Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Top 10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Pregnancy

1. Morning sickness doesn't always include the relief of vomiting.
I was actually sitting in a booth at Applebee's, staring down a plate of french fries and a Fire Pit Bacon Burger with two bites taken out of it when I realized I needed to take a pregnancy test. The few weeks leading up to that moment were packed with tell-tale signs that my period was coming any day--irritability, extremely sore breasts, constant fatigue--but my barely touched plate of food made me realize there was one other symptom I hadn't acknowledged: I was becoming undeniably nauseous every time I ate. It didn't matter what I was eating or when I was eating it, it was making me sick, only I could never find reprieve from the nausea because I never had the overwhelming urge to vomit. I was just in a constant state of nausea for 13 weeks.

2. My dogs would know I was pregnant.
On the one hand it was very sweet to wake up in the middle of the night at 8 weeks pregnant and find Jack sleeping with his ear up against my belly as if he could hear the baby's heartbeat before any of us, or the way Macy always positions herself over my abdomen whenever there's too much rough housing going on between Jon and Jack or when there's a particularly loud argument brewing. On the other hand it's not so sweet having two dogs on a constant state of alert, watching my every move, and following my every foot step. It's almost as though they feel a sense of responsibility to make sure the baby and I are safe at all times. You're probably wondering what's so wrong with that? All I can say is it's kind of hard to concentrate when there are two dogs pacing, worrying, and sometimes even crying on the other side of the bathroom door because you might be in danger while you're "taking care of business" and they can't help you because you closed the stupid door. They also seem to find it very hard to sleep around me and I'm such a light sleeper that the slightest movement or click of nails on the hardwood will keep me awake for a very long time.

3. Not everyone acquires a glowing complexion.
I've been told countless times by friends, family members, and total strangers who like to chat it up with pregnant women in the grocery aisles that their hair, skin, and nails were never more luscious than when they were pregnant, and I have the hardest time not clawing their eyes out. My hair and nails are unbelievably shiny and strong and they grow like weeds, but my skin is a whole different story. My skin has reverted back to my teenage years. I have acne like you wouldn't believe. It runs all along my jaw line, down my neck, and across my chest with lone soldiers taking up sporadic residence on my nose, cheeks, and forehead. Prior to becoming pregnant, the last time I wore concealer was on my wedding day for extra coverage against the camera, but I wear it on an almost daily basis now or else I'd look like I let myself go in a really horrible way.

4. Psychotic tendencies a.k.a Niagara Falls times 300!
Of course I knew that pregnant women had a tendency to be irritable--who wouldn't when the size of your abdomen grows a little closer to that of a house every morning? What I didn't realize was it's not just irritability, there are some seriously strong emotions that run through me at every single moment. Some days I feel like a really big nerve ending that keeps getting poked at for the hell of it. I know no one is doing it on purpose. Hell, I even know it's all in my head usually, but that's never enough to make me stop crying. And some days, oh yeah, some days I don't even need a reason to sit on the couch and cry quietly. I'm overly emotional as it is but these hormones really take it to a whole other dimension.

5. Your taste buds experience an identity crisis.
My food goal during the first 13 weeks was to just find food that didn't make me feel terrible. I didn't worry about nutrition so much as fighting off the nausea, but I always figured I'd go back to my old, healthy eating habits once I got through the first trimester. It turns out I was wrong. It turns out that the last year I've spent developing healthy eating habits to lose weight and lead by example to my child can go away with the flip of a switch, or so it seems. Even though I don't get nauseous anymore, most of the foods I've been eating for the last year do not appeal to me in the slightest. I hate that I followed a much healthier diet before getting pregnant than I am now, even though it's so much more important now than it ever was. I'm finally getting to the point now that I'm able to force it again. I used to like carrots and broccoli. I eat them for the baby now, not because I actually want them, ever.

6. The thought: "Someone has to be the 1 in 250, so it's probably me!" never goes away.
I never realized how scary pregnancy was, how easy it was to convince myself that my life may end if my baby doesn't make it. It's amazing how quickly and completely you become attached to this little life inside you, and how paralyzing it can be when you realize how many things can go wrong. I've calmed down quite a bit especially now that I can feel the baby move, but those first few months were maddening. Not that I have to say anything about it in this blog because there are a dozen others in the last 4 months that are proof of how scared I was and sometimes still am. Like I said, I'm much calmer now that I can feel the baby move but the fears never really go away completely. I lay awake some nights thinking: what if I pushed myself too hard today? what if the cord is wrapped around his neck? what if he arrives premature? what if they missed something in the screening? what about SIDS? What I've come to realize is this is probably never going to go away. Even if, God willing, we make it through the delivery and infancy and toddler hood just fine, then I get to wonder about things like: what if he doesn't fit in? what if he loses control of the car? what if he never comes home? what if? what if? what if?

7. It's not just delivery that hurts.
This should probably be number one. This is the whole reason I started a list in the first place, but whatever. I've read/skimmed a dozen or so pregnancy books thus far and very, very few mention round ligament pains. My mother had 6 kids, my older sister had 4, and my younger sister has had 1, but not a single one of them mentioned round ligament pains. For those who have never been pregnant, round ligament pains are brief, sharp, stabbing pains, or a longer-lasting dull ache in your lower abdomen. It's caused by ligaments stretching to support your growing uterus. It makes absolute perfect sense once you've read into it, but believe me when I tell you that there is nothing scarier than simply turning over in bed too quickly and feeling like your abdomen has just been sliced open, even if it does only last for a few seconds. Or that time when I bent over to pick up a towel, stood up too fast, and fell right to my knees because it felt like my legs had just torn away from my body? How can something so painful and so scary not be printed in bold text in every single pregnancy book out there? I don't know, maybe I just have a severe case, but still. If you promise to tell me everything about pregnancy make sure you include the stuff that might make me think my baby has just died a horrific death but is really just typical growing pains. On the bright side, now I know why pregnant women move so slow; it's not because they're so much larger, but because it hurts too damn bad to go any faster.

8. You don't have to wait 9 months before the baby starts keeping you awake at night.
First and foremost I just want to say this is not at all a complaint. I wait for, enjoy, and relish in every single nudge, kick, or tiny little movement I get from my baby, but I never realized he would have a sleep and wake schedule before he was born and I especially never thought his schedule would begin and end at completely different times than mine. This baby wakes me up at 4:30 in the morning every morning. It's like clockwork. Even though I'm sound asleep, not moving, and even though it's pitch black inside and out, he begins kicking and stretching and my belly starts bumping my arms or Jack's head and it''s...well, it's hilarious! And who can sleep when something so miraculous and entertaining is taking place in your own body? Like I said, it's not a complaint, more like, why did I not know this?

9. Everyone has an opinion about your size.
In the span of a month I've been told everything from "You don't even look pregnant!" to "Are you sure there aren't twins in there?!" but the most common is just a simple "You're HUGE!" I let it upset me at first, but I very quickly learned that no one means any harm, they just aren't really thinking before they speak. I mean, c'mon, how many 26 week pregnant women who haven't seen their feet in what feels like forever are going to believe they don't look pregnant? My immediate thought was if I don't look pregnant then I must look a very strange sort of fat! And then the others who acted as though I was so massive the sheer force of my breath alone was enough to knock them over were really just making conversation, albeit in a very strange, borderline insulting way. I also noticed a trend pretty quickly: everyone who knew me before I lost 70 pounds thought I was running on the small side, and everyone who met me after the 70 pound loss thought I was gigantic. It makes sense when I look at it that way, but I don't know that it really gives people the excuse to talk to me/about me the way they do sometimes. No matter what, from this moment forward, I will always think twice before commenting on a pregnant woman's size. Wait. Scratch that. I will just never comment on a pregnant woman's size. I'm sticking with, "Wow. You look positively radiant."

10. Never ever ever use Google to self diagnose!
I never mentioned it here, but at my 20 week appointment our midwife discovered I have placenta previa which means I have a low lying placenta and it's covering my cervix. It's a condition that usually corrects itself by delivery, but in the rare case that it doesn't I will have no choice but to have a c-section. Attempting a vaginal birth with placenta previa risks birthing the placenta first which would cause massive amounts of blood loss and possibly death to both the baby and myself. Women with placenta previa are also more likely to experience hemorrhaging or to go into pre-term labor. It's obviously not a diagnosis to take lightly, but when I asked the midwife whether or not I should be worried she very specifically said, "Not yet. We'll do another ultrasound at 28 weeks and it should have corrected itself by then. If it hasn't, then we'll go from there, but we're not going to worry. Not yet." But did I listen to her? Of course not! The first thing I did after arriving home was Google "placenta previa" and read every single horror story about women hemorrhaging on their kitchen floors and giving birth to their baby at only 26 weeks. I read about so many women who went into pre-term labor and lost their babies that I had myself convinced the same thing would happen to me. Just when I'd finally reached a time in my pregnancy when I didn't feel fragile, when I was sure it was all going to work out for us, I was diagnosed with something that I was convinced was a death sentence for both me and the baby. I cried for a week. Jon banned me from searching anything pregnancy related on the internet and immediately advises me to call the midwives 24-hour help line whenever I have the urge to Google a strange symptom. The internet is a fabulous, helpful thing but I've learned that it's mostly women with the saddest, most heart-wrenching stories who post on pregnancy boards and I had to learn that the hard way, unfortunately.

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