Saturday, December 13, 2014

11 Things That Have Surprised Me About Pregnancy

 Even though I've kept myself reasonably well-informed this pregnancy (by regularly reading books like What to Expect When You're Expecting and frequently doing Google searches on questions I have), there have still been several things that have totally surprised me about pregnancy.

In no particular order, here are 11 things that I DIDN'T exactly expect while I was expecting:

1. The lack of crying. Maybe it's because Hollywood and books and word on the street seem to all stereotype pregnant women as hormonal train wrecks who cry at car insurance commercials and weep over spilled flour, but I haven't found this to be true of my pregnancy. True, there were a couple incidents in my first trimester of serious emotional meltdowns, but I can count on less than one hand the times I've cried during this whole pregnancy. I was expecting a lot more tears, but since I'm not a big crier to begin with, I guess it makes sense.

2. The lack of rage. Once again, I'd been told that it's not unusual to randomly despise your husband's habits all of a sudden or to lash out at total strangers, but I would venture to say that I'm about the same temperament I've always been. Of course, I was never really one to have PMS too bad or anything either, so I guess it shouldn't be too surprising. (But now, after writing the last two things, I wonder if I should have asked those nearest and dearest to me if I really am acting as I say I am).

3. The lack of sleep. You hear all the time about how tired pregnancy makes you, and--granted--the first trimester definitely brought a fatigue unlike anything I'd ever experienced. However, as I worked my way into my 13th or 14th week, my fatigue drastically lifted, and I've found I actually have MORE energy than I normally do. The only problem with the uptick in energy and the downturn in fatigue? I've found that, for the first time in my life, I'm becoming a bit of an insomniac. Between frequent trips to the bathroom, not being able to find a comfortable sleeping position (since I've always been a stomach or back sleeper, not a side sleeper), and just general restlessness, I can't tell you the last time I had a truly restive night of 8-9 hours straight sleep.

4. The conflicting emotions about the pregnancy. It's easy to focus--when you're first pregnant, especially--on all the physical changes your body is undergoing (and all the physical changes looming in the near future). And while some of those have been a bit, uh, interesting to get used to, I was surprised most of all by the conflicting emotions I've felt about the pregnancy itself (and about the idea of being a mother in general). Maybe this one's unique to me (because I've always been super nervous about becoming a parent), but I seem to go between extremes--some days, I am beyond elated about our baby girl and can't wait to just meet her already. Other days, I'm terrified of what this new change will bring in our lives and just know that I'll be a dreadful failure at the whole parenthood thing. On days like that, I am more than happy that Baby Girl is still firmly inside me, kicking away.

5. The baby's kicks, turns, and flips. Although I knew to start expecting to feel some movement by the fourth and fifth month, I was still super surprised when I felt the first definite movement that was not digestion-related. I remember I was driving home from work when I felt my stomach flutter, and I was absolutely certain that the baby had just done a complete flip because that's exactly what it felt like. I was so surprised I almost pulled over to the side of the road just in case the baby had any more gymnastics in mind, but I somehow kept on driving (although I turned my audiobook off because the sensation had completely put me under a spell). When the movements became more regular, I was surprised at how soothing they were--they were a daily assurance that all was well, and it was like a secret little code between this little creature in my innards and me. The movements felt a little selfish, actually, because there were so many times I called Matt over to try and feel them for himself, but he never could. When the day finally came this very week that she kicked hard enough for us to see it from the outside and Matt finally felt her for the first time, that was another surprise---the intimacy and joy of that small (but hugely significant) little movement. We were a family about to be three, just starting to bond all together.

6. The fake contractions. I didn't even know Braxton Hicks contractions existed until I was a couple months into my pregnancy, and when I first started feeling my uterus seize up like a hand was clenching it, I thought that maybe the baby had just found a particularly sensitive area or something. Now that these fake contractions are becoming more regular, they don't shock me quite as much, but the twinges and cramps are still taking some getting used to.

7. The onslaught of advice and stories that seem to be much more tinged with negative than positive. With pregnancy, I expected the extra attention--the belly rubbing (although no strangers have attempted to touch mine--yet---),the constant asking how I'm feeling, the questioning about the baby's name and gender, and the well wishes of friends and strangers alike. What I wasn't so prepared for were the many dire warnings about everything from breastfeeding to sleepless nights to labor and delivery, and when I divulged that I planned to have the baby naturally through hypnobirthing methods, you'd think that I'd just spoken heresy or something by the way most people respond. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay positive amidst all the negativity, but then I'll talk to one of my sisters (who delivered almost all of their babies by natural childbirthing methods) or to a thriving new mom, and I feel my hope renewed that parenthood might turn out to be a lot like marriage for me---I might hear a ton of negative about it, but overall it's an enormously joyous and positive experience.

8. The skin discolorations. I know this one doesn't happen to everyone, but I have developed one of the not-so-pretty features of pregnancy that's known as "the pregnancy mask," which is where parts of your face become discolored temporarily due to hormones so that it looks like you are indeed wearing a mask. In my case, the discolorations are down the side of each nose and under my eyes, so it looks like I'm constantly sunburned and/or flushed. I think my students sometimes take it to mean that I'm frequently embarrassed to be talking about verbs or pronouns or something.

9. The sensitive joints. While I've been lucky not to suffer from back pain yet, lately the joints on my ankles and feet are starting to act up hardcore. Whenever I'm going downstairs, for example, I have to be uber-careful to  step  just right, otherwise it feels like my ankle will roll to the side and I'll sprain it right then and there. I can't explain it exactly, but it's like my shifting joints are always just seconds away from popping out of place, and it's made walking around a real hazard lately.

10. The unexpected triggers of nausea. In my first trimester, I felt really pretty sick almost the whole time. Very quickly, I learned to avoid the obvious culprits (certain food odors, dirty dishes, etc.), but a very surprising trigger of nausea for me was reading (a very inconvenient truth, considering my profession). I've talked to many a woman about pregnancy in the last five and a half months, but I'm apparently the absolute only one who has ever had nausea triggered by reading before. What gives?

11. The marvel I feel at my changing body. As a woman who was never eager to get pregnant, I always thought that when we did finally decide to have kids, I would feel like my body had been taken hostage by an alien parasite and that I'd detest my new shape and all the uncomfortable physical truths that come along with growing a baby. And while some of those things have been a little weird to get used to, I have overall felt an overwhelming sense of wonder at what my body can do. No longer am I worried about my body's shape or how attractive it might look to anyone else. No longer am I beating myself up over the fact that I haven't lifted weights in however long or that I've been slacking on running. Instead, I've cut my body a break this pregnancy, and you know what? It's been a pretty beautiful thing. (Here's hoping that feeling of wonder and beauty is there AFTER the baby is born too, eh?)

If you've been pregnant, what's the thing that surprised you the most?


  1. This was so fun to read. I have definitely never heard of reading triggering pregnancy nausea before, but if I ever try to read in the car, I end up feeling very nauseated very quickly, so I can kind of relate? A tiny bit?

    Also, I'm still a decent distance from pregnancy and motherhood myself, but I have this one mom blog that I LOVE reading called Coffee and Crumbs. Google it, it's amazing. Lots of really good, really real-life stories from a collection of great bloggers. I was reminded of this post by your seventh point: We can probably all do better to curb our sarcasm in situations like these!

    Good luck with the rest of your pregnancy! And more power to you with the hypnobirthing (and I mean that in all seriousness, no sarcasm). You go girl!

    1. Thanks for your thoughtful and encouraging comment! I'll go ahead and check that blog out---thanks for the recommendation :)

  2. People aren't often very sensitive about pregnant women and some of the anxiety and fear that accompanies becoming a mother. They tell you all about their horror stories of early motherhood or complications in delivery without thinking that it might keep you up at night with stress. And people do really dump advice on you. Just remember that every woman is different and every baby and pregnancy is different. I have lots of friends who have had a wonderful experience with home birth, natural birth, mid-wives, and all sorts of approaches to labor and delivery. I was really happy with an epidural that blocked all the pain for several hours. Whatever gets the baby here safely is good, that means that all of those options are good for most women.
    I was always scared I wouldn't be bonded with my baby because the amount of love I saw in the eyes of new moms was something I just hadn't experienced. All I can tell you is that in those first few weeks I didn't mind being woken up multiple times each night because I was so excited to look at my baby and hold him. I am a believer in love at first sight now because that is what hit me when the nurse handed me my son. Don't worry about any of the horror stories or worries about being a good mom. The best moms are the moms that care about being good moms.

    1. What a beautiful and reassuring comment. I really appreciate the time you took to share these thoughts--I needed to hear them today :)

  3. Yes, yes and yes. I'm 23 weeks pregnant and have had a lot of the same thoughts even though I've always dreamed and hoped to become a mother. But two that definitely made me go OH YES: 4. Conflicting emotions 7. Onslaught of stories. A few years ago when my friend was pregnant she said "One day when you're expecting know that it's normal to sometimes get panicky and not want to be pregnant all of a sudden. Or once you have the baby it's normal to want it to go back in your belly." So when those moments have come to me I know their normal (just not what people are used to hearing). But the onslaught of stories, experiences and advice...sometimed it makes me wanna block my ears and say "lalalallalaa I can't hear you!" Depending on the day it'll annoy me, bother me, tire me, disinterest me or make me sad. It's like I have a sign on my head asking for negative stories. Or the other one I've noticed is the advice and how it's given, often assuming that I will or want to be the same kind of Mom as that person or with a slight condescending tone or acting as if I am a naiive little girl. Although they all mean well it's still caused a mix of emotions cause I didn't know to expect it. And something tells me it won't end when I have our boy ;) But for me I've sort of started to visualise who I am, who I am as a Mom and listen to what people tell me but do my own thang anyway. And positive is almost always how I roll so ignoring those negative comments is the best I can do.

    Thanks for the post!

    I'm doing weekly pregnancy updates on my blog as well as other stuff :)



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