Sunday, 21 July 2013

... pregnant - 6 things I know now

8 months pregnant with a big baby. If
you look this much like a tellytubby you
might as well roll with it!
Before you get all excited I am not pregnant.

My youngest has just turned four, and I don't plan on having any more children myself, so I thought this would be a good time to do a little series of posts about pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering.  They will all be in the format of the things I know now.  Where does this knowledge come from?  Well, partly it's from my own experiences, but it's also from working in midwifery research for a while, and having a lot of conversations with mums, and the professionals who help us.  I could talk more, but how about I just kick off with:



6 things I know now about being pregnant

1 - pregnancy can mean discrimination at work

I know employers are not allowed to discriminate against you because you're pregnant, but there's a whole lot of women who feel they have been discriminated against.  They've seen their chances of promotion diminish, they've found themselves having to fight for their rights, and they've found that they're not being taken seriously any more.  If I were doing it again I'd make sure I knew as much as I could about my rights (this is a good place to start, but check your employer's policies too), and if there was anything I could get done at work to enhance my position (like an appraisal it looks like you're going to ace) in the short term, I would try to get it done before announcing the pregnancy.  

You don't have to tell them until (at the latest) 15 weeks before your official due date (although you may want to, to explain why you're getting bigger, and to get time off for appointments).  Legally, all potentially pregnant women should be presumed pregnant by employers when it comes to nasty chemicals and the like, so if you need to have a word about that, see if you can do it on the grounds of general health and safety, or better still, have a mate do it.

2 - the first three months can be yucky

The first three months can be really hard work.  First off you're worried and excited about what's going on, and in all likelihood you haven't told anyone (bar your man) yet, so your brain is in overdrive.  On top of that, you may be feeling sick as a sick person from the planet bleurgh, which is not the best way to get through the day.  Lots of people recommend different things to help with pregnancy nausea.  My favourite was a ginger biscuit before getting up, although I'm not convinced it totally worked.  Some people say that sickness is worse when you're expecting a girl, and that was true for me, but not for lots of other people.  For most people it will pass.  If it doesn't, speak to your midwife or doctor.  Also, if you are really sick and can't keep anything down go see your midwife or your doctor.  You're building a baby, you've got to keep yourself in good shape.
These sleep bras are from a
 selection at Mothercare

3 - Sensitive skin needs soft fabrics

The middle trimester is the time when you've probably told people you're pregnant.  You probably look pregnant, but you're not yet feeling like a beached whale.  I felt good that my body was working, and building a real human being.  My hormones seemed to be getting into the swing of things.  Being pregnant can feel amazing.  Your hair is lush and thick, you can get great skin (although my little boy seemed to make me very spotty indeed), and you get to wear some lovely maternity clothes (I especially liked the stuff from H&M, but you can get lots of nice things now).  People don't tend to wear them for long, so you can get some lovely things second hand too.  Clothes that I really liked were things that fitted on the bump (lots of people do not like this - it's worth trying things on to see what you like). I found something soft that stretched over to be very comfortable.  I also found my boobs to be rather tender, so a well fitted bra and top were important.  I would recommend a breastfeeding sleep-bra, and I love bumpbands that you can wear with anything else to cover the bump with style and support.  You can also wear them after you've had the baby to hide your shrinking tummy while you're breastfeeding.

4 - being pregnant is an unwritten invitation to many a numpty to come and comment on your body, to touch you, and to tell you horror stories.


Sometimes it is nice to get into these conversations.  It can help you feel a part of something bigger, and it can help you get a better idea of what you're going to be going through.  
I once had a friend's husband rush over to feel my tummy, while my friends and I stared at him open-mouthed.  It's like you've been suddenly transformed into a good luck mascot!  However, your body is your body, and people shouldn't be touching it without an invite.  You are quite within your rights to ask them to back off.  

As for the horror stories. Keep in mind that if someone's had a bad experience they're much more likely to want to talk about it than the people for whom things have gone well.  The best thing you can do is to get lots of information about what to expect from trusted sources. I'm a massive fan of NCT antenatal classes, but there are other sources of information.

5 - your first pregnancy is the last time you will ever get to think that your life will be pretty-much the same after you have a baby


Having had three children, I love meeting women who are pregnant for the first time. 


Quite often they tell you that they've thought through this parenting lark and things aren't going to change too much after baby arrives.  As a parent we smile and nod, and try not to let escape what we're thinking on the inside, which goes something like this: "ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!"  We look forward to when we're next going to see the woman, with baby, massive amounts of stuff in an ugly bag, sick in her hair and leaky breasts, wondering if she will ever have a whole night's sleep again.  

It's good that they think that though, because that's how the human race keeps going (in answer to those who wonder why therefore anyone would have more than one kid, once you're in a hole you might as well keep digging).

6 - the third trimester kind of sucks



Me, at a wedding, 3rd trimester.
I'm massive, very hot, and had to
buy really ugly sandals because I
couldn't get my feet into the shoes.
Ugh.
There is only one reason you'd want to stay pregnant longer than you absolutely have to, and that is because you don't want to actually give birth.  The whole way through your third trimester the birth is looming over you.  Will you be able to make it to 37 weeks?  When will the baby come?  Will labour be horrible?  Will the baby be OK?  Are these Braxton Hicks or contractions proper?  

You've got bigger, and maybe grown out of some clothes.  I grew out of almost all my clothes with my third child (who was 10lb 4oz at birth).  The stress on your body is enormous.  It's hard to sleep because you can't get comfortable, lying on your back makes you want to pass out, and you need about five pillows surrounding you just to be comfortable.  Your man has probably gone to the spare room/sofa by now, and if not, he'll get there soon.  Your heart is having to pump two extra pints of blood around your body.  

Random strangers come up to you on the street and tell you you're enormous.  People in shops are scared that you might give birth any minute.  Your friends ask you incredulously if you're still pregnant?  The correct response to this is 'no', you can qualify this by telling them you're stealing a chicken or something similar, or you can just act confused and claim you're not pregnant and see them back-pedal desperately.  

To add to your misery you may well have some oedema.  That means water retention and causes your feet and ankles to swell up like big fat balloons to ensure that crocs are your only footwear, even if you're going to a wedding.  Oedema isn't limited to your feet though - you can get fat fingers too.  When I was pregnant with my big third baby I even got oedema on my tummy - because I really needed that to be bigger than it was.  

All this is important, because you're growing a human, and you want them to be as well developed as possible when they arrive.  Also, it does make the birth seem a bit of a better option.  

If you do get oedema, cool baths (and swimming pools) help; but you probably want someone strong on hand to help you get out of the thing.  Do make sure you get oedema checked out by your midwife, as it can be a sign of pre-eclampsia, especially if it comes on quickly.

Bonus - from a man's perspective


My husband came into the room as I was writing this, so I asked him what he knew now about pregnancy that he didn't know before.  He said that there are more weird physiological changes associated with pregnancy than he imagined before my pregnancies.  For example, he didn't know that I'd get loads of hair (by the way, the hair doesn't last I'm afraid).  He didn't know that I'd have a hormone that would make it really easy for me to dislocate my limbs (very handy when it comes to getting a baby through a pelvis), and cause some problems walking (I had Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction during my first pregnancy and had to wear a belt to keep my pelvis together).  He's right, pregnancy is a weird and wonderful experience.  I'm glad I did it.  And I'm glad I will never do it again.



If you're a parent, what do you know now about pregnancy that you didn't know before?  If you're not a parent yet, what would you want to know?



This is one of a series of posts on all things bumps and babies.  Here are a number of things I now know about: