(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
Being pregnant has been a series of surprises. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until now — 36 weeks — I have been consistently amazed by my absolute lack of control over my body and this process, and I've learned the important lesson of going with the flow.
Because we had tried to conceive, I was pretty tuned into my body and my cycle. When it didn't arrive on the expected day (which was a Sunday), we waited two more days before I finally broke down and bought a pregnancy test. (My excruciatingly patient husband wanted to wait until the following weekend!)
Until this point, I had taken my fair share of pregnancy tests, waiting the allotted 3 minutes to check the result, which, up until now, had always been negative. This time, though, by the time I put the test down on the side of the tub, it was obvious that it was going to be different.
It was so surreal saying, "I think I'm pregnant" out loud to my husband, who was across the hall in the office. He came in and verified my hunch, but I think we were both still so shocked that we didn't have one of those cheesy movie scenes, where we meaningfully gaze into each other's eyes. We had a karate practice to get to, after all.
That first trimester was a trip. It was so exhilarating to share the news with all our friends in the U.K. (where we lived at the time), but we religiously guarded our Facebook pages to make sure no one was spreading the word so it could remain a secret to our friends and family in the U.S. I was managing a sweet little vegetarian restaurant, and all of my co-workers were thrilled with the news. A born foodie, I was looking forward to absurd food cravings and eating for two! I'd just read Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck, and was convinced that I was going to be the ideal pregnant mama, feasting on high protein and iron foods, and just sail through the gestation period with no morning sickness whatsoever.
Now, I have to start out by saying that my morning sickness was not bad. I felt gross for about eight weeks, but never vomited, and was able, for the most part, to eat three meals a day; these meals, though, were extremely limited. I developed a system where I would visualize a food in my head and run it by my stomach. I found that 99 percent of food was unacceptable to my stomach, and I began eating like a picky toddler; the only things I could get past my lips were toast, cheeseburgers and banana milkshakes.
Halloumi cheese, which had recently become my newest food obsession, became (and still is) repulsive to me. At the time, it was Christmas, and we featured a nut roast at the restaurant that was served with a smoked parsnip puree. I literally could not be in the same room as the smoking parsnips, or anything smoked for that matter — from salmon to bacon, previously two of my favorite foods. Fortunately, I'm now once again my previously omnivorous self, apart from the halloumi, but it did take a couple of months to not wake up and just feel gross.
Once the morning sickness was over, I really got into the whole "eating for two" thing — maybe a little more than I should have, as I've gained one or two (dozen) more pounds than I necessarily "should" have. But for all the weight I've gained, I have never had any crazy cravings. I know that shouldn't be a disappointment, but it kind of is. I eat strange stuff regularly; it was going to be nice to have an excuse for it. The things I did crave were grapefruits and whole milk. That wasn't even terribly useful. We don't know whether we're having a boy or a girl, and I was thinking that my cravings might give us a bit of a hint. Unfortunately, I've heard that women crave citrus when they're carrying girls and milk when they're carrying boys. This makes me just hope the little bugger is one or the other!
Throughout this pregnancy, I was sure that I would remain superactive. Last year, I ran my first half-marathon, and just figured I'd keep running through much of my pregnancy. Once again, wrong. I just felt so gross for the first trimester that even thinking about a jog made my stomach turn, and once I entered my second trimester, I felt like I was always out of breath due to the increase in blood volume in my body. Luckily, our Australian shepherd, Nugget, keeps me going out and about. I discovered my love of snowshoeing this winter, and I've been working as a landscaper for the past few weeks, so I've been getting exercise, just not the type I was expecting.
Overall, though, I've had a very healthy pregnancy. I've stayed active and eaten well for the majority of the time, and I haven't had any of the really "fun" pregnancy symptoms or issues. I can deal with a bloody nose or skin tag here or there as long as I don't have to be on bed rest or deal with hemorrhoids and heartburn!
I've been dealing with some swelling over the past week or so, which is annoying, but I'm working with my midwife to keep it under control with diet, exercise and rest. Afternoon naps have become an essential part of my day, and I'm embracing the free time I have for the next four weeks. It'll all be worth it in the end — although I guess it's really the beginning!