On a cold October evening my husband and I stood in our bathroom staring at a positive pregnancy test. We were mostly stunned. It’s one thing to make the decision to try for a baby, it’s quite another to find out you’ve managed to make one. I remember feeling immediately different after the excitement abated a little; calm, collected, glowing even- you know, just like the films and Clear-Blue adverts depict it. Well, for me this lasted all of 12 hours, after which the following elements became the order of each and every day.
First and foremost, whoever coined the phrase ‘Morning Sickness’ was either a man or had no experience of it. It should be called ‘All Day Gut Wrenching Nausea feeling like Arse-ness’. There’s nothing more graceful than running out of your daily 8.30am team meeting to go and dry heave for 20 minutes in attempted silence so the cleaners who hang out in the cupboard next to the loo don’t think you’re hungover or bulimic. Another particular low point was almost vomiting on my boss during a one-to-one meeting because he had the audacity to be holding a fresh cup of coffee. I literally left the room mid sentence to stop myself being sick on his shoes, and of course because this was only 8 weeks in I just looked crackers as no one knew I was pregnant. It’s amazing what hormones do to your senses- I used to neck at least 2 cups of coffee a day without even thinking about it. As soon as ‘Pickle’ took up residence just thinking about tea or coffee made me retch. This charming element of my pregnancy lasted until week 17. The only cure was to eat through it, and only beige food would do. I suppose it was nice to finally have an excuse to exist solely on macaroni cheese and scones.
Secondly, cravings. I thought I’d ‘craved’ things in the past, you know, chocolate, wine, Johnny Depp etc. But it’s not until you’re lying on your sofa after eating a full dinner, crying uncontrollably because you truly believe that if you don’t eat a Chicken Chilli Masala in the next 10 minutes you will die. Like, actually die. I remember my husband taking my face in his hands at this particular point and saying as tenderly as he could manage through his laughter; “I honestly love you, but this is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen”. Bloody hormones creating utter craziness. This happened on a regular basis.
Thirdly, general abject fear about absolutely everything relating to the pregnancy that I could do wrong, mainly fuelled by our good friend Google; contracting Toxoplasmosis (yes, I genuinely thought I had caught this because I didn’t wash my salad), boiling the baby with baths that are too hot (‘TEPID, only have TEPID baths!’ shout the pregnancy websites), overloading the foetus with too much Vitamin A (but there’s vitamin A in Bio Oil which babybollocks.com has told me to use to avoid getting stretch marks akin to a Zebra. Shit, do you have to drink Bio Oil for it to be harmful?! Shit, shit, shit…), making the baby too Zen with massages before the second trimester (‘Only ever have a massage after 12 weeks, regardless of the body area in question. If you have one before this point, you are obviously unfit to be a mother and social services will be informed.’) and so on and so on. So I may have over egged the ferocity behind some of the advice, but not by much. American pregnancy websites seem to have taken their lead from The Old Testament- how any women in America manage to get through a pregnancy without a nervous breakdown I genuinely do not know. I am, for want of a better phrase, ‘highly strung’ at the best of times (or down right mental if you ask those close to me), but the advice on what to do or not do in pregnancy almost sent me into a psychological tail spin. I think I felt so responsible for this little life inside me that was so vulnerable that I was paralysed by my fear. I’d like to say I managed to overcome this and grow through the experience, but I didn’t. I suppose I relaxed as I got nearer to the end of the pregnancy, but to be honest every enjoyable moment had a shadow of worry over it. I’d like to think that I’d be better a second time round, but I really don’t know that I would. We shall see…maybe.
Finally, the loss of any control over my body. My bra size rocketed from 34C to 36F in 12 weeks, and, joy of joys, you’re not allowed to wear underwire. So a metric tonne of bosom being supported by nothing more than a crop top. Ace. There’s only one direction those puppies are going to go, isn’t there?! I did’t get a proper baby bump until about 24 weeks, and people feel very confident, in fact obligated to let you know this; “Blimey, you’d never know would you?”, “Are you sure you’re pregnant?” Shit, you’re right, I better get a second opinion. Then when you DO start to show you get the classic; “Woah, you sure you’re not having twins?”, and “You must be well overdue.” There is no polite comeback to this, they are essentially saying you look like a manatee. They are being gits. I believe some of them don’t realise they’re doing it, but I’m sure the others get a sly little kick out of it. Like I said, gits. The only way I found to get through this aspect was to embrace it and eat as much cake as possible that passed within arms reach over the 9 months. However, this extra ballast probably had a not-so-small part to play in the collapse of my pelvis at week 34. There’s nothing sexier than a heavily pregnant woman in a pelvic girdle…
So I’ve focussed very much on the negative aspects here. Don’t get me wrong, I found becoming pregnant and growing a whole little human nothing short of miraculous. The ultrasounds were both fascinating and unbelievable, the bond that grows between you and your partner is beautiful and feeling Pickle kick and squirm made my heart race with love and excitement. But my day to day experience of actually BEING pregnant was only romantic before and then after the event. For those of you that managed to get through with grace, beauty and humour, I salute you.