It occurred to me that some of you might have been alarmed by my posts so far in this pregnancy. I promised myself I wouldn’t sugarcoat the experience, but I think in the process I might have only been focusing on the negatives. And it hasn’t all been negatives.
I can be grateful that my first trimester was not the vomit-fest I’d been prepared for. Not that I was really prepared for weeks of intermittent and random nausea with definitive food aversions (some of which I still have). But the stories from the other women in my prenatal group as well as those of my general female acquaintances are a good reminder that it could have been so much worse.
And while my second and third trimesters haven’t been exactly the glowing, magical experience most often portrayed in film and TV, they have also been blessedly free of scary complications, broken hips, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and psychotic hormonal imbalances. So far, the only snag is the slight anemia I’ve developed, but I’m on iron pills now.
We have a huge problem with how we portray pregnancy in this world. From beginning to end, it’s almost as though whoever wrote the script had only ever seen pregnancy on TV, if at all. It’s most often a plot device and nothing more. Aha, she’s throwing up so she must be pregnant and therefore has a motive for MURDER! Well, women throw up for all sorts of reasons. And frankly, I’ve been sick more times throughout my life for non-pregger reasons than I ever was when actually pregnant. But that always seems to be the first tell. I guess if you don’t get sick from anxiety or dehydration or just from traveling, then it might be a suspicious circumstance. Maybe. Then again, by the time the misnamed “morning sickness” arrived, I was well into my second month of pregnancy.
So, the first trimester is not exactly the easiest to portray on screen. Probably because it is ridiculously easy to keep it to yourself. You aren’t showing and you can often play off things like nausea, frequent urination, and exhaustion to normal stress. Back in Oct, I got to go home and visit friends and family for a week. The girls and I were having a grand drinking night in. Except, I wasn’t the only one not partaking. My best friend, for whom we were celebrating, was abstaining from alcohol as well. And she kept having to pee. Now, we put that down to stress because she was getting married that weekend, she still wasn’t recovered from her stag night the last weekend, and she had been chugging water all night. I was 4 months pregnant and I was still surprised when she revealed later that she was only a month behind me.
Maybe it’s just that I don’t jump to that conclusion automatically. When we told my sister I was pregnant the first thing she said was how she’d thought so based on the vacation pictures we’d taken when I was only 6 weeks along. Which I did my very best not to take that as an insult. Still, the first trimester was not what I would call easily spotted by outsiders.
Second trimester was where I had to actively camouflage to go unnoticed, baggy shirts and whatnot. That’s the time when people ask you in hushed tones, as though sharing state secrets, if you’re expecting. And why do they ask in hushed tones? Because, again, it’s not the hugely obvious plot device from the movies. I was still fully capable of taking care of myself. I worked my retail job and baked and exercised and lived my life just like I normally did, just with more frequent potty breaks and huge boobs.
Now, well, it’s actually hindering my life. I talked about that a lot in the last post. Since Platypus decided that the floor is lava (I’m carrying high), my ribs are taking daily abuse that makes it hard just to get ready for work without wanting to lay down. Long, luxuriant showers aren’t an option because I’ll be in pain within the first few minutes. If I don’t sit in the right chair with the right support, I’m in pain. If I sleep on my side, the recommended position, I have about 2 minutes before my chest is on fire.
I still take long showers. And given the choice, I prefer an uncomfortable chair to standing. Side note => My Wednesday night yarn group meets at a yarn shop with a wide variety of chairs and those wonderful and generous ladies always save me one of the arm chairs or the glider. I have never asked them to do this, but I am more grateful for the thought every week.
But again, I haven’t been hindered by some of the other stereotypes of pregnancy. My brain is definitely mushier than it was a few months ago, yes, but I don’t cry at everything. I cry at normal things. If I’m teary-eyed more now it’s because I have cause. For instance, we just posted our baby registry and I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our friends and family. We had assumed that the more expensive items would be purchased by pooling gift cards. Yet those were some of the first things people bought for us and I was completely unprepared. Not to mention the number of new friends who have said, “Hey I just met you and this is crazy, but do you need a giant bag of baby clothes, a crib mattress, and a bath, maybe?” Thank you cards are entirely inadequate right now.
But anyway, I was talking about how pregnancy/childbirth is portrayed in entertaining media. It’s either the crazy, hormonal woman crying over a bag of Cheetos at the grocery store or the really pregnant woman in the episode because she is going to give birth spontaneously at the wrong moment or she’s the woman in the pregger belly and heels acting like she’s Gawd’s gift to the world. And all of these are problematic.
Have YOU ever seen a random pregnant woman having a meltdown in public? I haven’t. I’ll admit to having a shorter temper, but that has a lot to do with how uncomfortable I am all the time. When people use the classroom at work and don’t put the tables back after I spent hours coming up with a better floorplan (and don’t bother to sign the roster despite knowing that is a requirement for using the space), I get a tad ticked. Because now I have to move them back and while it isn’t difficult, it is more time on my feet. When I drop something, which happens more and more frequently, I definitely swear more harshly than I might have before bending over and picking things up became an Olympic event. This isn’t crazy hormones. This is me being 30 lbs heavier with a human being between me and the stupid wrapper that is right by my foot.
And the really pregnant woman who is only there to go into labor at the wrong moment? That’s why new parents drive frantically to the hospital at the first contraction and then get sent home by a laughing nursing staff. It is highly unusual for a woman to start having contractions and then pop out a baby in 5 minutes. She was probably having contractions all day. In all likelihood, contractions will start, we’ll track them for a couple of hours, I’ll take a shower and have a bite to eat, and unless my water breaks, we’ll take our time rushing to the hospital. That’s not dramatic enough, obviously, but the drama does come a bit later, I’m told.
The obviously not pregnant woman walking around in heels acting smug is by far the most annoying representation. I don’t normally wear heels, but I know there are women out there who find them perfectly comfortable and not torture devices designed by sadists to make our butts look good. Good for you. I also know a lot of women who laugh when heels are mentioned in the same sentence as pregnancy. Ignore the fact that your ankles and feet are swollen. You can even ignore the fact that you have gained 25-35 lbs, if you are following mainstream guidelines. You can’t ignore the fact that your center of balance is jacked up by all your joints shifting to make room for your little alien. Heels require balance. I can fall on my face while standing still.
The proper portrayal of the 3rd trimester woman is done. She may be wearing a cute maternity dress, with her hair all done up and nice make-up. She may be wearing yoga pants stretched to full capacity and a hoodie and slippers. But the face should always have a look of “just a few more weeks and I’ll be done with this jazz.” How do I know this? Because people keep telling me I look ready to be done. And in some ways I am. It’s too early to be done, obviously, so I have to fight that feeling sometimes. The little mantra “8 more weeks” has been going all week. Granted, I also have to remember that in 8 more weeks I’ll have a person to feed and clothe and raise into a decent human being, but at least I won’t be the only one doing it AND I’ll be able to sleep in a different position when I do get to sleep. Plus drinking.
I’d like to take this time now to step away from complaining and step into bragging just for a moment. You see, there are in fact upsides to this condition and they are WAY better than some fake glow. I have some pregger super powers.
First, swollen ankles are easier to shave around (if you can still reach them). Almost every woman I’ve said this to has looked at me aghast because why are you still shaving? I answer that I had to get a pedicure (those women deal with enough grossness). But mostly, I’m a show off. As in HA, I CAN STILL SHAVE MY ANKLES AT 8 MONTHS. True, this wouldn’t be the case if our shower didn’t have convenient seats. But I take my victories where I can.
Second, some of my senses are heightened, especially my sense of smell. I can definitely smell chocolate a good mile away. Don’t even think about food while you’re reading this because I will know what you’re planning on having for lunch. My sense of humor is also pretty strong, as well as my sense of awe, pride, and vanity. My sense of decorum is a mess, though. Please don’t ask me how I’m feeling. I don’t know how to answer without saying something crass. I used to say I felt fat, which made most people laugh (from shock if nothing else). It was true, that was how I felt. But how would you feel going up 3 sizes in literally a couple of months? I don’t feel fat anymore. I just feel full, like if you pricked me with a needle I might pop. And there’s more to how I feel because there always is. And I know I should just say I feel fine but the word sticks in my throat every time because I’m not fine. Not necessarily in a bad way, but the word simply doesn’t fit so I can’t use it.
Other super powers? Um, well, in a pinch I can simulate a hysterical break down. If you need someone to show up at your work and pitch a fit until you are forced to take me home, I’m your gal. The problem is, while I haven’t had a legit hormonal episode, faking one might induce a real episode so we’ll have to get ice cream on the way home.
Some powers are a little more subtle. Like I apparently give people the ability to mother me without permission. “You shouldn’t be lifting that!” she says without moving a single inch out of line to help me. Lady, I know I shouldn’t be lifting heavy things. This table, however, isn’t heavy. Yes, I struggle to ask for help because PRIDE is a thing and admitting that maybe grabbing this box was a mistake is much harder than just getting it to a table and reconsidering my life choices. Thankfully, the examples of obnoxious mothering have been vastly outweighed by people who genuinely care about my well-being and go out of their way to make my life a little easier (I’m looking at you, yarn groups). And so far I’ve only had one belly-toucher, but she was so mortified that she did it without asking that she apologized for 5 minutes.
The most important super power is convenient excuses, though I wouldn’t call pregnancy “convenient.” Am I late? I dropped something on the floor and spent 5 minutes deciding whether or not it was worth picking up. I did a line of Thin Mints, but I AM pregnant, after all. We should definitely go out for dinner tonight. Why? Because I want to. I’m going to take another nap instead of folding the laundry. I’m pretty exhausted from growing a central nervous system today. This is a power I have to be careful of since it is easy to turn legit excuses into I don’t wanna because who would dare argue with me?
So yes, there are upsides to pregnancy. But the big takeaway is this: there is nothing magical going on here. This is life. It’s not a plot device. It’s weird and gross and uncomfortable. It’s also miraculous and beautiful, I know. When Buddy felt what baby hiccups for the first time, whenever we hear the little heartbeat, whenever I can’t sleep and I just lay there feeling my little sea monster squirming around, I get a nice calm. But mostly, I just live my life as best as I can and count the days.
I will try to write more of these on “up” days, when my mood and energy are elevated. Otherwise, all that will be remembered about this time will be how much it really sucked. And while it does suck, day in and day out, there are up sides.