Pregnancy Diary | Week 22 | The Pressure to be Perfect
What can I tell you about week 22?
Er, other than the usual, “Sometimes the baby moves a LOT, and it’s awesome, but other times he doesn’t seem to move much at all, which is terrifying,” stuff that I usually write in these updates, I mean?
When he moves, I feel amazed and relieved – and also just a little bit freaked out, if I’m honest. The movements, when they come, are much stronger now, and if I place my hand on my belly I can literally feel him wriggling around in there, which makes me alternate between howling with laughter (I’ve no idea why I find it so amusing, I just do…) and thinking, “OMG, there’s something LIVING IN MY BELLY, WHAT EVEN?!” I dunno, it just makes it all so REAL, somehow, in a way that even seeing it on the scan doesn’t come close to. I guess when you see the scan, you’re looking at a computer screen, which makes it easier to view this little being that’s moving around as being totally unconnected to YOU, if that makes sense? When it’s 1am, and he decides to start dancing, though, that’s a TOTALLY different feeling, and, WHOA, is it ever strange. Good strange… but strange.
So, when he moves, I’m happy… and when he doesn’t move, I feel like the anxiety is probably going to kill me. Which has been the pattern of this week, and pretty much EVERY week in the second trimester, really. Gulp.
A couple of other things happened this week to increase my anxiety even more, though:
THING THE 1st:
I bought a face cream with retinol in it. You are NOT supposed to use face creams with retinol in them. But I didn’t know that, so I bought it, and I used it (only around 5 times, but still…), and when I found out that it was on the FORBIDDEN list, I just about died, seriously. In my defence, there was nothing on the box or bottle to say that the thing shouldn’t be used in pregnancy. Honestly, though, I just wasn’t thinking: it didn’t even occur to me that something I put on my face might have an effect on my unborn child: I obviously realise that it probably SHOULD have occurred to me, but, of course, hindsight is 20-20, and I am not perfect, as much as I wish I was.
Having done some frantic Googling on the subject, I feel a little better about it: it seems like there’s really very little risk at all with this kind of thing, but the problem with these endless lists of Things Thou Shalt Not Do When Pregnant is that they have a way of breeding guilt and paranoia, which can quickly take over your life. Speaking of which…
THING THE 2nd:
People keep on telling me I shouldn’t be sitting with my legs or ankles crossed: I keep on doing it. This week I was (YET AGAIN) gently reminded that this is on the Forbidden list, and (YET AGAIN) I felt like an absolute idiot for having to constantly be reminded about . And, I mean, it seems like this should be easy, right? Like, just stop crossing your legs, Amber, FFS. It seems, however, that crossing my legs is completely habitual for me: I do it without even thinking about it, and even when I consciously try to stop myself doing it, my good intentions only last as long as it takes for my mind to be occupied by something else, and those legs are crossed again before I know it. Dammit.
Now, I wasn’t able to find any definitive medical evidence to support the idea that it’s dangerous for pregnant women to cross their legs, although I DID find a lot of anecdotal “evidence”, plus quite a few people’s grannies telling them it makes the umbilical cord wrap around the baby’s neck… so I guess that IS pretty definitive, then? Whether it’s true or not, however, the fact that people keep on scolding me (however gently) for doing it has made me feel guilty and paranoid, to the point that I’ve spent the entire week obsessing over the position of my legs, and am currently typing this with them propped uncomfortably in front of me, in a bid to stop them crossing.
(I just Googled it again while writing this post, and came across this page, which informs me that there is a correct way for me to sit, stand, drive, and I gave up reading at that point because I was too busy trying to make sure my earlobes were in line with my shoulders…)
Seriously, can you even believe I just typed two full paragraphs about something as banal as my LEG POSITION? I can’t. But this is my life now: and when you’re constantly being told that you shouldn’t do this, that, or the next thing, it becomes hard NOT to worry, or to feel like every single thing you do has the potential to cause harm. I mean, if this baby’s health really does depend on me being absolutely perfect in every way – never crossing my legs, never sleeping on my right hand side, never eating thing from the Forbidden List, never using a new beauty product without first of all calling my GP to make sure it’s OK – then it really is doomed, isn’t it?
That’s obviously not true, though, is it? And, despite my paranoia, I don’t REALLY believe my baby will die just because I crossed my ankles occasionally. I do, however, feel that society in general puts a lot of pressure on pregnant women, and really encourages them to feel that they’re constantly in danger of causing irreparable harm by doing something they didn’t think twice about. Honestly, some days I feel like the safest thing would be to just stay in bed for the next few months, so I can stay out of trouble, but, of course, sleeping seems to be the MOST DANGEROUS THING OF ALL (I’m still finding myself rolling onto my back at times, although my pregnancy pillow has helped with that…), so maybe not.
In other week 22 pregnancy news, meanwhile… there IS no other week 22 pregnancy news. Which is why I’ve just spent this entire post rambling on about the position of my stupid legs. Join me next week for an in-depth discussion of how I brush my hair: I mean, it HAS to be more interesting than even one more word about my legs, right?
[Edited to add: I would really appreciate it if people could avoid posting medical information in the comments of this post: because of my health anxiety, I have a really hard time rationalising risk, or even knowing if the information I’m being given is correct, so although I know people mean well, it can be incredibly triggering for me. Thanks so much!]