The Pregnancy Diaries: Let’s Talk About Sex (of the) Baby!

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When people know you are pregnant one of the first things everyone asks is ‘do you know if you are having a boy or a girl?’ There is nothing wrong with this question it shows a natural interest in the pregnant person’s future offspring and helps those interested to try and get a better sense of who the little person to come might be.

If people know, the next question is usually ‘do you have a name yet?’ and again this is helping to flesh out the idea of the mini human brewing away in there. Although it is fairly common now for parents-to-be to confess they are keeping the name to themselves and most people understand and accept this. Not wanting to witness any potential negative reactions to the name you love seems a fairly legitimate reason for keeping schtum on this.

This is assuming that negative reactions are just personal preference and not because you are actually intending to call your child something like Adolf/Adolfi the Great, in which case you deserve all the scorn and judgement possible that might induce you to think twice and spare your sproglet a lifetime of misery (at least until they are old enough to change the name themselves).

When it comes to sex, not all parents are able to found this out, particularly in the UK where the technicians will not be able to tell you before the 20 week scan and if your pomme-de-terre refuses to cooperate at that appointment then you are in for a surprise if you want one or not.

This is not an issue in Switzerland if you choose the Doctor route where you have a scan every month or so, so plenty of opportunities to see. Some parents prefer not to know and to wait until birth to find this one out. Some parents may prefer not to know but will be told by unthinking medical staff anyway (as happened to a friend of mine).

Then there is the option that the beard and I took, which was to find out but not to tell anyone else. This is apparently not the usual course of action. Not that it is so unusual to want to keep the baby’s sex to yourselves but normally people find it easier to just say they don’t know when asked rather than admitting they know but just don’t want to tell anyone, which results in questioning glances and the necessity of offering some sort of explanation.

The issue for us is not so much sex but gender. This is complicated to summarise but I’ll give it a go. Sex is the reproductive parts that make us female or male, gender is the patterns of behaviour that makes us feel like a man or a woman. With gender comes a lot of stereotypes and assumptions that we’d rather our kid doesn’t have to deal with.

If a boy’s favourite colour is pink and he prefers butterflies to sharks or a girl wants to have short hair, and has more interest in playing with dinosaurs than Barbies these things shouldn’t be a problem.

Not so long ago I read ‘The Gender Police: A Diary’, which started as a twitter feed by @GenderDiary created by two parents who wanted an outlet for their frustrations at the way people interacted with their two children differently based on their genders. This made me conscious of this child-rearing gender minefield even before our own potato started incubating.

When I was younger I was very much a ‘Tomboy’, probably I was influenced by having two older brothers but I think my parents also tried pretty hard to ensure I didn’t feel limited to only being able to do certain things just because I happened to be a girl. In some areas gender stereotypes are breaking down, but in other areas these are a lot worse than they used to be when we were growing up.

In the world we live in we know we won’t be able to protect our spud from gender stereotyping, they’ll be inundated by it when they walk into toy stores and see the little girls pink cleaning trolley toy set and the boys science kits, clothes stores with glittery girls t-shirts saying ‘daddy’s princess’ and boys t-shirts with dinosaurs, when schools hold a knights and princesses dress-up day and the girls are given plastic tiaras and the boys plastic swords, they’ll pick it up from the adults they interact with (strangers and those familiar to them) and they’ll pick it up from their friends.

And if we have a boy that loves blue and sharks and a girl that loves pink and butterflies then that’s fine too or if we have a boy or a girl that loves blue and pink and sharks and butterflies then great. What seems truly sad is the idea of a child being made to feel ashamed or abnormal for liking a colour or animal that someone somewhere along the way decided was only applicable to one sex.

I know that those friends and family members we are most concerned about not getting that a girl is more than the colour pink and a boy more than the colour blue, are going to present issues once the potato arrives and its sex is apparent so keeping it secret for now is perhaps a little pointless.

However, if we can have some of these arguments now, when we have a little more energy, we can convince ourselves that perhaps these are sinking in as we explain for the umpteenth time that any baby can wear pink or blue or even a different colour entirely. At one point I had to explain to a concerned gift-giver that Paddington Bear gifts are equally fine for a boy or a girl, even if he wears a blue coat (this is what I mean about gender stereotyping getting worse)!

The idea behind not sharing the baby’s sex was to try to derail some of the thinking before spud arrives of those that might want to limit them to constrictive idea of what it means to be a boy/girl. We were definitely more concerned about some people’s response to the baby’s sex over others but it seemed fairer to just agree not to tell anyone rather than to tell some people and then deliberately not tell others.

The gender stereotyping was definitely the primary reason for not wanting to share the sex but an unintended benefit has its been that its been quite nice for us to have this bit of information for ourselves. When we announced the pregnancy it went from being this private thing that the two of us had been feeling all sorts of intense emotions over to a public event that lots of people had an interest in and we were expected to feel uniform delight in. Whilst sharing pregnancy news has been amazing keeping the baby’s sex as something that still just belonged to the two of us has given the two of us something special to hold onto.

It’s also been a lot of fun letting people guess and if you want to join the game feel free to leave a comment and you can also add in expected delivery date and weight if you want (we are due 5 August). I will try to think of suitable prizes but don’t hold it against me if I am too exhausted at end of this pregnancy process to actually remember!

The Pregnancy Diaries: Slowing to a Stop

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I have always been a person who moves quickly, this is mostly just a character trait (I say trait others may use the word defect) although it definitely either became worse over eights years of living in London or I just became more conscious of it during this time.

In London most people are in a rush all the time, rushing to get to work, to get home, to meet friends, to catch the bus, and so on. In a city of over eight million people, time and space are at a premium and both need to be maximized to cope with big city living.

However, even by London standards my habitual speed was definitely way above average. I remember when I first took the beard (then beardless) on the train to visit my parents he was amused at the way I ricocheted out of the Marylebone forecourt and raced towards the train as soon as the departure platform was announced. I wasn’t deliberately doing this but I know that my thought process was every person I passed was one less person I’d have to contend with to get a good seat on the train. Perhaps not all my fellow competitors were aware of this but the race was on and I intended to win or at least place well.

Certainly not everyone in London was like me. I had a friend ,who had lived there far longer than I, who moved to her own tune entirely and would never rush, even when crossing roads at non-designated crossing points. Even consciously trying to walk slower to adapt to her pace I’d find myself taking two steps forward and one back to try to adjust my natural equilibrium to hers.

When I first moved from London to Geneva one of the things that struck me most was the (lack of) pace of this city. Even at peak hours, no-one seemed to be in a rush and everyone happily ambled down streets with all the time in the world. Of course, Geneva is a fraction of the size of London and the average commute is probably somewhere around 15 minutes. Plenty of time to meander after work and still enjoy an evening.

I have adjusted somewhat to Geneva time, although I still move a lot faster than the average inhabitant here, but the need to slow down further to accept the fact I’m pregnant has been tough. It must have been at about five months that I first started to notice that operating in my usual gear was not quite as easy as previously. Of course, I continued to ignore this for as long as possible and continued to stomp and stride my way about the city, opting to walk instead of taking the buses for shorter distances.

In my sixth month I started to make some minor accommodations and accept a slight pace readjustment and upping the frequency of taking the bus over traversing by foot. But I still refused to admit there were certain things I just couldn’t do, so I still set about regular weekend walks with the beard. And if I needed to rush a bit for the bus, then so be it, even if I could definitely feel the consequences afterwards and the little potato would object quite strongly to what it probably considered some quite unnecessary bouncing about.

Towards the end of the sixth month I have had to be more accepting of the restrictions my body has imposed upon me as I waddled into the pace of an average person, which from my perspective felt agonizingly slow.

Now I am well into my seventh month I can no longer pretend that everything is business as usual with the occasional off-day causing me to readjust my speedometer. I am having to accept a slow-down into a snail’s pace that is incredibly frustrating yet impossible to overcome. I am now that person that will not hurry across the road. This is not because I’m wholly oblivious of the traffic (although as the beard will testify my road awareness isn’t the best) I’m now just physically incapable of doing so.

Recently, I was traversing a road when the green man transformed into the red version. The beard tried to shepherd me across the road a little faster than the glacial pace I was currently moving at but I explained that I couldn’t go any faster if a dinosaur was chasing me so I definitely couldn’t speed up for a few cars.

When I get particularly exasperated at my inability to walk at even half the pace of a normal human being, my facially-haired man points out this is good practice for when the potato makes its appearance. He’s probably right and I should accept that my capacity to race down a high street, weaving between dawdlers is a skill I’m not likely to get to exercise much with a baby in tow and the need to slow down is just one more way in which having a child will impact on my life.

However, ignorance is bliss so I will ignore his wise words, as I strived for so long to ignore the physical impacts of pregnancy, and will operate under the delusion that as soon as the little one arrives everything will resume to my previously understood definition of normal.

At any rate, we’ll see how handy my ability to quickly distance myself from those around me will prove to be when we are out with the spud in public and it starts wailing for one reason or another. Whoever is closest has to fix it right? If the beard and baby are left eating my dust then I’m sure that is more likely to inspire the offspring to Usain Bolt aspirations rather than indicating I’m a terrible mother.

The Pregnancy Diaries: Picking Up Good Vibrations

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I never got around to actually obtaining a driving license but I remember reaching a point during lessons when frustration at my lack of advancement kicked in and was then exasperated by seemingly every living person in the universe telling me ‘don’t worry at some point, it’ll all just kick in’. As that point never happened before I indefinitely postponed my lessons I’ll never know if they were right or not.

Anyway, the frustration at not getting something other people seemed to have the hang of whilst telling me it’d all become clear eventually was pretty similar to how it felt waiting to feel the potato kicking.

At about 16 weeks our doctor asked if we’d felt any movements yet and then explained that this might feel like little bubbles and did a very endearing impression of a gold fish as he glub, glub, glubbed at us complete with little fin like arm movements (the thought of that is almost enough for me to forgive him for the fat insensitivity at our last appointment). He said that in the next month or so movements should start to be apparent.

In these circumstances the internet was definitely not my friend as I’d visit various forums to find people sharing stories of feeling their baby kick at 10 weeks or some other ridiculously early date, which seemed unbelievable but I couldn’t tell whether I was right to judgmentally assume these people were simply experiencing gas and confusing it with something more magical or if I was just downright jealous.

As I waited for my inner goldfish to start bubbling I found myself paying a lot more attention to the inner working of my belly than previously. Whilst I could feel stomach movements, it was hard to know whether these were genuine potato flutterings or just an overactive intestine.

Waiting for those internal stirrings I started to wonder if it would work both ways; if I would be able to feel the baby moving would the baby also be able to feel movements from outside the womb? If the potato’s hearing was developing to extent it should be able to recognise the voices of me and the bearded man what else could it pick up?

One of my cats, Jasper, has become increasingly more affectionate as he has gotten older and for some time has taken to coming and sitting on my lap of an evening whilst I scratch his head and indulge in whatever the latest Netflix addiction is. My other cat, Buttons, also likes to cuddle against me and the bump as I lounge in bed on lazy weekends or before drifting off to the night-time land of nod.

As my body continues to stretch and adapt, to make itself accommodating for the developing life inside, this hasn’t always been the most comfortable. I have often resorted to a hot water bottle against my stomach to ease cramps and tensions as these changes take place. Having a warm cat vibrating with purrs and gently wriggling about to find the best position for one of their humans to give them attention has been a real treat for me and I wondered whether it has also been noticeable to the one inside?

A few people have asked me if I dream of the baby but, aside from some terrifying late miscarriage dreams, I haven’t really, with one exception: I dreamt the baby was born, and as it was snoozing away it wasn’t gurgling, snuffling or snoring but purring.

Around week 22 I started to think the microscopic movements inside were baby related but I wasn’t wholly confident of this until around week 24, when I became much more conscious of little thuds that were distinct enough from regular organ movements so that these were either the baby or my bowels developing elbows, which I really hope they’d have noticed at the 20 week scan!

Now the kicking is fairly frequent and does wonders for providing daily reassurances that the potato is still, well, live and kicking, and it’s a relief not to have to coast the 3-4 weeks between doctor’s appointments without a sense of what’s going on inside.

I was excited to share with the beard the inner movements but disappointed that the sensations I could feel weren’t apparent to him for quite some time. I guiltily worried that kicks wouldn’t be noticeable outside my belly because of the whole fat and pregnant thing, but here the internet came to my rescue and I found a whole thread of fat mammas sharing their experiences and explaining that although it might take a little longer those kicks would still be strong enough to get through the additional insulation some of us hippos carry around.

As the internal thuds started to get a bit stronger I thought it would be easier for the bearded one to sense these but the baby had an irritating ability of refusing to conform to expectations (can’t think where it might have got that from) by steadfastly refusing to move as soon as I’d feel confident enough of the movements to position the man’s hands in the right place, only to start booting away as soon as he’d move them off. But eventually patience won out and the hairy one could sense something going on even if he did then need me to confirm that these were sproglet rotations and not an overdose of carbohydrates (at least I was certain of the difference at this stage).

Not long ago we had a friend staying with us for a few weeks and in the short time she was with us she managed to learn more about Ferney Voltaire than we had despite our having moved here last August. One of the wonders she revealed to me was that there was a yoga studio a mere two-minute walk from our apartment. I joined the yoga class tailored for pregnant ladies and seniors, which sounds odd but is a combination that works surprisingly well. After my first session I shared my experiences with our temporary flatmate and said I’d enjoyed the class, and even managed to get into the chanting and ohming that I’d never thought people really took seriously until I found myself in a roomful of people doing just that.

My amused friend, evidently more of a yoga-afficionada than me, asked if I believed in chakras. I quickly replied that I didn’t but remembered reading somewhere that the vibrations caused by a cat’s purr aren’t purely there to indicate its smug pleasure at a world that it understands as its own personal kingdom, but also have the purpose of helping to heal the cat through minor ailments. If I could accept that a cat’s unique purring frequency could have a positive physical impact on its wellbeing, then why couldn’t yoga chants serve a similar purpose for humans?

If that is the case then I hope the cats purrs and weekly yoga chants are positively impacting on the potato. Perhaps the dream I had will turn out to be a premonition and the baby’s first word will be more ‘miaow’ than ‘mummy’, but if it grows up to be as self-contented as the kitties that wouldn’t be so terrible. Although if it picks up on other cat habits such a penchant for murdering birds and burying poos in the garden that might be a little more alarming.

The Pregnancy Diaries: Hippos Can be Very Aggressive

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I am a fat pregnant person. I do not mean that I feel fat because I am pregnant, I mean I was fat to begin with and now I am pregnant, but I am still fat.

I have been trying to reclaim the word ‘fat’ since reading Sarai Walker’s marvellous ‘Dietland’ (which I sincerely recommend to any woman trying to accept they don’t fit into the beauty moulds society suggest we should aim for and which the majority, non-fatties included, are ultimately doomed to fail to achieve). More recently I read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s highly-rated, and deservedly-so, ‘Americannah’, and marvelled along with the protagonist at the offence the word ‘fat’ causes in Western societies, rather than being taken simply as a descriptive term that could be applied without judgement in the same way you might say someone was tall.

Pre-pregnancy, I was doing pretty well at mostly accepting my chubbiness, excepting occasional hormonal ups and downs. I knew I ate too much, but as the overeating tended to be of relatively wholesome homemade foods and was always accompanied by a level of fitness that was satisfactory (to me at any rate), rather than the result of constant consumption of junk food and an inability to remove myself from the sofa this didn’t seem so terrible.

Pregnancy has been a different story. For most of the first trimester I felt so nauseous healthier preferences were thrown out for tortilla chips and rounds of marmite toast in a challenge to eat anything. I gave up the gym and stopped running because almost any form of motion was sickening.

Then along came the Christmas holidays, a typical period for over-indulging where constant rounds of friend and family reunions involved more cheese and chocolate than I could fit in my carry-on luggage, let alone stomach. However, this year I couldn’t throw myself into a healthy, if depressing, January of salads and doubling the gym attendance. At least I wasn’t drinking but that was as far as it went as the nausea and extreme fatigue continued to hammer me.

The normal holiday bloating and the beginning of those changes in my pregnant body added up to a horror of my corporeal shape that was unprecedented. I was hitting the scales at figures higher than I could previously recall and saw no means of escaping this. The bearded one told me he could tell it was a pregnant body but I remained unconvinced and was at any rate aware nobody else would know this, as we still hadn’t told anyone at this stage.

When we did finally tell people we were pregnant I enjoyed people telling me I could now enjoy ‘eating for two.’ However, I also knew there was no truth in this and wanted to make sure I was getting the kind of balanced diet a growing spud might need.

People asked me if I had any cravings and I was pleased to report that I didn’t, assuming that my lack of cravings meant the growing bambino was getting all the nutritional requirements it needed from my diet, even if it was also getting a bit more than strictly required.

In recent months, as my bump has become more obvious, I have been happier with my new rotundness, which was cemented when one afternoon a colleague told me that I was looking beautiful in my pregnant state and I actually believed her.

I started delightedly calling myself ‘fatty’ with a new-found glee, finally believing I had found peace with the term. My increased girth is mostly down to the potato growing inside me but my pregnancy doesn’t mask the fact that I was and continued to be overweight.

It amused me how my liberal self-application of this most derided of descriptive labels made so many other people uncomfortable. As the thought of being considered fat is, in the minds of most, a truly terrible thing and, even if it happens to be true in my case, most people probably thought it was a kindness to try to hide this truth from me. I thought it was a kindness I no longer needed and that I was now insulated both emotionally, and with that extra layer of blubber quite literally, from being worried about my body shape. It felt liberating.

It turns out I was mistaken and my feelings are as squishy as my current body-shape, which I discovered when our doctor, at our most recent appointment, brutally exposed me to the truth that I was too fat for a fat pregnant person. For all my attempts at loving my inner fatty, it turned out, that when cruelly exposed to the reality, I actually wasn’t as happy with the idea of being judged a chubster as I had previously thought.

In my first appointment with the doc I had quickly self-acknowledged that I was overweight so as to avoid the medical man feeling the need to point this out to me in the mistaken belief I might not already know, but at that point he seemed unconcerned.

As a fat pregnant person I had diligently searched the web to discover how much weight I should be aiming to put on each week and was alarmed at each doctor’s appointment how rapidly I was piling on the pounds, conscious that the scales were escalating more rapidly than was probably required. I also considered that the nutritional advice these sites were dishing out wasn’t aimed at the likes of me as they would tell women that if they felt truly naughty and gave into the occasional chocolate chip cookie not to berate themselves too much. I knew the occasional cookie would never be my problem; I was in much greater danger from falling prey to an entire packet of Oreos – so considered the advice was meant for others.

Nevertheless, each weigh-in over the last five months or so I expected the doctor to raise my weight gain as problematic but as he failed to do so, despite numerous opportunities, I started to relax into a false sense of security. I assumed that a little extra on top of the ideal weight gain was nothing to worry about. I also thought it was perhaps okay to cut myself some slack, given the trials my body was undergoing and the inability to keep up with an exercise regime a non-pregnant me would be proud of.

So, it had been 5 weeks since our previous appointment, the longest we had been without having to see him so far, and during this time it had been my birthday, I’d been to Paris and back to the UK, seen friends and family and clearly indulged a little more than usual. However, given my new complacency and self-acceptance of the extra bumpy version of Briony, it was a shock as I weighed myself to hear the doctor tell me that I had gained ‘a lot’ of weight and then for him to cheerily follow-up with ‘I tell my patients that weight gain is my problem if it is accompanied by gestational diabetes,’ (which they will be testing me for soon), before continuing, ‘but if there is no diabetes then it is their problem as they will have to lose the weight afterwards.’

The fact that he was a man who would never experience pregnancy first hand suddenly seemed very apparent and more of an issue than it had ever seemed previously. I wanted to explain that I’m not fat on purpose, that I know I eat too much but ‘simply’ not doing so is as challenging for people like me, who struggle in the willpower department, as I imagine it is for smokers to ‘simply’ quit.

That my normal approach of trying to balance my overeating with increased exercise was not an option when I can now rarely walk for more than 20 minutes without needing a rest, let alone stomp for hours or run. That I am tired and vulnerable in my first pregnancy. That I would rather have someone gently ease into concerns of rapid weight gain rather than smash me over the head with it.

It didn’t help that I am now at a point where with hormones surging, increasing discomfort and troubled sleep my tolerance is lower than normal. However, I managed not to respond as I wanted to, which would have involved swear words and physical violence, but simply smiled grimly.

To top it all off he then proceeded to spend the rest of the appointment calling me by my middle name. With every utterance of a name I don’t recognise as my own, my internal pressure gauge rose.

I’m not sure whether police would have understood if I’d snapped and hit him over the head with the coat stand but it’s probably as well we didn’t have to find out. The doctor may have undergone years of medical training and clearly knows more about pregnancy than me, but he evidently hasn’t watched enough David Attenborough shows. Otherwise he’d have known that Hippos are the most aggressive animal on the planet and would have thought better than to goad one in the confined space of his office.

I managed to leave without harming anyone or anything, and as we headed into the wet Geneva evening to meet some friends, the bearded one eased my mood by buying me some new trainers, which I can wear happily in the knowledge that whatever the scales might say he’ll love me and the potato regardless. They are also a nice shade of gray that will remind me of those mud-loving monstrous beasts and the threat they can pose to those around them. I’ll be sure to wear them to my next appointment.

 

 

The Pregnancy Diaries: Puberty Strikes Back!

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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.

Belly-button stretch

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’.

The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 6 – Spreading the Word

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I’m not sure it would have occurred to me to tell people we were trying for a baby under any circumstances, but the awareness of a number of friends and family members with fertility issues had made us mindful that wanting and succeeding were not the same thing.

Even before babymaking was on our agenda it already irritated me the amount of people that would ask the beard and I when we would have a child, without any consideration of the fact that this could be a delicate issue. Maybe we didn’t want children, maybe we couldn’t have them. Whatever our family status was or wasn’t I was surprised by how many people just assumed it was fair game for genial conversation. When our situation changed and we made that decision to start trying we didn’t want to advertise this and potentially open ourselves up to all sorts of future painful conversations.

When it comes to secrets I tend to be an all or nothing person, either I tell no-one or I tell everyone, so we had decided that for this issue we wouldn’t tell anyone even though clearly many people in our lives would have been able to handle the issue with the sensitivity required.

I’m not great at sharing emotions, certainly not in person anyway – blogging is a whole different form of therapy – so I was very reluctant to share our pregnancy news with anyone in the early stages. When we were still trying to process how we felt about the whole thing, not to mention the fears of miscarriage or some other mishap, the thought of having to communicate this to anyone other than each other was just too overwhelming.

I still didn’t know how I felt, let alone know how to explain this and I wanted to avoid putting myself in the position I automatically opt for whenever I’m unsure about anything: where I expend buckets of energy trying to reassure everyone that everything is okay so as to mask my own uncertainties. We didn’t want to share the news with anyone until we’d hit the 12 week mark (when chances of miscarriage dramatically reduce).

However, the terrifying reality of trying to deal with whatever the hell was going on, with a man as bewildered as I was, and an internet that we knew could be an abyss of over-information and terror stories waiting to suck us in, caused me to crack in my resolve. I had a chum from my London days who was the first friend I knew to have a child and incidentally she’d had her little boy as an expat in a foreign country so seemed a good person to turn to. I spoke with her even before I’d had the first gynaecologist appointment and it was a huge relief to be able to share my thoughts and fears with someone who’d already been there.

We wouldn’t have told anyone else before the second trimester if it weren’t for the fact that we’d be home with immediate family around the eight week mark and felt disingenuous hiding the news from them, not to mention the difficulty of concealing the pregnancy during the festive season. We concluded if we were going to tell some family then we could also tell a handful of friends.

There was one friend I wanted to tell more than anyone but was also really reluctant to do so. This friend had been unsuccessfully trying for a child for some time and had just started the IVF process. I knew she loved me enough that she’d be pleased for me but I also thought news of my pregnancy might be hard for her to accept. I wasn’t sure how or when to tell her but I thought about the friend I knew, so like me in many ways, and thought what I’d want if our situations were reversed. I wouldn’t want someone I loved deliberately keep something from me because they were afraid of my reaction but I’d also want time to process the information in my own way without being forced into a situation where some sort of immediate response would be required.

I decided that if the news at our second doctor’s appointment confirmed that the pregnancy was progressing as it was supposed to I’d let my friend know immediately, but via text so she could respond whenever and however she wanted. Within a few hours she responded that she was happy for us and I knew that she was, but I felt guilty for not having warned her we were trying and I felt guilty for not feeling as overjoyed about the pregnancy as I imagined that she would have been had it been hers (and as I imagined all ‘normal’ pregnant people were generally supposed to feel).

Prior to Christmas, the bearded one met up with his best man and one of his groomsmen and shared the news with them. When he passed on their congratulations to me when we met up again later that evening, I found myself feeling kind of peeved. I wanted to be in control of the message (yes, I’m a control freak) and also it felt strange to have people congratulating us, surely it was still too soon for all that and was responsibility for a tiny new person really something to be congratulated about?

As I faux-sipped at my Bucks Fizz, we told the man’s family on Christmas morning. Not good at saying things out loud (there’s a power to voicing things that clearly scares me more than writing stuff down) we announced the news by giving his parents a Christmas card with a baby sock inside and signing it from the three of us.

As the penny dropped and we were warmly congratulated by parents and then the sisters and brother in law also present, I tried my best to behave how I guessed a typical pregnant person (still suffering under the delusions such a person existed) was supposed to under such circumstances. I accepted the congratulations with a forced smile, ‘joked’ that I was ‘excited/terrified’ and only responded with truly genuine emotion to quickly rush to prevent mother in law from immediately sharing the news with nan-in-law, aunties, uncles and co as we explained that it was still early days and we didn’t want anyone else to know yet.

Next came my family, and a handful of other people we felt wouldn’t be so traumatic if we had to ‘untell’ anyone if something bad happened down the line. With each individual or group we told I tried to conjur up a bit more excitement but something inside me refused to get on board the enthusiasm train just yet.

The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 5 – Drinking for Two

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After initial disappointment of first scan we’d been advised to schedule another scan before Christmas. As our doc only works from the clinic we attend on Thursdays we had to schedule the appointment for the same day we were due to fly back to the UK, timings were tight but just about do-able.

Initially we had intended that I go to the appointment alone and the bearded man would meet me at airport with all the bags, but as we got closer to the day of our appointment, I was becoming increasingly more nervous and couldn’t stand the thought of potentially hearing that the potato had gone away without him by my side. The beard offered to take bags to the airport, store them in lockers (as would be too early to check in) so he could join me for the Doctor’s rendezvous.

This time the black smudge we’d barely seen last time had evolved into something that contained a definable blob resembling a mushy kidney bean. Complete with a racing heartbeat. We received a hearty congratulations from the doc. The potato was real.

Had the results been otherwise there is a serious chance we’d have cancelled Christmas and decided to stay home instead, but as it was we left the clinic in a bit of a rush, conscious of the plane we had to catch.

The sense of relief we both felt was palpable but unspoken and we reached the airport in a blur of luggage checking, security and boarding before either of us said anything. It wasn’t until we sat on the plane, seatbelts fastened that we finally asked ‘so what now?’

At only eight weeks pregnant we weren’t ready to widely share our news (we wanted to wait until after the 12 week scan when the risks of miscarriage and serious complications dramatically decrease), however, we also didn’t want to keep this from the families when we’d be spending the holidays with.

We decided on only telling immediate family and close friends, those that we felt we could handle it if we had to ‘untell’ them about the pregnancy if the potato went away. We thought there was a pretty high chance certain people would fail to keep schtum but reckoned that if there was any ‘untelling’ to be done that additional burden would fall to those officially in the know and we could minimize the amount of people we’d have to deal with in the event of bad news.

To decrease the temptation of anyone letting the news slip we decided to time our announcement well. Bearded man’s family we’d tell on Christmas day (after arriving on 22nd December) and my family we’d tell after the extended family Boxing Day event.

The plan was sound but there was one issue, which was how to hide the obvious signs of pregnancy until we were ready to share? Morning sickness and fatigue was still a burden but I could plausibly hide these symptoms behind having picked up some kind of office bug and having worked too hard at the end of the year. The more obvious red flag would be my not drinking, particularly as I’m well known to be partial to a nice glass of wine or several.

There was nothing for it, I was going to have to do some stealthy non-drinking and the bearded man was going to have to drink for two. On the 22nd and 23rd we weren’t around the family home much to have to enact our plan. The first challenge was Christmas Eve, the entire family was at home all day, plus Granny, and there was a big family lunch.

We planned that if we sat next to each other at the table and strategically placed our glasses next to each other the man could sneakily drink from both our glasses without anyone being the wiser.

The bearded man’s first mistake was to attempt to polish off my glass of wine as quickly as possible so that he could then enjoy his at a more leisurely pace. His second mistake was in marrying someone a little bit evil.

When mother in law noted my glass was empty she very kindly offered to fill it up. A nice person would have politely declined or at least stalled. I am many things, but ‘a nice person’ is probably not one of them. As I gladly accepted a second refill and then a third the bearded one did manage not to visibly flinch or express his growing discomfort as it dawned on him his wife was throwing him under the alcoholic bus.

After lunch it got worse for the poor fellow as I offered to prepare drinks for everyone to maintain the illusion I had nothing to hide. I planned to make a round of Gin and Tonics for everyone (but without the gin for me) but then father in law brightly offered us pre-mixed G&Ts in a can, no way of separating the booze from the mixer and the bearded man had to once again drink my drink.

Another bright idea of mine, when discussing the family Christmas with brother and sister-in-law long before realizing I was pregnant, was to suggest a Christmas Eve trip to the pub (an annual tradition from my neck of the woods). To my credit I did quietly hope that this suggestion, so enthusiastically greeted many months before, might quietly be forgotten, but the hope was in vain and it was off to the pub for several rounds instead.

I did try to have a soft drink, claiming ‘I’d’ drunk too much earlier, but after the first round of mockery this wasn’t sustainable so I had to resort to more booze for the bearded man to surreptitiously consume. At least when his brother bought out shots, I steadfastly declined. Shortly after midnight we made our way home, with the bearded man only slightly wobbling, and headed for bed.

The next morning as my unlucky lad felt the force of the hangover he was bearing for both (all three) of us, I couldn’t help but feel a smug satisfaction as I’d been feeling permanently hungover for weeks now. Unsurprisingly he was keen to share our news as early as possible the next day!