Certain things with pregnancy everyone knows to expect, even if you can’t fully understand how it is actually going to feel until it happens. Things like morning sickness, fatigue, a rapidly expanding waistline. Other things come as more of a surprise. This blog post could also be called ‘what the hell is my body doing now?’ but I preferred the Star Wars allusion with the title I went for.
I’ve never been massively in touch with my body, aside from to curse it for its occasional failings: the collection of minor ailments, which are sometimes highly irritating but generally serve as a reminder that it’s good I don’t seem to have any serious health issues.
Of the three sciences we studied at school I enjoyed Chemistry and Physics but really disliked Biology because I hated those lessons learning about how our bodies worked. A fleeting grasp of the rudimentals was all I wanted. So since becoming pregnant I have shied away from researching into exactly what’s in store for me, the baby and my body (which I prefer to think of as a separate thing from my self). I have enjoyed a weekly update from the babycentre app about what’s been going on because knowing how the potato has been developing helps to make it more real and the weekly updates about standard changes my body is going through have been reassuring.
The good thing about my head-in-the-sand approach is I haven’t been overwhelmed with information, I haven’t learnt about every weird possible side effect of pregnancy and haven’t been freaking myself out with thoughts of rare and life-threatening diseases either I or the foreign invader might have. On the other hand, my complete ignorance about what could or could not be happening has meant that every unexpected thing I have experienced has been enough to send me into a panic spiral, feverishly searching the many pregnancy forums just long enough to find at least three other people saying they have experienced the same thing and it’s perfectly normal.
When talking with one friend who has already come out the other side of the pregnancy malarky she summed up the crazy stuff that seemed to be going on by saying it was like going through puberty again, when your body starts adjusting itself to all sorts of new things it’s never had to deal with before. Obviously every pregnancy is different and not everyone has the same side-effects but for anyone wondering what pregnancy feels like let me share with you some of the odd symptoms I’ve had to adjust too.
This is a longer post than usual so feel free to stop reading now, or just skim ahead, I’ve thrown in a few more of my wonderful artistic renditions to break up the extra words a bit. I’d definitely recommend stopping now though if you also hated biology lessons and get a bit squeamish at the thought of all sorts of gross things going on inside people.
Early pregnancy cramps
The first weird symptom was at about five/six weeks when I started to experience cramping, this was worse than any period pain I had ever had and at that stage of the pregnancy is perfect for feeding into paranoia that you are going to miscarry at any moment and then continued to experience on and off for at least three weeks after this. For the first week of this I worked from home because the idea of trying to concentrate on anything without the privilege of being curled up with a hot water bottle glued to my stomach was unimaginable. Back in the office after this, I would have to resort to making myself hot drinks I didn’t want just so I could hold them against my stomach when colleagues weren’t around.
An abundance of hair
I have always had very fine hair that tends to sit pretty flat on my head on most occasions. On the rare occasions I would attempt to style it with some sort of volume my efforts would usually have miserably deflated by the time it took me to leave the house and arrive at wherever my destination was that warranted hair effort. I had heard the rumours of pregnancy resulting in healthy looking hair so full-bodied and glossy it could rival the shampoo adverts that promise you paradise in a hair-wash.
Currently I am feeling that my hair is thicker and healthier than normal, however, my first sign of increased lusciousness of locks was not on my head but on my belly. I was having a bath, as I submerged myself in the water and the bubbles gradually trickled away to expose the mound of my stomach (which protruded from the shallow depths even before pregnancy) I looked down and suddenly panicked that my fluffy black cat had got in the tub with me and was stranded on the high ground of my flesh. Panic worsened when I saw the cat next to me (she often keeps me company at bath time) and realised that in fact I had simply grown a carpet over my belly. Trust me when I tell you that nothing will make you feel sexier than the dawning realisation that in your naked state you could now be mistaken for a Harambe impersonator.
Now that I’m clearly in a pregnant person phase, rather than that awkward ‘is she preggers or just fat or is she a fat preggers person’ stage, I’m learning to love my bump, but a new weird sensation is the feeling that my belly-button is trying to tear itself in two. It currently feels like its being stretched just beyond the point of elasticity where it can return to it’s normal shape. I have found that I can sooth this particular sensation by taking a bath and pouring jugs of warm water over the afflicted area or by simply trying to hold my belly button together. This one is pretty disconcerting as I’m conscious that my stomach have some more growing to do in the next few months, so I’m hoping my body will adapt to this one sooner rather than later.
Random butt cheek pain
The first time I had random bum pain (and now I fully understand the meaning of the term ‘ pain in the arse’) was towards the end of the first trimester when I realised that I couldn’t actually get up without some serious spasming going on. When I told my doctor his response was it’s too early to have ‘lower back’ pain (I was too embarrassed to admit just how low down the back my actual pain was), so maybe this one wasn’t pregnancy related or perhaps my changing body hadn’t learnt it was too early for this particular symptom.
Anyway some hot-water bottle action at night-time (it was so much worse when getting up in the morning) and frequent renditions of ‘downward facing dog’ helped alleviate this one in the first trimester. Fortunately, none of my colleagues came into the office when I was practicing my awkward yoga poses, I’m not sure how I’d have explained those. Now I’m just entering the third trimester and am currently only afflicted with bottom pain if I’ve walked too far in a day.
Inability to breathe
I have a bit of an asthma problem, it was an issue when I was younger, flared up again when living in London and we got cats, but then mostly subsided after a three-month stint during the humid rainy season in Cambodia. Until now it tended to only return when I had a cold or am otherwise run-down. Nonetheless I’m aware my lung capacity isn’t what it could be. What I hadn’t prepared for was that with this mini-me growing inside there is less space than normal for my organs to do their regular thing, which includes breathing. It’s almost funny, or it would be if I had the spare oxygen to laugh, just how out of breath I get from going up a flight of stairs (luckily not too frequent an occurrence as we live on the ground floor) or from getting changed at the end of the day.
Who knew that pulling off my day clothes and replacing them with sleepwear could warrant me huffing and puffing by the beard’s chair for five minutes whilst I try to gasp out a goodnight?
Increased toilet time
I’ve always had pretty good camel-like control over my bladder, despite drinking litres of water a day I usually don’t need to wee more than a couple of times a day. I could take an eight-hour flight and know that I won’t need to use the airplane restroom for the duration. I remember those days now as though a distant dream.
People of the world with small bladders, I salute you! I now finally understand just how inconvenient life is when you have to assess every activity in terms of how long you’ll have to go between bathroom breaks. Increased toilet time also results in fun side effects like very dry hands caused by frequently washing. I should note that I have been luckier than many pregnant ladies in that so far I have not had to start getting up in the middle of the night to pee.
In addition to the increased need to wee, and something that almost no-one talks about and frankly I’d rather not, but I did vow this would be an honest pregnancy diary, is the increased need to poo. Much like the inability to breathe issues with growing baby equating to less space for organs, well, sorry to say this, but that also includes your bowels.
What’s next in store?
I remember when I first learnt about periods, when I must have been about six or seven, thinking that it would be better to be constantly pregnant than have the monthly ordeal of regular menstruation. Obviously I hadn’t really factored in the numbers of children this would produce (or perhaps my dictatorial tendencies had already kicked in at a tender age and liked the idea of an army of children), but it turns out I was also blissfully unaware of all those weird and wonderful side effects of pregnancy itself.
As I enter the third trimester I can’t help but grimly wonder what other random changes this little alien I’m hosting inside me is going to bring about!
But it’s not all bad
I should add that although pregnancy brings about a whole host of changing sensations, it isn’t all bad and I’ll try to address these another time, but for now I’ll just add that I’m loving my ever-increasing bump and the kicks and wriggles taking place inside. I’m definitely starting to feel that smug inner pregnancy glow and I enjoy nothing more than sitting of an evening cradling my belly.
I try not to do this too much in public because I’m conscious of the fact I must look like a moron that’s bound to annoy child-free people with an appearance of trying too hard to pretend pregnancy is amazeballs, and probably amuses actual child people who probably laugh to themselves thinking ‘enjoy your dreams of motherhood now before reality hits you like a train’.