Before I was pregnant, and in particular before I had close friends had gone through pregnancy, I had a kind of vague notion of what it might be, mostly influenced by books and movies and Hollywood celebrity interviews in People magazine. There's the "glow" of course, and according to actress after actress it's a time in your life you feel the most beautiful and want to do naked photo shoots to shout to the world how proud you are of your fertile goddess within . You crave ice cream and pickles and get humorously cranky and emotional. Oh and you pee a lot. Definitely got that memo.
And then I became pregnant, and now have experienced nearly eight months of pregnancy. And I have a slightly different take on the whole business, namely that it is not a physical state that I think any woman, in her most honest moment, would say is the time of her life. Or maybe some truly would. Maybe some of these women who say they love being pregnant are telling the truth. Like Michelle Duggar. She has done the darn thing 19 times. She must enjoy it right? Or those people you see on Facebook and Instagram who post the weekly updates on pregnancy comparing their baby to various fruits or vegetables and just seem so incredibly excited and positive about the whole progression.
But if I am being completely honest, pregnancy is about 10% magical moments of wonder and 90% a weird, uncomfortable, painful out of body experience that legitimately feels that you are harvesting an alien who will burst through your stomach at any moment without warning. This post is about the other side of pregnancy from the one you see plastered on the cover of baby books with a couple gazing lovingly at the giant belly that houses their baby to be. This is the version where we stop being polite and start getting real. And yes I stole that from the Real World. Large portions of my life can be summed up with quotes from the Real World. So here, in no particular order, are 11 of the most uncomfortable/weird/awkward things I have experienced in my own pregnancy plus 3 of the best (of course there are many more good parts than 3 but this post is more about the bad and the ugly than the good). I have anywhere from 5-8 weeks left to go so I'm also sure it will only get weirder and more uncomfortable as my belly threatens to get so big it will require its own area code.
(Disclaimer: please, please, please understand that I know what a gift and blessing it is to be pregnant at all. I know so many women who suffer from issues with fertility. Shortly before getting pregnant I was diagnosed with PCOS and had a prescription for ovulation stimulating medication ready to go because my doctor told me I would likely not ovulate naturally. I was incredibly lucky because a natural conception happened out of the blue shortly after this. I didn't experience a struggle to get pregnant, but I know what it feels like, if just briefly, to wonder if it is going to happen at all. I also have known women who have suffered through the pain of miscarriages or failed attempts at IVF and would give ANYTHING to have a healthy pregnancy. I struggled with the idea of this post because I hated that it would come off as insensitive to women and couples who have these struggles. And maybe it still will. I just want to state up front that I know full well that the worst things about being pregnant are NOTHING compared to the struggles of infertility and this is post is meant to be light hearted and in good fun. End of disclaimer)
1. The "morning" sickness. This was by far the hardest part of pregnancy, and the good thing is that it ended completely around week 14. Looking back now it already feels like a pretty distant and vague memory, which I'm sure is some biological necessity to allow women to ever have more than one child. And I wasn't even the sickest of the sick. I threw up a good number of times (the most memorable of which were always on morning car rides into work as joggers on Patterson or Monument ran perkily past my car as I retched into a plastic bag (I never went anywhere without one back then), or one special time in my car in the parking garage full of probably disgusted hospital employees. But mostly it was nausea. Oh the never-ending nausea. Not just in the morning but all. damn. day. It was like a perpetual hangover but without the perk of having a rip-roaring drunk time the night before. Eating always helped a little. Hard candies helped a little. But mostly you just get used to not feeling normal, to starting each day with a vigorous round of dry heaving. I had to only use mouthwash for a brief period when it was at its worst because I physically could not keep a tooth brush in my mouth for more than .5 seconds without gagging.
It was special.
2. The food aversions. This is very closely related to #1. People ask me a lot if I've had weird cravings and I honestly haven't. But I had quite a lot in the way of the opposite of cravings, aversions. It would take too long to list all of the things that disgusted me the first trimester so instead I will list the only foods that didn't make me sick to even think of them: plain bagels, Eggo waffles, animal crackers, and instant ramen. Oh and orange juice and grape gatorade and sometimes diet coke. Occasionally chicken nuggets and french fries were tolerable. I couldn't even handle the thought of foods I normally love. I was disgusted by peanut butter and chocolate. What kind of monster is disgusted by those two foods? They are literally two of the greatest substances known to man. Any kind of meat was out the window. I couldn't do veggies of any kind. Cheese was only mildly repellant but still not attractive in the way God intended cheese to be. I was grossed out by water. I kid you not, water made me feel queasy. The upside? I lost a few pounds which gave me more room to pack on the pounds later and still be in the "healthy range" :) I saved a lot of money on food (I had no idea ramen noodles were still so cheap! why haven't these solved world hunger?) I got to go down memory lane a little with frozen eggo waffles and animal crackers every day. I learned that it is possible to drive and vomit simultaneously. The things I thought would be hardest to give up or cut back in the first trimester: caffeine, alcohol, raw fish, tuna-no issue whatsoever because they repulsed me so.
3. Fatigue. Okay so this one is well known and obvious so I feel like it doesn't require a lot of explanation, but seriously growing a person is exhausting. I do not have a job that goes well with total exhaustion. The struggle was and continues to be real to not hide in an empty patient room and nap. I will leave it at that.
4. Exercise. So I totally admit I am one of those women who before pregnancy vowed and swore that I would stay just as active during pregnancy. I was going to keep running, maybe even keep doing spin classes. I was going to do yoga all the time and just be the Fit Pregnancy cover model. I hope I never spoke these aspirations aloud to anyone who had birthed a child because they probably wanted to slap me across my naive face. Since my early 20s I have worked out an average of 4-5 times a week, as in vigorous, cardio exercise. Exercise was incredibly important to me for stress and health reasons and I couldn't imagine just stopping cold turkey for the insignificant reason of growing a human. But I will admit now, that aside from maybe 5-10 light jogs in the first trimester, I have done just that. I walk and try to go on long walks or hikes as often as possible. But I do not run. I do not spin. I have not yoga-d. There are many reasons. In the first trimester, quite honestly, it's just scary. I am an RN. I know that from a medical perspective exercise is good and healthy for pregnant women and to be encouraged. But that knowledge part of my brain couldn't shut up the irrational part of my brain that was terrified that I would go for a run one day and then miscarry, and even if there was no like between the two, I would always wonder. I know that's silly and stupid, but that little worry lodged itself in my brain and instead of fighting it, I just kind of let it win, because did I mention I was also exhausted? As soon as I started to have a belly another reason made itself apparent on one of the occasions I did try to run. Within 30 seconds of starting to run I had to pee. Not just like a slight urge, but an Oh Lord I am going to piddle a little if I don't pee right now kind of urge. I actually turned around and went back to my house, peed, and then tried again. Same thing. Walking was okay, but the movement of running was like instant bladder compression. It was not pleasant. So that kind of took running and a cycling out the window. A third reason? My body is not really the same body I was working with pre-pregnancy. Things like particularly long trips to the grocery store can make me stiff. Balance went out the window a long time ago, as did flexibility. I get winded walking up one flight of stairs. Heck, I get winded shifting positions in bed these days. Pregnancy dramatically changes your body. I think being up and active is good, but I do think for most women, exercise either has to be modified or paused from what it was pre-pregnancy. And honestly that's totally okay. Again, growing a person is kind of exercise in and of itself.
5. People's comments. Also file this in the could never really understand before pregnancy file. Let me just say that it is weird and discomfiting as hell when strangers comment on your body while pregnant. See this is what happens. Strangers may comment on the body of woman who is not pregnant but they do not do it to her face, because that would be considered rude and inappropriate. Yet somehow the second you get a recognizable baby bump, your body becomes fair game to the world. You might still be a private human being with boundaries and modesty, but per the world, your mid section is public domain. At work I once stood in between two people, strangers not coworkers, as they discussed my belly and how much smaller it was than they thought it would be for how far along I was. I was not really a part of this conversation despite the fact that my anatomy was being parsed over. It's hard to explain how weird it is to suddenly have your shape and size be open for discussion, especially as it concerns to the expansion of your shape and size. Yes, I know people love babies and pregnant women. Yes, I get that it is all well intentioned. But it's just weird for a private person like myself to feel like my body is an open topic of discussion for strangers. If I know you then this doesn't really apply. I am happy to let my friends and family discuss my "condition" as long as they please. But if I don't know you, please keep your comments to the "congratulations" or "when are you due?" variety instead of the creepy musings on belly size and shape variety. And if you don't know me, do not, under any circumstances, touch my stomach. This has not happened yet thank goodness, and I really really hope it stays that way or you may read about the crazy pregnant lady on the news who karate chopped the stranger in line at the grocery store.
6. The need to pee. This one has gotten particularly relevant the last month or so. The good news? I no longer remember what it is like to sleep soundly through the night which is probably good preparation for a newborn. I cannot go anywhere anymore without knowing that there will be a bathroom possibility either on the way or at the destination. I have long stare down sessions with a glass of water at night, debating whether the satisfaction of my thirst is worth the extra 5 bathroom trips added on to my nightly average of 10. I often feel the urge to pee while I'm still peeing, or standing up from the toilet. My bladder does not belong to me anymore. It is a cushion for the baby to be squeezed or kicked at any moment. I pee so often at night that I don't put glasses on or even have to open my eyes because I know the path from bed to bathroom so intimately. And I'd like to think there's an end to this all, but everyone keeps telling me I will pee myself every time I sneeze or cough after going through childbirth, so really having a kid just destroys any hope of a functional urinary system right? Oh the good old days when my bladder was only overactive and not a torture device.
7. The alien in my stomach. As a theoretical concept, it's pretty cool that babies grow inside of their mothers. And I was so sure that I would feel only sentiments of love and wonder when my own little fetus started to move and kick inside of me. And maybe this makes me a cold hearted demon woman, but let's just say that love and wonder were not my only responses to baby movements in there. Here's the thing no one wants to say out loud. It is WEIRD. Yes it's kind of cool and magical at first when it's just little flutter movements that feel like a cute Disney butterfly is dancing around inside you. But then the baby gets bigger, and bigger, and one day you look down and there is a legitimate PROTRUSION rippling underneath your skin, and it just does not feel quite as cute or magical. I have been in public and looked down and my belly looks like a little gopher is crawling around under the surface, even through clothing. They call them kicks, but a more accurate name for the sensation of a baby moving is a good shimmy. It sometimes feels like your entire stomach is just going to shimmy its way off your body. Yes, it is the wonder of life and a growing human and magical and all of that, and there are moments I feel all of that and get all goopy and sentimental, but there are also moments when I am highly disturbed by the giant knee or elbow or foot that is threatening to break through my stomach Alien style (no matter if you've seen that movie or not there is no way to get through a pregnancy and not think about that scene!)
8. Whose body is this anyway? You go your entire adult life with more or less the same body, unless you are a Biggest Loser contestant and go up and down a few hundred pounds. But most people know their bodies pretty well and despite minor fluctuations in weight kind of live in the same neighborhood all the time. But being pregnant feels like someone took the body you knew very well and replaced it with one that has similar parts but all in different sizes and some in different places and with things all squished and pushed around. And like I mentioned before I think I'm supposed to feel my most feminine and beautiful right now. Isn't that what women are told? We're also told that if you don't lose your baby weight in 2 weeks you are a miserable failure at life, but as long as there is still a baby in there you're supposed to revel in your divine womanliness. I think other pregnant woman are beautiful. I think a pregnant belly is a wonderful thing. But I also think being pregnant is physically hard on a body. I think carrying around an extra 20-30 pounds when you are relatively small is a struggle. I miss having a stomach. I miss being able to lie on my back. I miss being able to get up without letting out a chorus of groans and other strange noises. I miss going out in public and not having my stomach stared at. I miss feeling strong and energized after a really vigorous workout session. I understand that a pregnancy body is a blessing, but I also am looking forward to feeling like my old self again (although I do know post pregnancy bodies and pre pregnancy bodies are not the same thing for any mother).
9. The lack of alcohol. I should probably be embarrassed by just how much I miss alcohol, but really I miss it too much to be embarrassed. I miss my old friend Pinot Grigio, the relaxing evenings we used to share starting at 5pm or the giant goblet sized glasses I would pour post work. I miss beer and breweries, the crisp coldness of a lager, the way Mexican or Asian food tastes when paired with beer that can never be replicated with any other drink. I miss crisp and bubbly sparkling wine and sipping it at bars at Happy Hour. I miss all of the activities related to drinking that are just less fun without it, watching the Super Bowl, holidays, family parties, hanging out with friends, hanging out with my husband, snow days, sunny days, rainy days, days that end in Y. I feel like I have gone almost a year without a dear and essential friend in my life. This may make me a borderline alcoholic, but I'm so sentimental about drinking right now that I can't hide it from the world. I love to drink. I miss it dearly. I am so, so, so excited to be able to do so again.
10. The lack of tuna fish sandwiches. You know when I said I didn't have any pregnancy cravings. That wasn't really true. I have one huge one, and it is tuna fish salad. I could eat a tuna salad sandwich every day. I badly want to eat a tuna fish sandwich every day. But damn mercury guidelines insist I limit to once a week. I hoard these moments like the gold that they are. 6 more weeks and it is going to be a tuna fish and wine explosion (which sounds disgusting but in reality would be so, so beautiful).
11. Acne. Let's just say that my skin got to relive its teenage years during this pregnancy. I now know that the "glow" of pregnancy is oil, lots of pore clogging oil. I finally got a clarisonic Mia a month ago and I could kick myself for not getting it sooner, because the last 4 weeks have been the first acne free weeks I've had since getting pregnant. If you get pregnant and have issues with breakouts don't wait. Save yourself a lot of concealer and go for the Mia!
And 3 of the best things:
1. People are legit nicer. It is not a myth or a stereotype. People are so much nicer if you're pregnant. Einstein's made me wait 5 minutes for a tuna bagel a couple of months ago (not much longer than a normal wait time) and when they brought me the sandwich they also brought a bag filled with cookies, chips, apples, and muffins. I am fairly positive this would not have happened minus the belly. A stranger paid for my purchase at a store once when the cashier was being difficult about my work ID not matching my credit card because of my name change. And more than just the free stuff, people are kinder, more patient. At work I get fewer waitress related requests. The world is a softer and gentler place as a pregnant woman.
2. Maternity jeans. No buttons. No zippers. A stretchy midsection that comes up to your bra-line. There is literally no downside. I plan to never wear regular jeans again.
3. The whole miracle of life thing. So yeah, I haven't even met my daughter, and I know that all of the other stuff, all of the pains and difficulties of pregnancy, are so totally worth it for the end result. It doesn't feel real most of the time still, but there are little fleeting glimpses, when I'm alone in the nursery or when I get a particularly vociferous kick, of the person that will result from all of this, of a little baby that will be pink and soft and mine. Pregnancy can be hard, but at the end of the day, I do know how lucky I am, and I would go through it all again in a heartbeat. Although I haven't experienced labor yet. I'll still feel this way after labor right?
I'm a thirty-something mom of two, wife, pediatric RN, and writer with a passion for all the big and little things in life.