Welcome back for another one of my random out-of-nowhere mini-rants. I haven’t done one of these in a while! Just kidding! If you missed my big news yesterday, be sure to quickly skim over the post – you can click here. In the end this post was so bloomin’ long that I had to split it into two parts. So if you enjoy this post, be sure to stop by tomorrow for Part 2.Pregnancy has always been dished up as this wonderful time of glowing skin, luscious locks, unicorns dancing on puffy pink clouds, beautiful maternity pictures with a chiffon flowy dress billowing in the breeze, cherishing the little miracle that is happening, enjoying your pregnancy as the time (allegedly!) goes by so quickly and it is an overall amazing time in your life. You know, just heart-eyes-emojis all over?
I am sure that this is true or mostly true for some women, but heavens know this is NOT necessarily the norm for a lot of (and to be honest, most) pregnancies in my opinion. If you make it through a hard pregnancy with your sanity still in tact, your friends, family and partner still liking you and you are more or less in one piece, then I think you did a damn good job and deserve a medal and public holiday in your honour!
I think I went into this baking-a-baby-thing with a great amount of naivety and maybe it was a blessing in hind sight. This post is not me spewing negativity around pregnancy. I really just want to touch in a more humorous way on the things that surprised and knocked me off my socks so far during this pregnancy.
- I am really not bashing anyone that is experiencing/experienced a lovely, relaxed pregnancy with minimal symptoms. I have friends and family that had zero symptoms throughout their pregnancies and I still speak to and love them dearly If you fall into this category, I really do not have any beef with you, you are a blessed child and certainly do not have to feel bad for not suffering!
- I also have friends and acquaintances that were even worse off than me (full on Hyperemesis Gravidarum etc.) and I am not in any way suggesting I know how you are feeling or thinking I have the hardest pregnancy ever to be recorded in history.
- I also know there are women who would love to have the symptoms and difficulties I am complaining about in order to have a little baby in their arms. I am in no way insensitive towards that and despite the difficulties and challenges I have an enormous amount of gratitude and a thankful heart for how far I have come and every piece of good and reassuring news we receive.
- This is just me getting the below points out of my system in a more constructive way other than throwing pots and pans around because the neighbour is making curry (let’s be honest: curry from three doors down does NOT smell good ) and I want to puke from the smell and now my curtains smell like garlic and I just washed them on Saturday. With that out of the way: let’s dive in!
1. Unwanted advice and horror stories
Oh man, where do I even start! Look, I have no problem listening to a friend, family member or colleague’s birth, pregnancy or breastfeeding stories or to take their sound advice if we have a close, trusting relationship or if I asked specifically. By all means: colour it in for me! That’s why I asked – obviously I wanted to know. Otherwise I wouldn’t have asked. In this paragraph I am more referring to UNWANTED/UNCALLED for advice and horror stories from mostly strangers or people that don’t even know you well. 95% of the time you might not see it coming and cannot escape prior to being ambushed. For example:
I went for a haircut when I was briefly in South-Africa around April and as I am quite obviously pregnant the advice and horror stories just flooded in. Bear in mind that I am not much of a talker when I go for my hair and nail appointments or a massage and won’t initiate conversation from my side.
Firstly the lady that washed my hair told me about her friend whose baby was born with something like 13 or 15 toes. Then the hairstylist elaborated on how her bladder was sliced into at least 500 pieces during her caesarean-section. The trainee that did my blowout proceeded to paint a colourful picture of how she was told she was expecting a girl and then when the baby was born it was actually a boy. The lady next to me waiting for her highlights to activate told me about her daughter’s horrific natural birth and how the poor thing tore from under her brainstem right down to just north of her ankles. The daughter’s boobs also nearly fell off from breastfeeding, but you MUST, MUST, MUST have a natural birth and breastfeed. At ALL and ANY cost, according to Mrs Highlights. This all happened in the course of 60-minutes…. I just wanted to read the Glamour and drink my Cappuccino….Is that too much to ask?
I wish I could say that I am exaggerating above scenario or that I made up these ‘stories’…Sadly I am not. This is one of about two thousand examples I can give you from the top of my head. I still do not know how to respond or get myself out of these situations in a polite way. Any effective suggestions other than ‘f*ck off’ will be greatly appreciated, thank you
2. Feel free to ask personal questions!
Oh, go ahead, stranger in Pick ‘n Pay! If you do not know me from a bar of soap and are unable to pick up that I am a rather reserved person, YOU are even more welcome to ask me these questions! Why not ask me if the baby was an accident? Or for how long we have tried, perhaps? How about if I am going to have a natural birth? Or does me breastfeeding or not breastfeeding really peak your interest…? How about counting backwards to work out my exact conception date? Yes? Go ahead, feel free to ask and help yourself to some cookies while you are at it:)
(If you haven’t picked it up yet, I do have an incredibly sarcastic sense of humour…However, these are all questions I have been asked numerous times in the past months by total strangers or just-about acquaintances. If you are or have been pregnant I am sure you can relate?)
3. Glow, baby!
My mother-in-law FaceTimed my husband one night when I was probably at my worst (around 12/13-ish weeks) and as I did not have the energy to even lift my head, I was just lying on the couch in a semi-unconscious state. Jean turned the camera towards me as my mom-in-law wanted to ask me something. She stopped mid-sentence when the camera focused on me and shrieked: “Why are you grey???????” I was a legit shade of light dove-grey for the first five months of my pregnancy due to malnourishment from constantly puking and not being able to go out of the house for a long time. Let’s also not forget about the joyful hormonal acne and the pigmentation that will literally come out of nowhere.
So, who is glowing? Haha, funny! Don’t mind me over here patiently awaiting my glow and radiance. I will glow on the inside, okay?
4. You are unprepared for 1st trimester symptoms – You WILL shock yourself
I will repeat this for you: You WILL shock yourself, your husband or anyone in close vicinity. We are all a little brainwashed into thinking first trimester symptoms only really revolve around hormonal mood fluctuations and nausea and/or vomiting. Wrong! Let me give you a more realistic list of what you perhaps can expect during the first trimester. These are of course only the symptoms that I experienced and I am sure there are many more that can be added. Humor me with yours!
- Bloating – tie yourself to the bedpost or couch otherwise you will float away from all the air trapped inside your intestines courtesy of your new friend, Progesterone. Progesterone is of course crucial to a healthy pregnancy and we are grateful to you, dear baby-hormone. But hot damn, you definitely do not play nice with the mommies ….)
- Flatulence – I am literally dying inside as I am typing this…. From embarrassment that is! Regardless of having gone to the most posh finishing school or being the ladiest of all ladies, you will have the most insane flatulence that you, as a normal non-pregnant human being, cannot even begin to imagine. Your flatulence, courtesy once again of your new buddy, Progesterone, will be taken to a level where no husband/boyfriend/childish brother has ever gone and/or ever be able to trump what you just did….You charming pregnant fairy! Luckily this is only really a (smelly) problem between week six and eight and then it just miraculously stops overnight and has thankfully not come back.
- Constipation – get used to it and adapt quickly. This one ain’t going nowhere and will accompany you to your next trimesters.
- Sore, ginormous breasts – The size is not as much a problem as the pain. Oh man! I think this was one of the first hints that made me take a pregnancy test. It is just a next level discomfort and sensitivity, however, it does mostly go away during the second trimester.
- Insane sense of smell – This was really difficult for me. I had the craziest sense of smell and we often do not realise how many smells are simply just blocked by your brain. Smells I could not stand during my first trimester: dishwashing liquid, Jean’s overall scent (he smells lovely in real life!), raw chicken (who knew raw chicken had a smell that I will be able to smell from outside my house??), cheese, any form of showergel, dry cat food, magazine paper, books, garlic (I used to love garlic!), sweet chilli sauce, the smell an empty dishwasher has, leather, toothpaste, the list goes on. None of these made any sense and will never make you nauseous to the point of projectile vomiting in ‘normal’ life. I can once again thankfully report that this bizarre phenomenon has subsided around 15-weeks.
- Nose Bleeds – All. The. Time. Even in your sleep.
- Fatigue – From 4-15-weeks my only daily activities were vomiting and sleeping 18- to sometimes 20-hours per day. I literally did nothing else. Pregnancy fatigue is unlike any fatigue you can ever experience or imagine. I was very fortunate to be home at that time with minimal responsibilities and I could actually sleep. During those 6-hours that I was actually awake I spent a lot of that time thinking that I do not know how women with full time jobs or busy toddlers do this. How? This definitely eases up during the second trimester and although I am still sometimes very, very tired it cannot compare to that first trimester fatigue.
- Anxiety – You will experience a combination of legit and ridiculous anxiety, prepare yourself.
- Food Aversions – I had crippling food aversions. I think mostly due to my bizarre sense of smell, but golly gee, anything and everything could trigger vomiting and nausea for me in the food department. The food aversions sat quite tightly until around week 16. I still have three food aversions left that I do not think I will ever in my entire life be able to consume again. Chicken pieces (especially chicken thigh meat – I cannot even walk past the chicken isle at the supermarket), raw or cooked potatoes (I am weirdly fine with fries) in any form and garlic spices (fresh garlic is okay in mild dosages). I can maybe still manage the potato or the garlic spice with a gun to the head, but I will not eat chicken pieces even if you hit me with a club. I just can’t. My mother-in-law still feels that way about Rooibos tea 43-years down the line, so I don’t think I will ever eat a chicken piece again.
- Sensitive Gag Reflex – I worked in a government hospital. I technically have a strong stomach. I have never had an inclination to gag at something unpleasant. Oh but just wait! Thank you once again, Progesterone, for making my gag-reflex non-existent. PS: you can blame 99% of your entire life’s problems on Progesterone! I think Progesterone will probably have something to do with your bad luck with SARS, your money problems, troublesome family member, the idiot that eats your clearly marked yoghurt in the work fridge and the dog that just destroyed your new creepy crawly if you really investigate. True story!
- You will starve and be nauseous at the same time – also a true story. I have never thought it possible to have the combination of primal hunger and demonic nausea at the same time. It doesn’t sound possible, right? But it is entirely possible and in the first trimester your brain will be confronted with those two extremely conflicting sensations and not have a clue what to do with it. Enjoy!
- Hormonal Mood Swings – I am not one to cry easily. I don’t know if my tear ducts do not function properly, but I just can’t seem to let water come out of my eyes. Don’t know why, it’s just the way it has always been. Until – you guessed it – I fell pregnant. Like me, you might possibly fluctuate between extreme sudden aggression and crying because the store didn’t have the orange Super-C’s or that watermelons are not available mid-winter in Europe. You will, believe me. PMS-crazy goes to a next level during pregnancy. I think it has gotten significantly better during my second trimester, but my husband might disagree. It’s difficult to evaluate your behaviour objectively when you are pregnant.
5. I call BS on ‘morning’ sickness
Who that has ever had ‘morning’ sickness only had it in the actual mornings, i.e until noon? Nobody! It is literally the stupidest phrase ever. What I have learned from observation is that there are various levels* of nausea and/or vomiting associated with pregnancy:
- 0 – Life is just dandy and you are very lucky to experience no nausea
- 1 – Mild nausea with/without maybe one or two isolated vomiting incidents
- 2 – Moderate nausea with/without vomiting (1-5-times per day)
- 3 – Severe nausea but with limited, more contained vomiting
- 4 – Severe nausea and violent vomiting (exceeding 5-15-times per day)
- 5- Hyperemesis Gravidarum – whole new level of hell and you are all saints for surviving!**
So you can see it is quite a complicated situation and it is so different between pregnancies, even in the same person. You simply don’t know beforehand what you will get. I escalated from a level 2 at around 5-weeks to a seriously dehydrated upper level 4 until I was eventually put on prescription medication around 13-weeks. That is the point I want to make: I think ‘morning sickness’ is sometimes watered down as a normal part of pregnancy and it certainly is. However, there are some instances where pregnancy nausea/vomiting is just on a level where a Marie koekie first thing in the morning before you get out of bed will not help. That is where I have been and believe me, there is no legal or illegal remedy that I have not tried prior to accepting that I needed to be put on prescription medication. Which is obviously also very much frowned upon, but I will get to that tomorrow. It truly was the sickest, most helpless and most hopeless I have ever felt in my entire life. Eventually it is just not possible anymore to remind yourself that this will pass, you will eventually feel better, blah blah blah.
My 2-cents: there is not much you can do to comfort someone with truly bad pregnancy nausea and vomiting. Consider this: instead of offering advice (chances are excellent that one might not speak from the same actual experience) offer to make and freeze meals for the poor husband, help her with the laundry that piled up to the ceiling, pick up her kid from school, put fresh linen on the bed, do her grocery shopping, walk her dog, offer to wash and blow out her hair (close to the toilet if possible) Trust me: she will love you forever and this is what she truly needs: someone to lend a helping hand when she is literally to sick to lift her own.
I really need to stop writing now! I am super sorry this post is so long! I obviously had a lot more to say than I anticipated I just want to emphasise that I do have quite a sarcastic sense of humour and I am definitely also dramatic and it does come through in my writing. What I can also tell you: it is all worth it. I am sure the earth would not have been so overpopulated if it was not possible to survive pregnancy 😉 So, do not let me put you off! Just know that if you are currently in your first trimester and you are questioning your life decisions: I would have totally done your laundry, walked your doggie and not ask you if you have tried ginger candies or flat Coke to relieve the nausea xxx
*Do not quote this classification in your upcoming examination! This is my own summary from a lot of personal experience and intensive research on the topic.
**Simone from An Ordinary Gal wrote a fantastic piece on her experience with the hell that is true Hyperemesis Gravidarum. If you, or someone you know, suffers from HG then I can highly recommend reading this post as you will be able to relate so much to her raw honesty. You can click here to read her post.