This is not a little how-to article, or one of the thousands of blogs that mentions the joys of pregnancy that forces us to conform to feeling the same things. It is an honest account of my experience, as pregnancy is experienced very differently by women. I truly hope that it helps you feel a little better, if you don’t feel like you think you should (or society expects you to). Here are ten things I didn’t expect while expecting my first baby:
1. I didn’t expect to not feel immediately excited.
When my husband and I found out that we were expecting our first child, we were somewhat apprehensive. I expected to feel ecstatic. Don’t get me wrong, we were very happy, but we immediately realized that our lives were about to change drastically and permanently. Once that initial feeling of apprehension passed we started to feel excited and we realized that we would not have been blessed with this little miracle if we were not capable of raising him/her. We started to feel something else as well…amazement. Along with the little life that’s growing, comes infinite potential that he/she can be and do anything and that is pretty great.
2. I didn’t expect the pregnancy to take so much from me physically during the first trimester.
The books mention that you will feel nauseous, that your breasts will be tender and that you will feel tired. They don’t say that you might feel as though a bus has run over you twice. Of course, not everyone will feel the same, but personally, I couldn’t keep my eyes open after two o’clock in the afternoon. I didn’t want to put a bra on. I didn’t want to eat anything for fear of having to run to the bathroom (which is quite far from my desk) at work. I felt like crying about anything and everything. The good news is, this doesn’t usually last forever. Around 12 weeks of pregnancy the negative side effects started to subside and I felt more-or-less my normal (pre-pregnancy) self.
3. I didn’t expect that nutrition would be so important during the first few months of pregnancy.
I thought that I could finally use the excuse that I was eating for two. But what I didn’t keep in mind was that what I was putting in my body, I was sharing with my growing baby and eating a whole pizza instead of half is not healthy at all. My blood sugar kept dropping and I was feeling faint and weak. So, my doctor advised a diet of small meals and healthy snacks to keep me sustained throughout the day. This allowed me to pick up a healthy amount of weight (10-15 kg), instead of a lot of weight that I would struggle to lose after the baby was born.
4. I didn’t expect to have so much energy.
During the second trimester, I felt my energy levels rise and I was extremely motivated every day. I had my appetite back, I was back at gym and I didn’t need to take a nap every afternoon. I also decided to re-organize my whole house. This, I learned, is called “nesting”. I wanted to do everything myself and felt a great sense of accomplishment after doing something productive. What I wish someone had told me, is that I needed to enjoy it while it lasted. So, my advice is to enjoy this time where you don’t completely look and feel pregnant. Before you realize it, you will have reached your third trimester.
5. I didn’t expect that I wouldn’t immediately love my baby.
I was excited for what lay ahead and I was looking forward to seeing my baby with every consultation, but I didn’t love my baby immediately. I was very scared to admit this to my friends as they all seemed to feel the opposite. I learned that this is completely normal. The “love” hormone is released in your body after birth and during the first feed and this is when you fall in love with your baby and truly form that special bond.
6. I didn’t expect that people would feel so entitled to give me their opinion (and touch my stomach).
I was looking at the bottles in the baby store while my husband and I were doing our baby shower gift registry and I felt completely overwhelmed, as I had no idea which to choose (as with everything else on my registry). A strange woman felt that telling me that I chose the wrong bottles and that I should buy another brand, and then explaining her reasons for a further 20 minutes, would make me feel better. It didn’t. You will also see that while walking in a mall and minding your own business, strangers will think that your body is public property and that they can touch your belly. I only let the people I felt most comfortable with invade my personal space and set very clear boundaries with the rest. It is your right, so don’t feel bad if you offend someone you don’t know and will probably never see again in your life.
7. I didn’t expect to lose total control of my emotions (and my temper).
Growing a human is a tiring, amazing and emotional process. My body was releasing hormones to keep my pregnancy safe, my body was stretching and my mind turned to pudding for this reason (pregnancy brain is a very real thing). I was crying for no reason, laughing uncontrollably at something that was not funny (for way too long) and losing my temper before I even knew what really made me angry in the first place. Most of this was directed at my husband, but towards the end it started to happen more often at work as well. This too, is normal. As I’m normally someone who likes to be in complete control of the situation, losing it was very scary and I couldn’t explain what I was feeling to anyone. The good news is that this will not last forever. And my mind got better as well.
8. I didn’t expect to feel so much worse again, after feeling so much better.
Around 33 weeks pregnant, I started experiencing different symptoms. My feet no longer fit into any of my pretty sandals, because they were so swollen. Obviously, the heat didn’t help either. I started needing an afternoon nap again, due to the exhaustion I felt towards the end of the day. I had cramps around my stomach. My hands were extremely sore and I couldn’t open and close them properly. I was getting very worried that something was wrong, but the nurses presenting the antenatal classes we were attending also explained that, although it is extremely uncomfortable, it is nothing to worry about. The reason for the changes is because your body is carrying ten litres of blood, instead of the usual five. So, the blood had to go somewhere and all of it accumulated in my feet. This is not the same for everyone, but if you are worried about anything it is always better to be safe than sorry and rather check in with your doctor if something is bothering you.
9. I didn’t expect to not feel ready at the end.
The nursery was ready, the baby shower had come and gone, the clothes had been washed and packed away and the hospital bag was standing by the door. So, why didn’t I feel ready yet? Well, there was still the birth and bringing home my new baby part that scared me. A little person that is completely dependent on us to keep them alive (and yes, strange thoughts were running through my mind all day, every day). I knew that no one will ever be 100% ready for the new role we are about to take on as parents, but we were certainly very excited for what lay ahead.
10. I didn’t expect, that after everything I had been through, I wouldn’t want to change it for the world.
Pregnancy was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me and I never knew what my body was capable of until I experienced it over the last nine months. It was bittersweet, as the pregnancy was coming to an end, but a new life was about to start. I worked hard to make this little life and I was very proud of that fact. With all the discomfort and changes I knew my body would never be the same, but that didn’t bother me in the least.
I’m sure that no two women will have the exact same pregnancies, and the same goes for births as well. The most important thing to keep in mind is that both you and your baby are as healthy as possible.