It’s a slow, sultry Sunday afternoon here in Laos and I’ve just finished unpacking after my week working with journalists in Bangkok discussing issues of trauma and resilience. It was an inspiring and exhausting week and there’s a post I’m mulling over about the blasphemy laws in Pakistan (among other things), but my head and my energy levels just aren’t there yet. Instead, since so many of you have been asking how I’m doing with the pregnancy, I thought I’d update you on that. In fact, while I’m at it, how about I just go ahead and tell you some of the things that have surprised me about pregnancy.
This is my first pregnancy, so I knew I was in for a couple of surprises, at least, but I didn’t venture into this territory completely unprepared. I knew I’d be trying to get pregnant in a town (indeed, a whole country) where the medical care is, shall we say, sub-ideal. Not even Lao women have their babies in Laos if they can help it, so we knew we would be at least partly on our own for most of this pregnancy. There would be no monthly doctor visits. The nearest good medical care would be (at best) one plane flight and eight hours “from need to hospital” away.
So I did my research. I brought more than a few books with us and, thanks also in part to donations from other expatriates here, I suspect I now have the most comprehensive English language library of pregnancy and childbirth books in the entire country. Not to mention that Dr. Google is ever at my fingertips. Let’s just say I was not completely uninformed about this thing called pregnancy.
And, yet… there have been numerous surprises along the way. Today and tomorrow I’ll walk you through ten of them. Today, here are the first four:
I expected that…
1. Getting pregnant wouldn’t take as long as it did
I feel ridiculous even mentioning this, as this falls squarely into the category of things I should not have been surprised by. All the research suggests that you only have about a 15-20% chance of getting pregnant each cycle, the average number of months it takes couples without any fertility issues to get pregnant is still five or six, and about 80% of these couples will be pregnant within a year.
Why, then, I was surprised when three unsuccessful months of trying ticked over I am not sure. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that, deep down, both Mike and I believe that when we set our minds to something we can accomplish it with a minimum of fuss and in less time than it takes most other people. Logically I knew it was ridiculous to think that this would be true of conceiving a child, but the illogical part of me started to wonder right around the third month mark whether everything was OK. As we got pregnant after five months of trying I didn’t have to wonder for too long, but those couple of months gave me a very tiny taste of what an emotional roller coaster an extended battle with infertility might be.
2. Finding out I was pregnant would happen in one life-changing moment
I’ve written a whole post on the experience of finding out I was pregnant, so I won’t repeat myself here except to say that this one caught me completely by surprise. I had expected to have an earth-spinning, destiny-changing, confirmation moment. What I got instead was a week’s worth of wondering and then another couple of weeks of not really believing that I actually was pregnant.
3. I’d be a lot bigger by now
I’m 24 weeks pregnant today, about five and a half months. I thought by this stage I wouldn’t be able to see my feet and that I’d be feeling decidedly bulky, clumsy, and uncomfortable. Thankfully that hasn’t happened yet. I do have a baby bump, and it is a bit harder than normal to bend over or stand up again after I’ve sat down to play with the dog, but I’ve only gained ten pounds so far. In this tropical heat (and given the daily struggles my feet and legs already wage thanks to lymphedema) this slow and limited weight gain is good for all sorts of reasons. Yes, bigger is most definitely not always better.
4. I’d need a brand new wardrobe by month four
Or, if not a whole new wardrobe, at least some maternity pants, new bras, underwear, etc. Thankfully I’m still fitting into some of my regular clothes – like the four pairs of loose linen pants I bought right before we moved here. Although, I must confess that I am still fitting into these pants (most awesome purchases ever at $15 a pair) partly because they are drawstring, and partly because when I bought them I weighed, uh, two pounds more than I do right now. So I would like to personally thank Asia for stripping me of twelve pounds before pregnancy. Should any of you out there be struggling with this particular issue I can highly recommend moving to Laos – it totally works just as well as Weight Watchers.
And it’s a good thing all that walking and a healthy rice-based diet undid (or at least effectively curtailed) some of my addiction to ribs and hamburgers and take out Chinese food, because I don’t know where I would have bought maternity pants that fit here. The missionary community here does have a box of maternity clothes that are passed around among pregnant expatriates, so theoretically I shouldn’t have had any problems on this front. Except… I seem to be spiritually blessed in the area of “hips and ass”. I didn’t fit into a single pair of pants in this barrel even when I was only three months pregnant! I can now attest to the fact that all the breeding missionaries in this town are sizes 0-4, just in case you were wondering.
That’s it for today. Come back tomorrow for surprises 5-10, including my thoughts on that fabled surge of sexual energy in the 2nd trimester… And for those of you who’ve traveled this road before, what surprised you about pregnancy?