What it’s really like being pregnant
Last week I wrote about the rocky road we’ve experienced so far on our journey to having a baby. This week’s post is a little different, but just as fearsome in its own way. I’ve been wanting to do one of these for a while, so here we go – this is the warts and all pregnancy post! What it’s really like being pregnant, dealing with the often mortifying side effects and, before you run screaming for the hills and swear off kids forever, why I still think it’s worth it.
For those of you who are moms, enjoy sniggering along as you read this. I’m sure you have some eye-watering anecdotes of your own to add – there’s no way my limited experience can encompass all the joys. For those of you who aren’t moms but plan to be, you’ve got two choices here: face up to the fact that pregnancy ain’t pretty and arm yourselves with information for when it’s your turn, or shut this shit down and grab yourself a calming glass of wine. And never google anything pregnancy related, ever.
So then, let me start by listing my side effects, symptoms and weird reactions to growing a human…
- The relentless farting*
Pregnancy is just another name for breaking wind, and believe me, it happens in varying degrees to EVERYONE. The hormone progesterone is responsible for pretty much all the evils that you’ll experience in the process of having a baby, and here it really shines. It causes the muscles of your large intestine to relax which in turn slows your digestion down to a crawl so your little vampire can suck the necessary nutrients from you. This allows more time for gas to be produced during the digestive process. The gas has to go somewhere, so better out than in, right? I’m not so sure – many times I’d have preferred to be inflated like a helium balloon instead of cutting one in Pick & Pay. The first few times it’s kind of funny; there’s something about farts that makes fully grown adults giggle like schoolgirls. But then you’re on the treadmill at the gym with your earphones locked in, pounding away to the new Britney track, and you let one rip. It’s ok, you think, that was definitely a quiet one. Everyone else has iPods, no one heard that. Wrong – they heard it…you know they did, because they all turned to look. Mortified, you slink off to the mats for a stretch. But oh, be careful! Because certain stretch positions – and in fact most high intensity exercises where you have to strain your muscles – turn you into a human whoopee cushion. It’s utterly humiliating and there’s absolutely nothing you can do.
Why there’s hope – This tends to happen more in early pregnancy. I’ve passed the stage where I’m likely to announce my presence so rudely in public, but for the first 5 months it was AWKWARD. My poor husband. When I said this experience brought us closer, you had no idea what I really meant, did you.
- *Other related digestion horrors
This fun side effect is the cousin of flatulence and includes chronic constipation, diarrhoea and heartburn, basically all resultant from the same relaxing of your digestive tract muscles. I’ve had at least two of them come and go in varying degrees of intensity. And I’m going to leave it there – there are only so many crap stories (see what I did there?) you want to read in one blog post. And you thought you only had to worry about morning sickness….
Why there’s hope – Because this too shall pass. While this is also trendier in early pregnancy, it could be your Achilles heel for all 10 months (oh yes ladies, its 10 not 9). You see, the secret joy with all these side effects is that no pregnancy is the same. You could experience one or more of these all the way from conception to birth. And they don’t even allow you to take Valium – honestly, it’s a travesty.
- Morning sickness
Speaking of the devil, I was lucky enough never to experience this all-day hell specially reserved for mommies-to-be. If there is a god, he is most certainly not a woman. I can’t say much about this except that it’s just bollocks, isn’t it. As if you aren’t suffering enough already with the diarrhoea and farting, now you must also spend a fair chunk of your day with your head stuck down the loo. What if all these things happen at the same time, WHAT THEN GOD?
Why there’s hope – This one is a soul sucking bitch, that is all.
- Random pain
Pain as your ligaments stretch, discomfort as your loosened muscles overextend during exercise, cramps as your uterus expands during the first trimester (or second or third – because, surprise!), tummy ache from bloating. None of these were crippling for me, but it wasn’t feet up on a sundeck with a cocktail either. Mostly I’ve just found it frustrating that my previously fit and healthy body feels like a second hand shoe.
Why there’s hope – This one wasn’t too bad for me, so I never felt like my world was ending. See the next point for more on that feeling…
- Breathlessness, weakening muscles and general exercise failure
This one has probably hurt me most of all. I absolutely hate feeling physically limited, particularly when I know I’m fit and capable. Quite simply, your body compensates for the demands that pregnancy places on it and prevents you from overdoing things so that you don’t hurt yourself. Body is smart. Brain however, is pissed off. I stopped running at around 6 months because it just got too uncomfortable. For the first time in my life, something was bouncing more vigorously than my boobs. Relegating my cardio routine to the cross trainer hurt my pride, but I’m getting over it (also, now I get to watch VH1 Classics during my workout). The worst, actually, is climbing stairs. I have to get up two flights to get to my office, and sometimes I make it to the top gasping for oxygen like the last mountaineer standing in Everest. The feeling of disdain I have for my current lack of fitness will never quite go away, but I’m learning to live with it.
Why there’s hope – I think they call this character building or something. I’m sure my parents could wring a life lesson out of it.
- Needing to pee ALL. THE. TIME
Hormones cause blood to flow more quickly to your kidneys, filling your bladder up more frequently. But wait, it gets better…the relaxation of basically every damn muscle in your body includes the walls of the bladder. So while your bladder muscles are drinking pina coladas in Hawaii, you not only need to pee more often, but you also can’t empty the culprit entirely because of this unapproved vacation your muscles have taken. All this translates into a revolving door – the toilet door, specifically. Just go somewhere for an hour that doesn’t have a loo and watch how you go from zero to full scale panic in 3 and a half minutes. Also, never drink a whole glass of anything all at once unless you’re ok with going 6 times in the next 10 minutes* to get rid of it – a sure way to get attention in a restaurant.
*I am not exaggerating.
Why there’s hope – They say that this is worse in the first and third trimesters. It isn’t. There is no hope. Please, all gods who celebrate women, may I return to normal after this baby is born.
- Baby brain
The pregnancy-induced fog in which I currently reside exists solely so that my husband can get his own back for all the years I’ve nagged him for misplacing his shit and man-scanning (the process by which a male looks for but cannot find an item that is directly in front of him). A recent example is sitting through a digital tutorial with an external consultant and not writing anything down – because I’m savvy, I got this – and then emailing him a week later to say sorry I can’t remember a thing you explained to me, please can you explain it all over again. So embarrassing, so unprofessional, so NOT MY FAULT. Another day saw me missioning to my office on a Sunday morning on a quest to find my sunglasses which I was 100% sure I’d left on my desk, only to discover them later in my car.
Why there’s hope – There better be. If my brain doesn’t return to normal, our household is screwed.
- All the other stuff
Haemorrhoids, boils, bleeding gums, nose bleeds, itchy skin…I’ve been lucky enough not to have touched on these so far (touch so much wood), but they’re all possibilities lurking in the background. Honestly if pregnant women were pitted against battle hardened Vietnam veterans, I know who my money’s on and it ain’t the boys.
So why then do we do this to ourselves?!!? It seems like some kind of Munchausen syndrome, to willingly subject yourself to such discomforts and embarrassments. That’s a question that each woman must answer for herself. But there’s one thing that I will always remember, something my sister-in-law said to me years ago when I was still bemoaning the idea of kids messing up my life (and still blissfully ignorant of the realities of making them, bless). She said, “La, your body will give you what you need to get through it. You won’t feel the way you do now when you’re pregnant. Everything works in perfect harmony to ensure that you can endure things that you otherwise can’t imagine going through. And the whole time, you’ll know that what’s waiting for you on the other side will be worth every second.”
She couldn’t have been more right. Call it hormones, call it love, whatever it is, what I feel for this little pixie gives me the kind of fortitude in the face of flatulence that I could never have achieved on my own. Creating new life is truly a miracle, warts and all.