I’m pregnant! Or I suppose ‘we’re’ pregnant to be proper but I’m the only one in stretchy pants down here.
We’re going to be parents.
I’m going to be a mother.
And our babe-to-be will be Paraguayan, or as they say here a “Paraguarito/a”!
This is probably not news to most of you. I’ve stepped past the 30-week mark and, if you’ve seen me lately, have a distinct waddle to my walk and what looks like a 5 pound bowling ball around my mid-section. One of my lovely 4th Grade boys wedged a balloon under his shirt this week and exclaimed “Ms. W! Look! We’re twins!”. Yup, pretty much. Balloon…baby…same, same. Now if only he could share in the joys of swollen feet, sausage toes and acid reflux!
This has been a hard post to write; I’ve been dancing around exactly what to put down for months. Probably 4 of them, to be exact. During the first 3 months, writing about pregnancy would have probably looked something like: “Hate. Life. So. Much. Nausea. Only having one child.”
So, I’ve come a long way. Since then, I’ve wanted to do little well worded cartwheels of happiness and somehow express my joy for this little (now cabbage sized, 3.5 pound) babe that I’ll meet in approximately 8 weeks. I’ve also wanted to explicitly describe all the parts of pregnancy I had no idea about and somehow quantify/share/explain what this journey has been like. A too-high-and-lofty goal I know, but I will still share some pregnancy related thoughts, streamlined to sharing sized.
- It can be really hard.
I don’t want to scare any to-be-moms and apparently most worthwhile things in life are difficult, (in addition to the first rule of pregnancy being it’s absolutely different for each individual), but I just had no idea HOW hard it would be, especially in the beginning. I’m still reeling from the first trimester, which was truly terrifying and terrible (note to mothers who experience morning sickness their entire pregnancy: I cannot begin to express enough sympathy). I don’t know if I could describe it better than this text I sent a friend who inquired how I was feeling:
“I just spent an hour cutting potatoes into tiny pieces and fighting my gag reflect to eat them, only to finish and immediately have to vomit. The potatoes came up in such undigested chunks that I choked on them and couldn’t breath until the vomit came out my nose. Most of the toilet water ended up on my face. Going to bed.”
I didn’t step foot into the kitchen for a month. Not even for a glass of water.
Besides the nausea, I had a really hard time reconciling experiences with my sense of self. I knew there would be changes, but I somehow wasn’t able to imagine the intensity of the wild mood swings, the varied emotions, the post-dinner belching marathons, the wicked fatigue, the persistent fear, the acid reflux and the clothes that just wouldn’t fit anymore. I cried every time I told someone I was pregnant. And I felt happy! Emotionally distraught, confused, fearful but happy. In the beginning especially, pregnancy felt like navigating entirely new territory with what felt like little guidance and a very shitty sense of direction.
- People are wonderful.
Neil and I are having this baby in Paraguay – away from our closest friends and family and in a country that we’re still making introductions with. This was a hard decision but it’s the one that also makes the most sense when we boiled it down. However, ever since discovering we’re expecting, all I’ve wanted and craved is the support of my mom, my sister, my aunties and my closest girlfriends, all of who are very far away! I acutely miss these strong and beautiful women but I’ve also been overwhelmed by the help, the support and the kindness extended to us from the people here. Paraguayans especially love children, babies and pregnant mommas. The excitement of strangers when they learn I’m expecting has blown me away. And serious thank you’s go to my teaching team, who covered for me when my mornings were spent hugging toilet bowels, to the friends who have loaned me books and stretchy clothes, to the ones who brought cards, and baby shower organization offers and hand-knitted baby blankets, gifts, words of advice, of sympathy, of kindness and of congratulations. In moments where I felt like I was running on empty, this filled me up.
- Judgment? What judgment?
I made a self-promise three years ago that I wouldn’t eat McDonalds again. This wasn’t a big decision to make or follow through on given that I had been eating a healthy, whole foods diet for some time and really didn’t miss the salty emptiness that accompanies fast food. Well, what did I find myself chowing down on a couple months into pregnancy? Yup. Big Macs, nuggets, french fries and ice cream. Every french fry that entered my mouth tasted like salty goodness along with a solid helping of guilt…
Yes. I judged myself.
But I’ve been slowly learning how to let this go. We (woman, humans, people) tend to give ourselves the hardest of hard times and for me, eating nutritionally void fast food when I was supposed to be nurturing a growing and developing fetus…well I felt like the worst pregnant person ever. I always thought that pregnancy would be the easiest and best time to eat large portions of good and nutrient rich foods, and I was just so disappointed in myself to be only craving burgers, pizza, macaroni and cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches. My favorite vegetables suddenly made me gag. I would ask Neil over and over again “This is bad right? It tastes super bitter right? This is rotten right?” To which he would carefully respond “noo…it tastes the same as it usually does.” My taste buds went wonky.
I had to let go of my pre-conceived notions of what pregnancy would be like for me. Once I settled into being o.k. with eating grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner every night, it suddenly became easier to accompany it with carrot sticks and apple slices with peanut butter. Yes, I have the pallet of a 7-year-old right now! And I am just allowing it to be, the way that it is.
- My body became ripe material for a science fiction film
Feeling the flutters, kicks and movements of babe-to-be are beyond wonderful. They’re also straight-up-weird. A girlfriend described the sensation as a slowly rotating, internal rotisserie chicken; imagery I just love. In the beginning, I thought it felt like a tug on a fishing line but somehow I was the line and fish at the same time. Now these movements have gone visual. My belly jumps and jiggles and wiggles and just this week I’ve started seeing the out bulging of baby knees, baby elbows and baby feet.
And how are these pregnancy facts for terrifyingly odd?
- Your uterus expands 500 times its normal size during pregnancy. Medium watermelon sized uteruses people…
- The baby pees in utero (about 1 liter per day), then drinks the amniotic fluid and pees again…
- My body currently consists of 2 heads, 4 legs, 4 eyes etc… Perhaps even a baby boy penis and pair of testicles…
When a co-worker dropped his pregnant-with-twins wife off at my house he called “Goodbye you two! I mean, goodbye you 5!”. Between the two of us there were 5 heads, 10 legs 10 eyes… Let’s just say I understand why science fiction writers overuse the alien in utero theme. It’s strange to have something in you, that is connected to you but is, at the same time, distinctly not you.
5. Your body knows what to do. You can trust it.
Pregnancy can be crazy making. The more I read, the more certain I felt like I was doing most things wrong.
There is a long list of absolute pregnancy do-nots like: hard drugs, smoking or working with hazardous chemicals. A whole lot of pregnancy related limit-your-intake and contact with, such as: coffee, alcohol, cleaning the cat litter, eating soft cheese and sleeping on your back. And then a bunch of proceed-with-caution activities such as: bike riding, running, flying, tea drinking and dancing. I get why these exist, there are legitimate reasons for them, but at the same time I think the average woman who listens to the signals her body sends her, will make the best decisions possible for her body, without the necessity of a lengthy do-not-do list. I first figured out I was pregnant by playing jump rope with my students. I started jumping away but quickly stopped because of the intense breast pain; my body was 6 weeks pregnant and sending me a very clear message “do not jump up and down!”
Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. There are, after all, a lot of human beings on this planet! As a species we seem pretty good at reproduction. Perhaps we should trust what our bodies innately know and pay better attention to what they have to say. The more I was able to move out of my head and into my body, the better I seemed to feel overall. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t educate ourselves on the risks involved with certain activities but I am saying we don’t need to cling to them as absolute truths, or guilt trip ourselves when we do eat a raw oyster, have a glass of red wine or (in my case) drink some of the husband’s cold, frothy beer…
6. It’s crazy, over the moon exhilaratingly, love filled and wonderful.
Somewhere between the vomit filled first trimester and now, things got really, real and really exciting. Neil and I are so ready to love this little person.