Pregnancy is everything and nothing like you think it’ll be.
It’s something you see on TV and in magazines and all over Instagram, but when it comes-a-knocking at your door it’s still a surprise what it does to your mind and body. Or that’s what I’ve found anyway.
The past five and a bit months (or three and a bit, as I was blissfully unaware for six weeks) have been quite the roller coaster, so I thought I’d write about the elements I’ve found most surprising.
To be clear, I’m not complaining about any of this. I like to use this blog to chat about things I imagine other people have felt too, to help us all feel a bit less alone. Whether this is or is not your experience, I’m really interested, so please do let me know.
1. The isolation of the first trimester
I swear, I took the pregnancy test and the symptoms kicked in immediately. Nausea, exhaustion, sudden bursts of emotion, a constant fear that I was going to fall over and – my personal favourite – the relentless need to eat sugar.
And whilst all of that was to be expected, I didn’t expect to feel as isolated as I did. I couldn’t arrange many social activities for fear that I’d have to bail on them at the last minute as I felt too poorly. I also didn’t really feel up to going out and felt nervous when separated from my fridge, my steady supply of Laughing Cow cheese triangles, and my bed.
It didn’t occur to me that, because we wouldn’t tell most people I was pregnant until we’d had the 12 week scan, I’d just have to hang out by myself a lot and wait. I think my situation was magnified because we’d just moved house and we didn’t have Wi-Fi or terrestrial TV, so I had nothing but old DVDs to entertain me. (I’m not sure if you’ve watched one of those recently but you have to GET UP to change over to a new one, which is highly inconvenient.)
But anyway, that sense of isolation came as a surprise. I’m very happy to be able to leave the house again now.
2. My capacity for snacks
You don’t have to have read many posts on here to know that I like a sugary treat. And now that I’m pregnant that enjoyment has turned into a NEED. Consuming regular snacks feels crucial to my survival. Whereas previously I wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without an umbrella, now I wouldn’t go out without at least one chocolate coated bite.
The crazy hunger of the first 12-14 weeks has definitely eased off – I can now have my dinner after 5.30pm and not fear for my life – but I’m still chomping on the regular, just to make sure I stay upright. Even by my standards, a vast amount of sweet goods are passing my lips right now.
3. The things that have made me cry
Here’s a list of things that have made me cry since I’ve been pregnant, despite not being in any way sad.
- A very happy Gavin and Stacey episode I have seen four million times
- Being a bit too hot
- Opening my birthday presents
- Walking down the stairs
- Walking up the stairs
- My nephew giving me a little kiss on the cheek
- The fact that it was Tuesday
Hormones exist to mess with us and I can confirm that mine are taking their job very seriously.
4. My new-found fear of loneliness
All being well, I’m going to have a small person to hang out with for the foreseeable future from the end of the year onwards. And I can’t wait, but it’s strange how, despite the constant promise of company, you can start to fear being simultaneously lonely.
It’s because it’s all unknown. The routine, what we will and won’t feasibly be able to do with a day, how I’ll cope with looking after somebody who can’t really communicate, how the inevitable exhaustion will affect my capacity to travel, interact and whatnot. I am game for all of it, but it has surprised me that these little pangs of fear have started to kick in.
I’m planning to do lots of things to address this. To build a sense of local community. To seek advice from the dozens of other people I know who’ve done this before. And to keep being honest about how I feel.
5. How quickly you fall into an existential crisis about who you are now
That there will be a person in the world to whom my name will be ‘mum’ is an incredible and bizarre thing. It’s a whole new role and dimension to my life that I welcome with open arms and relentlessly watering eyes.
I’ve been thinking a lot about all the other roles I have in the world – a wife, a friend, a sister, an auntie, a writer, a comms manager, a dedicated fan of leopard print clothing, a Coronation Street enthusiast – and how having a baby will affect each one.
I will, of course, continue to be all of these things (I’ve been delighted to find how prominent leopard print is within maternity wear), I’m just having that inevitable ponder about how each role will shift within the new, baby-inhabited world. I imagine all parents-to-be go through this thought process.
All I know is what’s important – no matter what kind of change you’re going through – is that you don’t lose sight of what matters to you. And that you let yourself figure out how to give each the appropriate amount of attention in your own time.
6. The crazy sense of vulnerability
I was once in such a rush in Central London that I didn’t just walk into a stranger, I walked up him. My feet were on his calves before I realised what I’d done. He was remarkably nice about it considering my incredible invasion of his personal space. But since I’ve been pregnant I’ve felt the need to slow down.
I’m frightened I’m going to fall over and do myself damage. I’m scared of people with bags whacking into me and hurting my small inhabitant. And I’m relieved every time I’ve manage to get home without incident. It all looks very melodramatic written down, but I guess that’s my point. The *drama* of these feelings has surprised me too.
I just feel a huge weight of responsibility (both physically and metaphorically), which is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. Biology dictates that I’m the only one in our marriage who can carry this little being around for now, and I’m desperate not to put us in harm’s way. So a slower pace and avoiding walking up strangers feels sensible at this point.
7. That so much of this feels normal
I never thought it would feel normal to be kicked several times a day by a tiny person I’ve never met. But here we are. And I must admit it’s a relief that it doesn’t freak me out. Because it is a crazy thing to imagine before it happens and I worried I’d just spend the whole time scared.
And although fear is definitely a prominent feeling for me right now (but honestly when has it not been), excitement and determination are helping keep it at bay. I want to do this and when I don’t think about the details too much (denial will remain my friend until the third trimester, I’ve decided) I’m confident that I can.
That feeling alone has come as the biggest surprise of all.