As always, these are my opinions and may not reflect anyone else's pregnancy experience.
Pregnancy books - Natalie bought me one manual, which was helpful and short. I didn't want "What to Expect When You're Expecting" because I wanted to rely on my OB and my own experience. However, the short book Nat sent was helpful and comforting. One book about pregnancy is plenty for expectant moms and dads.
Pregnancy pillows - I purchased two different types of pillows: a wedge and leg support. I regret both purchases. A lot of moms referred me to the full body pillow, which I rejected because I was already sharing space with a husband and a very snuggly cat. If I have a second pregnancy, I may try this (and kick hubby and cat out of the bed...just kidding). The pillows I purchased were too hard and too wide for my petite frame.
Prenatal massage - I had three throughout my pregnancy and I loved every single one. Granted, as I grew bigger it wasn't as soothing as when I'm not pregnant, because I couldn't lie on my stomach and really melt into the table. Still, they could reach kinks that I couldn't get or hubby couldn't work out (as he is not a certified masseuse), especially in the hips, and that was a relief making the massage worth every penny. I will definitely give my friends this as a gift when they are pregnant. And I'll probably treat myself at the same time!
Manicures and pedicures - I love mani-pedis all of the time, but my feet and legs are especially sensitive now. It could be the swelling or extra water weight. The soaking does wonders, so I request a lighter touch to maximize the benefit and minimize the discomfort. Plus, I can't reach my toes and I like having regular nail maintenance.
Baby gear - One of my worst experiences (aside from morning sickness and general nervousness about pregnancy) was building my baby registry. The amount of materials you're told you need is overwhelming, picking your preferred brand based on suggestions and reviews is daunting. Most moms will tell you that half of what you receive you won't use. Why? Because you and your baby are individuals. Your friend's baby may love a sling, yours may hate it. Your baby may love the bouncy seat, your sister's child may have shrieked in pain when he was put into it. I registered for what I thought was necessary based on recommendations from a few people and places. I probably still have too much. My main resource was this list by alphamom, that Natalie edited for me from her experience: Ultimate baby registry checklist.
While it told me what to buy, it didn't give me brands to buy, and the task of reviewing brands for every item was equally stressful. Here, I would turn to different resources (aside from internet reviews) including new parents, family members, my OB, and my hospital's baby care class.
Advice - From the beginning of my pregnancy, I have said that I would welcome all advice. And I've received a lot of it from many people in many place (including a 50-year old coworker who insisted I get an epidural, instead of having a c-section, as if the two are interchangeable). Some of that advice has been helpful and kept me sane, some has cracked me up (see parenthetical above), some has annoyed me (my aunt telling me that I had to wash baby clothes separately just "because that's what you DO."), some has made me feel prepared, some a little scared, and some left me confused (differing views on how to care for an uncircumsized penis).
I took in what they said and tried to weigh it on my common sense scale (or do more research if I needed more direction). I listened to all of it, I opened myself up to what was being said by others, and I feel like that has been a wonderful experience. Almost every piece of advice has come from a place of care and love. I remembered that if ever I was annoyed.
Boundaries - Even if you're open to advice, it's still good to set boundaries. This is something I've struggled with throughout my pregnancy and am really learning in my final months. For me it has been balancing the knowledge that baby is mine and Panda's with the reality that he is important and part of the lives of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. They want to claim him as much is I do.
When they push, my instinct is to push back, be angry, and then give in to their demands. This doesn't really help the situation and creates a lot of tension and frustration that I hold inside. The word "boundaries" always makes me a little uncomfortable, as it sounds like I'm erecting an impenetrable wall and refusing to allow anyone access.
It's also not compromise, which at times is really no one getting what they want.
For me it's been about saying "no" and me respecting my decision right or wrong. I do try to explain my "no", to minimize hurt feelings, but at times people may feel jilted. I hope they will come to understand my decisions and appreciate me for standing by my decisions. As I said, I'm learning.
In learning boundaries, there has also been learning about letting go of some rigidity. I can't control everything, can I? (Okay. A small part of me wishes I could...)
Friendships - As pregnancy progresses, I become more and more absorbed in all things baby related. I never thought I would. In fact, I said I wasn't going to be one of those mothers-to-be who talks all about her pregnancy. As my world narrowed to nothing but baby questions and baby preparedness, it was unavoidable. I also craved more discussion about children, parenting, and general baby wellness. Maybe it's the writer in me or the nervous new mama needing the information, the background, the research, and the general observation that what I am thinking about IS normal.
Thankfully, my friends have been patient, understanding, and indulgent. Either they realize and/or hope this won't last forever or they are really just great people.
Reality check -
Pregnant Women Are Smug by Garfunkel and Oates