Saturday, 12 August 2017

Almost There

I could probably have written a post on pregnancy every month of this year, but a) I was aware of slipping into the trap of becoming a motherhood blogger and more prominently b) when I haven't been at work I've been asleep.

But there's so much to say that I absolutely cannot let this pregnancy go by without managing at least one post on the magical adventure that is growing a child.

I've found myself adding a preface to everything I say recently, and this is no exception.

Just so you know: I do know how lucky I am. And I'm not complaining in any way. Merely observing the trials and tribulations that come with pregnancy. Sort of in the same way I loved to moan about my ridiculous guests in Disney or the other people around the pool in Majorca. I'm not saying I wish I wasn't going through it, I just love a little moan.

In fact, I am so aware of how lucky I am that I spent the first half of my pregnancy in absolute disbelief. At my first four appointments when I was asked 'do you have any questions?' I answered 'are you sure I'm pregnant?'

Fun Fact About Pregnancy I Didn't Know Number 1: Nobody checks you're pregnant for TWELVE WEEKS. Everyone just takes your word for it that you've done a positive test, and there's no such thing as a false positive. I mean I'm not totally sure why you'd tell a lie for the sake of having to fill in endless forms, answer insane questions like 'and is your husband also your blood relative?' and have all kinds of needles poked into you, but even so.

Every time I asked whether I was definitely pregnant I was met with the same reaction. A laugh and an exasperated nod. But I'm sure everyone must go through that in those first weeks.

I had around three days during my first trimester that I didn't throw up, and for those three days I convinced myself that I had invented the entire pregnancy in my head and vowed never to moan about morning sickness again (Fun Fact About Pregnancy I Didn't Know Number 2: morning sickness is absolutely not limited to the morning).

Those days aside, I did throw up more or less every day between four and fourteen weeks though- and my love of Friends and various other tv shows means that I was more or less ready for that. What I wasn't ready for was just how hard it is to keep your pregnancy a secret in that time. I knew that people tend not to announce anything until they've had their twelve week scan, and I have always thought that I hope I don't find out I'm pregnant until as close to twelve weeks as possible to save me having to keep such a big secret. (I found out at three weeks.)

But what I hadn't considered is this....

1) You're really tired in that time. I mean, like a kind of tired I have never experienced before. And whilst a couple of irritating people have told me to 'wait until the baby's here if you think you're tired now', every other mother I have spoken to has said it's a different kind of tired. A special kind of tired reserved exclusively for pregnancy. A few people have told me that's how they've known they're pregnant- that awful, overwhelming, un-fightable exhaustion.

2) You lose your mind. Seriously. The reason I did the test the day that I did it was that I walked around 15 seconds across the education centre I work in to say something to a mum dropping off her son. As soon as I got there I had to apologise that I couldn't remember what I was there for. I followed it with 'I don't know if this is my age or something but this keeps happening to me and I've never had this before.' She leaned in and said  'perhaps you're pregnant', smiled, and walked away.

3) You're not just sick at 7am. You're sick I was sick if I got too hungry, which meant I had to eat regularly (not very easily done in my job), and was sometimes just sick out of the blue. I was sick outside a school, in the middle of a meeting with my manager, during a conversation with someone I manage, and at my mum's hen weekend seconds before a whole group of family friends walked into the bathroom.

All of this means that you're fairly useless during this time, which means that a) people guess (I had two mums from work guess and ask me outright during those first twelve weeks and it was so awkward), b) you want sympathy. You want twelve weeks off work and lots of sympathy, please, and c) you want everyone to know that you're actually not completely useless, it's just a phase. (Hopefully, anyway.)

Then on top of all that, it's really exciting! We were so excited- I've mentioned in a post before that I had to stop Dale buying the baby a bubble machine back in March. And when people mention babies/pregnancy/time off work/anything even remotely related to babies, you want to shout about it and keeping it quiet is SO HARD.

But we made it through that thanks to a combination of each other, a constant supply of custard creams, and my cousin Hannah (Fun Fact About Pregnancy I Didn't Know Number 3: It cannot be done without having an incredible cousin who happens to be an amazing midwife. She's the first person we told and the reason that we made it through that first trimester without going crazy. Honestly. She knows everything and I don't know how anyone does it without her), and then we were able to announce it. And that's when the real fun began.

The most striking question that I was asked- and I was asked by a surprising number of people- mostly (though with a couple of exceptions) people who absolutely do not know me well enough to ask, when we announced it was- "was it a shock?"

Well, no Barbara, because there's quite a specific process for getting pregnant and I've followed all the steps. Of course it wasn't a shock, but thanks for implying that this absolute miracle might have been.

The other one is "are you finding out what you're having?"

This is a trick question. 

If you're doing what that person would do, you're fine (though you will have to endure a ten minute lecture on why what you're doing is the right thing), if you're not, oh my goodness, strap yourself in for a long and tedious journey through Why Your Decision Is A Mistake.

Does it really matter to you, guest at my mum's wedding that I'm meeting for the first time today, whether I find out the sex of my baby before its birth?

(Fun Fact About Pregnancy I Didn't Know Number 4: Everything you decide about your baby seems to matter to everyone. For a couple of weeks I made the mistake of actually answering people when they asked me whether I had any names I like. People are brutal. Also naming a human is hard. There's too much to consider.)

And it only continues from there.

Because that's when the experts come in.

And by the experts I mean everyone in the world. 

If my amazing, experienced midwife cousin Hannah doesn't know, she'll tell me. So one of our conversations went like this:

"Hannah, do you think my wedding dress will still fit me in June?"

"I'm really sorry but there's absolutely no way of knowing. Every single person is different and sometimes the same person is completely different with different babies, so there really is no way of predicting it at all. Sorry that's not more helpful."

Hannah needn't have worried though, because all the office workers, cashiers, estate agents and teachers of the world were able to tell me with confidence. I had everything, from "there's no way you'll be able to hide it, you're so tiny, you'll be all bump" to "26 weeks? My sister's best friend's brother's wife didn't even know herself until she was 37 weeks, you'll definitely be able to hide it at 26 weeks."

And it is not just there that the experts stopped with their wisdom either....oh no....

1) Midwife: You really should monitor your intake of fish, as you could eat too much mercury and poison the baby.

Expert: Don't be ridiculous, what about in countries where they live by the sea and their entire diet is made up of seafood?

Excellent point, man who works as a driving instructor, but even so, I don't live off an entire diet of seafood and the advice provided based on the most up to date research and provided by the experts is to monitor it, so I'll be sticking to my eggs on toast today, thank you.

2) Midwife: Everything's looking really healthy, your bump is on the 90th centile so as long as you continue to grow along that line you'll remain low risk.

Expert: You're ever so small. That bump's barely there. Actually even my husband mentioned the other day that he thought you were a bit small for thirty weeks.

Even your husband? Even? You say that as though he's an expert, Deborah, but doesn't he work on the cheese counter in Morrisons? I don't really care what he thinks. Good to know you discuss my figure at home though.

3) Sonographer: Hm I've been looking at this screen for about fifteen minutes now and there is just no way of telling whether it's a girl or a boy. The baby has its legs crossed so there's just no way for me to tell, sorry.

Expert number 1: It's definitely a girl. I can tell.

Expert number 2: It's a boy. Definitely. I've never been wrong.

And then there are the just plain hilarious comments....

1) "So sorry but I have to ask. IS that a bump? Only I can't work out if you've just had a big lunch and I won't be able to stop staring until you've told me." From a teacher that I met for 2 minutes before I presented a certificate in assembly and left.

2) "Oh Rebecca is pregnant? I did notice but I didn't like to say anything because I know she likes a creme egg...."

3) "Ooh you are pregnant? I thought I saw a bump the other day but then I thought maybe you'd just put on a few pounds. I didn't want to upset you so I didn't say anything." Great job.

4) "You're pregnant? Yeah I thought so. You've been looking a bit bloated lately."

5) "Oh that makes so much sense. I thought you'd just eaten too many carbs."

6) "I know exactly how you feel. I've done it three times." That's really sweet, Man In Sainsbury's, but don't let your wife hear you claim that if you don't want a sharp object shoved somewhere intimate.

Whilst I text these ridiculous conversations to my mum and best pals, roll my inside eyes and learn to let it all roll over me like water off a duck's back (best piece of advice I've been given so far was from Minnie Mouse to use pregnancy to practise ignoring people because- I'm assured- they'll all be a million times worse once the baby is here), I have also been absolutely blown away by how kind people are.

I've been inundated with endless thoughtful gifts from everyone from my friends to my colleagues, the tutors I manage to the families I work with, Dale's friends to members of our own families. Strangers make sure I get a seat and will go without if it means I'm comfortable, everyone asks how I am with a little head tilt and genuine care in their eyes, and I cannot tell you how well a 'you look lovely' goes down when you feel horrendous. I had a text from a friend after a picture went on Facebook when I was 20 weeks saying 'look at your bump in that picture! You look beautiful.' I could have cried. Probably did, in fact. (Fun Fact About Pregnancy I Didn't Know Number 5: all you need is to tell a pregnant woman she looks nice. Save your pennies. Spend your words wisely.)

And so with just over 7 weeks to go I will continue to sidestep name questions, duck underneath nonsense comments about my size, take on (and feel free to ignore) everyone's well meaning advice, and enjoy this incredibly magical time with Dale.

I mentioned in the post about our engagement that every day felt a bit like Christmas Eve- knowing the best was yet to come, and actually being pregnant is exactly the same. Before every amazing thing that I have been lucky enough to experience I've had doubts that it will ever really happen. Just before I moved to Florida I remember thinking: I know I will one day be jealous of this version of myself- of the girl who is about to go and have the time of her life. Just enjoy the anticipation, and know that wonderful things are about to happen.

I keep reminding myself of the same thing.

Yes, it's hard, with the comments and the exhaustion and the worry and still working full time and getting everything ready, and the ridiculous cravings for Bold 2 in 1 Lavender and Camomile washing tablets, and yes, the baby being born is only going to introduce a load of new challenges that I hope to one day have the energy to write about.

But ultimately this special time is so short, as will the next adventure be, and before we know it we'll be facing a load of new challenges as we pack our little cherub off to school.

So I'm doing my absolute best to embrace every magical bit of it.

The bits I'm awake for, anyway.

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