When I was younger, I always wanted to get pregnant. Because my mom told me that she felt SO incredible while pregnant and that it was SUCH an incredible experience. I had this vision of lazy days filled with pizza and ice cream and everyone taking care of you and telling you you were beautiful.
I didn’t realize that the first three months I would be so tired I’d have to push back taking my qualifying exams for my PhD, that I would start requiring two naps a day, that I would stop running, or that I would also feel so incredibly nauseous I’d skip dinner entirely and eat white pasty things the rest of the time.
I had no idea my boobs would get huge and uncomfortable, so much so that I’d end up crying in kitchen one morning and only be saved from utter despair when Marta would mention that she knew a better bra that might work and that, when that bra did work, I would think she was the messiah come to save me from all the world’s pain.
Nor did I realize that, once that those early symptoms began to abate, I would start to get big in the belly, and it wouldn’t just be like putting a pillow or a ball under your shirt and walking around. When you are pregnant, that weight actually is INSIDE you and it’s not always comfortable. Sleeping becomes difficult and strange parts of your body begin to ache. My tailbone, for instance. For about two weeks my tailbone ached with the same pain I once felt, many many years ago, when I went sledding off a ramp, landed bad and bruised it, hard.
It is true that some food tastes better. There have been hamburgers that went down like ambrosia. There was pizza at a farm last night that was so satisfyingly tasty, I filled myself with six pieces of it. Ice cream and sweet treats have also suddenly become appealing–after nearly a lifetime of not really liking sweet things. For a few weeks there, in fact, I was going almost every morning to “work” at a local bakery, where each time I would try out a new sweet baked good: chocolate croissant, apple danish, coffee cake, cinnamon role.
On the flip side, of course, if I eat too much, I feel it for hours if not days like a second baby in my chest, just above this baby in my womb. It interrupts my sleep and sometimes even manages to make me feel mentally low (the mood swings are another subject altogether).
I’ve also come to realize–since I was seven and fantasized about this whole experience–that you’re not really “supposed” to just eat whatever you want whenever you want. There are guidelines about how much weight you can gain now, and I’m already at the upper end of the suggested weight gain, which means I recently stopped going to the bakery every day and I am trying to eat more spinach and kale and things that are “good” for this tiny life growing inside me.
If I’m honest, that tiny life is really the only thing I completely enjoy about this whole experience. She moves around all the time now. Or rather, she moves around like crazy at set times during the day. Usually a little after lunch, I’ll start to feel her. I also feel her at night when I got to bed and around 5 or so in the morning. Sometimes it feels like she’s a miniature boxer practicing her footwork and jabs. Other times, I imagine she is just stretching out. The other day, a part of her jutted out of one side of my belly and I could put my hand there and feel the solid roundness of her body beneath my skin.
My favorite, favorite part of being pregnant are the afternoons when I read on the couch alone and then feel her moving inside me and realize, again, that I’m not alone. Or when I read Nico books and she suddenly starts to move, as if she wants me to know she’s listening, too. That part I like.
As for the rest of it, I think my mom lied to me. She and every other once pregnant woman who has told me her pregnancy was incredible. Either that or (and this is more likely) they just don’t actually remember the discomforts, mental and physical (even Marta claims her’s wasn’t all that bad, which I can assure you is not what she was telling me at the time).
I am sure when you look back on all this after the fact, it must seem pretty incredible. Your body is suddenly not acting like itself. You change in strange ways: your feet get bigger, your gums bleed, you have crazy dreams, you develop restless leg syndrome, etc. And then there is the fact that you have an actual thing, an actual small being, growing AND moving inside of you.
I am sure all of this might be remembered as a lovely sort of magic, especially through the haze of post-labor hormones and new baby bliss. But I’m not there yet. I just woke up from about seven hours of tossing and turning and my gums are bleeding and my back aches.
We’ll see if I feel differently in about three months.