I read a lot during my first pregnancy. I actually read a lot even before I got pregnant just to make sure I knew exactly what I was getting myself into while building a little human. The books really painted a great picture of everything that would happen during a normal pregnancy, and they also covered the rare but serious things that could happen. Somehow, even with all of that information, I was still shocked by a few things that went on in my body (and mind) during and after my first pregnancy. Maybe I’m just weird and these things don’t happen to other women, or maybe I skipped over this stuff in the all knowing, all seeing baby books; but just in case there are other women out there like me, I want to give you a heads up about a few POSSIBLE pregnancy symptoms you may have in addition to or instead of the other five million you’ve already read about.
1. The Sounds
You know what a burp sounds like? Know what a hiccup sounds like? Well, my body combines the two with zero warning to create the most embarrassing donkey-like sound imaginable. It blasts out of my mouth uncontrollably and really, really loudly. In addition to sounding awful, it hurts like hell. It feels as if someone has grabbed my stomach and is trying to yank it out of my mouth. Not fun. Also, regular burps and farts happen without warning. Loudly. Often.
2. The Smells – Part 1
I read a lot about “increased sense of smell” but what I did not know was that I would smell things that didn’t exist at all. While cuddling with my husband, I caught this overwhelming scent of cat pee mixed with pine needles. I was gagging and sniffing all over trying to find the source, while my Hubs couldn’t smell it at all! I finally found it under his arm. I went in the bathroom and smelled his deodorant. Cat piss and pine needles. The same deodorant he’d been wearing for months, suddenly smelled unbearable. He was forced to throw it away and we bought new, acceptable smelling deodorant. With my second pregnancy, I smell cheese everywhere. Truman’s poopy diaper – smells like cheese. Getting into the van at lunch time – it smells like cheese in there. Wake up in the morning and walk into the hallway – who is the world has been grating parmesan out here? No one else can smell it. It drives me crazy.
3. The Smells – Part 2
I smell weird. I can’t put my finger on exactly what I smell like and given my knack for smelling phantom odors, maybe it just isn’t true at all, but I swear I smell funny. My hair, sweat, pee, skin; it all smells unlike me. Not bad, not good, just foreign. My husband hasn’t said anything and neither has anyone else, but I notice it daily. I am assuming it has to do with changing hormones. It makes me think that my animals can tell because the dog doesn’t want anything to do with me, but the cat can’t get enough. Pregnancy stink = cat pheromones? Hmmm…
4. The Pain
All the books talk about “discomfort” and being “uncomfortable” as you grow and stretch. They are lying. Pregnancy isn’t uncomfortable, it hurts. I was most surprised by the cramping. Early pregnancy cramps had me panicking and running to the bathroom every minute certain that I was going to miscarry. Those cramps still happen even in the third trimester, but now they are mixed in with intense stabbing pain called round ligament pain. “Round ligament pain” sounds mild doesn’t it? Well, it isn’t. It feels like a severe Charlie horse in your belly whenever you sneeze, or cough or roll over too fast. This has brought me screaming out of dead sleep more than once. Thankfully, it only lasts a minute or two but during that time, you’re pretty sure tiny creatures are playing tug-o-war with your abdominal muscles and they are going to succeed in ripping them in half. While we are at it, I should warn you about a little phenomenon I like to call lightening crotch. (I think my sister actually named it that, and it is really the only way to describe it.) I don’t know if it is the baby stabbing at my cervix with dagger like fingernails or some kind of nerve spasm but sometimes out of nowhere, I feel a zapping, searing pain shooting through my lady parts from the inside radiating out. What.The.Hell.
5. The Isolation
I seem to become a hermit while pregnant. I go to work and once in awhile visit with people, but for the most part I want to stay home in my pajamas and not be bothered for the duration of gestation. I don’t like chatting on the phone, I don’t want to have people over, I don’t want to travel to someone else’s house. Normally, I am not at all like that. I embrace being in public, I love talking on the phone and have a great time at parties. Something about being pregnant makes me anti-social. Apologies to all my loved ones who haven’t heard from me in months.
6. The Fear
This started close to my due date and finally subsided around the time Truman turned one. I started having very real, very terrifying thoughts of my impending death or the death of my husband. Now, don’t get me wrong, you have fears about your baby’s well being all of the time and those fears are awful, but I think most people expect to worry about the baby. You worry about whether they are eating enough, peeing enough, sleeping enough, you are afraid of them getting sick or dropping them, or leaving them at daycare. I just had no idea how afraid I would be of my baby losing me. How would anyone else raise him with the same amount of love that I would? How would he ever know how much I adore him? Who would tell him stories about him in utero? Would he grow up scarred and missing something that only having a Mommy can provide? What if my husband died? How would I raise this boy alone? How would be know how amazing his father was? What if we both die? Who is going to raise our baby? No one will love him as much as we love him! These thoughts would play on and on, keeping me up at night. My heart would race, I would cry, I’d convince myself that thinking these thoughts was a sign that something terrible was in fact going to happen. It wasn’t every day, but once a horrible image would pop into my head it would be stuck there for days. I talked to Mike about it, and found he was going through the same thing. It made me feel better knowing I wasn’t crazy. We began talking each other through the scary moments. I still worry once in awhile but those thoughts no longer consume me as they once did.
7. The Emotion
Everyone knows pregnancy makes you emotional. You see those crazy mood swings on television and in movies and may have witnessed a few in real life. I just didn’t expect the emotion to pop up randomly about stupid stuff. I understand crying over the video about the dog’s last day on Earth, or the little girl who finally beat cancer. That stuff makes me cry on a non-pregnant day, but how about when you’re listening to Pandora and a song comes on that you’ve heard a million times but suddenly you have lump in your throat and all you want to do is go home and crawl into bed. This blanket of sadness covers you and your eyes fill with tears. Your brain is battling itself, half asking what the Hell is the matter with you and the other half is sobbing and can’t answer the question. Then as soon as it began, it is over. The blanket is lifted and you are back to normal. It happens with other emotions too; anger, happiness, love…
8. The Lack Of Sex
I thought being pregnant would bring out this sensual, mother Earth, romantic side of me. I had heard stories about those crazy hormones turning women into sex goddesses and I was really looking forward to carefree friskiness for once where I wasn’t A. Trying really hard to get pregnant. or B. Worrying about preventing pregnancy. Come to find out, pregnancy does nothing for me in the sexy-time department. Literally nothing. I could go the entire 40 weeks without even thinking of sex. Aren’t you so jealous of my husband? Poor guy, he finds me beautiful even with an enormous belly and cankles. He doesn’t mind that my face is greasy and my hair has been in a ponytail for six months straight. He selflessly lets me wear his boxer briefs around the house and never comments on how unappealing they look on me. Most women would kill to have a man like my husband. All of those wonderful qualities are wasted on me. Thanks hormones for making me celibate.
9. The Plain Jane Factor
I like being pretty. I like dressing up, doing my hair, putting on make-up and wearing jewelry…unless I’m pregnant. Then I don’t care if the entire world sees me in my husband’s underpants and a two day old ponytail. I just don’t give a shit how I look. It takes everything I have to pluck my lovely new chin hairs. (Oh, yeah. #9.5 – You may sprout unwanted hair all over your face and body. I would have a full beard and moustache if I wasn’t constantly on the look-out.) Even when I make an attempt to dress up for an outing, I end up just staring at myself in the mirror, comb in hand, feeling exhausted at the prospect of blow drying and flat ironing and back-combing and spritzing. I inevitably put my hair in a ponytail. I look down at my foundation and powder, my beautiful Urban Decay eye shadow palettes, my lovely eyeliner and mascara. My hands feel clumsy and I just don’t feel like putting all of that on my face! So, I dust on some powder and slap on a little mascara and leave the bathroom. I don’t know if it is a lack of energy, or something primal and ancient telling me not to draw extra attention to myself while carrying a defenseless little one. All I know, is that I instantly wanted to doll up again after I gave birth, and instantly lost interest when I got pregnant again.
10. The Birth
There is no explaining childbirth. I thought contractions would feel like very strong menstrual cramps…and they do…in the beginning. In later stages of labor, there is no “feels like” because nothing else in the universe feels like labor. I’ve never zoned out for hours on end while moaning the same sound over and over with zero concept of time or the presence of other people before I experienced child birth. No one can tell you how it feels to be fully aware that a baby’s head is moving through your vagina while your body begins pushing completely on it’s own and you are WELCOMING it. You really wouldn’t believe how little control you have over the birthing situation. Your body just goes into auto-pilot. I thought I would react certain ways to certain steps, like breathing deeply through contractions and having my husband rub my back. I wanted people cheering me on and encouraging me. I thought I’d sob when I saw my baby. I don’t remember breathing, because I felt like I couldn’t breathe at all. I could not stand anyone touching me, even a gentle pat on the leg. I could not handle anyone whispering, much less cheering me on. I didn’t cry when I saw my son. I laughed. I instantly felt exhilarated and amazing, but I didn’t cry. It just wasn’t the experience I expected it to be. So, this time around, I have no expectations other than having a beautiful boy and loving him beyond measure.
So, maybe you think I’m crazy, or maybe you can relate. All I can tell you is that no pregnancy book can cover all of the glorious possibilities. Every woman is unique and every baby brings it’s own bundle of surprises! Enjoy them all, even the crappy ones. It is all over before you know it and believe it or not, you may miss being pregnant one day.