(Easily one of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons...)
For the past nine months, I have had a baby on board. It's been a wild ride full of ups and downs (thankfully, more ups than downs) and many surprises. This journey is almost at an end. I am standing by for either that first contraction or word from my doctor that she needs to induce, so I decided to write about my experiences to keep from losing my mind...
I get many of the same questions wherever I go. There's the standard "so, what's your major" trio that tends to happen when I am standing in line or waiting in an elevator. They usually come in this order:
1. When are you due?
2. Is it a boy or a girl?
3. Is this your first?
The answers, in order, are April 9th, boy and yes. Usually, after these questions are answered, there is a polite "congratulations." Sometimes this is followed by a bit of advice or an anecdote if the person has their own children. Sometimes these tips are welcome: "being a parent is an amazing experience" or "here is the name of a friend of mine who is an experienced doula." Sometimes they aren't: "say goodbye to your life" or "that's a terrible name- you should pick names from the Bible" (a verbatim quote. Tip: never discuss names with people and never discuss babies with crazy people). Occasionally, the questions are just shocking. "How old are you?" was rude and confusing, particularly since it was asked because I looked "way too young to be having a baby" (only in Los Angeles). "You're not carrying twins? That's a HUGE baby!" almost got a little old lady kicked in the shin. I have had the urge to smack one or two people, but I've yet to do it. That leads me to some of my own little surprises about pregnancy. Maybe these are myths, maybe these aren't, but these are a few of the pregnancy stereotypes that didn't quite fit me:
Pregnant women are crazy. Are they? I've seen so much about the "crazy hormones" that us pregnant women get. I think a lot of it is to make people feel better about being insensitive assholes. Typically on an internet Q&A forum:
Q: HELP!! My wife/girlfriend got angry at me and says I never help around the house but I totally did the dishes once last week! She used to be so happy and carefree and let me do whatever I wanted and made me sandwiches all the time. What is going on?!
A: Relax, bro! It's just hormones. Women just go inexplicably crazy when they are pregnant. It's for sure nothing you are doing.
I only had four real emotional breakdowns and they all had VERY valid reasons, one of which included being in my third week of fighting a terrible virus while simultaneously being 9 months pregnant and unable to take most medications, lie in a comfortable position or sleep. At all. Between coughing fits, I was pummeled with tiny fists and feet begging "why are you shaking my house so much, mom?!" I felt terrible because I was horribly sick, but also filled with guilt whenever I would cough, sneeze or blow my nose. I was terrified of going into labor in such a state. I was... quite justifiably... a little emotional. Nah. I'm sure it was just hormones and I was probably just upset about getting fat or whatever...
I do admit that my BS tolerance levels are at an all-time low, but I don't attribute this to "crazy hormones." It's not comfortable being pregnant and it never lets up. You are building a new person 24/7 for nine months and you're already not getting your usual amount of sleep. You need help. You're nervous, excited, scared, responsible for every step of that little human's growth and in a great deal of physical discomfort. You can't have a glass of wine to unwind and I sure didn't get to do any of my usual "stress busting" activities (see photos, below). Hormones were the least of my concerns. Sure, there was the occasional "silly" tear shed for pet food commercials and at movies that weren't tragically sad, but hey, if you don't cry during that Sarah McLaughlin Humane Society commercial, you probably don't have a soul.
Those tears fell LONG before I was pregnant! Which leads me to my next myth:
Pregnant women have wild food cravings. No again. This was another of those FAQs for which I never had a satisfying answer for anyone. Yeah, I love potato chips with a jalapeno pepper slice and dipped in ranch dressing, but I created that little concoction years ago. I had a woman approach me in the grocery store when I was buying ice cream: "Wow! Do pregnant women seriously crave ice cream?" Well, sure. But, uh... do you not? (By the way, being pregnant is apparently like wearing a giant sign that says "PLEASE APPROACH ME AND START A CONVERSATION!") I probably ate more peanut butter than usual, but otherwise, my diet was pretty much the same. The only exception was my miserable first trimester. That was the only time I had real food aversions. I could not abide chicken. I couldn't eat it, smell it, look at it or even think about it without feeling ill. Most of the foods I craved at that time were either starchy (bagels) or sugary (lots of fruit- especially mango and watermelon). I didn't ever wake my boyfriend up in the middle of the night and insist he go get me Pad Thai with a side of chocolate cupcakes and pickle juice. Most of these food preferences were less about a "craving" and more about wanting to eat something that wouldn't make me feel sick to my stomach. Which leads nicely to:
Morning sickness is bullshit. I don't mean that it doesn't happen, I mean that "morning sickness" is cruelly misnamed. My nausea usually came at night, right about as I was leaving work. It came off and on throughout most of the day, as well. It was paralyzing. The worst part is, I didn't actually get sick, I just felt like I was constantly on the verge of getting sick. Though I will admit, hearing about Kate Middleton's horrible affliction made me complain a little less. Because these symptoms lasted weeks and came rather randomly, I couldn't really take time off of work, but I had to cease most of the activities I normally would have been able to do in that first trimester. Most notably, this:
Sigh... I know I will get to do these things again, but I have really missed them over the past nine months.
We live in an advanced society and people aren't weird about pregnancy anymore. Um. No. I've had all sorts of obstacles to overcome with this. I've dealt with loads of outright discrimination and this strange mix of over and under-reaction to my physical activities. I have had to explain to people how my baby is not- even by scientific definition- a "parasite." Yes, there were people (coworkers, even) referring to him that way. Even if you WANT to make that argument, don't make it to a pregnant woman whose feelings about her own pregnancy you do not know. It's not clever or cute. I had one guy at work get outright angry at me because after a meeting, some of my coworkers lingered to ask me questions about my (newly announced) pregnancy. As our meeting was clearing out, this guy barked, "come on! We have to do a conference call in here in ten minutes and you girls are over there talking about PREGNANCY!" I guess us "girls" don't get that you need a solid ten minutes of no lady talk before a room is fit for a conference call. Also, for the people who are "grossed out" by pregnancy: you were once a fetus too. Grow the eff up. Yeah, it's not always pleasant and it's sometimes gross, but I don't need you explaining why it's okay for you to be offensive and make me feel like I should be hidden under a tent. Oh, and while we are at it:
I don't have a clue what I am doing. Apparently. I've never read a book on pregnancy. Never looked it up online (what is Google?) I don't have a doctor I can talk to. I have no maternal instincts. I've never even known anyone else in my entire life who has been pregnant and can tell me things about pregnancy (e.g. my own mother). I am SO HAPPY you know everything about my "condition," person I hardly know! Please enlighten me. One woman tracked my every movement every day: Did I know I couldn't eat feta? I should probably sell my cat because of her litter box? I should probably leave my boyfriend because he will be just like her ex husband? My showers are too hot? No wait... too cold? I should see my doctor more often? I shouldn't get my hair dyed? I shouldn't drink coffee? I should eat more, even if it doesn't seem appetizing? I wish it ended there, but this woman had me wondering if I should just quarantine myself. As if it's not stressful enough that so much of the information out there is conflicting.
It's all by the books. Except the books say different hings. And why in the world are fetuses measured against the size of produce? I suppose it's because us ladies spend so much time doing the grocery shopping and wouldn't be able to envision "golf ball sized" versus "baseball sized" or some other consistent size comparison. But seriously, what the heck? Here is an example of how one baby app sizes up my growing kid:
Week 4: poppyseed. Okay. Yeah, I got that. He's tiny.
Week 5: appleseed. Yep. I can see that.
Week 6: pea. Again. Pretty consistent. He's pea sized. Got it.
Week 7: blueberry. Um... wait. I just grabbed a handful. Some are smaller than peas. I don't...
Week 8: raspberry. Okay? Is he not growing?
Let's jump ahead to week 11: lime. Okay. That's bigger than a raspberry. Got it.
Week 12: plum. Week 13: peach. Wait wait. Are we talking about organic fruit or...? Son of a bitch. I give up. Right now, I am at week 39: watermelon. Well, hell! THAT'S gonna hurt:
Next week, I will be at week 40: jackfruit. Whatever the f*&$ that is. Why do I even want to envision him as something edible anyway? Maybe that's why people dress their babies as food for Halloween.
I'll get by with a little help from my friends. This one is true. My friends have really been there for me. Sure, there were a couple who shunned me (pregnancy is not contagious, you know) and acted like my professional and social lives were over, but by and large, my real friends and family came through for me. Sometimes the love was almost overwhelming, but for those of you who have been checking in on me, inviting me to hang out, reminding me that I can ask you for help, driving me to my appointments when needed, cooking me food: you are all wonderful and I love each and every one of you. You kept me sane and happy. Which leads me to my final point:
Pregnant women are smug. Hmm. I was feeling a lot of things: tired, happy, sad, brooding, worried, alone, scared, overwhelmed, gassy, bloated, lazy... Sorry Garfunkel and Oates, but smug just wasn't one of them!