18 weeks too long: Why did no one tell me pregnancy is shit?
By Amber Slone
If you’ve seen ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ you can follow the beautiful journey of a group of women preparing for motherhood. With their perfect bumps and beautiful glow you think “I can’t wait for that to be me.” Then you have Elizabeth Banks. With her gas, back acne, fatigue and mood swings. Elizabeth portrayed the pregnancy I didn’t sign up for but was somehow delivered.
All my life all I’ve ever wanted was to be a mother. Working as a preschool teacher, supporting young children to develop, and forming beautiful, nurturing relationships has always been at the forefront of my mind. I couldn’t wait for it to be my turn and feel all the beauty and joy that came with growing a life. But nobody really prepared me for how utterly exhausting and honestly crap it is to be pregnant.
Surviving the first trimester was a hurdle of its own. Constant nausea and vomit breaks lasted 14 weeks. For those 14 weeks, between the vomiting and severe bloating I had constant sciatica and was so exhausted I would need two naps after work just so I could make it to my prompt 7:30 bedtime.
During this time my libido disappeared and being touched at all felt like my own personal hell. Unfortunately, my libido is yet to return. But we all know how hard the first trimester is, you’re prepared for that by all the warriors who have survived that battle. It’s the second trimester that fools you.
Coming into my second trimester I was prepared to feel human again and finally attain that beautiful glow. Boy was I wrong. Being pregnant is incredibly lonely. I’ve always been surrounded by so many amazing people that I spent weekend nights with and went on adventures.
When you get pregnant before everyone else, you’re on a different journey. Those who used to message me frequently asking to hang out have dropped off the face of the earth. It’s not their fault at all, I’m the one who is different now and can’t do all the things we used to do together.
The loneliness isn’t a shock to many pregnant women, the shock will come later when baby is here and suddenly those people want to come back to meet it and revel in glorious newborn snuggles. I’ve been lucky to have an amazing support system in my husband, best friends, family and my colleagues, but sometimes I miss the old me.
My skin during pregnancy is what I imagine Bear Grylls must look like after filming an episode of ‘Man vs Wild’ where he’s lost in the desert.
Every inch of me is drier than the Sahara. My lips, boobs, hands, and feet could make a stunning crocodile skin purse that would fund all my nursery dreams. I’ve always been cursed with eczema, but the hormones constantly raging through my body have left me looking like I’ve never seen a moisturizer or been hydrated in my life.
To add to the allure of my outward appearance, my belly button has disappeared. The expansion of my stomach has treated it like extra wiggle room and gives me a ‘grown in a test tube in the back of a spaceship’ vibe.
Along with eczema that plagues my boobs, I don’t even recognize my nipples anymore. I frequently think that I should have taken more nudes in my prime because I have a new appreciation for my old rosebud nipples compared to what my husband now affectionately refers to as “chocolate fingers.” I’ve given up trying to adjust to the physical changes in my body because by the time I figure out how to bend over without peeing myself a little it’s changed again and I’m back at square one.
There is no dignity in pregnancy. At 15 weeks we had a scare where I woke up with cramping and bleeding. As I cried at the hospital like a crazy person, the doctor who was wrist-deep in my vagina commented on how much discharge I was producing. “We’ll swab for a yeast infection” she suggested. Turns out I didn’t have thrush, my body had just decided that producing copious amounts of discharge was its calling and now I have to wear pantyliners.
And the bleeding and cramping? An inflamed cervix that will potentially just bleed and cramp throughout my pregnancy and is nothing to worry about. Apparently it’s common to just bleed without rhyme or reason which isn’t comforting when you’re focused on growing a healthy baby and is frankly terrifying.
Pregnancy cravings are a real thing. When I thought about what I’d crave I always thought it would be something I lightly wanted. Oh no. Pregnancy cravings are so intense that if I don’t have fried chicken, bacon, Fanta or anything citrus I feel an emptiness inside so severe it hurts my chest.
I’m more than happy to feed my body what it wants but being plant-based I never thought meat would come out on top. The real betrayal, however, is the heartburn and indigestion your body treats you to whenever you eat what it asked for. I now have a bottle of Gaviscon at work, one at home, and one in my bag so I’m never without.
I know how incredibly blessed I am to be where I am and I feel with all my heart for those who have fertility issues, but there needs to be more focus on mental health during pregnancy and an outlet for women to voice their frustrations without judgment.
All the physical changes your body goes through as well as the hormonal changes are incredibly hard and mentally exhausting.
We need to stop pretending that pregnancy is sunshine and rainbows and focus on supporting women.
For me, even simply being told I’m doing a good job makes a world of difference. And to those of you going through pregnancy, don’t be afraid to ask for help or let people know when you’re struggling.
I’m told once it’s over you forget the whole thing. Here’s hoping.