Ten things that have surprised me about pregnancy (#1-4)

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?

Product available at image source: http://www.zazzle.com

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9 responses to “Ten things that have surprised me about pregnancy (#1-4)

  1. “a very tiny taste of what an emotional roller coaster an extended battle with infertility might be”

    Believe me, an extended taste of this sux big time. glad its all going well, keep up the good work cuz 🙂

  2. Just wait until you actually have the baby. Hee hee. I can’t wait to see that list! 🙂 HA! Our neighbors just had a baby and I saw them out in the yard about a week before delivery. I asked if they were excited, scared etc. They said, and I quote, “Oh we’re fine. We don’t think it’s going to change things that much.” I snorted and stifled a snicker into the back of my hand.
    Love to you!

    • Oh, I’m petrified of how much I suspect things are going to have to change. Yesterday when I was wretchedly sick I kept thinking about how much more difficult it would be if the baby was already here, etc, etc. I’m not yet at the stage where I can vividly imagine all the wonderful things about having a baby, but I can guess at some of the not so wonderful things so I sort of hope my surprises run in the “there are actually more plusses to this than I thought there would be” direction. I hope. I also hope you three are doing well. And I wish we could go out for an ice cream date.

  3. Love your blog- and agree with Zozo’s mum…. can’t wait to read about the revelations of actual parenting. I am thinking Laos must be less resourced than Cambodia – or I am just a little less lucky. 10 kilos gained at 30 weeks – and from memory last time it was the last trimester when then weight came on seriously! Maybe it is baby number 2 factor. Certainly doing my far share of sweating chasing after a 2 year old. It could be the chocolate intake though….

    • Yeah, Laos is less resourced than Cambodia but there’s certainly plenty of good food around for me to eat so I’m chalking this one up to luck (or divine providence), the fact that there isn’t much to nibble on in this house, and the fact that even given that weight I lost when we moved here I had some extra padding to spare going into this :).

  4. Pingback: Ten things that have surprised me about pregnancy (#5-10) | Wandering. Wondering. Writing.

  5. I had to say it – what surprised me the most about my first pregnancy was the pregnancy itself! Finding out you are pregnant when you had no intention to be so is more than a little daunting ! 😀

    Apart from that I was surprised at the toll it took on my body. Being only 23 when we conceived and 24 when I delivered, I expected to bounce through pregnancy easily, pop out a baby and be back at the gym the next day (well, not quite… but close).

    That didn’t QUITE happen.

    This time around, I’m surprised at all the stuff I’ve forgotten since last time. I’ve done this before… I’m meant to know stuff. I find I’m almost as clueless this time as I was last time!

    Glad you’re travelling well. Are you coming back to Aus for the birth or delivering there?

    • That’s so funny. Yeah, I remember you getting pregnant was quite the surprise. I have had other friends who said that they took everything super seriously the first time around and trained for delivery as if they were running a marathon and then it wasn’t as bad as they’d expected, only to totally relax the 2nd time around and find everything ten times harder. Expectations (and bodies) are weird things.

      I’m coming back to Australia in less than four weeks now (right around week 28) so I’ll be in country this year for a long time. Almost five months by the time all is said and done!

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