnancy-friendly treatments available. Smart Swap: If she's not the massage type but still complains of aches and pains, consider a gift card to a yoga studio that offers prenatal classes. Not only does it give her an opportunity to work out those creaky joints and train for the biggest work-out of her life (labor!), but it will also give her a chance to befriend some fellow pregnant ladies. So what about all those onesies I already bought her? Unless you know she's jonesing for those tiny outfits, I'd say save them for her baby shower, or as a congratulatory gift for when baby arrives, or at the very least couple them with a gift that's just for Mama. On her birthday, celebrate her! Trust me, she needs it!