It’s been almost a year now since the horror show of pregnancy ended in the spectacular bloodbath of birth.
Okay, so I’m probably not meant to refer to birth that way, but it’s the simple truth. Ditto on my description of pregnancy.
Have you ever tried to meditate for, say, twenty minutes? The thoughtless thoughtfulness is really difficult.
When I think of pregnancy, I think of the zen-like state in which I held myself for weeks at a time. I needed to focus my mind in order to not throw up. Most importantly, I needed to not think about why I was concentrating so hard. So I spent weeks looking at my curtains, thinking over and over, “Look at my curtains. What great curtains. I really like those curtains.” Then I noticed the hints of orange in the curtains, and I couldn’t bear to look at them (because orange = spew). So I spent several more weeks looking at the pretty curly bedhead of my bed, thinking, “Look at my bedhead. What a great bedhead. I really like that bedhead.” Considering that my “morning” sickness was 24-7 for eight months; that I lost seven kilos in first trimester; and that I had difficulty drinking water/brushing my teeth/walking up the stairs – I threw up very rarely. Hurrah?
Sidebar: I was oddly disturbed to hear about Duchess Kate getting bad morning sickness. Then I resolved my discomfort by deciding that morning sickness will henceforward be called “The Duchess Disease”. Much more glamorous that way.
After about six weeks of focused not-vomitation, first trimester was over and I was well enough to watch TV (being that well? Super exciting). I watched almost every minute of the entire Tour de France (which, incidentally, was a spectacularly good year for an Australian to watch it). For those familiar with the event, you’ll understand that it wasn’t a great mental leap from, “Ooh, curtains” to “Ooh, look! Another castle. Oh, and bikes. Lots of bikes.” I still threw up a little bit, but oh well.
And there was muscle pain (the hormone relaxin makes all your muscles – most noticeably the back muscles – go smoosh so that your bones can move around to let the baby out – which is awesome, except that the effect kicks in months in advance), baby-kicking-me-in-the-guts pain, constant indigestion (especially at night – I didn’t lie down properly for months – which struck me as grievously unfair when I was so tired) and assorted other effects. In short, it sucked. Two hours after giving birth, I felt better than I’d felt since the first fortnight of knowing I was pregnant. I could eat, and drink water, and lie down, and everything!
Also, ya know, there was a baby around. That was cool.
I managed to get through both pregnancy and birth with no emotional trauma, but I do view the next pregnancy with some purely rational dread. How will we go financially when I’m probably unable to work for about a year? How will CJ handle having the entire weight of all household responsibilities fall on him (I would argue that he is mentally traumatised from the last experience of having an extremely sick wife) – again? What will happen to Louisette when her mum is too sick to pick her up for almost a third of her young life?
I am genuinely traumatised by breastfeeding. As a little girl I was taught that my private parts were private – I didn’t flash them around to anyone outside of my family, and I understood without being told that if anyone touched them without my permission then something was very wrong. It’s true that I’m not a little girl any more, but I’m never going to be okay with how public all my private parts have become. Birth at least only happens once: breastfeeding happens constantly; anywhere and anywhen the baby screams for it. There’s nothing you can do about it other than not breastfeed (sidebar: anyone who makes a woman feel bad for breastfeeding in public deserves to starve and see how they like being hungry and scared and not knowing when the food will ever happen again). Like everything else to do with the female reproductive system (the male system is all hugs and puppies – metaphorically speaking), it hurts. But for me the emotional side was the worst. I felt violated, and still do. I’m not actually crying as I wrote this, but it wouldn’t take much to tip me over the edge.
Sidebar: All the mountainloads of crap that Mother Nature gives to women are worth it for getting first dibs on being the stay-at-home parent. Seriously. And I’m not a baby person (there are good hormones, too – nature WANTS you to like being around your child, and basically gives you a high whenever you look at them. See Appendix A: this blog for the last year).
Physically speaking I was lucky; Louisette refused to breastfeed once she was a few months old – and before she had teeth. Next time I hope CJ will have six weeks’ parental leave instead of four (he’ll need to use holiday leave, of course); I plan to aim for three months of breastfeeding rather than a year; and I think it’s PRETTY unlikely I’ll be breastfeeding on any of the streets of Beijing this time. I also won’t take any milk-increasing medicine (especially the one that makes you gain weight – yeah, awesome, thanks. I didn’t feel horrible enough about myself before, apparently) and if I don’t produce enough milk I’ll just use bottles rather than expressing (often while the baby screamed to be held) multiple times a day. And after all that, if I want to stop for whatever reason, I’ll stop.
I’m in my thirties now, and 3 out of 6 members of our immediate biological families have had some kind of fertility issue with their second child – so I definitely don’t want to put it off too long. I’ve had some physical indicators that things might not be as easy conception-wise next time (but none of them actually concerning. . . . probably). Besides, I want to get the pregnancy over with (the good news is that we only ever wanted two kids). When I think of my future I see a time of peace followed by a time of “thar be monsters” (that’s pregnancy: all sea-serpents and whirlpools) followed by uncharted waters – because every child is uncharted waters.
I also don’t know what will happen to me after next time (let’s not even get into how the kid turns out). It’s normal to take about six weeks to recover from a birth – that’s probably about the amount of time I took to be “mostly okay”. Louisette was a giant baby (adorably, reassuringly giant, at 4.15 kilos – an average baby is 3 kilos) which was probably a factor in my back pain being pretty difficult both before and after she was born (imagine carrying two 2-litre milk bottles around with you every day and all night, and you’ll get the idea). The muscle pain took a very long time to wear off – five months or so – and just when I was getting a few days a week without pain my hip fell out of place (relaxin hormone being overenthusiastic, again – a common post-pregnancy issue).
I’m doing fine now hip-wise, but Louisette’s current ten kilos is way too much for me to lift safely (ever – of course I lift her anyway), and all my muscles remain a bit iffy – including, randomly, my wrists (another common post-pregnancy thing). There’s a few other things wrong here and there, some of them private and some not. Standing, walking, and lifting will probably be markedly more difficult for the rest of my life. Pregnancy and birth aged me abut five years, I think. Unfortunately, I can even see it in my face. I’ve been sick a lot this year too, and I don’t know if it’s because I’m suddenly much older physically or just because there’s a baby around keeping me from resting or sleeping when I need it. CJ has changed too, and his body hasn’t been through anything except the usual daily pummelling from an energetic little monster.
My body shape is drastically different than it was. It’s been eight months since I stopped breastfeeding but it’s clear my breasts haven’t got the message. After losing weight, then travelling overseas, then losing it, then starting a new job, then losing it, then getting quite sick, and now losing it again – I weigh about what I did a week after giving birth. Most of my pregnancy weight is still with me, as anyone can see just by looking at me.
Sidebar: It’s hard to motivate myself to diet because the body always says, “Arg! I’m starving!” and makes me physically shaky and miserable – and I know I’ll be pregnant again before too long, and all my work will be undone. But at the same time, an overweight woman is far more likely to have trouble conceiving. Trying to conceive is a strange limbo, and one I don’t handle well at all.
I have heaps of clothes I can’t possible wear, and I still have no idea where my body will end up. Shopping for clothes is a completely different experience, although I’m starting to learn some clothing methods that look better. I’ve also seen my waist return to me (somewhat obscured by lard but *I* can see it), so there’s hope that I won’t look four months’ pregnant (as I do now) forever. But no guarantees, especially with another pregnancy on the way some day.
Unsurprisingly, I’m nervous about where my body will end up.
It’s possible – even likely – that my second pregnancy will be a LOT better than the last one. Women who are stressed/busy (eg with a toddler!) tend to have milder pregnancies, and I won’t have the first-timer’s sense of sailing into the vast unknown (we’re loving the seafaring metaphors today, aren’t we?) But I’ve already begun battening down the hatches in preparation: I’ll grow out my fringe, make sure my dentist and doctor have seen me, set up online grocery shopping, and stock the fridge full of single-serve home-made meals (for CJ to eat, or possibly – hopefully – both of us). Before going off contraceptives, CJ and I will toilet train Louisette so she’s a bit cheaper and easier to maintain (for me or for babysitters – we’ll be calling in help from every family member and friend who doesn’t despise children), and CJ will build up a lot of flex-time at work. I’ll prepare CJ in advance to pay all our bills on time and correctly (literally the only household task I still did while pregnant, and although I tried super hard to get everything right I failed utterly. I just didn’t have enough mind left to enter numbers into a box on a screen). We’ll do our best to have a stable (and stair-less) home (not this one; it’s just been sold and our contract – which we cunningly renewed just before it sold so we kept the low rent – will run out in July) to live in until well after Puggle is born.
That’s right. We’re calling our second baby Puggle (that’s a baby platypus, usually) until we know if it’s a boy or a girl.
And I can’t wait until they’re here