I think that most people have an idea of what pregnancy is going to be like. We see it in movies, on TV, in books and on the street. I also had the benefit of having seen numerous pregnant women as patients. I loved the idea of being pregnant – the glow, the bump, the maternity clothes… I looked forward to all of it. Of course I was aware of the complications that can occur, the illnesses, but somehow I never thought it would happen to me. Then I fell pregnant and I realised that very few people actually give an honest answer to the question ‘what is pregnancy like?’
Getting pregnant can be an emotive and difficult journey for many people. One in seven couples struggle with infertility and one in six pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Those were not our crosses to bear and I can’t imagine how painful it must be. G and I were lucky, we fell pregnant quickly both times we started trying.
The first time, telling him I was pregnant was easy – I excitedly showed him my positive NHS pregnancy test and then he insisted on getting a ‘clear blue’ “just to be sure”. Three positive pregnancy tests later and we were ready to celebrate our big news. I felt incredible, knowing that I was carrying this new life inside of me kept me smiling, and other than some pain in my breasts I felt pretty much the same as normal. That lasted three wonderful weeks.
The second time I fell pregnant I had gone straight for the ‘clear blue’ and knew it was definitely real. I told G, who was over the moon and the poor guy was then completely taken aback when I burst in to tears. I told him I was afraid, that I wasn’t ready, that I was scared, that I hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. He pointed out that it was a bit late for that and that I had always wanted two children. It was silly, we’d planned both pregnancies but the second time around I was scared. I knew how hard pregnancy can be.
There are women who make pregnancy look easy. They are the women we see in the media – shiny hair, perfect bump, glowing skin. They say things like “I just feel so empowered”, “I feel a little bit tired I guess”, “pregnancy is such a gift, I feel so blessed”. They live their normal lives whilst being pregnant and they look back on that period in their lives as “one of the best times”. These women respond to the question ‘what is pregnancy like?’ with stories of how much they loved being pregnant and how much they miss that time in their lives.
If you are one of these women, good for you! I am incredibly jealous!
The Rest of Us
It will not surprise you to learn – I was not a pregnancy unicorn. I was as far from the unicorn as it is possible to be. I was the pregnancy cow trying to tape a horn to her head to look like a unicorn. I answer the question ‘what is pregnancy like?’ with ‘bloody awful!’
Pregnancy One – wonderful until seven weeks (FYI you count from the date of your last period, so by the time you find out you’re pregnant you are usually at least four weeks pregnant – bonus). I spent the first three weeks feeling on top of the world, I was (briefly) a unicorn and it was great! I even googled ‘is it bad to not have morning sickness’.
The universe obviously found this hilarious – I started vomiting at seven weeks and continued until the day my daughter was born. I was in and out of hospital. The only time I glowed was when I started sweating before vomiting. I didn’t have cravings, because I couldn’t keep anything down. As the pregnancy progressed I got back pain, pelvic pain, heartburn. The pressure from my uterus meant that when I vomited I lost control of my bladder.
My husband, Lord love him, made me feel beautiful throughout, even though by the end I was essentially just lying on the couch swigging milk and Gaviscon straight from the bottle and trying (unsuccessfully) to induce labour so that the nightmare would end and I could get to the good bit!
Pregnancy Two – I was determined that this time I would be a pregnancy unicorn. I had heard so many stories of people who had terrible first pregnancies who then went on to have a dream second pregnancy. I was going to be one of those stories.
I was not one of those stories.
I started vomiting at six weeks, I was in and out of hospital, I could barely move. TV and books made me feel sicker so I spent large periods of time just lying on the bed and crawling to the toilet to vomit. It eased slightly by about 28 weeks. Then at 31 weeks I developed a rare condition called laryngopathia gravidarum and completely lost my voice for 2 months. I was a mess. My husband told me I was ‘still beautiful… more of an inside beauty than an outside beauty but it’s still there’. I looked like a walking corpse with a baby bump.
A Ray of Hope
Most people fall somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, but unfortunately you can’t really know what your pregnancy will be like until you’re in it! If you’re lucky you’ll be a unicorn, if you’re unlucky you’ll be, well, me. Even if you’re in the unlucky camp and it feels like you’re going to die (I frequently asked G why our babies were trying to kill me), there are some lovely bits – there’s nothing like feeling your baby move inside you and knowing that you have protected and carried your baby for nine long months is something to be proud of.
No matter how hard the pregnancy was, it will pale in to insignificance when you hold your baby in your arms. And then the hormones will descend to blur your memories and make you think it wasn’t that bad… the body’s way of getting you to do it all over again!
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