As Alpine Papa will attest, I am not very good at being pregnant. Not at all.
You know those people who glow their way through pregnancy like a sunbeam, with nothing to slow them down except too much damn gushing about how they “luuuurve being pregnant” and “isn’t it amaaaaaazing”? That’s not me. Not at all.
Alpine Papa is no help. I don’t think he believes any of the suffering I am genuinely going through to bring this beautiful new life into the world. In fact, when I moan (admittedly for the 40th time that day) about how crap being preggars is, he immediately takes great delight in pointing out how desperately I wanted to be pregnant each time, and how I would whine any time anyone I knew would dare get pregnant before me. “Ooooh , it’s not fair”, he mocks (apparently that’s how I talk). “So-and-so is pregnant, how come I’m not pregnant? I want to be pregnant. It’s not faaaaaaaair. Why can’t I be pregnant? I want to be pregnant!”.
I would like to point out, though, that he is wrong. Very. I have never said “I want to be pregnant”, or moaned about not being. I have often whined about the fact that I want another baby and I want it now. But that’s entirely different. I have never had any desire to be pregnant. Why would I? It’s rubbish.
Hell in fact. Nine months of hell. Must have been what Dante had in mind. Here are my nine circles of hell:
1. The “totally hungover and exhausted without the joy of the night before” stage
You know how impossible it is to have a sensible conversation with anyone, or do any work, or indeed do anything which involves either physical coordination, verbal communication or any type of brain power when you’ve had a few too many the night before? Mainly because you’ve got no energy, you’re ready to vom at the drop of a hat, and you’re shaking like an addict going cold-turkey?
That’s what it’s like for me when I’ve a bun in the oven. All day, every day. For four or five months. Love it.
And the exhaustion is just a killer. With Alpine Boy I used to crawl home from work at 7.00pm and go straight to bed. Alpine Papa would wake me up at 9.00pm for a quick dinner, then I’d go straight back to sleep. With Alpine Girl I was working 18 hour days so there was no chance of doing that. I do think I royally annoyed my sister, though, when we went on a week’s holiday and I spent most of the time in bed. Third time round, with two kids already and a husband who works full-time, there’s even less chance of sleeping all evening (or much at all in fact). Perhaps this is why sensible people leave huge age gaps between kids – so the older ones can look after themselves whilst pregnant mum hibernates.
But then one day I wake up and, woo. I’m human! The sickness has gone! The tiredness is a thing of the past! Hang on…could it be? Am I…? Yep – I’m blooming! Finally!
(That stage lasts about an hour. A day at most. No glowing like a sunbeam for me…)
2. The “is she pregnant or is she just fat?” stage
This is most pleasant when travelling on public transport on a regular basis, as no-one is quite sure whether to offer you a seat or not. Most people don’t, but then are willing to stand up if you ask. You do meet those not-so-lovely people, though, who look you up and down with their suspicious eyes to assess your suitability for a bum rest, before finally huffing and puffing their own fat arse out of the priority seating. (I tend to accidently-on-purpose kick their shins as I shuffle into the newly-vacated seat.)
3. The “Good God, she’s crying during Pet Rescue again” stage
Maybe it’s the exhaustion. maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s just that in reality you’re absolutely terrified about the fact that you appear to be growing a whole brand new human being inside you and at some point you’re going to have to push it out your whoopsie, but tears tend to flow a lot during pregnancy. For me anyway.
This time round I have cried during the evening news (lots), boring French documentaries (and not just those involving abandoned starving children and abusive murderous parents. I cried at a documentary about fish the other day. I hate fish), any BBC drama involving childbirth or romantic male leads, and (not my proudest moment) some exceptionally poorly written and instantly forgettable free-download Kindle book. Having learnt from experience I deliberately avoid films such as Marley and Me, The Notebook, or in fact anything with a happy ending, for fear of having some kind of emotional breakdown.
Bottles of wine have big labels on them now to put pregnant women off drinking them (ha!). Such labels should appear on soppy DVDs. Although I expect that tissue companies – currently making millions annually out of pregnant women’s irrational tears and fears – might object…
4. The “continuous heartburn which no amount of Gaviscon will ever cool” stage (and the rest…)
Sensitive readers should turn away now.
Every possible weird ailment that normal healthy women never even hear about seems to relish in jumping upon a pregnant women pretty much as soon as those exciting blue lines appear on the pee-stick. Alpine Papa seems convinced that I’m making at least half of these up, but they are genuine…
The UK has, I believe, one of the highest rates of teenage unplanned pregnancies in Europe.
I can solve this problem.
I am happy to go round schools and tell those promiscuous ‘yoofs’ what they are letting themselves in for if they don’t start being careful. No, not a baby – they know that. I will tell them about the continuous and incurable heartburn, the painful back, the dislocated hips, the sore joints, the swollen feet, the swollen fingers, the swollen ankles, the stretch marks, the balding, the hairy boobs (can’t comment on that actually, not one of my ailments in fact), the hot flushes, the cold sweats, the piles, the constipation, the diaorrhea, the risk of peeing your pants when you sneeze, the food cravings, the food aversions, the nausea, the constant full feeling, the constant hunger, the heartburn (did I mention that?)…
That’ll soon stop all those horny teenage girls from letting hormonal spotty boys anywhere near them. Problem solved.
5. The “she is definitely pregnant but she’s also fat” stage
Readers of my Facebook status will already be aware of ‘Fatgate’ – the ongoing saga of my pregnancy weight (or rather, the ongoing saga of my French midwife’s rather French view of my pregnancy weight).
Basically, in the UK I never once got weighed during either of my pregnancies. In France they are OBSESSED with my weight. I have been weighed more than I have had my blood pressure taken – no joke. I have been given a diabetes test (negative) because my midwife was worried I was so fat. I have had a scan to see if my baby is grossly huge (she’s not). I have been told I have already put on ‘too much’ weight, despite having another 6 weeks to go (I’m ‘allowed’ to put on 9-12 kg. I have already put on 13kg. Whoops). Yes, I’m fat – I’m pregnant. I don’t think I’m obese though. And my oh-so-polite friends are saying all the right things. (I will keep these friends, I think.)
If it was my first pregnancy I’d have been rather stressed and upset about the whole thing. Might even have shed a tear or two (see above). Haven’t got the energy to care this time though.
Now please pass the cake.
6. The “does she realise she’s waddling” stage
This is a mystery to me. I make it all the way to 7 and a half months completely able to walk, as I have done for much of my life, simply by placing one foot in front of the other. Neither the size of my bump nor the size of my bum seem to affect my mobility - I don’t look like a duck, I can keep up a good pace, I have even been carrying on snowshoeing and mountain walking without difficulty.
Then one day, without warning, I wake up and suddenly am no longer able to walk. I waddle. I am out of breath. I make it up mountains but have to wobble down at a snail’s pace, clutching my bump which feels like it’s about to fall off and huffing and puffing like those rude people on the train. I have no balance in snowshoes, and shuffle my way back down from walks slower than Alpine Boy and his mini legs strolled up there. It takes me twice as long to walk (sorry, waddle) to school, and these days it’s Alpine Boy leading the way home with me dragging behind, after it being the other way round for the last 18 months.
(The extra 13kg might explain all this, I suppose. Never mind, still pass that cake).
7. The “waking up at 4.30 am and not being able to get back to sleep before the alarm goes off” stage
At a time when you need most sleep (ie before you subject yourself to another few years of being woken by crying kids), your body seems to believe otherwise. Insomnia strikes.
This was a big problem for me first two times – I would end up just going downstairs and watching terrible TV (usually about babies – the TV companies obviously realise there is a captive pregnant women audience between 4.30 and 6.30 each morning) until the rest of the house would finally wake up.
I’m probably massively tempting fate now but it’s not been so bad this time round. I put it down to the sheer exhaustion which comes with having two kids already…
8. The “no way, I can’t need a wee AGAIN?” stage
This is not an urban myth. Pregnant women need to pee ALL the time. When in London I knew where all the public toilets were, wherever I might be. But given that most of my time these days is spent at home or in secluded mountains (no-one to see me with my massive bum in the air, peeing behind a bush for the 14th time during my two-hour walk ) this stage is really not so stressful this time round.
9. The “counting the weeks/days/hours stage”
With Alpine Boy, if anyone ever asked how pregnant I was I could instantly answer to the day (“15 weeks and 4 days; my baby is the size of a [lemon/kiwi/tadpole] you know!”).
Second and third time round it has been a bit different – I could have told you what stage I was at within a month or so, but no more (and I found I was getting that wrong a lot of the time anyway).
Until about a week ago, that is. I have now started counting the days. The days till I finish work (9). The days until my English due date (42). The days until my French due date (49). And the days until they will finally give me a C-section if Alpine Baby is yet to make an appearance (54). This is dangerous (it doesn’t achieve anything apart from making time go slower) but weirdly irresistible. I can’t stop.
(It’s made all the more interesting of course by the ‘double’ due dates I have – pregnancies in the UK are counted as 40 weeks long. In France it’s 41 weeks. Not quite worked out the logic of that yet but I’m sure there’s an explanation there somewhere…)
And despite all that counting I never quite seem to believe it when the day finally arrives and Alpine Boy/Girl/Baby makes an appearance. I can’t even think about that for the time being though - first of all I have to get through the next 49 days without crying, overdosing on Gaviscon, or moaning so much that Alpine Papa gives up and leaves me to cope with all this on my own…