Photo by Roland Heap, on holiday in Fuerteventura this month where we stayed in another great AirBnB find.
So, you may have noticed an absence of the normal 'New Year's resolutions' or '2014 round-up' sort of posts over here- this is partly because I wrote this last year and didn't want to immediately contradict myself by writing something that was all about all the amazing things that happened to me in 2014. But they did. So I'm going to really quickly just drop them in here; we moved house to a new flat I'm so happy in, we got married (sort of), I turned 30 (managed to avoid having any sort of party by getting wed the weekend before!) and finally, at the end of September I found out I was pregnant! So that's my big news and I've been putting off writing about it for a few reasons. I'm really wary of going on about it when I know lots of people aren't fussed about babies, but it's such a huge, life-changing thing that it's hard not to let on how much of my mental and physical energy it's consuming. Anyway, after feeling a bit reluctant to write about it, I have since looked online for good blogs about pregnancy and having babies and whilst I've been recommended a few good ones, the majority are so face-palmingly awful that I feel it's my duty to write something honest and I hope helpful for anyone out there googling away and coming up with sites that refer to your baby as 'the little alien growing inside you' or your breasts as 'those bouncing beauties' - both real examples from big pregnancy websites. As if I weren't already feeling nauseous. See also sites that insist on talking about your baby in baby talk e.g 'now that your ickle bundle of joy is the size of a lemon' etc I am a grown woman, thankyou very much. So, as an antidote to some of the more saccharin content out there, here are some of my experiences so far:
(If you're not preggers or remotely interested in ever being so, you may wish to tune out, but please don't unfollow me, as I plan on still posting about London events, my travels, arts and culture all as usual, just with the odd baby rant snuck in here and there.)
As some of you know, I have narcolepsy and cataplexy, both of which have been largely controlled by medication since I was in my teens. About a year ago my narcolepsy got a lot better and I managed to come off the drugs I'd been on for that successfully, but I was still on my cataplexy treatment at the end of this summer when we were starting to seriously think about trying for a baby. So, first step was to wean myself off those pills. This was a bit rough, though not nearly as bad as it could have been. My symptoms came back a bit, but nothing like how severe they were when I was a teen- I used to literally hit the floor anytime I felt a strong emotion, whereas now I just tend to go a bit shakey, I won't be able to keep my voice steady and may need to sit down. The pills I'd been taking acted as a muscle stimulant, but they also used to be prescribed as an antidepressant, which I wasn't aware of until recently. So suddenly I find that I've been on antidepressants since I was 14. Needless to say, when I came off them I was a bit emotional. I got really down for a while and started comfort eating which is a trap I've fallen into in the past. This only served to make me more worried because I didn't want to start a pregnancy overweight, but I just wasn't in the frame of mind to be making the effort to exercise and eat well. I was depressed, basically. Somehow I had enough clarity to realise that what I needed was to just hurry up and get knocked up, so that then I would feel motivated to start eating well again and hopefully all the hormones would soon sort me out. We were incredibly lucky and managed to conceive very quickly, and it turned out I was right, as soon as I was pregnant I felt much better- this may also have been down to my body just stabilising after coming off my medication.
I did still feel like I was on a bit of an emotional roller coaster though- the first trimester is partly wonderful because you're so excited and it's nice to have this secret with your partner, but also awful because you can't tell anyone your news yet. You can't explain why you're so tired and if you have any early worries (I had some early bleeding which it turns out is pretty normal, but obviously still worrying) you can't share them. I wasn't depressed anymore, but God, was I emotional. ANYTHING could set me off. Things that made me cry- and I mean, properly, bawl my eyes out included:
- The music video for Taylor Swift's Shake It Off.
- All the behind-the-scenes videos of the making of Taylor Swift's music video, Shake It Off.
- The David Attenborough Life show that was on BBC
- The android advert at the cinema (Why?!It's not even sad!)
- Any charity adverts on the tube showing children in Serbia or female activists in India etc
- 'A Mother's Prayer' by Tina Fey, almost destroyed me as my mum has her own tale of me pooping up my back which she loves to tell.
I was a Goddamn liability for a couple of months.
The one thing pregnancy will make you realise is how amazing your body is. Not because of the whole 'making a new life' thing- that's ace, obviously, but a bit weird- see Alien reference above, but because you suddenly notice all the stuff your body does for you all the time that you're never grateful for. Unfortunately you notice this because it's now paying all of it's attention to Baby and you are left having difficulty doing the most basic things. Examples include:
Pretty straight forward, right? No longer. I was so incredibly bloated in my first trimester and still suffer from it a fair a bit now ( am coming up to 20 weeks). I can't eat anything fried or my stomach balloons. Seriously- in the morning I could still have a fairly flat stomach and by the evening I'd look six months pregnant- and it was all gas. I've had about 10 weeks of nausea which has been FUN. Some women produce excess saliva in early pregnancy which makes everything taste awful, especially drinks- I found I couldn't stomach plain water at all because of what I have named 'claggy mouth syndrome' and was brushing my teeth and sucking mints all day long.
All the time. Peeing. Always. And you better start doing your pelvic floor exercises, because otherwise you even start peeing when you sneeze or cough, or if you have the nausea badly, as you throw up. FUN.
No-one tells you about this, but you get really constipated during pregnancy. Food stays in your stomach longer so the baby can get all the nutrients, but this slowing down of the digestive process can leave you all blocked up. If I don't have a bowl of muesli every morning my entire digestive system just stops working.
Sleeping (and a bit more about eating/nausea)
Apart from feeling terribly tired for a few weekends right at the beginning of my pregnancy, I haven't noticed that much more tiredness (but then I am narcoleptic so I'm not a very objective judge of 'normal' standards of wakefulness). I have been finding it harder than usual to sleep well at night though. I can't have a big dinner later at night because otherwise the bloating is so uncomfortable it keeps me up for hours belching like a teenage boy. In fact, one of the bits of advice I found useful for helping the nausea was to eat a little, often rather than your normal 3 proper meals. It's a weird sort of nausea- not like when you're sick and can't stand the thought of eating anything, more that I had to eat exactly the right thing at exactly the right time or I'd feel sick. I found little packets of veggie sushi were the perfect size and really hit the spot- I usually needed something salty but with carbs that weren't going to make me all gassy.
Other things that make sleeping tricky- restless legs, or in my case, restless arms. I'd never experienced 'restless leg syndrome' in my arms before but apparently it's a thing and God, it's maddening.
I'm also getting to the point now where I need to buy one of these pillows as it's hard to get comfortable at night.
Maintaining your body temperature
I've found myself getting cold really easily, especially in places that are now 'extremities' e.g my belly. I usually get the restless arms thing when the tops of my arms have got too cold and I'll have to sit and massage them or have a warm bath (careful of having a hot bath early on in your pregnancy- I made that mistake and had some bleeding which was terrifying, but everything turned out to be fine).
Probably my first symptom, before I'd even missed my period, was having incredibly sensitive breasts. They went on to become so sore that it actually hurt to try and put a bra on. Which was lucky really, since they grew two cup sizes in the space of about a month so I didn't have any bras that fitted anyway. Between this and the bloating and the peeing and the constipation and the tiredness, you don't feel super sexy in the first trimester. During the period where I was super emotional, I did find I got some horny urges, but they were fleeting, unpredictable and sometimes confusing ( e.g watching chef Nigel Slater's documentary on the history of cake on TV- suddenly very horny- enlist help of husband- afterwards realise that I was actually just HUNGRY). Even now when I feel physically fine most of the time, it's kind of hard to get into the right frame of mind for sex. Without wanting to turn this blog into the sort of site Cameron will have shut down, let's just say that if your sexual tastes tend to be a little less vanilla and a little more 50 Shades of Grey (I haven't actually read it but I've read the actual good stuff like The Story of O etc) it can feel a bit wrong getting it on when hours earlier your husband was lovingly taking the time to talk to your baby through your stomach. Which is all very frustrating because you're actually super sensitive with all the extra blood flow down there- pregnancy is when many women first achieve multiple orgasms.
It's also hard to feel sexy the more you start to look like this:
Don't worry, I still have arms.
However happy you are to be pregnant, you're going to experience The Fear. I feel hugely blessed- or rather very glad that I've always been so sensible and rigorous about birth control- that I'm having a baby EXACTLY when I want, at a time in my life when I feel supported, loved and as ready for this as I'll ever be. But there are still moments when you think 'GAH, what the hell are we doing?' This is it now- no more putting ourselves first for the next 20 odd years. That's scary- I think it may even be slightly scarier for someone my age who has had ten years of being very independent and basically, selfish, than say, women who have babies very young and have almost never really experienced being their own boss. Having said that I feel like I have lots of support that will hopefully make it totally possible for me to still do some work ( though I also have enough support to be able to NOT work, which is a ridiculous luxury), travel and have a full life.
There's also that niggling little fear about, you know, pushing a baby out of your body. I'm really lucky in that I have a mum who has had very straight forward, uncomplicated births for me and most of my siblings (the youngest had to be induced and so was a bit trickier, but my mum was 40 by this point), so I haven't grown up hearing horror stories about births the way many women do. However, I've still been a victim of the media and Hollywood constantly propagating this image of childbirth being Godawful, so that when we started trying for a baby, I realised I was pretty scared about the whole thing. Luckily at around that time I met up with a friend who'd just had her first baby and had used hypnobirthing techniques, and she was so reassuring. Sure, it's never going to be FUN, but hypnobirthing teaches you how to maintain a positive frame of mind throughout the process, which then in turn makes the actual physical side of things work better, faster and with less pain. Basically, if you get scared when you're going into labour, then you end up feeling more pain and labour goes slower- if you relax yourself ( that's what the breathing techniques etc are for) then everything will be much easier. I'm massively simplifying here- if you're interested I would recommend reading about some hypnobirthing experiences on the Gas and Air blog. I'm currently doing The Calm Birth School's online hypnobirthing course which includes relaxation mp3s and so forth- I'll do a full review of it once I've finished the course and given birth!
Here are some of the blogs people recommended to me:
This post by Beauty writer Caroline Hirons
One thing that makes it hard to find good pregnancy blogs is that they have a limited life span- unless you're a midwife maybe, no-one's going to write about being pregnant all the time. So even if you start a pregnancy blog as soon as you're pregnant, that only gives you 9 months to get good at blogging before you're done, and it naturally evolves into a parenting/baby/toddler blog. Which is fine, but perhaps a reason there isn't so much great reading material out there about early pregnancies. Some of the best bits I've found have been dedicated posts about it from experienced writers whose blogs are usually about something else entirely- e.g Caroline Hirons' brilliant post.
If you've written about being pregnant or being a parent, or know any great blogs and sites, please do leave links in the comments below. I hope not to bore you too much with preggers stuff in the coming months- I'm due late June, FYI. As always, thanks for reading.