Tag Archives: morning sickness

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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Finding out you are pregnant, in slow motion

I’d always thought that you would find out you were pregnant for the first time in this sudden, formative, instant.

Here’s how I imagined it went: You show outstanding restraint and take a pregnancy test on the day after your period is due. If you are, indeed, pregnant, the line on the little stick that you have just managed to pee on in one graceful controlled stream that doesn’t go anywhere except on the stick and in the toilet, turns pink (or blue, or whatever colour it’s supposed to turn). Bright pink. Bright, neon, practically flashing-like-a-Las-Vegas-show-sign, pink (and well within the two minutes that the test is supposed to need to work). Then you know. You know within the span of a single heartbeat that your life is about to change forever and you rush out of the bathroom and find your husband and have a moment. A once in a lifetime, tender, unique, set to the music of violin-playing-angels, moment.

Yeah. That’s so not how it happened for me.

I took the first test the Saturday my period was due – the morning I was to leave Mike behind in Laos for two more weeks while I headed to Australia early for Christmas holidays. I will not comment on where, exactly, pee went during this process. I’ll just tell you that the result was negative.

Later that night I started to feel sick in Bangkok airport. Very sick. I began to wonder whether the test had been wrong – maybe this was morning sickness? By the time I was throwing up violently in the bathroom of the boarding gate right before I got on the plane I was desperately hoping it was not morning sickness.

It was not morning sickness. It was food poisoning.

In Australia my period still didn’t come. Perhaps the food poisoning had thrown my system out of wack? Perhaps I was pregnant? I took a test on Tuesday, then one on Thursday. Negative. Not pregnant, then. I celebrated/mourned these results with a glass full of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand.

“I don’t understand,” I said to Mike on Friday night when my period still hadn’t appeared. “Most of those things promise “early response” and claim to be able to tell you up to five days before your period is due. The tests say 99% accurate.”

“Isn’t that the false positive rate?” Mike said. “It’s probably not the false negative rate.”

Oh, right. Duh. Five years of statistics classes at university serving me well yet again.

I did some research on Dr. Google. The false negative rate for pregnancy tests is significantly higher than 1%.

While we were out and about on Saturday I bought another test. I was appalled to find out how much they cost in Australia and set the expensive little sucker aside to use first thing in the morning on Sunday, as per instructions.

On Sunday I woke up at 5:30 in the morning needing the loo. With this test you had to pee in a cup and then float the stick, firmly anchored in a rubber ring.

I peed. I floated. I watched. Two minutes passed. Nothing. I consulted the instructions again. It said that results would almost certainly appear within two minutes, but if they appeared within two to ten minutes it was still a valid result.

I went back to bed and lay there staring at the ceiling.

After eight minutes I got up and checked again.

There was the very faintest of pink lines, almost a shadow really, where the positive result should have been popping up.

I checked the box. The picture on the box showed the positive line as fainter than the control line (a sturdy, vivid, purple) but surely the line should be brighter than that??

Back to Dr Google. Had anyone else gotten faint lines with this test and wondered if they were pregnant? Were they? Half an hour of research later the answers to those questions appeared to be yes and yes.

So I was very likely pregnant.

I lay back down on the bed to think this over and fell asleep.

When I woke up two hours later I called my mother upstairs.

“What do you think?” I asked, showing her the stick and the box.

“Maybe I need my glasses,” she said slowly, “but I’d say that’s positive. Yes. Well. There you go!”

Then she walked out to continue getting ready for church.

Luckily Mike was up, Mike was on skype, and skype was working. We even had video.

(Pause here to insert melodious Ode To Skype).

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“Taking care of our baby puppy,” Mike said, still sleepy. “He woke me up at five, whining.”

“Well,” I said, “while you’re taking care of our baby over there I’m taking care of our baby over here.”

I held the stick – not that he had a hope of seeing that faint shadow of a line, but it felt like a useful dramatic prop for our big moment.

“Oh, that’s great, honey!!” Mike said, smiling. Then he said, “I knew you were pregnant yesterday. After all you are a week late now, and you’re never a week late – but I thought I’d just wait until you figured it out yourself.”

“What?” I said.

“History suggests you need time to process these things,” Mike said serenely.

“That is not…” I said, then stopped. I sighed.

“Hey,” I said conspiratorially, “can you go down to the corner chemist and buy me another pregnancy test and bring it out with you next weekend?”

“What?” Mike said.

“They only cost sixty cents over there, and they cost twelve bucks here!”

“But that one’s positive!” Mike said.

“It’s very probably positive,” I said, looking at it again. “But I just want to be sure.”

“OK,” Mike said. “You’re pregnant, but OK.”

Mike did not bring me my backup test from Laos (he said he thought I was kidding when I demanded he produce it the following Saturday – husband fail) but I’m not sure it would have convinced me. Frankly, there was a part of me that still couldn’t grasp it until we had an absurdly early ultrasound (since we were headed back to the land of few doctors) and I saw the heartbeat on the screen. Contrary to everything I’d expected, the whole process of finding out that I was pregnant was much more of a slow reveal than a single, life-transforming, moment. I wonder what other expectations will get turned on their head during the next couple of years?

What about you? When’s the last time you had a “moment” not go at all as you’d expected?

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Some of the funny responses

Firstly, thank you all. Mike and I have been positively overwhelmed by the flood of support and well-wishing we’ve received via the blog, facebook, and email since we posted the news last week that we’re expecting a baby! We’re very touched. Your notes and emails have made us smile, share snippets with each other, and laugh.

This week is going to be a busy one for me. I’ve got a lot of work to do on two separate consultancy projects and am not quite sure where blogging will fit in during the first half of the week (not to mention pregnancy yoga and the article I’m also trying to write on expat living in Laos). So, as Mike and I are sitting here on Sunday afternoon answering some of the emails, I decided to keep track of some of the comments that have come in over the last couple of days that have made us laugh and share them with you. Because laughter is always more fun shared.

So here are just a couple of the lines that have made Mike and I giggle over the last couple of days.

“Congratulations – I am quite sure there is no “reset” button so would be best to just go with it now.”

“Lisa. That is fabulous news!!!!!!! Yea and combats to all!!!!!” [I’m assuming that this was meant to be congrats, but even if not, I think it could still be very apt]

“Congratulations – this is great news – enjoy the 6 quiet months left in your life!!!!!!”

“That’s a record. You’ve only had a puppy for 3 months surely?  He must be even cuter than a chocolate Labrador to have worked this type of magic so quickly.” [To which I replied, “He’s pretty darn cute. Then again… he’s also got a mouthful of razor sharp teeth which he is still constantly using to bite our hands, and he has recently taken to leaping on me from behind and humping my leg when I try to walk away from him and he’s in the mood to play.]

“You’ve lived through natural disasters and man-made wars–you’ll not only survive this, you’ll have even more great stories!”

“Unlike many other followers of your blog, I have no idea what it’s like to be pregnant. And to be completely honest it doesn’t sound that appealing…” [To be completely honest, so far I have to say that it’s not that appealing]

“Lisa, my experience of being pregnant was: 1st trimester – the whole world smelled terrible and most of the time I forgot how happy I was to be getting a child because I was vomiting the whole time; 2nd trimester – before I would skip meals because I was busy doing every-day work, and now I would skip everything (even important meetings at work) to go grab something to eat; 3rd trimester – This is when I needed my husband most…to lift me out of chairs. I used to walk faster than everyone on the road and now even slow-walking, elderly, people were walking faster than me. And the toilet becomes your best friend…”

“You don’t want to be a marsupial. Keeping a pouch clean sounds like a hassle to me.” [To which I replied: “We live in Asia. We can hire people to keep a pouch clean. Problem solved.”]

[This comes from someone we know who has previously lived in Laos] “Boy, some people will do anything for some R&R!  Seriously, much congratulations.  We named one of our dogs “kop chai” (thank you) I hereby give you permission to name your child “kop chai lai lai” (thank you very much).”

“Hey Mike – congratulations! Keep in mind that ‘Vinay’ would make a great name for the baby. Even if it’s a boy.” [There’s no keeping this one anonymous. Vinay is a guy Mike met during a trip to Sudan last year.]

“Congrats! Are you guys worried about health care for the birth in Laos?” [To which Mike replied, “Why yes.  So much, in fact that Lisa’s already booked her tickets to Australia.  Even middle class Lao women try not to have their babies in Laos if they can help it (most of them go to Thailand rather than say, Australia).  Yesterday we were talking to a shop keeper (talking in the sense that my Lao is very basic so I probably understood about half of what she was saying) and when I told her that we weren’t going to have the baby in Laos, she looked so relieved that you’d have thought I had given her an injection of valium. On the up side, she taught us the Lao word for “afraid.”]

“Congratulations!  What wonderful news.  Not all babies are like hand grenades.  Alex was more of a claymore mine.” [I think this takes the prize as the single line that made me laugh the hardest, and the longest.]

“Tell Lisa, hand grenade does it no justice at all. Something like seeing the roads in Afghanistan after they’ve been visited by a B52 would be more accurate but you grow to love the new landscape even more than the old.”

“While we all wait patiently for photos of the miniature Wolfey-McKay, please do post more photos of the little monkey!!” [I’ll do my best. In fact, here’s one for you now of Abu doing what I do now when confronted with a glass of wine – look at it longingly.]

To close, here’s one final quote that I love. “You are right–you and Mike will make fabulous parents. And, you are right–there is no good time to have kids and they do change your lives forever. You will never regret it. Keep us posted so we can celebrate with you!”

We will. Thanks again.

Lisa (and Mike)

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.