I must have been about 6 weeks into my pregnancy when the first symptoms of morning sickness kicked in and I met these with a mixture of welcome relief and regret. I’d read online that the symptoms were a good indicator that the pregnancy was progressing well (although morning sickness doesn’t affect everyone). The downside is having to deal with an unprecedented fatigue and constant nausea (although fortunately not actual sickness), the combination of which I can only equate to constantly feeling hungover and sensing that everything would be okay if you could just be left alone to lie very still in a cool dark room.
Dealing with these unpleasant early symptoms of pregnancy when you can’t tell anyone definitely makes for a challenge in the work environment. I know a lot of women have it a lot worse than me, but I cannot emphasise enough the hell that is trying to pretend everything is business as usual when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and wish everyone and everything would just go away.
I was fortunate at least that I could somewhat disguise my symptoms as being generally run down at a time of year when the combination of bad weather and end of year exhaustion makes lingering colds commonplace. But I felt this way for the entirety of December. Every time my officemate would leave the room I would allow myself a visible grimace as I let fall the mask of pretending I’m just mildly under the weather.
I have spent many years vocally berating the lack of acceptability of afternoon naps, so colleagues in my immediate vicinity were already aware that I tend to flag a bit mid-afternoons but the exhaustion of growing a life-force sucking potato inside me was a whole new level of fatigue.
From 3pm onwards, with nowhere to nap, I could barely keep my eyes open and by 5pm I was resembling a zombie whose shambling stumbly purpose was a quest for energy rather than brains. Except sources of energy were pretty limited. I’ve never been a massive coffee drinker and I know from personal experience that energy drinks are the devil incarbonated.
Normally I’d revert to tea but I had discovered an inexplicable absence of desire for tea, which might not seem entirely odd if you didn’t know that even by British people standards I’m a tea addict and would routinely drink anywhere between 6-10 cups a day. I recall opening the cupboard at work where the tea supplies are stored and staring at them for a good five minutes, thinking I desperately want something but also I can’t drink any of these. I’d occasionally settle for just getting a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and surreptitious trying to rest it on my aching belly without anyone noticing.
Just to keep me going until I could get home and have a nap before dinner, I’d resort to one of two options: either gulping down a strong black coffee with too much sugar or sneaking off to the office of an absence colleague and settling in for a 20 minute power nap, hoping a) no-one would notice I wasn’t at my desk and b) no-one would find me drooling on the floor of someone else’s office.
Another challenge was trying to hide my less than impeccable diet of salted tortilla chips, dried fruit and nuts and occasional yoghurt from co-workers. And yes, I know this isn’t the most wholesome combination, but diet options when you feel completely hungover all the time are somewhat limited. I would try to eat something more nutritious in the evenings but this was a challenge I just couldn’t face during the working day.
I am lucky in that I can occasionally work from home and during that time, as my boss was working from abroad, I could take a day or two a week to work in the comfort of my PJs, with a hot water bottle clutched to my stomach and no need to hide my misery face except for the odd Skype call.
About seven weeks into the pregnancy we took a trip to Venice. We had planned the trip long before the pregnancy drama, in an exuberant splurge on easyjet sale flights a few months previously. The sale coincided with the happy realisation that since crossing the border to live in France as Frontaliers our finances had improved to the extent we could finally benefit from one of the main selling points of Geneva: the ease of which you could leave it to go to other places for a weekend away!
We had been to Venice before as part of a day trip from a Lake Garda holiday many moons ago (our first actual holiday away together). We had been looking forward to the opportunity for a more leisurely sampling of Venetian delights, but as the trip approached, in my new condition, the enthusiasm we’d initially had was definitely waning. Had we not already paid for everything we wouldn’t have gone. Even having paid for everything I was in two minds about going.
In hindsight I wouldn’t have booked the trip knowing I’d be pregnant but actually Venice was a good destination to not feel great in. Our hotel was fairly centrally located which meant we could foray out in one direction for an hour or so, scope out the sights of that little neighbourhood and then be back in time for me to enjoy waves of nausea or just a nap that the small amount of exertion would in no way warrant if it weren’t for the tiny energy vampire dwelling within. Having seen the main tourist sites on our previous visit we also didn’t feel pressured to do anything in particular so the exploratory forays suited us quite well.
We were definitely glad we’d gone though when the realisation dawned on us that such random adventuring would no longer be an easy option when the potato finally makes its appearance. That in fact all life’s previously easy options would become a memory as hazy as the fog that engulfed Venice that December weekend.