Post #28: What you may not expect when you're expecting...

A lot of what I knew about pregnancy prior to becoming pregnant came from television and cinematic portrayals of it. This means that I was embarrassingly na├»ve, and, in some cases, uninformed about what to expect. Fortunately, in the age of the internet, naivety is easily corrected and information readily available in just a few clicks. And a great, easily accessible birthing coach is Google. My search history is flooded with pregnancy-related questions. Most of these are of the form: “Is ______________ normal in pregnancy?” And most of what fills in the blanks to my web browsing is too embarrassing to disclose as it would demonstrate just how little I really knew. But in nearly all of these cases, no matter how strange the symptom, the answers available on medical websites and baby-mama forums were all “yes”. Normal? Really? I would think in a mixture of bewilderment and relief as I pondered the association between my latest concern and the ensuing reassurance provided.

But not all of what I’ve learned generated from concerns or worries. Much of my prenatal education has resulted from pure fascination and curiosity. Lessons compiled from seven months of observation.  It seems that, when it comes to being pregnant, the one word response to “What to expect when you’re expecting” is… anything. Since that doesn’t really narrow it down, I am going to use this post as an opportunity to disclose the top ten things I’ve learned from my experiences so far. Maybe this will save someone some unnecessary googling….

Pregnancy is not really nine months. I know this is a mind-blowing revelation, but it’s actually longer. Let’s do the math, each month averages 4 1/3 weeks and the normal gestational period is 40 weeks.  40 divided by 4 1/3 leaves us with approximately 9.23. While a quarter of a month doesn’t seem like much, I am sure that when I am nine months along, it will feel like an eternity. Even as it is now, I feel like I have been pregnant forever. Not that I am feeling awful, but I’m definitely anxious.  Knowing that in just a couple months I will be a mother is an all-consuming reality that can make the days feel longer than usual. But who knows, maybe at nine months I will be grateful for the extra week of preparation. I’ll get back to you on that.

Morning sickness is a misnomer for the nausea that characteristically accompanies the first trimester (and beyond for an unlucky few) of pregnancy. A more fitting title would be “all day sickness”, or “all day malaise” should you opt for a more phonetically pleasing title.  I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I wish I had been forewarned of this inaccuracy in nomenclature and so I feel inclined to give the heads up.  Nausea is, in my opinion, one of the worst feelings possibly experienced. And, having it linger for days on end is torture. Fortunately for me, the feeling only lasted for about 8 weeks. And every day during that stretch, I reminded myself that it would be worth it. Because I knew it would and hold to that belief now.

Cats have whiskers for a reason. Beyond their sensory capacities, whiskers enable cats to tell whether or not they can fit in an opening.  If the long hair-like structures do not touch either side, the cat knows he can pass through. This, I’ve learned, is a useful functionality. Though I don’t think pregnant bellies should grow equipped with whiskers, I do think that an innate sense of my expanded size would be useful. It happens far too often that I try making my way through a half opened door or walking down the rows of student desks only to find that I’m not going to make it. Rather than turn into a doorstop or bump seated students with my bump, I have to retreat and find an alternative route. So pregnant ladies, be prepared to modify your bodily navigation. Maneuver yourselves with the same caution as a former Smart Car driver would her new SUV.

Our inner ear can’t always compensate for pregnancy. As such, balance can be tough to come by. When I was in Rome, whether on a bus or on the subway, I noticed that standing while in motion was nearly impossible. There I was, wobbling, back-stepping, and clenching onto the ceiling rails with every bump and turn. And there was my seventy-five year old grandma next to me, standing firmer than the marble Roman statues we were passing by. I didn’t ever consider that a changed weight distribution would interfere so extremely with my center of gravity. But it does! Standing on one leg to tie a shoe or practice tree pose is a challenge. And, while walking, I’ve logged one embarrassing trip and countless close calls into my record books. So, along with “stay hydrated” and “avoid alcohol”, add “walk cautiously” to your pregnancy to-do list.

You don’t have to be a cage fighter to get kicked in the ribs and karate chopped in the kidneys. Turns out, you just have to be pregnant! I’m sure that battling in an Ultimate Fighting competition is far more painful, but I’m often surprised at how such a little baby can deliver such a powerful blow. I am always amused by these ninja-like movements, especially now that they have become stronger and more regulated. Never would a punch to the stomach seem like such an endearing gesture, but it somehow does when it comes from the little ball of love growing inside. Which reminds me, just in case your little one should decide to jab you in the bladder, it’s best to use the bathroom as proactively as possible. Not that I’ve learned this from experience or anything…

Pregnancy is no place for modesty, especially if your pre-natal exams take place in Italy. The world of obstetrics, like gynecology, is not a particularly pleasant one.  I have yet to meet a woman who truly enjoys going to her annual exam or a man who doesn’t squirm when she talks about it. I anticipate that giving birth will be the most vulnerable and exposing experiences of my life, but I didn’t realize that my pre-natal visits overseas would do such a good job of preparing me for it.  I’m not going to go into much detail here, but if you feel compelled to skip right to the next one, I will not be offended. Okay, so from my appointments back home, I’ve grown accustomed to being provided with a little cloth robe that ties in the front and a sheet that sits on my lap. It’s not much but it does manage to award us ladies with a little bit of decency. Now, take these away and add a translator to the side of the exam table (bless her soul for surviving three pregnancies on the team this year). And forget about being escorted to a room where you change and wait for the doctor. Just enter the doctor’s office while he’s looking over your charts and strip down behind a small two-paneled, see-through room separator. That was my typical appointment in Italy. Kevin’s perception of what goes on at the usual female check-ups is definitely distorted. Poor guy was thrown into the fire.

When you are expecting, you are subjected to a wide range of reactions from people you encounter. Most people see pregnant and they smile. Some offer to help carry my groceries, or halt traffic when they see me from their cars trying to cross the street on my daily walk/waddle. Others are more vocal about it and will compliment my basketball belly or inquire about my due date, the sex of the baby, and potential names. Students are especially candid in their perspectives on pregnancy. “We have to be nice to you so you don’t get all angry like pregnant women can get”, or “Wow, Miss! You keep getting bigger!” or “I heard that when your water breaks, your contractions intensify!” And, my favorite, “your belly scares me because all I think about when I see it is how the baby is going to get out and I know that’s going to hurt… a lot”. Yeah, it scares you and me both, kid.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some people who are much quieter about my being pregnant. Men, for example, often exert the same energies towards not looking at my enlarged midsection as they would towards not looking at a chesty woman’s over-exposed cleavage. This involves the practiced skill of holding eye contact during conversation. I imagine them thinking, whatever you do, don’t look down. Maybe this is an evolutionary response to those horror stories they hear about some unfortunate man who mistakenly inquired about a non-pregnant woman’s pregnancy. Rather than make the same egregious error themselves, they ignore the possibility altogether. Or maybe pregnancy and the mystery that surrounds it because they are males just make them uncomfortable. I can relate to this discomfort because, prior to becoming pregnant, I was very curious/fascinated/frightened by it all. When I would talk with pregnant woman, I could feel myself on the brink of asking a million questions about it that some would find inappropriate coming from a stranger.

It’s weird having your tummy touched. Go ahead. Touch your stomach. When was the last time you did that? The average person touches their face over 4,000 times a day. But, unless you are doing that bodily kinesthetic trick of rubbing your belly with one hand while patting yourself on the head with the other, it’s unlikely that you are making hand to belly contact very frequently. It’s an equally strange sensation to have someone else touching your stomach. We hug, shake hands, and offer congratulatory pats on the back. But unless you are Buddha, the Pillsbury Dough Boy, or maybe “The Situation”, you probably don’t get your tummy touched by other people very often. I don’t mind at all when others try and feel my baby move and I certainly enjoy tracing his motions with my own hand, but it is funny to think about how something that would be so strange if I weren’t pregnant is so normal now.

The only regular thing about pregnancy is irregularity. This applies to everything from my energy levels to my emotions, the baby’s position in my belly, and everything in between. Just when I think I am getting used to how my body is responding to being pregnant, something changes. But I guess that is something I can count on every morning… that the new day is unlikely to be the same as the last.

So, until that little guy (or big guy should he continue on his current path of 98th percentile development) arrives, I will continue marveling at the crazy new symptoms I experience and observations I make. Because, the truth is...

As scary and worrisome as it can be, and as unattractive as some of the less glorified side effects of pregnancy may make you feel, nothing can take away from how beautiful it really is. The fact that we will soon have a baby boy is even more indescribable than I ever would have imagined. The closer the due date gets, the more surreal it all seems. I can hardly believe we are so lucky. 


1 comment:

  1. AAAAW! What a beautiful post, sweetie. Several things made me giggle such as: Cats have whiskers for a reason. or that the Situation may get his tummy patted a lot!

    Seriously, you need think about publishing some of these thoughts in a parenting magazine!