Ahh, pregnancy. Your skin is glowing, your bump is adorable and you've never felt more like you have it all together than in this mum-to-be moment. Right?

While this might be the image sold by your annoying friend Caitlin who breezed through her pregnancy, sneezed out her child and bounced back to her pre-pregnancy weight in two weeks - sadly this is just not the case for most.

In fact, pregnancy could well be one of the hardest things you go through in life. So much of what you are about to embark on is unknown.

There is so much this writer wishes she knew before she even thought about pregnancy, from how lucky you are to get pregnant in the first place, to the bizarre symptoms nobody wants to talk about.

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Before the baby arrives, the challenges really have already begun: my morning sickness felt like a death sentence, I accidentally exposed myself to a crowded beach, and I was left feeling like a shell of my former independent self.

So here are 10 things I think you need to know before getting pregnant.

1. Getting pregnant isn't always a simple process

Life doesn't always go to plan, and that includes pregnancy. You can plan everything perfectly: buy your first home and create a nest for your little one, do your best to remove stress from your life, take all the right supplements and be the fittest you've ever been.

And you may still not get pregnant.

Some women will need fertility intervention or a change in lifestyle. For some of us, it won't happen at all, leaving our idea of a perfect "family" looking at little different than initially planned. Maybe you adopt, or your fur babies become your children. That's totally okay too.

The most important thing is to go into the process with an open mind. Definitely do not start buying baby clothes right away, even if they have adorable animal ears on the wee hood. Lesson learned.

2. When you find out you're pregnant, you won't know what to do next

No matter how prepared you think you are, when you see two little red lines on a test, you will panic and have no idea what to do next.

Do you call your doctor? The hospital? Your gynaecologist? A midwife? The police?

While you may feel like this is a matter of national importance, you need to take a few deep breaths and give your doctor a quick call first. They will organise tests to confirm your pregnancy and that you are a-okay.

Then you can go home and resume the panic that first ensued.

3. Morning "sickness" is an understatement

While some lucky women may escape with no morning sickness at all, some will really battle with it.

For me, it hit harder than projectile vomit at a festival. I was at work one day when the most overwhelming heat came over me. Someone was heating up fish in the microwave and I felt the deepest nausea imaginable and turned a sickly shade of green. This feeling, colour and so much more stayed with me for the next 10 weeks.

As an added bonus, all the foods you love are likely now disgusting to you: goodbye coffee, chocolate, garlic, meat, or just any flavour in general.

The diet I found helpful consisted of juice boxes first thing in the morning, salty crackers, marmite on toast and ice cold water. After a few weeks, you might be able to work in some plain pasta, cucumber, raw carrots and mashed potato - you lucky thing.

4. You can smell better than a blood hound

If you have ever been on the 22nd floor of a hotel and smelled fish and chips, only to reach ground floor and spot a couple standing at reception with their parcel of greasy, chippy goodness, then yeah... you might be pregnant.

Ever since I got pregnant my sense of smell has been something of a scientific marvel. Unfortunately, the slightest whiff of a bad smell will make me gag.

You'll likely throw out every spice you own in a late night fit of rage, after trying to get to sleep but being bothered by the stench of that now highly exotic spice: pepper.

5. You literally need to cry it out

I am by no means an emotional person: I cry if I hurt myself and at most that might be a tear or two. But since my second trimester began, I have been an emotional mess - and not once has it had anything to do with the baby.

Sure, I heard the heartbeat, saw the scan, felt the first kick.

I felt nothing.

But when my husband left for work slightly earlier than planned, when I saw a rescue puppy on TV, when I was sick of salads and wanted stroganoff but didn't know how to make it - I lost control and bawled my eyes out for a good 10 minutes.

However, no tears compared to the ones that came when I told my husband a joke and he hadn't been paying attention so politely asked me to repeat myself.

The comedic moment was gone, along with my sanity, apparently.

6. You might feel like you have lost you

As soon as pregnancy kicks in, your body is no longer for you. Your entire being exists to grow this child and your needs are nowhere near as important as that of your unborn child. This whole concept may infuriate you - I know it drove me to a fresh level of crazy.

You might look in the mirror and not recognise the person staring back and you. You might feel as if your body has been taken over by a tiny parasite that is trying to kill you. It isn't.

For me, I felt like I had lost the fiercely independent part of myself and that made me really sad for a while. But I got through the hardest time by seeing it as an opportunity to find out how tough I really was. And when it all got too much, I called on others to help.

7. That bit where your bra's underwire sits? Gone

Before I got any baby bump, before I put on any weight, I mysteriously lost the spot where my bra's underwire sits.

Now my bra just folds under my boobs or sits uncomfortably on top of some organs that have taken up residency in that spot once reserved for my bra's elasticated circumference. Both changes looked equally stupid and made me equally angry.

Maternity bras, you say? They aren't much help either. They're ugly and still do the awkward fold. But I got one, wore it for 5 minutes then cried about my missing bra strap gap for twice as long.

8. Your bikini bottoms might come down, as might your underwear

When "regular folk" wear bikini bottoms or underwear they cut straight across their lower stomach. A baby bump, however, does not give a hoot about regular underwear, pushing it down in the middle and folding it over.

This is fine when you have pants or a dress on. You simply pull up the sides, adjust and carry on like the functioning member of society you are.

But when you're wearing a bikini, and your bottoms fold over as you emerge from the water, you might be left exposing a little more than you intended to.

9. Doing your job is really hard

This one is a biggy and my heart goes out to women who have jobs around food, that involve physical labour, or work in places such as schools, or courtrooms, where you physically have to stay and ride it out.

I am incredibly fortunate to have an understanding and supportive employer, as well as a career that allows me to work from home to a certain extent - but I still found it really hard and you might too.

You might feel like you're letting your employer down, like all your hard work to get to where you are is being flushed away. It's so important to share these thoughts with your employer and let them know you are doing all you can.

But for the women who don't have understanding employers, I suggest speaking to your doctor because pregnant women in New Zealand are entitled to an extra 10 days unpaid sick leave.

While throwing up in your bin at work and soldiering on may seem like the brave, empowered thing to do, I promise you, your body won't stop sending you distress signals until you rest.

10. People don't always care that you're pregnant

I have been pushed in the supermarket, never once been offered a seat on the bus and on the one occasion I did find a seat, I gave it up for someone more in need. Nobody around us even looked up.

Because the truth is, people don't always care that you're pregnant. They care about what's happening to them in their own little world and the issues in the long day they've had.

The same goes for dining out. People might not care about your dietary requirements and may look at you in disgust when you ask if the item can be heated to a safe temperature.

All of the above might make you furious and want to scream: "I'm growing life here you complete a**hole." And a few of the above might make you cry about the state of the world. Been there.

But don't be afraid to demand what you need, be it a seat on the bus so you're safe for the journey home, a meal that's heated through, or just to not be smacked into by "youths" walking through the mall glued to their phones.

You are going to be okay

It might all seem overwhelming and you might have a different bizarre health symptom every day, but you are going to be okay.

Your body is capable of so much more than you could ever imagine and when it all gets too much I find it reassuring to remember the billions of women who have done this before me, including the ones who did it in caves.

If women could give birth in a dirty cave in -0 temperatures, on top of the skin of a woolly mammoth they killed by hand during their nesting period, then you can most certainly get through this.