Last weekend I attended a baby shower. The mother-to-be was beautiful, tranquil and perfectly proportioned with a delightful little round baby bump and enviable cleavage. From the back you wouldn’t have known she was pregnant. Apart from her fetal girth, she was significantly slimmer than me. It made me reflect that there are two types of women in this world: those who have a requited love of pregnancy, during which they radiate a peaceful, glowing aura. Serene biatches. And then there are those who turn into she-beasts. An excellent example of the former is Princess Kate, a gestating supermodel look-a-like. A prime example of the latter is yours truly. If you’d rubbed my expectant belly, I may have oinked.
With each of my three babies, I expanded exponentially throughout pregnancy. First time around, at about 14 weeks I had a cute little pot belly and started wearing maternity clothes as it was new, and exciting getting into the spirit of things. But as time went on, although ecstatic to be growing a little person, I realised how great the toll was on my body. I felt exhausted and sick all day, every day. The aromas wafting upstairs from the authentic cooking of the Indian folks living beneath us at the time certainly didn’t help. I am like Jerry Seinfeld – we don’t vomit. But I certainly still felt constant nausea from dawn til dusk unless I was eating. As you have probably learned from previous posts, I love food. I thought I finally had a legitimate excuse to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. And George is the type of husband who will go out now and get me chocolate or ice cream if I have a craving. Can you imagine how eager he was when I was carrying our baby? I only had to hint that I felt like something and he was already out the door, leaving behind only the fading sound of jingling keys and puff of smoke in his wake. Our unborn child was certainly well nourished.
What really tipped the scales, literally, was a sudden fluid retention problem at about 30 weeks. I remember one day looking down at my feet suddenly and they were swollen like fat curry puffs and felt tingly and tight. My ankle bones had gone AWOL. That was the beginning of the end. My entire body swelled up like Aunt Marge in Harry Potter 3 (sorry, I have a 7 year old, HP is all we talk about). I looked like someone had stuck a air-hose in me and started pumping. My feet got worse as time went on. All I could fit on my swollen hooves were those hideous sandals they sell at chemists. Occasionally photos from that period scroll up on our Apple TV screen saver and although George doesn’t say anything, I can see it in his eyes…he is shuddering on the inside. Luckily the fluid retention stopped as soon as our little girl was born. I recall having lost about 17kg within a few days of her birth.
My subsequent pregnancies weren’t much better. I didn’t get the crazy fluid retention, just good old fashioned fat ass/thighs/arms/face. “I’m storing fat for breastfeeding” I would tell myself as I ate another bowl of ice cream. Besides my eating habits, it was like my body just knew what to do. Each time I got that magical second line on the pee stick, I seemed to get an instant pot belly. Occasionally I see other expectant women who look like they’ve also packed it on and I feel an instant bond with them. When I was pregnant with number 3, I remember explaining to Miss 6 that Mummy’s tummy was fat because there was a baby in there. “Then why are your legs fat?” she wanted to know. All that aside, my pregnancy con list included more than just weight gain. Add reflux, gas, cravings, sleeplessness, constipation, back pain, metallic taste in my mouth, mood swings & the need to pee every hour 24/7 and you realise that growing a human is hard work.
But then pregnancy is over. I have heard people say that as soon as you hold your newborn baby you forget it all. All the pain of labour, the trauma, the bad stuff, it’s gone. That you look into your baby’s eyes and all you can think about is the overwhelming love. That’s rubbish. I remembered it all. As I looked at my baby daughter, I loved her immediately. But the trauma of her complicated delivery was fresh, painful and unforgettable. I spent the first week of her life crying, upset that she would be an only child as I was never doing that again. Each year on her birthday a part of me truly trembles as I can’t help but think back to the horrific process by which she came into this world.
At the baby shower, my friend was so glowing, serene and innocent that I couldn’t enlighten her as to what was coming her way. She will find out on her own. But I did tell her what I do still truly believe: that there is nothing more exciting than having a new baby. Nothing has topped the feelings of seeing each of my babies for the first time and laying next to them in the hospital, watching them sleep. Counting their fingers and toes. Looking at their downy heads and wondering if their hair will get darker or lighter. Looking at their little chests moving up and down with each breath and having them strain to open their new eyes to look at me.
Even though all the pain, nausea, weight gain, reflux and moodiness will never be forgotten, the truth is… it’s all worth it.