Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Nine and a bit months

This is what pregnancy means for me.  Maybe it's different for you.  Maybe it's not.  This is what it's like for me.

To start with there's the waiting.  Waiting, waiting, waiting, followed by peeing.  Then some more waiting.  Sometimes by now there'll also be some nausea, tiredness and general crampiness.  Not long after the waiting is over there will be the vague sense of my world closing around me.  This will come back at various points over the ensuing months.  It's a bittersweet feeling, for me.

The dietary restrictions will come in fully after some half-hearted efforts prior to the appearance of that little blue line.  Feta and salami I shall miss the most, in a pita bread with some spinach leaves and some red onion, a little balsamic vinegar sprinkled in too, and put in my handbag for a nice cold lunch on the move.  I'll give up foods and drinks I like and I'll also stop doing many things I enjoy like going for very long walks in the bush out of cellphone coverage.  And roller-skating.

Next comes the nausea.  Followed shortly thereafter by the vomiting.  There's a large amount of both.  Like a really really really large amount.  None of this four football fields malarky, we are talking about so much that I lose weight in the first trimester even if I am eating more than usual.  This also means there are a lot of trips to the toilet, that I need to always know where the nearest toilet is, and that there is a lot of toilet cleaning too.  And probably some throwing up that happens sans toilet, like in a park or into a gutter or over a rubbish bin.

If I'm lucky it'll be predictable vomiting, which allows me to plan around it rather than just have to stay at home as a precaution. If I'm unlucky then workmates will hear me hurling before I'm ready to tell my boss, or I'll be stuck sitting on the toilet floor for prolonged periods, or I won't be able to drive on the motorway where I can't pull over with a few seconds notice.    This bit may go well into the second trimester, and as for only happening in the morning, well that's bunkum.  Although I'll probably be late to work a lot, either because I lost time throwing up as soon as I got up, or if I attempted to have some breakfast, or because I slept in from waking up in the night to vomit.  Did you know you can throw up even when your stomach is empty?  I do, now.

The tiredness will be continuing along nicely at this point.  And very few people will know I'm pregnant, so no allowances, like being able to reduce evening work or early starts or travel less.  Travel always exacerbates it all.  Plane rides are bracketed by vomiting in the airport toilets (note to Wellington Airport:  your toilets are too far from your exit gates) and distinguished by whether there is enough turbulence to put me in fear of my stomach contents.  I'll probably fall asleep in the taxi on the way to and fro, and will definitely have to have the window down to avoid the soiling fee.

My skin might go to pot, but it might not.  Same with my hair, which may be parched, or may just be so out of kilter from my inability to maintain it that I can't tell if it's dry and split or just a mess.  Don't even mention the taming of my eyebrows, as they will be erraticly groomed, which is rather annoying for someone who relies so heavily on the sardonic eyebrow raise for emphasis. My nails will rebel and grow faster than ever before.  Before I know it they'll need corralling so I can type and then it'll seem like only a week later before they need another clip.

Sometime soon I'll be able to tell people and then I have to deal with the sexist comments.  "Isn't having a baby a career-limiting option?"  Not for men, it seems.  "You must want a boy/girl, everyone wants a boy/girl."  Actually I'd just like a healthy baby and a healthy me, thanks very much.  "Oh that must be why you are grumpy, because you're pregnant!"  I think you'll find I'm grumpy because you are an arse.   This will also be the time that I have a lot of internal rages that I don't express verbally.  Facebook status updates may be written in extremis, and possibly unwisely. 

There will be sore breasts, sore hips, sore back, sore abdomen, sore feet, and other sore bits that it would be impolite to mention in the refined company of this blog's readers.  These will come and go throughout the coming months, and my wheat pack will become one of my most prized possessions.  My ability to alleviate any pain through use of painkillers will be limited;  even the drugs I can take I'll probably feel guilty about.

My least favourite bit will be the part with the heartburn.  I never get heartburn normally and rarely get indigestion.  Once the heartburn begins it will last for a really long time, possibly right up to the end.  Gaviscon will become my nightcap, and sometimes I'll need a top-up in the wee smalls too.  Eventually there will come a time when I will no longer gag when I try to that get that gluggy nectar down.  I may even progress to a point where I lick it from the inside of the cap or drink it straight from the bottle.  You will probably have heard that advice about how pregnant ladies should put their feet up to alleviate swelling and generally relax?  It'll only make my heartburn worse.  And possibly my breathing, depending on where the fetus is at the time. Hurrah!

And then we get to the bit which is characterised by having two pairs of pants, one skirt, five tops, and $30 pairs of pantyhose.  Hopefully by the time I am down to only fitting into my slippers or jandals I won't have to go anywhere that requires real shoes.  My rings will have to come off, as my hands, feet and ankles suddenly poof up and the skin gets all tight and uncomfortable.  The slow waddling, which will have been an evening activity for the last couple of months, will become a full time affair.  Stairs start to be obstacles to be surmounted through careful planning and consideration.  Quick reactions will be impossible for the forseeable future, which is particularly annoying as I'll also start to have trouble gripping things properly.  Short walks to the dairy, the nearest cafe, the shop on the other side of the mall, will be replaced by short drives and frustration with stupid people who cannot drive in carparks sensibly.

Throughout there will be times when I get stuck with needles and sent to an incredibly clean bathroom to pee on demand.  These episodes will be fine if they are quickly followed by a period of brain fog, which will mean the edges quickly rub off the memories of having my blood removed and sitting there thinking of waterfalls with the taps running for interminable minutes of my life which I will never get back (not at the same time as the blood letting of course).  Usually of course the brain fog comes at less convenient times, like in the middle of meetings or when I'm trying to write up my notes and I can't recall what the hell that squiggle meant.  Or perhaps when I'm trying to introduce A to B and then I realise that I can't because I don't know one, or both, of their names anymore. 

I might get a burst of energy at some point, but then again I might not.  Whatever happens I will progressively get more and more tired as the months go on.  I'll become impatient for it to be over, at the same time that I'm scared of the bit right at the end and worried about how I'll cope once the pregnancy is over and the parenting begins.  I'll distract myself from the ever approaching nearer and nearer future by whining about the maneouvering involved in just picking something up off the ground or trying to put socks on.  Pesky socks, how dare they be so far away?  Worst of all is when I have to pick socks up off the floor to put on my feet.  Argh to the Max and Beyond!

There will be kicks to the internal organs that double me over with pain, there will be nights when I wake up covered in sweat for no apparent reason, and other evenings where despite my exhaustion I can't get back to sleep after a midnight run for the toilet or the Gaviscon or some food or a drink.  There will be blood on the toothbrush and pins and needles for no apparent reason, followed by worry that they are harbingers of some greater problem that the immediate discomfort they bring.

And at the very very end, when it's over in fact, there will be a child for me and my whanau.  A new person we can love and nurture and make part of our lives.  I keep my eye on the prize and I know that it will probably be awesome.


scubanurse said...

You made me cry. I was having trouble chasing wriggly without the baby bump!
Thank you for your honesty. For those of us who have not yet had kids, it is like fight club - first rule? "noone talks about fight club".
Pregnancy is like a secret society where no one is let in until they have experienced it, so where is the chance to prepare?
And yes, I know there is no possibility to actually be totally prepared for all that is to come, but its nice to at least have a peek into reality.
Thanks again, it means more than you realise.

stargazer said...

OMG, this sounds so familiar. i didn't have so much vomiting, but extreme nausea that would start around 3pm, and i'd have to be in bed by 7pm because i couldn't stand to be upright. i couldn't bear the smell of anything - curry, perfume, coffee, anything at all really. and yes, the heartburn! we put the top end of the bed on bricks, so that it was leaning downwards and we'd slip down during the night, but it was the only way i could snatch a couple hours of sleep at a time. that was after a big bowl full of ice cream and the regular dose of gaviscon.

i also had severe back pain starting from the fourth month, which meant i couldn't sit in one place for any length of time. i'd pretty much be in constant pain all day and night for a few months. also familiar is the missing out on food - couldn't take any chili or spices while pregnant or breastfeeding. given that i'm not good with bland food, this was really hard.

before labour, i'd have pre-contractions starting 3-4 days before which meant i just couldn't sleep. so i went into labour both times totally exhausted, and wouldn't you know it, i had all night labour pains as well.

thinking back now, i don't know how i survived my pregnancies, but as you say, there was this wonderful little person at the end of it to love. i would definitely not do it again though.

Alison said...

Pregnancy can be tough tough tough. And my feeling from working with women is that what makes it hard is that every woman's experience is slightly different - the symptoms are different, the way those symptoms impinge on the rest of life is different, the way the rest of life causes and effects symptoms is different. And yet we still make out that there are more similarities than differences, and that the mental and physical stresses of pregnancy are just minor annoyances. So unrealistic. I find myself constantly assuring women that what they're experiencing is normal, while still not quite like anyone else's experience. At times it must feel terribly isolating for women. So thanks for this Julie. I hope you have some better weeks ahead.

Azlemed said...

hugs babe.. pregnancy isn't easy and those that say it is probably have crap labours or something else nasty to deal with, my last two pregnancies were not great, ehnce to say no more babies for me, the not being able to walk was the biggest issue, I couldnt even carry my 18 month olds... it is worth it but sometimes I wonder....

anyway not long to go then you have the more broken sleep to deal with, and the leaky breasts, etc.

Julie said...

Thanks for the feedback. I guess I just wanted to paint a picture of what it's like for me, because we've had so many discussions here lately about pregnancy in a different context, that of abortion, which have completely ignored any reflection on what being pregnant can be like.

I've been lucky to not have any particular medical problems like high blood pressure or fibroids or an incompetent cervix (is that what it's called?) or anything like that. With the exception of the pregnancy that ended at 6 weeks, things have been pretty normal from what I've read and been advised by people who Know About This Stuff. I can only imagine how much more challenging it would be to be pregnant with multiples or with an existing health condition of your own or with some other high risk factor.

My assessment is that my pregnancies to date have been worth it. You never know what kind of pregnancy you are going to get. If I have another one it may be that it's not like this at all. But the risk is always there that it's going to be really really tough. And actually the risk is always there, even now and even in NZ, that you could die.

homepaddock said...

Phew - that's nine and a bit very trying months.

I swore by sea bands (elastic bands with a button which you wear on your writsts, buy them at chemists with remedies for travel sickness) for morning sickness.

My GP,s wife was a doctor who worked with people on chemo and had found they helped them with nausea.

Anonymous said...

Thank you! Why aren't there more articles like this? I'm just into the second trimester of my first pregnancy and I truly believed it would be easy - that I would just get on with my life and just happen to be pregnant.

Nausea, exhaustion, insomnia, pains too numerous to catalogue, brain fog, and constant anxiety about whether some particular pain means that Something Is Wrong With The Baby.

Not to mention the long list of Things Which You Mustn't Do - buy a sandwich and a cup of coffee for lunch and I'm a bad mother already.

And the fact that I now seem to have become a living incubator in the eyes of the relatives and inlaws - endless phone calls to inquire about my health and whether or not I'm getting enough sleep and the correct diet. Please just trust me to be a responsible adult who is probably more concerned about my child than you are, and no you may not touch my abdomen ... not that you asked permission in the first place.

I truly wish someone had told me what pregnancy is like before I got pregnant - not that it would have changed my decision one bit, but at least I might have been prepared!

Tamara said...

When I've been pregnant (twice) I've been lucky to have it relatively easily, so I can only be very sympathetic to you Julie. However, I've also made a point of telling my pre-pregnant friends (shall we say) what it's like, so they're not too in the dark about what it'll be like once their time comes. It's a bit of a balance though, sharing without whinging!

ScubaNurse said...

You know what freaks me out? I was at a food court this week and there was a pregnant woman at the next table. Everyone smiled at her (nice), three people asked if she was going to pop soon (a little invasive), and one woman actually touched her tummy (WTF). I no longer attend concerts because I have a tendancy to panic when in large amounts of contact with strangers. The idea of someone I dont know invading my personal space panics me beyond belief.
Urgh. When did a pregnant body cease to belong to the owner, and start to belong to the public in general?

Anonymous said...

The worst part about being pregnant - the constant pelvic pain (I didn't get it with my first though).

The best part about being pregnant - the ability to orgasm really easily.

Julie said...

I did try the seabands during my last pregnancy and I think they had some effect, but it lessened over time. This time I was first pregnant in summer and wanted to keep it private for as long as possible - the bands would have been far too obvious. So I went for acupuncture instead, and I believe that helped. The acupuncturist was quite astonished at my level of sickness even after several treatments, so I think I must just be really susceptible. If I ever do this again maybe it will all be different!

On the issue of belly touching - the first time I had a bump I got quite a bit of unwelcome touching, but the second was better. Perhaps I now have a Don't Even Think About It aura going? It really is very rude, especially when you are a stranger. People ask all sorts of intrusive questions too, and, as has been pointed out by others, judge you for your choices. And it's hard to know how to respond when it's coming from someone you don't know particularly well or can't afford to offend (they don't seem to be so worried about offending you however).

blue milk said...

Great, great post! I particularly liked the way you highlighted the fact that keeping your pregnancy secret for a while (for me it was right up until at least 20 weeks both times) meant that you couldn't therefore get any allowances from work even though you were going through some of the toughest symptoms.

Deborah said...

I did fine on my pregnancies, save from throwing up reasonably often throughout both of them, and finding it very hard to move by the end of the second one (twins). Looking back, I had easy pregnancies. As Alison said, women's experiences vary, and we do ourselves and other women a tremendous disservice if we think and act as though all pregnancies are just a minor disruption, or that all pregnancies are incredibly difficult. Talk about reducing women to being reproductive ciphers.

Even though my pregnancies were easy, there was a point when I was throwing up during the second one when I thought, "I am NOT doing this again."