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 2 – Accepting (or not) the unreality of being pregnant

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A couple of days after the first test we took another one, just to be sure. I kept waiting for the euphoria to kick in and told myself that it was buried within me somewhere I just hadn’t found it yet!

In reality, the overriding emotion was fear. Mostly fear that the pregnancy that we had wanted would go away (odds of miscarriage being fairly high in first few weeks), but also some fear that it wouldn’t, that we would have to deal with the reality of the situation and accept that our lives would be forever changed. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this.

Coincidentally, my pregnancy rudely kicked off a hormonal party without informing the host, invited an overwhelming number of unwanted guests and nobody bought me any gifts I might actually want.

Instead of the Hollywood promised radiant glow and smug inner pregnantyness I’m left with some weird-ass cramps (feeding into the primary fear) accompanied by a constant feeling of hungoverness! Perhaps it’s hardly surprising that the innate joy of impending motherhood hasn’t exactly made itself known to me.

So there’s all this crazy stuff going on and no-one to talk to beside the bearded man, and even that’s problematic.

On the one hand I want him to suffer all the physical rubbish I’m going through so tell him far too frequently and only half-jokingly that this is all his fault. On the other, I don’t want to rain on what I’m assuming (incorrectly as it turns out) is his blissful parade, by sharing my deep dark fears that this isn’t real, it’s not going to last and having no idea whether I’d actually be all that disappointed if it didn’t.

I assume that my emotional response to the situation is ‘wrong’ and that sharing this would at best earn me disapproving judgment and at worst would justify those American male lawmakers from the deep South in their assumptions that women aren’t too be trusted with reproductive choices.

(For the record there may have been some mixed feelings going on in my brain at this point but experiencing emotions doesn’t render me incapable, inferior, infantile or any other negative ‘in’ connotation that idiotic men would like to apply to my gender…Oh dear, and I was so hoping I’d be able to contain the feminist within for at least a few more posts…)

Anyhoo…I don’t really know what I’m logistically supposed to do now the reality of pregnancy is upon me and there isn’t anyone the bearded one and I can ask right now so we do what any sensible 21st century human with a decent internet connection would do and turn to Google.

We gather I will need to see a gynaecologist so using the powers vested in me by technology I track one down using the criteria of ‘english speaking’ and conveniently located. I’ve no idea what else I’m supposed to look for.

It takes me a few days to build up the courage to call the office and make an appointment. I assume it’ll be too early to make an appointment now, but having never been to see a doctor in Geneva previously I’ve no idea how long the wait is for these sorts of things and I’m keen to try and book an appointment before we go home for Christmas in a few weeks. To my surprise I manage to successfully parlay with the French speaking receptionist and am allowed an appointment for later that week.

A few days later the bearded man and I find ourselves in a medical centre sat outside the gynaecologist’s office waiting for our first appointment. Anxiety sets in.

We’d had discussions about what happens if the pregnancy has gone away and I’ve been having some uncomfortable cramps for much of the preceding week. On top of that I generally get nervous going to see doctors.

The doctor is late. We start to wonder if we are in the wrong place, if I’ve misunderstood the receptionist’s explanations about where to go or otherwise done something wrong. This doesn’t help alleviate the stress.

About 30 minutes late the doctor shows up, we take our seats from the desk across from him and set out what we think is going on. Asked if my periods are regular I answer ‘yes’, which confirms we should be about six weeks. Only later do I remember I’ve no idea what my regular period pattern is having only had one non Pill-controlled period prior to falling pregnant.

I’m asked to go into the back office, take off my clothes, take my weight and prepare for the medical exam. Bearded one is waiting by the desk.

Stripping off in front of a stranger and weighing myself doesn’t do much to calm the nerves so I’m not wholly surprised when my blood pressure reading comes back high. ‘Hmm, we’ll take this again in a little while just to see’ the doctor explains. Great, I think, even my blood pressure is wrong.

Bearded man comes in to join us as the doctor does a vaginal ultrasound. At about six weeks, so the internet says, we should be able to hear a heartbeat and see an undefinable yet nonetheless distinct blob on the screen. What we see is a tiny black smudge that is apparently the egg sack where the embryo probably is.

The almost nothingness we are looking at suggests to the doctor that we are probably only four weeks pregnant so he suggests we come back again a few weeks from now.

I don’t remember what he told us at the end of the appointment, but I remember the disappointment as an almost physical weight pressing down on both of us.

But there isn’t much we can do aside from attempt to suppress the bitter dismay, try to avoid spending too much time online looking up miscarriage statistics and hold up for another few weeks until the next appointment.

Still no sign of that elusive euphoria.

(Return of the blog) The Pregnancy Diaries: Part 1 – Discovering I’m Pregnant

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About a year ago I decided to abandon this blog. I thought I would take the time saved from the blog commitment and apply this to other projects, but instead I got sucked into the mire of Netflix, Twitter and other time-wasting distractions and I still haven’t gotten around to channeling my liberated time into something more productive.

Alas, the best laid plans of wombat and women and all that…

In short, I’m back to the blog. I’m also about 4 months pregnant so I decided to marry the two and start the pregnancy diaries. Although I reserve the right to right about anything else as the hormonal whims (or should that be winds) take me!


The Pregnancy Diaries: Discovering I’m pregnant

I should start with the disclaimer that the pregnancy was planned and was theoretically something that was hoped for and desired. However, in spite all of this it took me by surprise in a way that I really hadn’t counted on. For the record, I am also very aware of how incredibly fortunate we are not to have encountered any difficulties in becoming pregnant and I wish it could be as simple for others as it has been for us.


It seems that the bearded man and I know more couples that have had difficulties in conceiving than we know couples that have easily (or so it seems) had kids. To be totally honest it never occurred to me that we might have serious problems, although I suppose it probably doesn’t occur to most couples until they find themselves in that situation. However, I had thought that it would take us a good few months of trying and being disappointed every time my period arrived before what I imagined would be that euphoric moment when we finally took the pregnancy test and realised I was pregnant.

This is not what happened.

I came off the Pill I’d been taking for the last 15 years, I had my period the following month but was neither surprised nor particularly disappointed by this as that month I’d been travelling a fair amount and otherwise busy with work. I also assumed it might take a while for my body to readjust to a non regulated routine.

The following month, I was fairly sure my period was on its way. I’d had an over-flow of emotions that I horrifically thought was what it must be like to have a normal period without the drug dependency (trying not burst into tears when my colleague asked me a simple question) and fully expected the monthly joy to kick in that weekend.

Then I realised that I’d miscounted. It wasn’t 4 weeks since my last period, it was 5. I still wasn’t convinced this meant anything of note, I wasn’t sure what my regular pattern was supposed to be since I’d stopped regulating with the daily chemicals I’d been taking for the previous 5,500 days or so. But it at least meant buying a pregnancy test was a sensible option.

Buying the test I found myself subject to the same sense of shame I’d imagined would have enshrouded me had I needed to buy a test when a teenager and clearly not expecting or wanting to be mother material.

Why this was so I’ve no idea, but nonetheless I found myself furtively in the line at the pharmacy trying to surreptitiously had the packet behind a handful of other random items I’d picked up as cover (you know, I’ll have a packet of chewing gum, some shampoo, a multipack of chapsticks and…adoublepackofpregnancytests…and some moisturiser, and some paracetamol…).

I got the tests home and decided to get it over with straight away, I glanced at the instructions got the gist drank two big glasses of water to fuel my bladder and toddled off to the toilet, test in hand.

I waited the two minutes; the bearded man anxiously looking at me waiting for me to flip the stick and view the results. There was a straight line instead of the cross. Not pregnant. Oh well.

Then I noticed there was some other part of the test that hadn’t done anything, the control window next to the results window. Nothing in that either. I reread the instructions which clearly stated that if no line appears in the control window then the test has failed. Alright the control line didn’t show up but the original result still said not pregnant so presumably that was more likely to be the real result?

However, I’d bought a double pack and had the spare test but rather than fuelling the bladder and going again immediately I thought it would be better to wait until the following morning and do the whole thing properly. I decided to get back to the rest of the afternoon and evening. Have some dinner, watch some Netflix, go to bed.

The following morning I found myself more awake than usual on a Sunday (can’t imagine why) so when the cats wake me just before 7, rather than doing what I usually do which is to shake the bearded one awake and demand he feed them, I got my lazy bottom up to to distribute the morning biscuits myself and then headed to the bathroom.

I took the test properly, held the stick at the right angle for the precise amount of time. I waited the two minutes and looked to see a very strong cross in the results window and a line in the control window appear. No mistaking this result: I’m pregnant.

I thought I don’t really want to deal with this right now so I’ll just go back to sleep and pretend this isn’t really happening. Safely ensconced back under the duvet, bearded man responding to my re-entry into bed by rolling over and throwing an arm around me, I lay wide-eyed in the dark staring at nothing.

After a few moments of realising sleep was not forthcoming I thought this probably isn’t something I should keep to myself so I sort of angrily muttered ‘Well, I’m pregnant’ to the half dreaming man beside me. ‘What?’ he murmurs back at me. ‘I took the test and I’m pregnant’. He’s fully alert now. ‘We’re having a baby?’ ‘Yup’ I respond. Neither of us says anything. I suspect both of us are now wide-eyed in the dark and staring.

Waiting for the euphoria to kick in.

To be continued…