So, I’ve got a big not-so-revelatory revelation (in real life I blurted out this news ages ago, way before you’re supposed to …)
I am up the duff again!
Yep, I’m five months pregnant: we are expecting another little girl in late February. Hence the recent tagline change. Turns out neither Zelda nor I can help breeding girls … so we decided we may as well celebrate it, and commandeer the biological facts to reinforce the focus for this site that we’re most passionate about – the issues that matter the most to women here and now, and the ways in which we can make the world a better place for our daughters.
Hence also the considerable lack of activity on Daisy and Zelda on my part. I was totally hit for six by this pregnancy up until very recently – I’ve only just started to feel like I can handle life – at all – again.
So I thought that for the benefit of others out there, I might write my own little personal guide for getting through the hell that early pregnancy can be.
I am not going to use the phrase ‘morning sickness’ here, because to tell you the truth the term pisses me off a bit – it seems to me to belong in the Victorian era alongside diagnoses such as ‘female hysteria‘ or an ‘attack of the vapours’. Something that happens to upper class leh-dehs who are ‘in a delicate situation’ in the hour just before the maid brings in the morning tea tray – nothing a few smelling salts won’t fix.
‘Where the f*** are my smelling salts?’
It’s old news to most women who’ve been through pregnancy, unlike the researchers from this study, that the grottiness of early pregnancy can and usually does strike at any (and/or every) hour of the day: ’75 percent of women with moderate-to-severe symptoms indicated that their general enjoyment of pregnancy was compromised.’
A more accurate term for the affliction that compromised my ‘general enjoyment’ of early pregnancy is nausea and vomiting of pregnancy, or NVP. I’m going to use that term.
So here is my definitive lifestyle guide to surviving NVP.
Sisters, colleagues: my overarching principle is this. Take this magnificent creature as your role model – your totem – your spirit guide. This is your new persona – this is what you’ll be aspiring to. Naturally, indulgently, unapologetically. This is you:
Arctocephalus galapagoensis: the Galapagos fur seal
Here’s the thing: you will not feel like moving around a lot. You will probably be most comfortable horizontal, on your back or your tummy or your side (at the very most, tentatively heaving yourself up onto your front flippers). The most important, crucial thing is that you acknowledge your body’s need to be in that position and heed it – for long hours at a time. As long as you feel the need. As long as you can bargain for with your significant other or (good luck – I know this is much harder) with your existing offspring, and then an extra 10 minutes (and by 10 minutes, I mean 20) after that.
You will probably feel constantly exhausted. The smallest tasks (showering, toileting, reading your two-year-old Hairy Maclary) will feel like a workout and a half.
So don’t push it! Like the seal, be gracefully indolent. Lie in the sun.
Lie in a family group.
Or lie alone.
Lie down with a gripping, very long book. Or Facebook on your phone. Or your tax returns, if that’s the sort of thing you can’t escape. But don’t – DON’T – feel bad about lying down. Like Arctocephalus gazella, be elegantly, fantastically, luxuriously lazy.
If anyone feels like arguing with you about it, go like this at them:
Schedule non-activity. By that I mean, give yourself the time: in your calendar, write things like: ’3.30pm-6pm: lie down’. This is something you NEED to do, just as much, if not more so, as ‘Clean bedroom windows’ or ‘Schedule appointment with accountant’ or ‘Prune apricot tree’, or anything else on your to-do list.
My thoughts boil down to this: eat absolutely instinctively. Researching this online, you’ll find a lot of sites telling you what sort of foods you should eat – crackers, dry foods, plain foods. In the two days I spent following such advice, I quickly learnt to loathe crackers with a passion that I think shall never, ever leave me. I’ve come to the conclusion that the best you can do is to listen to your body, and eat whatever it lets you eat without feeling like puking. Chances are that will be a very small range of things – for me it pretty much came down to salted boiled potatoes and fresh fruit. Reasonably recent research (again from the makes-so-much-sense-you-wonder-why-they-bothered genre of scientific study) suggests that NVP can be looked at from an evolutionary perspective as the body’s way of ensuring that you don’t eat anything that introduces a risk of making your new little life unwell: for humans in the ancestral environment that largely meant meat and dairy, through which nasty things could easily be introduced to the body. This idea also explains sensory aversions to caffeine and alcohol in those early days.
Eat like the seal – biologically, evolutionarily – the stuff that your species is designed to eat. Nuts, berries, fruits, clean fresh water: chances are that you’ll find it’s what your body is telling you to eat anyway.
You feel bloated. You’re starting to look a bit thicker around the middle than you normally do. You’re not big enough for maternity clothes yet, but your normal clothes make you feel a bit gross around the waist, and give you PUC. So you’ve got a challenge on your hands. In these weeks, baggy tops and leggings are your friends. Any dresses that aren’t too tailored; button-down shirts that go beyond waist-length; Tshirts ditto. Stretchy things. Any clothes a size bigger than what you usually wear will be starting to feel really good.
BUT if you don’t feel up to the challenge, wear the same pyjamas eight days in a row, and refuse to give a crap. Even when they get smelly.
If your partner ever dares to make rude jokes or comments about how you choose to dress at this time, do this to him/her:
Don’t feel bad about enlisting help – at work, around the house, with kids; wherever you need it. This will inevitably involve a renegotiation of responsibilities between you and your partner. Again, prioritise your body’s need to look after itself; refuse to feel guilt at making sure that becomes the whole household‘s guiding principle – not just yours. If all you can face cooking is a pot of plain pasta, then that’s what’s on the menu tonight for the family – unless they’re willing to take on the task themselves. And if they are, and then they make a big disgusting mass of butter chicken and the smell of those spices makes you feel like projectile vomiting, request – and expect – plain pasta just for you on the side.
Get in-laws to look after kids (chances are they would love to), and relax your stance on their tendency to spoonfeed them refined sugar or bestow hideously gendered toys upon them. Take as many sick days from work as you can get away with – now is not the time for career angst anyway. Lower your standards for housework – no matter how low they are now, you know if you’ve been there before that they will only get lower when that baby arrives. (Measure yourself against THAT, if you must measure.) For myself, I’ve long since realised that my standards of cleanliness are the highest of the three people in my household – it was reassuring to me to reflect that most of the time, I was probably the only one worrying about that scum slowly, sloooowly building up in the bathtub over the weeks it wasn’t cleaned.
Enjoy the new you
Irregular skin tone, tired eyes, unplucked facial hair. Roll with it, sister. You’re gorgeous.
As in labour and certain yoga exercises, making sound can help you through discomfort, pain or even a bit of psychological despair. I’m no expert in yoga mantras. I’ve never given ‘Om’ a test drive, for example. But in my personal experience, certain four-letter words can be very effective moaned out over a very long exhalation – even if you’re by yourself in bed at 2.15pm and the moan is because you’ve just been to the toilet for the third time today to unsuccessfully retch into the bowl.
Make life easier for yourself, shamelessly
Put cushions and a rug down next to the toilet, if you find yourself hanging out there a lot. Move your office to your bed – one of those little breakfast-in-bed trays that stands on legs is excellent.
Put a plastic stool in the shower, if you’re finding you just want to sit down once you’ve made all that effort to haul yourself in there. Shift the fridge closer to your sleeping quarters.
Watch a loooot of TV. TV is the best. Brilliantly, TV gives you the opportunity to snuggle into whatever position your ravaged body feels most comfortable in, while providing your mind something to distract itself from any remaining discomfort that you’re otherwise unable to ignore. Watch Firefly. Watch Mad Men. True Blood before it started getting crappy. Californication. Gilmore Girls – all the bazillion hours of it you can find. A Peppa Pig marathon with your toddler – there are worse ways to spend an afternoon.
As I hope I’ve made clear, I really feel that the bottom line in a successful approach to NVP is looking out for number one at all costs. It’s something that doesn’t always come easily to us – especially, it doesn’t come easy to women who are already mothers, and have thus already trained their bodies and their minds absolutely to always put someone else first. But then the paradox of NVP is that in putting yourself first, you are also doing that very thing – you’re looking after this new little life. In looking after yourself, you’re looking after both you. It’s healthy, and crucial, and beautiful, and right to do so.
And there is an end point. Yep, that old cliche – not always the most helpful to hear, I know. In the throes of my NVP, I obsessed over the horrific idea that I’d be one of those women who suffered throughout the whole pregnancy. As the disgustingness stretched on past week 12 and into the fourth and fifth months, I exhaustively researched stories of pregnancy-long nausea, and tried to figure out whether it was statistically likely in my case. Well (although at the time I pessimistically refused to believe it), as a result of that, I can tell you that it is NOT likely – most women get through NVP long before they give birth.
Inside that marvellously roly-poly, perfectly indolent, seal – anciently beautiful as she is and all – I can reassure you that the old you exists, just waiting to emerge. She WILL rise again.
And then, one day, before you know it …
Peace, love, health