Pregnancy is one of those life events that is like a giant game of Red Rover: you're either on one side of the line or the other and once you cross over, things are never the same. It's up there with losing your virginity and getting married.
I'm about six months pregnant with our first child -- at 41 years old. After surviving a ruptured brain aneurysm five years ago, this is definitely a high risk pregnancy which is being monitored by not one, not two, but THREE doctors ("Most watched fetus in history," quips my husband). We're thankful, however, as it's been fairly smooth sailing (minus a few health issue discoveries along the way) and we most likely won't have another one after this little guy arrives.
Being older for my first pregnancy than I ever thought I would be, I'm kind of a bemused observer about the whole affair. I'm less "in my own head" than I would have been at, say, 25 years old. I'm more comfortable in my own skin, my career and in what I've accomplished in life so far. My marriage is solid and wonderful and we love our life. This just feels like the next grand adventure.
But now that I'm "behind the curtain" of a process I've merely observed with friends and family, new discoveries abound. We entered into this eyes wide open and knew it wouldn't be a barrel at laughs at every turn. But there are aspects that not just caught us off guard, but really tick us off. So here is an honest account, from the trenches, of five surprising things that suck about pregnancy:
1. "Don't worry about..." I am sick and tired of hearing this from doctors (and some friends) who assume that since I'm asking a question about something, I'm anxious about it. It makes me feel like a placated 5-year old when I'm an adult woman with all of her faculties in place, thank you. Ninety-five percent of the time, I'm asking the question out of scholarly curiosity or because I'm simply arming myself with factual information so I can make smart decisions. I'm a planner and a lifelong learner, what can I say? Assuming a pregnant woman is some hysterical animal who must be approached with caution is just patronizing. Not every question suggests fear: sometimes it's just crap I want to know more about.
2. It's my timeline, not yours. Associated with number 1, if one more person tells me, "You don't need to worry about that until...," I might get violent (although that could be the pregnancy hormones kicking in). Again, planning is not the same as worry. Due to my brain injury, it is easier for me to plan things as far in advance as I can, since my short-term memory is not what it used to be. When the nurse told me I needed to register at the hospital, I asked her for the form. "But you don't need to do that for another month or so." Great. Thanks for telling me. Now please give me the form so I can keep it handy and mark this down. "But you may lose the form." Really? Disaster! Like I can't get another one if that happens? I'll pay the copying fee if that's so important to you. Just give me the freaking information and I will decide for myself how to schedule things.
3. Spare me your horror story. We all know people have some horrible, difficult pregnancy and labor stories. On the one hand, it's good to know what people's experiences have been so you are armed with information (see number 1). What's less good is meeting you for the very first time, telling you how far along I am when you ask which prompts you to launch into how your baby almost died in the womb at about the same time due to bizarre complications you had (this actually happened).
4. The Roulette Wheel of Truth. Sadly, this is just a fact of any medical condition. But it still sucks. Your doctor may tell you one thing, friends another, a physical therapist something else -- and even medical professionals contradict each other. My three doctors have differed on which meds were safe, which procedures were the right call and even how to prevent certain things. I wish there was one set of rules, but you have to let that go when you're pregnant. You also have to realize that good doctors have access to the most current studies and data -- more so than your yoga instructor. For example, baby books may say you can't sleep on your back due to putting pressure on a major artery and potentially causing blood and oxygen to get cut off from the baby. Some books will say your left side is safe; some people will say lay only on your right. My doctor told me that new studies which came out just a few months ago show that this risk is only true for about 10 percent of pregnant women, and the body automatically wakes itself up anyway or you'll start to feel faint so you can simply change positions.
5. O.P.S. (Other Parents' Smugness) This great article spoke about how "charmingly harried parenting" honesty is the new black. It seems the snarkier you are about your child-ridden nightmare of a life -- especially online -- the better. Reactions to our pregnancy have ranged from "You'll never sleep again" to "Go out to as many movies as you can right NOW!" to my favorite one from my husband's dad friends: "Dude, you're so screwed." If people hate having kids so much, why do they not bother stopping at one but go on to have two or three more? And why are these remarks made with a knowing "just you wait" smirk and maniacal laugh? There's a reason we waited so long to have kids, people: we know it might suck sometimes. But greeting us with the demonic glee of someone inviting new recruits into one of Dante's circles of Hell with you is not just perplexing, it's irritating.
The journey has not been all bad, of course, and next article, I'll share some of the surprising awesomeness of being pregnant. But for now let's just say if you're experiencing these same frustrations, you are not alone.
Are you pregnant? What behaviors have you found surprisingly annoying or eye-opening? Please share and enjoy how good it feels to vent!