Being pregnant is like being the same person in a different body. I'm sure there are few people who are 100% comfortable in their own bodies. I'm certainly not that way but I feel that after 24 years I had grown very used to it. Aside from a period of illness in 2007 I've always been rather attune to what my body was saying, how it was behaving and for what reasons. I know what it's like when I'm sick and I know what it's like when I'm well. I know how to keep my energy levels high and how to feel good and bad about what I'm doing with regards to it. Body and mind were one, they may not have loved each other in a particularly vociferous way but there was a calming familiarity in these interactions which makes predictability enjoyable.
This all changed when I got pregnant. I got pregnant in November 2011. It was only the second month we were trying. I got quite over-analytical in the first month of tiny symptoms, convincing myself that maybe just maybe first time was a charm. My advice to anyone looking for those 'symptoms' of early pregnancy is this: if you feel like you, and I mean in any way like you, then you ain't. In October I felt like me; like me with my head in the clouds but whatever. In November I felt like me, with no false hope and a general once-bitten-twice-shy cynicism which allowed me to only realise I was pregnant when those cramps in my lower abdomen woke me up at night. I thought to myself, well this is all a bit odd, normally my period pains are quite reserved individuals, more general dull aches than fire-breathing dragons, causing me to wince awake from sleep doubled over. I rebutted advances in early December and vividly remember telling Stuart that "the die was cast". We both assumed the same negative response. Stuart got a test from the pharmacy. I finished cleaning the bathroom before taking it. There was a languishing apathy that surrounded my whole being when we undertook it. I waited for a single line, thinking instead of just enjoying Christmas. Suffice to say the line came along with its little buddy and we were pregnant. We celebrated for two days and then I was fully possessed.
Early on it turns out pregnancy was toying with me. I imagine it sitting on my shoulder unknown to me, causing these stabbing pains and smiling as I continued my life as usual. I did feel myself apart from those pains and pregnancy was toying with me like a cat with a live mouse under its paw. I wriggled away in celebration of our positive result and pregnancy waited patiently, before extending its long sharp claws back over me for real this time. That was week 4. By week 5 I was sick. We had found out on the Friday and as I sat in the Doctor's waiting room on Monday I felt feverish and too hot and sickly. I thought I was getting the cold and I laid my head back against the wall closing my eyes. Later I ate with vigour as the old me used to and the wave of nausea that immediately followed this conquest struck me as very odd. That's the thing with this whole pregnancy scenario, you could read up as much as you like about it and discuss every symptom and side-effect but there is this constant cloud of naivety around you once you are in it, like "morning sickness? surely not!".
I got the morning sickness for 2 months and they were hellish and they ruined our plans. I remember my Mum reciting the story of how she announced my existence to the family; sitting in a corner in a hell of sickness muttering with utter disdain "I'm pregnant" to relatives who though she has hitherto been in the throes of some tropical illness. I laughed at that thought and Stuart and I planned our perfect telling of the wonderous news. Christmas eve! What a day! The anticipation! An early present! How joyous! It came to four days before Christmas eve and I was sitting over a bucket wanting to bring that seemingly innocuous tin of vegetable soup back up so badly but was unable to when I snapped. I called my Mum at work and remember the words so clearly. "Hi Mum. I didn't want to tell you this over the phone but I'm pregnant and I feel awful and I need you". She bundled me off to her house. Later that evening we told Stuart's parents who were so happy and I remember sitting there on their couch shivering and feeling as though I was going to pass out and wishing I could share the joy. All I could feel though was as if I was hanging onto the edge of a cliff with my nails digging into grit, trying to hold out over a nasty fall into even more sickness.
Suffice to say Christmas was not in the least jolly. And New Years Eve was spent on the phone to NHS24. And the rest of the holidays spent coming to terms with the fact that I would continuously feel as though I was about to puke, but that I would never get the relief of actually doing it. This era lasted a long time and though it became more manageable I never had periods of feeling better. I never had a time of day where I felt alive again. I never woke up one morning and felt like I could become myself again. I don't know if this is the same for any long-term illness people experience but I felt as though the longevity of this era of constant illness changed me. It seemed to change my outlook and my tastes, my goals and my passions. It seemed to change me to the very core of my being and it scares me that I'm not back to normal yet; perhaps I won't be for five more months when everything will have changed indeterminably forever. Maybe this is the point of pregnancy, learning to deal with change and inconsistency and not being able to control your own life anymore. I find it quite frustrating but in a foggy, far off way, like my emotions are held apart from me and I can see them but I can't grasp them fully. It enraged me that I couldn't eat the things I liked anymore, but I merely moaned about it. It irritated me that I had no energy to take part in positive fantasising about the future, but I merely shrugged at the thought. It upset me that I not longer wanted to do or make things, but I simply felt confused at this revelation and settled down to daytime tv. It does seem like pregnancy takes the edge off of any feeling. Perhaps it is a defence mechanism. The midwife told me that in pregnancy the body is in a constant state of fight or flight, your eyes constantly shifting about for unnoticed danger. It explained why I shivered for no reason and why I dozed instead of sleeping, but it didn't explain why I had to lose part of myself for the experience. Why don't I like sweet things anymore? Why do I want to eat crisps? I hate crisps! There are two nobbly-bobbly ice creams in my freezer which have been there for weeks and how are they still there and not yet digested in a sugar-crazed frenzy? Why do I no longer want to make things? Why does organising the week and all my tasks seem like pointless busywork? Why can't I seem to engage the tiniest bit of energy and excitement into doing anything? I used to be such a passionate person. I used to find myself in an idea and pursuing it endlessly until I had achieved it and feeling so full of satisfaction and well being at the idea of completing a task that it over-ran me. Now I'm lucky if I can find enough energy to make a dinner that doesn't simply need 15 minutes in the oven each evening.
I complain to everyone about how pregnancy is a conspiracy. I tell them that I think no-one really reveals the true extent of the unpleasantness because it is all some big plot to keep people procreating. I complain to everyone that it's unfair that 5 in 10 women don't get morning sickness, and 2 in 10 get put in hospital because of it. Everyone should get it mildly; we should share the burden. I complain that I put up with 2 months of sickness only to come through it into 2 weeks of constant headaches. I complain that I am so tired that it's a hassle even to go to the bathroom, which, by the way, I'm doing all the f-ing time now. I used to be an incredibly positive person. I used to take a lack of well being or low levels of happiness and spin them into good again by working hard and achieving something and feeling worthwhile. I was a do-er. I did things. Now I do nothing except moan about feeling crap and having nothing to do or nothing I can do. I'm a complete drag and I can feel it exuding from me every time I talk to someone. I'm really pissing myself off.
It seems amusing that I have the time to write this as I have been ill in bed for the last week with a chest infection - the secondary impact of a simple cold due to the repressed immune system which is consistent with pregnancy. It's not all that amusing though; it's just the way it is. I am incredibly happy to be carrying a baby, don't misunderstand me. It just irks me when you hear of blooming women with energy and vivacity and the ability to grow a person inside them without a second thought. It makes me downright outraged to think of people who don't know they are pregnant til 3 months in, or 6, or even til the baby is coming out of them. I can only hope that putting in the time now results in a shortened sentence for good behaviour and that the labour and first weeks will be okay. I want to stress it again that I am so happy to have this baby. Indeed, all the trouble with pregnancy has had nothing to do with the baby. Fingers crossed it has been perfect. It has wiggled on the scan screen compliantly and presented it's heartbeat upon request. There have been no untoward pains and worries. The other night I was sitting with my Mum noting a very acute pressure or ache in a tiny spot not too far from my right hip bone. "It'll be the baby" she said and I looked confused. I missed the fluttering-of-wings, flopping-of-tiny-fish feelings you are meant to be able to feel in the early weeks. But at 16 weeks I can feel the baby sticking its little limbs into me, pushing on me. It's probably complaining that my constant hacking cough is keeping it from its beauty sleep. People tell me not to worry about being sick, that I feel so bad because I'm bearing the brunt of an illness made for two. I love that I am protecting the baby. But I hate that I am becoming a martyr for it. I complain often of those people who are so consistently sour-faced that everything they say is negative, even when it's meant positive. People with everything they could want complaining about the little things. Sweety-wives grumbling about the ills of society which barely affect them. They always have south pointing lines around the mouth. For some of them their mouths are even in a perpetual frown. Am I becoming like that? Is it a side-effect of enduring the negatives of pregnancy? I hope not.
The point is this is a last hurrah. I feel a bit better today after four amoxicillin tablets and a whole night's propped-up sleep. I'm going to try and be positive. I don't think it's unfair for me to say I have had negative things to dwell on thus far. Stuart said to me last night that he would fully understand if I only wanted to have one child (assuming the potential to have more). I think it's hitting on him now too. I'm ditching the negativity. I'm trying to raise the strength to find me again, under this pile of dirt and un-caught-up on work, and with that my positivity, or at least my drive. Tomorrow we go to (most likely) buy our pram with Stuart's parents and I'm going to feel well and do well and enjoy the experience. I'm not going to lie, I'm very much looking forward to getting our baby out safe and returning to myself. But for now I'm going to see if myself still exists as I did. That is perhaps the biggest fear I have right now, that pregnancy has changed me and that I won't find myself in the rubble again.