Finding out you're pregnant, five years after medical experts around the world told you it was almost an impossibility, plus being solidly in your 40s, results in a little more than just morning sickness and exhaustion; try basic incomprehension. We had been in Jordan for about two months and had just spent the weekend traipsing all about Petra. So, when I felt exhausted and slightly nauseous, I blamed it on the over-exertion. Of course, when I still felt that way five, even seven, days later, I did think it was a little odd. And naturally, my brain went exhaustion + nausea = mono. Never once did it occur to me that pregnancy might be the cause.
Luckily, my husband is a smart smart man. Of course, when he said, “Maybe you’re pregnant,” I snorted and rolled my eyes derisively.
Two days later he came home with a pregnancy test he’d bought at the pharmacy. I smiled and tucked it in a drawer. But a few days later, I thought I’d humor him and took the test. Positive. For all the attempts we’d made, over all those years, to get pregnant (all that time ago), I never had a positive test. So, what did I do? I went out and bought another test, naturally assuming that it was a knock-off Chinese-made Jordanian-imported pregnancy test. Well, the next “knock-off Chinese-made Jordanian-imported pregnancy test” said I was still pregnant. Hmm.
“We’re going to the doctor,” my husband said. Smart smart man.
At the doctor, I said quite simply, “I think we’re pregnant.”
“Okay, when was your last period?”
This stumped me. When you’re trying to get pregnant, these details are on the tip of your tongue. You know everything about your body. But when you’re not trying to get pregnant, it’s really not a fun fact to share and tell (and recall), so I guesstimated.
“Well, then you’re about 8 weeks along; due in late June,” he said.
Two weeks later, still mired in denial, we visited a local obstetrician and with sonogram in hand, she confirmed it. We were 10-weeks pregnant. I burst into happy, terrified, overwhelmed tears.
We didn’t tell anyone for weeks. I just needed to wrap my head around it. Ironically enough, we had just started the “should we adopt again?” conversation, now that our daughter was approaching her second birthday. Suddenly that conversation was put on hold.
So, as any good “bookworm” would do, I dove into the standard, “So You Think You’re Pregnant” books and started reading. Month two, first trimester: in addition to learning that my baby was now the size of a raspberry, I also got to look forward to continued nausea, gas, headaches, increased saliva, dizziness, tender breasts, mood swings and frequent urination. Lovely.
I think it was around month four that I stopped reading ahead. I told a friend it was because I didn’t want to find out how it ended, but in reality it was just far too depressing. I had a month of flatulence, bleeding gums, snoring, varicose veins, heartburn, bloating and something to do with discharge, to look forward to. (I’m sorry, but when is “discharge” anything but unpleasant?)
I did share every excruciatingly gooey detail with my husband from my readings, however, figuring that if I was going to have to suffer through the symptoms, then he could suffer through hearing about them. He turned various shades of mauve and ashy gray and this pretty much cinched the end of our “sharing” time in regards to pregnancy-look-ahead reading.
Oh, brain, how I miss thee
The term “baby brain” is typically used to describe the loopy dippiness than happens to pregnant women. It makes you lose your keys, forget your wallet, miss appointments, and in general bring out the “dumb blonde” deep within all of us. I’m convinced this is because the baby is sucking us dry of every vital organ and system, leaving us a barely functioning autonomic nervous system, but there may be a more scientific reason behind it.
My husband took on the task of making sure my phone was charged, always asked me if I locked the house, and in general kept his expectations of my mental capacity low. I can’t tell you how many times I parked the car and left it in drive. Took me ages to figure out why it wouldn’t start again. Once it rolled gently into the car in front of me. And another time (which my husband doesn’t know about), I came out of a friend’s house to find my car had rolled half-way down the block and was sitting in the middle of the road. I was just grateful it wasn’t a steeper hill and no one got hurt.
But as the pregnancy wore on, things just got worse. I started to begin all sentences with, “Have I said this already?” Then, around my 34th week, I said to my husband one night, “Did we discuss plans for this weekend?”
“Yeah, we talked about meeting up with the Davis’ around 5pm.”
“Really? I have no recollection of that.” Silence from both of us. Then I added, “I do hope my brain will come back at some point.”
“Just please don’t turn into that fish in ‘Finding Nemo’ and forget who I am every day,” my husband asked.
I had to laugh. But inside I said a quick prayer.
Exhaustion, insomnia and, well… poo
There were a few pregnancy symptoms that I became rather preoccupied with (i.e., obsessed). First was the overwhelming exhaustion (hence my initial mono self-diagnosis). And regardless of all the promises from books, blogs and websites, it never diminished for me. I had days that were better than others, but if I didn’t get a nap when my two-year-old did, then the evening could be interminable.
Then, combine exhaustion with weekly bouts of insomnia. Now that’s just cruel. I’d fall dead asleep at 9pm, only to wake at one or two and have to move to the couch to watch television until I fell asleep again. However, a few hours on a lumpy couch do not a restful sleep make and I would inevitably have a zombie day following.
Then, while grappling with the exhaustion-insomnia paradigm, I discovered yet one more fascination. Never before in my life had I been so preoccupied with flatulence, gaseousness, and constipation – probably because never before had I been so alarmingly affected. It was like I’d become a 7-year-old boy. I could talk about it for days. And yet despite his ability to chortle at others’ fart jokes, I think my husband grew tired of me bringing up the topic. Such a double standard.
Most people really want to know what wacky things you’re craving. Pickles and ice cream? Peanut butter and tofu? Ear wax and strawberries? Unfortunately my cravings, such as they were, strayed to the more mundane, like ice in all my drinks (which was a new thing for me). Did I crave Haagen-Daz’s Chocolate Peanut Butter? Hell, yes! But the same could be said for me pre-pregnancy, so I don’t think it counts. And as I see it, thanks to my education through books, movies and TV, a true “craving” is where you wake up your husband and send him out at 2am because you’ll just die without Fig Newtons and Magic Shell. I never did that.
I did learn that I loved jelly beans, even over chocolate. Weird. But most of my food issues were more of the “aversion” type than the craving type. There was a lot that turned my stomach, including hummus, hard-boiled eggs, steamed spinach. And not just the taste, in fact I rarely got to taste it. It was a texture thing, and frankly I don’t even want to talk about it.
Then around week 28, I came down with something like hypoglycemia, which temporarily threw me into a bit of a tailspin. It had no affect on the baby, but for the next few weeks I started keeping a “Food & Mood” journal to see what I could eat and on a scale of one to ten, how narcoleptic it was. Fruit and fruit juice were fine, as long as I didn’t just eat them alone, had to combine with protein or fiber. But white table sugar and white flour threw me into a day-long coma, where even my husband commented that I was even more of a space cadet than usual. I love you, too, dear.
Advice, take it or… naw, just take it
Once I stopped reading ahead, I turned to the best source of all advice: the girlfriend. I had a nice sampling of moms I readily reached out to with all my weird and crazy questions and got a fabulous outpouring of advice. Most of which I took, some I didn’t (but later wished I had).
And in all honesty, the #1 most offered advice was adamantly, “Take the laxatives after birth!!” I didn’t even think to ask the question, but folks were quick to offer it up. Duly noted, thanks ladies.
At week 14, I started to feel some leg aches and could have sworn that I could hear the creaking of my ligaments and muscles stretching and shifting. I was quickly told to increase my water and keep my legs elevated as much as possible, especially in the evenings. Worked wonders.
Then in week 18, the sleep issues began and no matter how many pillows I stuffed and wedged, I couldn’t get comfortable. I was told to get a body pillow and I have to say, I splurged on the Leachco Snoogle Total Body Pillow and never spent a night without it after that. It even went on vacation with us. I call him Fred.
Around about week 20, I started to ask girlfriends about maternity wear. What should I buy, how much, etc. They all suggested a few signature pieces to get me through the pregnancy, but admitted I didn’t need a whole new wardrobe. For whatever reason, I disregarded their advice entirely and bought some non-maternity clothes in a size or two bigger. Then when I tried them on, the shoulders were so big I was constantly reenacting Jennifer Beals in “Flashdance”, minus the leg warmers. (Dated reference, I know, but forgive me, I’m in my 40s.) When I mentioned this to my girlfriends and asked if I should just keep them and grow into them, they said, “What, you’re going to gain weight in your shoulders?!” Honestly, I had no idea. But in hindsight I should have listened to them all from the start.
I’m also trying to follow my own advice; the advice I give to pre-parents. Get out and do stuff, go to the movies, go to dinner, do whitewater rafting, take pottery lessons, read books without pictures, have regular lunches with your girlfriends, stay up late, take a fabulous pre-kid trip with your spouse, and basically don’t put things off.
Two years ago, I was one of the doe-eyed innocents, hearing all these proclamations from other girlfriends and just smiling at them thinking they were making such a big deal out of things. They weren’t. They knew exactly what they were talking about and for the most part, luckily, we took their advice.
Now on round two things are a little different, adding a toddler to the mix makes romantic dinners and girlfriend lunches and movie dates slightly more difficult, but not impossible. So we’re doing our best to take advantage of the “calm” (if you can call a two-year-old in potty training “calm”) before the “storm”.
Where’s my $*%&! glow?
In all my wanderings I can honestly say that I’ve come across four women who said they loved being pregnant. Four. Everyone else said that while it was worth it, they definitely weren’t floating on gossamer wings for nine months.
Now, as pregnancies go, I know that I’ve had a relatively easy one so far. I’ve known younger and fitter women than me, who were put on bed rest for months; women who suffered such insomnia they had to be hospitalized; women who went into spontaneous labor eight weeks early and had to leave their child in the NICU for weeks. So, my minor complaints about exhaustion and dirigible-like-bloating are really just whininess.
However, I do have one final whine to throw out there. Maybe it’s because I got most of my pregnancy ideas from the entertainment industry; but in addition to the expectation of ice-cream-cravings, I fully expected to also get “the glow.” You know, that “glow” that everyone talks about – where pregnancy brings out the inner goddess and men stop and stare, unable to control their desires to pamper me and help me with my groceries. I even went back to the “So You Think You’re Pregnant” books just to see if they covered “how to get your glow on” and maybe find something I’d forgotten to do, but not one reference to glowing could be found; the index went right from gestational diabetes to glucose to gonorrhea. I feel a bit gypped. I never glowed remotely. I waddled, I swayed, I groaned and moaned, I huffed and puffed; but not a %$&! shimmer to be found.
One month and counting
So, we basically have one month to go until we get to meet this little person who has so affected my daily life for the last 35 weeks. I know that the exhaustion of dealing with a newborn will be just as debilitating, but I’m looking forward to putting shoes on without grunting, walking without resting my hand on my belly (though it does help to assure people that I’m pregnant and not just oddly fat, which relieves me a little), and getting back to my old regular (pun intended) intestinal tract. Beyond that, we’ll just have to wait and see. But at least I have my trusty girlfriend posse and Fred, oh and my smart smart husband, to keep me smiling. Now off to plan that movie date!