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Ten things that have surprised me about pregnancy (#5-10)

Here is the second installment of the post I started yesterday – things that have surprised me about pregnancy. After I started writing these posts on Sunday, Mike and I talked about this topic over dinner. We agreed that, overall, I’d had a pretty good second trimester and been lucky enough to stay fairly healthy.

“Huh,” I said, looking at the food on my plate as we were saying this, “I don’t feel so good all of a sudden. I don’t think I can eat that.”

To cut a long and yucky story short, that was the start of a night when I broke my own personal record for the number of times I can throw up in twelve hours. I dropped five pounds overnight and yesterday I couldn’t make it out of bed until 5pm. We suspect food poisoning – though we have no idea what could have caused it – and today I’m feeling much better. I am at least showered, sitting up, drinking water, and eating toast.

Ah, surprises. Some of them are great. Some, not so much.

So here are six more things that have so far surprised me about pregnancy.

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5. I expected that morning sickness would strike immediately if it were going to strike at all.

It took me quite some time to really grasp the fact that I was indeed pregnant, and it seems that my body is not the quickest off the mark, either. If I were going to suffer from it, I thought morning sickness would hit me much earlier than eight weeks and I thought it would go away earlier than eighteen weeks. Alas, wrong on both counts.

6. I expected that I’d continue to enjoy a cup of coffee a day all through pregnancy.

I know traditional wisdom is that you should avoid all caffeine when pregnant, but most doctors and research now suggests that you can safely ingest the caffeine equivalent of one or two cups of coffee a day all during pregnancy. I love coffee and had already decided that I wasn’t giving up my morning cup… except that my body had other ideas. The day I got morning sick, right on week eight, I went off it overnight. All of a sudden it tasted revolting. It still doesn’t taste the way it used to.

7. I expected that I’d be hungry all of my 2nd trimester.

Food was such a weird experience for most of the first trimester as I veered between the two extremes of not being at all hungry and being completely ravenous (often within the span of five minutes), that I expected I’d be a lot hungrier than normal in my second trimester. I haven’t been. Sometimes I even forget to eat a small snack mid-morning or mid-afternoon. This is not to say, however, that I did not disgrace myself when I was consistently put in front of all you can eat buffets in Bangkok last week. On more than one occasion the only thing that stopped me from returning to the buffet for three more scoops of ice cream after I’d polished off my first dessert sundae at lunch was shame. Who says that peer pressure can’t be good for you?

8. I expected that disrupted sleep was something that would begin only after the baby was born.

I expected that the whole waking up numerous times a night to pee would start in approximately month seven of pregnancy instead of week seven. I still have problems understanding how a baby the size of a lima bean can really put that much pressure on a bladder. I mean, come on! I have now been waking up between three and six times a night now practically since I found out I was pregnant. Not cool. Not cool at all.

9. I expected that my sex drive would surge in the second trimester.

Most of the books I’ve read paint a picture of the first and third trimesters of pregnancy as virtual sexual wastelands but hold out this oasis-like vision of the second trimester as a time of unparalleled sexual desire and enjoyment. I don’t know how many accounts I’ve read of women’s transformations into total sex kittens the minute they hit week thirteen of pregnancy, so perhaps it’s understandable that I feel particularly ripped off to have so far had this expectation disappointed. For not only did my sex drive vanish so completely the minute I got pregnant that it became difficult to remember I ever had one, it hasn’t really returned to pre-pregnancy levels yet much less been catapulted into “sex kitten” territory. I will be especially peeved if this, like morning sickness, is merely my biology lagging behind the curve and sex-kitten-energy kicks in four weeks from now, right when I head to Australia and Mike and I say goodbye for three months.

10. I expected that the quickening would be unmistakable.

The quickening, for those of you who haven’t read 5000 pregnancy books, is the name given to the first time you feel your baby move inside you. The books do warn that it can be hard to tell whether those early flutters are the baby or something else, so I don’t know why I expected to feel the baby move in one, singular, weirdandwonderful moment. Maybe because “the quickening” sounds like such a singular “moment”ous event. Nope. I spent about a week trying to decide whether it was the baby I was feeling or gas. Now the baby moves all the time – particularly at 10pm when I’m trying to go to sleep and at 6a.m. when I’m trying to stay asleep.

I’ve tried to explain to Mike what it feels like. I’ve described it before as feeling like a sackful of eels squirming around in there, but as I’ve never actually had a sackful of eels tucked in my belly I can’t really vouch for the accuracy of that description. The most accurate physical description I can come up with is the completely unromantic, “it feels like giant bubbles of gas slithering around intestinal corners, but without any gas pain.”

The most accurate psychological description I can come up with, for me, is that it feels like fishing. As a kid I used to love going over to the river across from my grandparents house, baiting a hook, and fishing off the wharf. I would wait patiently for ages for that first tug on the line – that sudden, promising, tightening of the nylon under my index finger signaling that something alive was definitely out there underneath all that water. When the baby taps me from the inside I get that same feeling. Of course, given what ended up happening to the fish I caught, that metaphor has its limits, so we’ll stop right there.

OK, that’s it for this edition of “expectations that have been turned on their head by pregnancy.” Catch you later this week, perhaps from the road as Mike and I are leaving on Thursday night for a road trip down south, and do chime in below and let me know what’s surprised you about pregnancy or parenting. I love learning from others’ stories. 

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Koi maan luuk (or, “I am pregnant”)

Koi maan luuk was the first Lao phrase I learned in the new year, and you would have already known this piece of news for at least a month if you lived in Laos. You would know this because you would be the deceptively reserved-looking Vietnamese woman who runs our favourite grocery store and you would ask me the first time you saw me after I’d been away for Christmas: “So, any news to tell me? Any news about a baby?” And I would look totally stunned at being accosted with this query over a basket full of milk and pasta, and then shrug and tell you.

Or you would be Mike’s work colleagues offering me glasses of beer at an event – and there is apparently only one acceptable reason to turn down beer in this country. So I would shrug and tell you.

Or you would be some stranger meeting us for the first time and right after you ask us how long we’ve been married you’d ask us whether we have kids. And, then, when we answered “no”, you’d look worried and ask us whether we will have them? Whether we are, in fact, even trying? So I would shrug and tell you.

Apparently there’s none of this “waiting until three months” thing here, pretty much the minute you find out you’re pregnant, it becomes public knowledge.

I find this practice both refreshing and confronting. Refreshing because you then have a damn good explanation for why you’re always wandering around looking like you might throw up at any moment. And why you’re so wiped out sometimes that you can’t get up off the couch and go out with work colleagues. And, let’s not forget, why you can’t drink beer or homemade whisky.

But it’s also confronting to have this big life event out there as fodder for the communal discussion mill. Everyone’s so happy for you when they hear. They smile really big and say they’re thrilled, and that you must be, too. Often in those moments I wonder whether I look thrilled. I doubt it. I probably look confused, which is fair enough, really, because what I’m thinking is usually some combination of all of the following at once:

  • Oh that’s right, I’m pregnant. I momentarily forgot.
  • Yes, I’m happy
  • No, I’m terrified
  • Actually, I’m hungry
  • Is it too late to push the reset button?
  • Oh, wait, maybe I have to throw up. Yes, I certainly am pregnant.
  • Yes, I am happy. Yeah. Happy.
  • No, I’m terrified…

And so it goes.

I’m not terrified about whether or not I’ll be a good mother. Even though I’ve never really been a kid-person, I reckon I’ll be pretty good as a mother at least 80% of the time. Even if I’m not, Mike’s going to be a great dad, so the baby’s covered. No, true to form, I’m worried about me. I like my life right now. I like my marriage. And I’ve heard babies described as “hand grenades” in relation to both those institutions.

Oh well, I have nine months… scratch that, six months now… to get used to the fact that this particular hand grenade is coming. And that I have to give birth to it.

Gosh, I wish babies came out the size of hand grenades (healthy, of course). I mean, don’t you think koalas have it all over most other mammals in this area? Baby koalas slide on out of the womb when they’re about the size of a jellybean and (pink, hairless, blind, and without ears) nonetheless manage to crawl unaided up their mother’s stomach and squirm into that warm, furry pouch. Then they just hang out there for six months drinking milk until they grow eyes and ears and stop looking so much like a maggot. That’s so the way to do this birth thing. Plus, I bet koalas don’t get morning sick.

Morning sickness… don’t get me started. Next week I might tell you all about how Mike and I found out that I was maan luuk ourselves, and if you’re really lucky I won’t tell you about morning sickness (or, as it should really be called, all-day sickness).

Until then I leave you with a photo and a grandparent-anecdote. After I posted about playing with monkeys last week, my grandfather (who got an iPad and his first ever email account for Christmas) sent me the following…

Hi Lisa,

It’s only me trying to learn to type. If anyone told you that an iPad was easy to learn, especially an 86 year old, don’t you believe them. I am finding it hard to find the letters as they are not in alphabetical order.

We have just been viewing your letter on the monkey visit. What good practice for you. He looks cute, but I think you may be able to do better than that.

Love, Pa.

We’ll see about that, Pa. We’ll see.