When I was pregnant with our son Dan, I pored over every pregnancy and parenting book I could get my hands on, including the infamous What to Expect When You're Expecting.

Now that I'm nearing the end of another pregnancy, I'm ready to write my own pregnancy manual, titled What to Expect When Expecting - on the Farm. But rather than make you wait until the book is published, I'm giving you a sneak preview. Keep reading for the tidbits of advice about farming while pregnant I believe every expecting farmer (and her business partners) should understand, in no particular order of importance.

Woman in sweats

Barn jeans are hard to find in maternity sizes. So, for awhile, you'll no longer be a woman in jeans, but a woman in sweatpants. Coveralls will work until you can't fasten the middle buttons over your bellybutton, then bib overalls or insulated bibs are about the only alternatives to layers of sweatpants.

To go with your sweats, consider your husband's assortment of barn shirts. His will suddenly look an awful lot more comfortable than the t-shirts you've been trying to squeeze into.

Farmer obstetrics

Understanding reproductive physiology goes hand-in-hand with dairy farming. As such, your husband will have calculated your approximate due date before you have and your farming neighbors, knowing full well how gestational calendars work, won't be far behind. Neither will their "June must have been a busy month around here" comments.

Furthermore, when your due date has come and gone, don't let your jaw drop when the man in your life non chalantly says to your medical care provider, "Can't we just give her a shot of Lutalyse?"

Cross-species references

There's no denying that farm and family are inextricably intertwined on dairy farms. Never is this more evident than in the comments offered up to pregnant farm women:

Someone will ask when you're going to "freshen". Someone will invariably comment on your husband's apparent calving ease after the birth weight of your new arrival is announced. And after that, the lactation references will start.

Naming baby girls

Before deciding on a name for your baby girl, you'll need to make sure the name isn't already in use by one of the girls in the barn, lest there be any confusion later.

When I told my father about one of the girl names we were considering for our first child, his response was, "You mean like the cow?" Needless to say, even though it only sounded like the cow's name, we crossed that name off our list.

You just won't fit

Unless you're the six-foot-two type who barely looks pregnant at nine months, the time will come when you and your belly will no longer be able to squeeze through pipe gates, barbed wire fences, man passes, or between the cows and the stall dividers.

For those of you milking in a parlor, you'll have to stand sideways just to reach the cows' teats because you can't stand close enough to the rail. (Remember to alternate which side you belly up on so that you don't develop a permanent spinal twist.)

Pregnancy is more than physical

Your husband is already well aware that pregnancy can bring a maelstrom of emotions from his once sensible wife. He's been warned, as my father warned Glen, "You'll never be right again." What he doesn't know is that all of this is true in the barn as well. So when your husband is also your business partner, it's best to postpone making important decisions together until your hormones have returned to near-normal levels.

Note to husbands: There has never been a better time than during your wife's gestation to learn to let the little things go. Unless you'd like to eat supper in the barn for a few weeks.

Prepare to squat...a lot

There's no question that pregnancy means lots of trips to the bathroom, first from the hormones and later from the baby tap-dancing on your bladder. Unless you have a bathroom in the barn, you're going to waste a whole heck of a lot of time running to the toilet every time you have to pee. You'll save a lot of time just squatting, instead.

Choose your squatting spot carefully, though. I can't tell you how many times I've heard a salesman or consultant pull into the yard just as I've pulled up my pants. There's never been an expose, but let this serve as a reminder to salesmen: don't come looking if you don't immediately find anyone in the barn or milkhouse.

There is one benefit to having your bladder capacity reduced to that of a walnut - it doesn't take very long to take care of your business. The other good news is that, unlike other parts of your body, your bladder will return to its pre-pregnancy size and shape immediately after the birth of your baby.

Register for hand-me-downs

You're not going to dress your new baby in the adorable new outfit you got from Aunt Mable to bring him or her out to the barn with you. And as your little bundle of joy grows into a toddling bundle of joy, (read learning to crawl and walk in the barn) you'll be supremely thankful for the gently-used (and well-used) hand-me-downs you've received.

Some things - iodine teat dip from Daddy's hands, manure from the first trip to the gutter, axle grease from the wagon wheel - just can't be completely stain-sticked out of clothing. Keep in mind, too, when people ask you what you need, that pre-stained strollers, car seats, and other such child-containment devices are indisposable to the farming mother.

Asking for help

Eventually your abdominal muscles will betray you and lifting heavy objects will become downright impossible. You'll have to ask for help carrying a bag of milk replacer down from the shed or climbing up into the haymow for a bale of hay.

And as hard as it may be to resort to asking for help with such simple tasks, you might as well get used to it now. Not even Super Woman could mother a child and help run a farm at the same time without loads of help from her family, friends, and neighbors.