The thing with pregnancy is, much like birth and having a newborn, you forget what it is really like until you’re back in it.
I’m 39 weeks pregnant and already the memories of that first trimester are fading, let alone recalling what I felt like in my previous two pregnancies.
When I suggested to Doug maybe ‘it’ was a lot worse this time (‘it’ being hormones/tiredness/rage/weeping) a sober look came over him along with a quiet shake of his head: ‘No. No it was like this before’. He remembers.
Let’s start with the obvious. I do recall getting bigger. I forgot that in the first trimester some of us are blessed with ‘The Thickening Trunk’. Rather than a bump, for around sixteen long weeks I just gained girth and an insatiable appetite. I did not want vegetables or salad, felt queasy and ate a lot of ice lollies. Going out to eat was fraught with complication as my ‘normal’ choices didn’t cut the mustard. Plates of food would arrive and I’d look lustily at Doug’s meaty lunch until he stoically swapped it over with my fishcakes and salad. That’s love that is. Or possibly fear.
The physical changes don’t stop with a belly. Oh there is so much more going on. This includes, but is not exclusive to, bigger and/or hairier moles, varicose veins, a Selleck-esque moustache, veiny tits, acne breakouts in random places, huge dark nipples, and swollen… parts. We are not just talking about the enlarged breasts. Although just as an FYI chaps, ‘buxom’ is never the way to describe your lady, especially if you want to get laid.
Talking of getting laid, I feel I should put expectant dads straight about the myth of horny pregnant women. I’m sure there are some out there, but this hasn’t been my experience and on further investigation my friends that did experience this specified ‘week 26-28’ or ‘right at the end’ or ‘while watching Game of Thrones’. In other words folks, it’s a limited window of opportunity. And if it coincides with rage or an inability to move without grunting, you need to suck it up and act like she’s never been more desirable. Who isn’t turned on by an angry, moustached, grunting lady? A flinch or delay when she says ‘does it feel…different?’ and you’ve just locked yourself out for the next couple of months.
Having said that, my husband and I have found other ways to bond intimately during this phase. For example, my bowel movements have become fair game as a conversation topic. Things turned pretty tragic when I’d leave the room with a ‘I’m just going to the toilet’ and return to a hopeful ‘So?’ from Doug and a downcast eye and a forlorn shake of the head from me. Either that or a confession of blocking the toilet. (Why oh WHY would anyone create a pregnancy vitamin that constipates?). On a good day he’d walk in the door to be met with ‘I have terrible wind’.
I’ve also kept things exciting in the bedroom by leaping out of bed at 3am screaming ‘FUCK SHIT FUCK’ with cramp in my calves, while a dazed and confused Doug jumps up and grabs the nearest implement thinking we’re being burgled.
At my twenty week scan we were told I had a low lying placenta, shuffled to a room for a consultation and given a leaflet to read while we waited. ‘Er, Doug – it says here ‘no sexual intercourse’. And um the next check is at 36 weeks…so that’s 16 weeks away… and then we’ll be having a baby… so we’ve a few months…er…out of action’. I mean, we’ve been married nearly ten years and we’re not animals, but Doug wrestled the leaflet off me pretty quick. We kept his disbelieving response of ‘What, not even the tip?’ to ourselves when the midwife confirmed the grave news.
Moving on from the physical, one can’t ignore the emotional rollercoaster that comes with pregnancy. And the very fact that pregnant women are mean.
In the first months in particular, my heightened sense of smell meant that most evenings I’d turn to Doug with a contorted face and hiss, possibly a little unfairly, about his rancid breath and make him move to the other end of the sofa to stop polluting my air space. I’d then spit something like ‘For God’s sake, must you eat like a HORSE?’ as the poor chap tried to silently enjoy his dinner from the far end of the sofa.
If it’s not rage, it’s tears. Ranging from persistent, silent tears – I’ve been doing the school run and found myself unable to stop the tears despite lots of concerned looks – to dramatic breakdowns. Doug stepped out of the shower last week to find me weeping on the bed. When he asked what was wrong I wailed ‘My knickers are too tiiiiiiiiight’ and then I cried for the rest of the day. (Once you’ve invested in bigger pregnancy knickers ladies, hide the others away so you don’t mistakenly put them on and reveal quite how much your arse has spread. It’s for the best).
And finally, oh the tiredness. It’s smack-you-in-the-face, can’t move my limbs and will behave like a five year old exhaustion. There was definitely a period in the middle where I had more energy, but up to about 16 weeks and this last couple of months have been hard going. All I can say about this is to nap. Don’t make excuses as to why you can’t, don’t ‘just finish these jobs’, you can’t take to your bed with your phone and lose 30 minutes to Instagram. You have to nap like your life depends on it. Because actually, your sanity does. Other people’s tiredness is dull so there isn’t much more to say. Except maybe a warning not to tell a pregnant lady that you’re tired. She may not say anything but behind those tired eyes she will be imagining causing you physical harm.
One benefit of being my third pregnancy is rather than fear I’m having a total breakdown, I know this is pregnancy. The hormones are wild, the insomnia is real, and the anxiety is smacking me in the face at regular intervals because I know what having babies is like. They are glorious and delicious and oh how I will love this little one with all my heart, but they are hard work. This time around I can identify that most of my behaviour is caused by feeling incredibly vulnerable. I don’t like feeling needy, but I really need Doug. The career I’ve carved out doesn’t end here, but babies are all consuming and I want to relish that, but I will also miss me.
I am grateful for what is happening to my mind and body because I know there are plenty of people that would give their world to be in this position. But life as we know it will change and the anxiety that causes is very real. Bizarrely, even though so many women do it, pregnancy can feel very lonely. Being able to laugh about the time you cried because you couldn’t open the cereal box, or sharing the mad rage with your mates so they can say ‘oh us too’, without feeling like you should just quietly and gratefully get on with it, is pretty important for your sanity. And paves the way beautifully for all the madness that comes with a newborn.
So… here goes…