Warning: This blog post contains frank observations about aspects of pregnancy which are less than delightful. If you are particularly squeamish, you may want to stop here. The word ‘nipple’ is used. Run, hide, protect yourself.
This is my 6th pregnancy. That’s a scary number. Six. Jeesh. I have three beautiful daughters, all teenagers now. In the last three years, I’ve had two miscarriages. I’m in my 5th month of this pregnancy, and despite my constant undercurrent of anxiety, the wee bean seems to be healthy thus far.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my previous pregnancies. I remember reading everything I could get my hands on. At the time, the internet was not nearly as useful as it is today. There weren’t hundreds upon thousands of Mommy blogs and reliable websites with medical information. I had Dr. Spock’s guide to ‘how your mother raised babies’, ‘What to Expect When Your Expecting’, and similar books to dissect.
I wrote my own early version of a blog. I did research for my own benefit and shared what I learned. I did product reviews. I shared links to useful online resources I found. Circa 1998.
Even with all my research, actually -producing- a child was a lot different than I had anticipated. Every single pregnancy has been different. Every single childbirth experience has been different. Every single child-rearing experience has been different. These kids are their own people, with 100% of inherited stubbornness to back that distinct personality up should parents get their own funny ideas on how things should be.
So I’ve been thinking about the things the books never said. About the things the unsolicited advice never included. About the tribulations (and a little joy) that pregnancy brings and nobody warned me about.
- You turn inwards. I’ve always been self-aware about what my body is getting up to. I notice subtle shifts in blood pressure, the rhythm of my heart, everything. Pregnancy takes this to a whole new level. I am nearly always focused on what’s happening inside my womb. I have a lot more conversations with myself, maybe with the infant, in my head. I feel an unmistakable connection to the pulse of life centered in my body.
- This new awareness isn’t always pleasant. I imagine for women who are not quite prepared to be a mom, whether the pregnancy is planned or unplanned, this could be a nerve-wracking experience. The presence of another body within your body. I’ve had more than one friend describe the sensation as the feeling of carrying an alien invader or a parasite. These weren’t women who hated being pregnant, but I think their assessment was an honest one. We don’t always get the swoony baby feelings until we get to hold the squirmy little midget outside of the womb, and even then sometimes the connection takes awhile.
- Stuff hurts. Glow, what glow? My first three pregnancies were pretty blissful. I had limited to no morning sickness. I lacked most of the other nasty symptoms that go along with pregnancy. I had heartburn in the 3rd trimester with all three and my eldest kicked my spine out of alignment before she made her grand exit. This time, it seems that I’m getting every symptom in the book. Morning sickness for the duration of the 1st trimester, a constantly stuffy nose, the weakened immune system is being bombarded by every drifting virus that comes near, all kinds of digestive upsets, heartburn, exhaustion. I’m pretty miserably in my flesh right now. Pregnancy glow? That’s the simmering rage and exhaustion I’m feeling while I struggle to remember what it feels like to not be sick.
- Breasts take on a mind of their own. Aside from the swelling (My goodness, is it really possible to go up a cup size in a freaking night? Why yes, yes it is), breasts ache. A lot. The preparation from being mostly in the way partner-sirens to food production factories involves a lot of adjustment. And that adjustment is not even remotely comfortable. My nipples, which have never been particularly sensitive by any stretch of the imagination, can’t deal with the presence of fabric near them, let alone any touch (mine or otherwise). Can you say screaming pain? I can. And before you assume I have little pain tolerance, I had two babies au naturale. I have a pretty wide-ranging pain scale. Speaking of nipple pain – nobody had warned me about the possibility of leaking milk, chapped nipples, BLEEDING nipples, and the excruciating pain that can come from an improper latch before my first daughter. I didn’t use the Lamaze breathing during labor; I used it during breastfeeding. The first time blood appeared alongside breastmilk at the corner of her mouth I nearly fainted. I had a floor nurse supplementing her in the hospital with bottles, which had a significant impact on her learning to properly latch. I very nearly quit two weeks in before the pain began to subside. If someone had warned me in advance, I could have prepared better. Lanolin and breast pads, at least, would have been already purchased. The next two rounds were much successful (lest I scare any would-be mothers away from breastfeeding. It’s wonderful: great for your baby, much easier on you, and a great deal cheaper. You’ll get more sleep at night, too. Doo eeet.)
- Permanent PMS. I am not usually afflicted with PMS in the way we usually think of it. I don’t get the mood swings or the cravings, I don’t become a crazy rampaging beast woman. I don’t even really get cramps. I break out and check my tampon supply and that’s about it. All bets are off during pregnancy. My normally logical brain has broken down completely. I have found myself sobbing on a drive home because I couldn’t decide if I wanted to stop for tea. I was self-aware enough to be simultaneously laughing at my own ridiculousness, but there it is. I’m much more snappy, emotional, and reactive than I ever am. This has been the case for all three pregnancies. The books mentioned mood swings, but they didn’t indicate that they’d be ongoing for 9+ months. You are welcome (and partners, prepare yourselves for extra patience and lots of hugging.)
For those of you who’ve produced offspring, what surprising things did you discover while you participated in the human factory experience?