So we booked an activity filled getaway for our 9th wedding anniversary and 15th anniversary as a couple, at a resort where we could play tennis and go for walks, etc. I was a bit apprehensive as I was vaguely aware that my period would either spoil the rest of this break at its worst, or I could hope for the best and that Auntie Flo would arrive when we leave. I could feel the premenstrual twinges but for some weird reason I was getting quite breathless. That in itself wasn’t that much of a red flag. The sudden craving for salmon was. As I had been pregnant before, I knew what an unnatural craving was, however I put this thought on hold as it was too good to be true – after all I had accepted my childless fate.
The menstrual cramps came and went, and still no period! Then I started getting suspicious as my period was never late. Early, yes, but late, never! Time to pee on a stick. When it came back as positive we were both stunned. I mean what do you do? On one hand, we were happy, but as any woman who has had a miscarriage will tell you, we were also feeling anxious. What if we lose this one as well? What if this was a chemical pregnancy or worse, an ectopic pregnancy? You hold back on the joy and elation because you know what it feels like to come down fast and hard. You become ultra healthy and careful, to absolve yourself of any blame, just in case. I told myself that whatever will be, will be and I’d just take one day at a time.
I was expecting morning sickness. I had had it before and it was manageable. This time, the morning sickness was diabolical. I really thought I was dying, and I remember being disappointed when I woke up in the morning because I knew the torment would start all over again. I’m not being a drama queen and I’m not being a wuss – I was actually suffering from severe morning sickness, which is not like normal sickness. The only thing that stopped me getting hospitalized was the fact that I could handle my water. And, it was all day sickness – none of this morning malarkey… as long as I was awake/conscious, I was sick. Very sick. So what was it like? Instead of just the nausea and bits of vomiting, I was vomiting several times a day. Even on an empty tummy I would vomit bile and stomach acid. Anything that had a smell would set me off – so any food that gave off a smell, the smell of laundry detergent and fabric conditioner on clothes and bedding would set me off. The smells outside would set me off, my own body smells would set me off.
I lived in the bedroom and focused on keeping myself asleep. I was starving but couldn’t eat and lost 10kgs in 2 weeks. I took sick leave as there was no way I could go to work and remain professional, and I didn’t want to vomit down a toilet where everyone’s bum had been. For the odd days that I needed to go out of the house, I would carry sick bags in my handbag. Think back to a time you were just about to vomit, not nausea, but the time your stomach contents were actually making their way to the exit – that was me 24/7 with no respite. The two phrases on repeat in my head were “kill me now” and “one day at a time”. This only eased around 16 weeks but the sickness continued in a milder format until the end. Mild meant a list of foods I could eat – deviate from these and I’d be sick. So I had to start my day with oats with a dollop of plain Greek yoghurt, followed 2 hours later by two fried (not scrambled, not boiled) eggs and bacon or pork sausage (not beef). These weren’t cravings – it was my struggle.
This is not a pity party, I’m not after sympathy but merely raising awareness that severe morning sickness is real and its debilitating. The worst thing was people telling me to “man up” or try some ginger, etc. I was like b***h! Do you think I’m enjoying playing spot the apple when I vomit??? By the way, if you ever bring up an apple, it looks like foam. The skin stays the same though. I tried ginger and it worked for about 2 hours. When I took another dose, I would vomit that out as well so ginger was no longer an option. I bought pregy pops (sweets for nausea) – the first one which was lemon flavor worked, then the apple flavor sent me to the toilet. I then became terrified to try the other flavors.
I thought my ear drums would burst as my stomach was determined to get rid of any traces of that sweet. I tried lemons, crackers, acupuncture, acupressure, you name it – nothing worked. So when people assume you didn’t try hard enough, it just pisses me off. The one thing I really wanted was wine. I could have had a glass but I wasn’t sure I’d stop at that. And, no, I’m not an alcoholic – that was my craving. I did not have the glowing phase either during the second trimester as I suffered from bloating, indigestion, heartburn, pelvic pain, sciatica, insomnia, you name it. So I know some might say I should be grateful, and throughout all this turmoil, I was… The reason for putting it out here is so that other women don’t just see the rosy side of pregnancy. The reality is that it can be brutal, but you do come out of it alive.
For me, the best part of pregnancy was feeling my baby move. It’s at that point that it got real -there was actually a person in there. I’d look forward to the end of the day, when I could put my feet up, rub my belly and poke her bum or foot. She also had “daddy” time where her dad would talk to her every night, and she would respond by kicking, or turning towards his voice. The anxiety was still there but each morning brought the dream closer. I carried on exercising (5 km walk daily) and as we passed the 28 week mark the anxiety decreased – birth at 28 weeks is not ideal but is better than 24 weeks. I expected my tummy to be heavy, but strangely it wasn’t. It’s a bit like our boobs – they are there but you are not conscious of their weight. I only ever felt the weight of my baby when I wanted to turn over in bed, or when I wanted to get up from the sofa. I also perfected the duck waddle to a tee, and was fortunate to avoid stretch marks, but, the skin around my navel got darker. Very dark.
As I got towards the end, I just felt like a whale, despite not gaining weight during the pregnancy. I found that weird thoughts were now entering my mind, like, what if scans missed something (we took Downs Syndrome test), what if something else comes out (don’t ask) or what if she has no eyes. But each time I would remind myself that whatever will be, will be. I was already in love with this being and I would do anything to protect her. So what did I learn from this journey, I so yearned for?
- no matter how bad it gets, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel – despite all the sickness and discomfort, I knew I would be okay once I delivered.
- Whatever will be, will be – between 0 – 16 weeks, there isn’t anything you or doctors can do to influence the development and chances for your fetus. It’s down to genetics, so get on with life. If you are active, stay active. This is assuming you won’t engage in any dangerous vices.
- Keep calm – don’t stress, don’t allow or invite stress. It’s bad for baby, as you’ll increase your stress hormones, which could affect them. If you are genetically predisposed, you might even miscarry or go into early labor.
- Keep your partner involved – they are already on the back foot here. You feel the baby before he does, baby knows your voice before his, etc. set a routine, where he reads or sings- it will help bonding after birth.
- Read up on how baby is developing each week – useful for conversation and to increase your own understanding.
If you don’t have access to a midwife, you can check your baby growth – all you need is a tape measure. Find top of your uterus and measure to top of pubic bone, if you are 28 weeks pregnant, you should measure 28 cm (+\- 2cm). If you are too low or too high, see a doctor as high reading can be a sign of gestational diabetes and a potentially hefty baby THIS IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR PROFESSIONAL HEALTHCARE.
- Also count the number of kicks your baby makes from around 26 weeks – you should have a minimum of 10 a day. If there is a significant decrease, go to the hospital and get checked to prevent a risk of having a still born. Drink some cold water or orange juice, and lie on left side to induce kicks…
- Sleep on your left side – it allows deoxygenated blood to flow back to your lungs, and helps baby too.
Finally, get some “me” time… it’s the last time you can be alone, and not be needed… now for the baby shower and co-parenting. You can catch that part of the journey right here next week. In the mean-time, please do share your pregnancy experiences with us in the comments below.