For me – and, I suspect, for many other women – pregnancy was a confusing, and often terrifying time, made all the worse by the fact that all you ever seem to hear are horror stories about how absolutely awful it’s all going to be.
Which is cute, isn’t it?
For the last nine months, I’ve found myself frequently wishing that someone had told me some of the more reassuring things about pregnancy, too – some of which I thought I’d try to record today. First, though, I just want to really emphasise that this post relates entirely to my own personal experience of pregnancy, and isn’t intended to be taken as advice of any kind: I’m not a doctor, and don’t have any medical training whatsoever, so if you’re pregnant and worried about something, please, PLEASE seek proper medical advice, and don’t put your trust in the internet: it’s just not worth the risk!
And, with that said, here are some of the things I wish I’d known before I got pregnant…
Pregnancy symptoms can fluctuate, or even disappear
Embarrassing confession coming up here, people who know me in real life, feel free to look away now…
So, one of my very first pregnancy symptoms was sore boobs, and because that was the only symptom I had at first (right up until the morning sickness kicked in, and made me WISH that was the only symptom I had…), I became absolutely OBSESSED with my own breasts, and would constantly monitor and prod them, to make sure they were still painful.
(This was kind of ironic, because, as a health anxiety sufferer, I’d spent my entire life up until that point monitoring my boobs to make sure they WEREN’T sore: oh pregnancy, you crack me up, you really do…)
This, however, turned out to be a fool’s errand, because, the thing is, pregnancy symptoms can fluctuate – or they did for me, anyway. Even in those very early days, there were times when even the pressure from the shower would be so painful I’d want to cry, followed by times when they felt absolutely normal, and I’d convince myself something terrible had happened.
(Ditto morning sickness: after weeks of barely being able to function from the nausea, it stopped abruptly in week 12 – 13, and I freaked out, thinking something was wrong: it wasn’t.)
I really wish I’d known that not everyone has ALL the symptoms, ALL the time, and that the symptoms you DO have can change from day to day – or even from hour to hour. By the middle of the second trimester, my boobs felt totally normal again, with no pain at all: luckily by that point I had other things to reassure me I was definitely still pregnant, otherwise I’m sure I’d have freaked out all over again!
(I know this is annoying, but I’m just going to re-iterate here that, although this was the case for ME, if your symptoms have stopped suddenly, or you’re worried about them for any reason, it’s always, always best to call your doctor, and get it checked out!)
You can still do most of the things you did before you were pregnant
Before I got pregnant, I assumed that if and when I finally got those two blue lines, my life would instantly grind to a halt, and nothing would ever be the same again. In fact, I was so convinced that pregnancy would be a non-stop horror show that when Terry and I were discussing whether or not to start a family, one of my biggest fears was that I would essentially “lose” 9 months of my life, during which I assumed I would basically be unable to function, and would just lie helplessly in bed all day, while the world went on turning without me. Well, I DO like a bit of drama, don’t I?
Now, I’m not going to lie: the first trimester felt totally surreal to me, and because I had pretty bad morning sickness during it, I DID spend a lot of time in bed – that much is true. Once the second trimester hit, though, I was amazed by how “normal” I felt. I was able to meet up with friends, go out to dinner, get back into a semi-normal work routine – my life, in fact, went more or less back to “normal”, and although there were some changes to get used to (We didn’t go on holiday this year, for instance, and I was too tired to do much socialising, although, to be honest, that would probably have been the case anyway this year due to the situation with Terry’s mum), I didn’t really feel that I was “missing out” as such, because there was so much else to focus on instead. So my life changed, yes… but it didn’t END: and that’s the main thing, really, isn’t it?
Yes, you can survive morning sickness
While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have a phobia of vomiting, I DO find it pretty horrific (I mean, who doesn’t, really?) and will go to huge lengths to avoid throwing up. I actually put off pregnancy for years, partly because I felt sure I wouldn’t be able to cope with the morning sickness – I would literally lie awake at night, worrying about it.
As it turned out, I DID get pretty bad morning sickness (Although I was lucky, and only had it for a few weeks during the first trimester), and you know what? I somehow survived. I’m sure this probably won’t be all that helpful to those of you who have similar fears about it, because I know I just wouldn’t have believed anyone who’d told me this before I experienced it, but honestly, I’m an absolute princess about illness – I just don’t handle it well AT ALL, so I really believe that if I can cope? ANYONE can.*
(*Unless you’re one of the unlucky souls who gets hyperemesis gravidarum, obviously: I have NO IDEA how anyone survives that…)
No, you don’t have to wear Birkenstocks if you don’t want to
A vain one, I know, but, well, I AM pretty vain, I guess, and I was really disheartened by all of the people who gleefully told me I’d have to completely give up on style, and just wear Birkenstocks and an adult onesie for the entire duration of my pregnancy – and afterwards, too. (I was LITERALLY told that I’d be wearing an adult onesie by the end of the third trimester, because it would be the only thing that would fit me: ya gotta love the internet and its doom-mongering, don’t you?) Now, I’m not claiming to have been the most stylish pregnant woman ever, because I definitely wasn’t (By the last few weeks, I basically looked like the Goodyear Blimp in a dress…), but I was still able to walk in heels in my third trimester (Not saying you SHOULD do this, obviously, just that it’s not as impossible as some people want you to think it is), and didn’t really notice any difference in how they felt. Everyone will tell you that pregnancy will be so awful and uncomfortable that you’ll have no option but to completely change your style, but while I DID spend a lot more time in leggings than I ever have in my life, I honestly didn’t find that to be the case – or not ALL of the time, anyway!
Not everyone feels the baby move at the same time, and the movements don’t feel the same for everyone
Baby movements were one of the biggest causes of stress for me during pregnancy. People started asking me if I could feel movement at around 10 weeks – which is WAY earlier than most people can feel something – and continued to ask every single time they saw me, which made me absolutely paranoid that I SHOULD be able to feel something, when I most definitely couldn’t. I also seemed to be surrounded by people who DID feel movement super-early, and all of those stories convinced me I was the odd one out, and an absolute freak for being so “late” to the party.
As it turned out, I didn’t feel definite movements until week 19 – 20 (Which actually isn’t “late” at all for a first baby), but I was still really confused, because everyone had told me it would feel “like a butterfly fluttering its wings”… and it didn’t. I wish I’d known that movements can feel totally different for different people, or different babies, and that the fact that mine weren’t remotely like a butterfly wasn’t actually a cause for concern – it would’ve saved me so much angst!
(Again, do speak to your doctor or midwife if you have concerns about movement, though – better to be safe than to just trust some random woman with a blog…)
The tried and tested advice doesn’t always work for everyone, either.
Ginger biscuits didn’t stop my morning sickness. Cold or sugary drinks didn’t make my baby move. Actually, I don’t think ANY of the “tried and tested” remedies – the ones that people tell you over and over again will DEFINITELY work – ever had the slightest effect on me, which, again, made me sure I was either an absolute freak, or that there was something wrong with the baby.
The simple fact is, though, that everyone is different: what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa, and comparing yourself to other pregnant women is a really easy way to drive yourself mad with worry. I wish I’d known that it’s better to just focus on YOUR body and YOUR pregnancy, and forget what everyone else tells you you SHOULD be feeling: there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” when it comes to pregnancy, and that’s possibly the most important lesson of all.