So here I am. Week 39 of pregnancy. Probably my last post pre-motherhood, and possibly the only one I’ll write on my pregnancy, so it’s a long one!
I’ve avoided writing about my pregnancy for a number of reasons. The main was privacy and I wanted to get my head around how I was feeling about it before sharing that with the world. And now, coming to the end of my journey, I know there are so many blogs on pregnancy, and everyone who is or has a mother has an opinion, and adding to the cacophony of noise seemed redundant.
But there’s the paradox, for all the noise there does still seem to be an unwritten, or at least unofficial veil of silence, before you enter into the hallowed halls of motherhood.
Since embarking on this mad 40 week joy ride, I have encountered a plethora of fantastic blogs, written by women who tell it like it is. But these people were just not on my radar at all pre-project procreation. Its like a treasure trove you discover after the fact. Why?
I have quizzed a few friends on this, why the silence pre-pregnancy? Most said that women experience pregnancy and birth very differently from each other, and you don’t want to skew expectations. You risk giving the ‘wrong’ advice.
I get it. Some love being pregnant, others hated it. My small sample of 10+ includes, surprise pregnancies, IVF conceptions, duplicate pregnancies, home births (some unplanned!), severe pregnancy complications, miscarriages and more. So yes, its very hard to give advice or have a clear narrative about this life stage/ choice prior to the person getting that cross-hairs positive plus.
And then, my God, the chatter doesn’t stop.
Of course, it starts with Google. This is always a mistake. But when you’re newly pregnant its often the only resource you have seeing as you’re actively encouraged to keep schtum about your news. Yes actively. Email subjects from every baby site you have signed up to in a bid to cross check your symptoms against all the other paranoid, hormonal women online, have subject lines like ‘Shhhh, not yet! Only a few more weeks until you can share your precious little secret!‘ (and no, I’m not hamming up the patronising tone).
I felt like a bloated, irritable, hungover grotbag, and could take NO DRUGS. Lucky me! All the books, emails, and websites are draped in soft pastel shades, littered with twee ancedotes and cutesy pseudo-psych mantras. If you are none of these things you feel like you’ve wandered into a nightmare, curated by Cath Kidston on a really really bad trip.
And you are lucky. You know you are. You just don’t want to be bombarded with the wisdom of pastel blue owls.
So, how to navigate the chatter without falling foul of the Baby App Squad and their nauseating push notifications?
And herewith a massive disclaimer. This was my experience, and my first at that. I’ll probably revise this all if we go for round two.
Buckets of salt required for further reading
I found a few friends or family that I was comfortable confiding in, so if the worst happened, we’d have the support. I had the best advice from a GP friend who, while coaching me through a very bad bout of proper flu where I was convinced I had contracted TB, said this to me:
‘Look, your baby will not be affected by flu. If the human foetus could not withstand viral infection we would not have survived as a species. But, if the pregnancy miscarries, repeat after me.. this is not my fault. Its not the flu. Its not the sushi you may have eaten, or the marathon you had started training for, or the box you lifted (or in my case the long haul trip to India I took). It happens, 1 out of 3 times, it happens, and its usually as the embryo just isn’t viable. 99% of the time it’s NEVER the mother’s fault. So drink your lemon tea and go back to bed, that baby is going to zap your immune system for another week at least’.
Silence is isolating and, ultimately as exhilarating as it is to find out you’re pregnant (especially if it hasn’t happened overnight) its also fucking terrifying. Those first few weeks you probably feel like shit. It helps to speak to someone that isn’t your other half. Who, by the way, is also freaking out and in my case was having to deal with me slobbing around the house, falling asleep in my dinner and smelling vaguely of vomit and mints most of the time.
As tempting as it is, avoid avoid avoid the forums. People tend to post the very worst stories, and if you search hard enough you will confirm you worst fears. Not good for your sanity.
Honestly, I hated this bit. I felt bloated and exhausted – falling asleep on the tube most evenings and breathing carefully so as not to vom on fellow passengers. We took a trip to Hastings for our wedding anniversary and even now, 6 months later, looking at the pics makes me feel nauseous. I spent most of the weekend shoving salt and vinegar crisps in my face and trying not to belch in R’s face. So romantic.
The best bit by far. Our 12 wk scan was nerve racking and surreal. For me, it was the first outside confirmation besides my own biological cues that I really was pregnant. Sure, we had done the tests. and they take loads of blood, and I had all the symptoms. But there was a part of me that thought it could all be one huge mistake or coincidence. Maybe I just had really bad stomach flu. And the bloods got mixed up. But no, it’s real – because there he was. Looking like a tiny alien having a snooze. Madness.
Also, I got a bit of my life back. I could still just about fit back into my lycra (I had sworn off running as any movement faster than a crawl made me heave pre 12 wks) and glory be, I could find some endorphins. I walked everywhere, went back to spin and took up a few ante-natal exercise classes. I could sleep, I had loads of energy and finally had a bump to show off rather than just looking as though I had eaten ALL OF THE PIES (which, to be fair, I had)
But the appearance of the bump also meant I became fair game. People will say stupid things. People who don’t even know you will feel they can comment on your size (too big, too small, too high, too low), how you look, and what you should and should not be doing with your body (are you sure spinning is a good idea? should you be lifting that pencil? oh I wouldn’t take the stairs if were you…). I ran for a bus and had an older woman shout at me, angrily pointing her umbrella at my stomach, which would have done more damage frankly!
Once I had posted something pregnancy related social media, I unwittingly opened the floodgates of unsolicited advice hell. People who I had not spoken to for 20+ years began crawling out the woodwork, with their advice, thoughts and comments. Ranging from the stating-the-bleeding-obvious, i.e. ‘Your life is going to change! Say goodbye to sleep! Hope you’re ready to say adiós to your bikini forever!’
(I mean, WTF?)
To downright scaremongering, i.e. ‘Birth the most hideous experience of your life, you’ve never seen so much blood, and then you never see your other half in the same light again’ or ‘Forget about travelling, that part of your life is pretty much done and done’
(I’m not kidding)
And yes. It’s well meaning at best. People want to help. Or be perceived as the bringers of wisdom and experience. But it’s patronising, infuriating and intrusive. I started clearing out my FB friends and put a few really bad offenders on limited profile.
Thankfully, I have a gang of women who have all been there done that who give me honest advice, when I ask for it. And very politely point out when I am being naive and may need to manage my expectations.
At worst, I felt as if my right to privacy had been stripped away. Like I was now a public piece of property that people felt they could touch (I nipped that in the bud), judge and objectify. It seemed everyone was suddenly allowed to have an opinion on me, my reproductive system and my plans on managing procreation. Many were surprised to learn that funnily enough, my uterus is my business. So back the fuck off.
Seek out like minded women. Learn to nod and smile. And pick your battles, but fight them hard
One word – eugh.
That first trimester tiredness boomeranged back and hit me smack in the face. Even the big tights start proving problematic, getting into them would leave me sweaty and out of breath. Sleep became a distant memory and I became incredibly grumpy as a result. We did all the classes (NCT and Hypnobirthing- would highly recommend both), read more books, wrote up birth plans, handed over work projects, saw all the movies. Final countdown stuff.
Here, I have to give major kudos to my husband, work colleagues and close friends who laughed at my rudeness and didn’t divorce me, report me to HR, or stop taking my calls. You are all bloody wonderful and I owe you.
Right now, my toes look like fat baby sausages, I can only wear XXL leggings and stretchy tops, and I have developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in my hands thanks to the late pregnancy swelling (its a ‘thing’ in pregnancy, like having a constantly blocked nose) and I can manage about 20 mins on my feet before I have to take a 2 hour nap. Such a special time!
But, we are on the final stretch, and right back to feeling exhilarated and terrified. Hospital bag is packed, baby clothes are washed and ready, the house is organised (thank you maternity leave boredom!) and now we wait.
If anything I’m hugely excited. To experience birth, to get to know myself as a mother and my other half as a father.
But mostly to meet our son, to get to know him, and have the incredibly daunting privilege of teaching him how to be a human. Thankfully it takes a village and I have a pretty awesome one at that.
Woooosaaaa kids. It’s been fun. See you on the ‘mother’side