Wednesday, 27 January 2016

What to (honestly) expect when your expecting

Pregnancy is often presented to us as a 'journey'.  We expect to float along with our emotions and nesting skills expanding with our bellies.  In reality, the journey often takes you off-road.  It's bumpy, uncomfortable and mucky and we need better preparation for this.  My guide to pregnancy seeks to do just that.

Trimester One 
You have taken that life changing pee that tells you that you are, officially, with child.  You get that giddy, nervous feeling like you’ve embarked on something that could be really fun or really stupid – you know, like at the end of the night when someone says, ‘let’s camp out on a roundabout’ (true story, but for another time) and you say, ‘OK!’ But then you can’t get that niggly voice out of your head that’s saying, ‘are you sure this is you?’

Once you’ve made peace with this decision it’s time to start telling other people.  You will probably have had a scan by now.  This is an exciting day; you get to see your baby for the very first time.  Wahey!  You will also have drunk a gallon of water before you go in (a full bladder is mandatory fr this) which means that instead of being absorbed by the wonder of meeting your child, all you will think is, ‘ok yes, there it is, can I go pee now?’

You will have the same conversation with everyone you tell about you impending motherhood.  Everyone will ask you how far along you are and they will then chastise you for not telling them sooner.  They will want to know if you are finding out the sex and they will then chastise you for being a spoil sport for finding out.  Or for not finding out.  It wholly depends on their own, personal opinion.  They will ask you how many babies are in there.  They will then laugh, nudge you, say, ‘or so you think!’ and then go on to tell you a story of someone they knew who got themselves a surprise second baby on the delivery table.  They will want to know how you are feeling.  It may take a few attempts but you will quickly learn that they don’t really want to know how you’re feeling.  They want a quick, ‘I’m fine’, or ‘oooh, a bit sick’.  They don’t want to know that you are puking and subsequently carb-loading like a hyperactive bulimic,

Trimester Two
You should probably be feeling more human around now and will finally start reading the weekly emails you’ve subscribed to.  These will tell you every single cell mutation and development going on in your baby.  It is fascinating.  Its sex is determined pretty much on day one, it goes through a whole fruit salad of sizes, from grape to avocado to watermelon (OK, the last one is my addition, but that’s how it will feel soon enough).  Grandparents will love to learn where their grandbub is up to.  NOBODY else will.  Everyone else will be satisfied to know that you are pregnant and will then forget about this until Trimester Three when your bump will make it impossible for them not to remember.

 At some point you will learn something that will make you realise that THIS.IS.REAL.  For me, that moment was when I learned my baby had nails.  That was a) fascinating, b)terrifying.  This really is a person growing in there, with nails!!!! But then, could it claw its way out??? No, of course I knew that wasn’t possible.  I was, however, slightly worried that I may get my insides nicked.

You will start to ‘get organised’.  You will go to a baby retailer and look at all of the wonderful things they say you absolutely need.  But you’re above that.  You won’t be drawn in and you will only buy the essentials.  You head for the pram section and realise that you know nothing about prams.  You thought it was simply a wheeled vehicle for transporting small people in.  Wheels, handle and seat seem about all you would need, but no!  There will be apparently identical prams with £300 price differences.  You need to decide if you want a full travel system or just a pram.  Parent or front facing?  Isofix or...whatever the opposite of that is?  Will it fit in your car?  Is the basket underneath easily accessible?  Are there drinks holders? AAARRRGGGHHH! You will turn on your heel and leave, telling yourselves that you will come back another day once you have done the research.  You will never do the research.  You return to the shop several times and finally settle on whatever pram is on offer.  Post-birth, you will realise how inappropriate your pram is.  You will rue the day you didn’t put the effort in to work out just what was what.

Your bump will start to show and this gets you some nice perks.  I managed to queue jump AND pee for free at London Euston train station.  The cleaner saw me and screeched, ‘You! Come here pregnant lady!’ and pushed me through the turnstile.  People hold doors for you, bend down to pick up items that you have dropped and general treat you kindly.  They’re even patient when you have a full trolley of shopping bagged up and realise that your baby brain has forgotten your PIN.  No-one tuts, they just offer to help you unload everything again.  You will remember your PIN just as they finish this but you will decide its probably best not to mention this right now...Small hint: Make the most of this special treatment.  After your baby arrives it will come as a shock that people don’t somehow realise that you have actually grown, birthed and nourished another human with your body.  They will let doors slam in your face, make you wait your turn in line and expect you to know your PIN.

Trimester Three
Now you really do have to get yourself sorted.   You open all of the boxes and bags you have stashed away and realise you have three cot mobiles and no mattress.  You then read up on baby sleep safety and discover that bumpers and quilts and blankets will all kill your baby and so none of that will be used.  You then dash out to buy some blankets with holes in to let the baby breathe and a sleeping bag or two.

Everyone around you will know that d-day is near.  As in the first trimester, everyone you meet will reel of the same list of questions.  Unlike in the first trimester, you will be so bloated and tired that you have no energy to humour them with answers.  You may consider compiling a card to hand out to people to head off such interactions.  Feel free to print and hand out this template...

Finally, your baby will arrive early or late but almost certainly not ‘on time’.  Your birth will be what it will be and you will do amazingly.  Your baby will come out all slimy and screamy and scrawny.  Its umbilical cord stump will stink.  Everyone will coo and aaah and you will smile and wish your nipples would go back to being a part of your body you were mostly unaware of.  The searing pain emanating from them will be worse than the birth.  You will be exhausted, drained, overwhelmed, terrified and confused.  But at some point – maybe in the delivery room, maybe hours, days, weeks, months or years later – you will look at the being you have brought into the world and realise that, true to the cliché, it really was all worth it.