The Second Trimester: Don’t believe the hype.

Annotations my own.

Extract from an NHS email. Annotations my own.

In the early days of pregnancy, when nobody at work knows, you’re experiencing new levels of grumpy, and the faintest whiff of food makes you dry-retch (or worse); there is one, great shining light at the end of the hormonal tunnel. It is a beacon of hope, a promised land of glowing skin, glossy hair and boundless energy; it is the second trimester. *angelic choral overture*

Everybody tells you that the first 12 weeks are the worst and you’ll start to feel better soon. Your boobs will stop feeling so odd; the not-just-in-the-morning sickness will subside and you won’t be so face-meltingly tired all-of-the-bloody-time. Huzzah, that sounded pretty good to me.

So, around week 13, I began to anticipate this change. I looked forward to not feeling the need to make my husband to list of the ingredients of every meal he cooked for my personal approval (‘no, don’t put any of that in, and can you bake those rather than boil them‘ Bleurgh to me). I thought that I would start making it to 3, maybe even 4pm without feeling physically sick with tiredness. The best was yet to come, the time would soon be here when I could, you know, really start enjoying my pregnancy.

But, Dear Reader, I have some shocking news (that you will in no way have guessed from the tone of the last three paragraphs and the image above):

IT DIDN’T BLOODY HAPPEN!

Week 13 came and went, but I thought I had been a bit optimistic and change was just around the corner. But as weeks 14, 15 and 16 went by and I still felt like utter crap, I began to doubt the ‘second trimester’ line.

It’s no wonder I was sucked in. The promise of respite in that much-celebrated middle stage of your pregnancy is EVERYWHERE. Women tell you about it, magazines tell you about it, the books tell you about it. My NHS emails told me about it. The NHS I tells ya!!

Dear Reader, even the pregnancy Bible itself, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, puts ‘more energy’ at the top of its ‘what you may be feeling’ list. Honestly, what’s a girl to do??

what to expect 2nd trimester

You may point out the massive caveat directly before the words ‘more energy’, but I’m not gonna lie to you, I always go straight to the bullet points. That’s what they’re for, right?

And I’m not the only one with whom these words did not chime. Loads of my friends had the same experience; watching for the magical week 14 and then seeing it pass by without out feeling one bit better. There are legions of us all over the world, crying out in an impassioned chorus:

“Where are our thick, luxurious manes? Where are our gorgeous strong nails? Where is our clear, radiant complexion? Where, oh where, oh where is our bloody energy boost???”

There is not much I can do about it now, of course, except get the word out to others. Unsuspecting newly-pregnant women, clutching their bump-books and eagerly awaiting the illusive glow. Don’t be fooled! Our bodies, like our babies, don’t read the bloody books! You will not be on a predictable timetable. It just don’t work like that.

Thinking about it, pregnancy is a really good time to ease into the idea that human biology is unpredictable and you just have to go with the flow sometimes. Even if the flow is vom-tinged or very, very cry-y.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, Dear Reader! I didn’t have a completely miserable pregnancy, not at all. For me, the fog just took a little longer to lift.

When I was about 18 weeks pregnant I remember talking to another pregnant woman in church one morning. She was about 2 months ahead of me and she asked how I was feeling. I looked at her with wide, bag-laden eyes and said “Rubbish”. Or something like that, it was church so I probably didn’t swear. Probably. She instantly replied “20 weeks, 20 weeks and you’ll start to feel better, honestly.” At the time I didn’t much believe her. I had heard all this crap before. I knew she was being sincere but I just couldn’t get my hopes up again. The whole ‘2nd trimester debacle’ had broken my little pregnant heart.

But Lo! What light from yonder window breaks? ‘Tis the 20 weeks!! ‘Tis the half-way line.

From the Shakespeare quote above you may be able to deduce that I did indeed feel A LOT better in the second half of my pregnancy. And I know I lot of women who experienced carrying a baby as a game of two halves, rather than three thirds. I didn’t get the heavy, achey crap at the end either even though Bubs was 2 weeks late (I know a lot of you do, sozzers). I felt crap for the first half and pretty good for the second. Simples.

So there you have it. My body, like my baby, did not behave in a textbook manner. With hindsight that is no great surprise. But then, that’s sort of the nature of hindsight isn’t it? Hmm, moving on…

If you have a pregnant friend, or a friend who may get pregnant in the future, or you have friend who has a friend who may get pregnant in the future, will you do me a favour and pass on this pearl of wisdom:

Pregnancy is often talked about in trimesters. You may experience it in this way, but you may not. Your experience may be more akin to halves, or quarters, or sevenths for all we know. Because you’re you and your baby is whoever they are, and there is only one you-and-your-baby. So, you know, don’t believe the hype.

Cheers.

 

How was it for you? Were you a textbook pregnancy? Share your experiences by posting a comment below, visiting my facebook page, or tweeting me @aafew.

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Thanks for the congrats *voms into handbag*: Are Will and Kate really ‘immensely thrilled’ right now?

breaking news

 

The Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant with her second baby. That’s really lovely, I’ve got nothing against her. I do fear for her sanity with the whole newborn-toddler combo but, you know, each to their own. Obvs, this has caused a twitter explosion and seeing as I’m becoming increasingly embedded in the mummy-blogger scene my feed has been chock-a-block with comments such as “always lovely news” and “hope it’s a princess!” Of course there were also hilarious responses including, if I may say so, my own above (but no, you can read some really good ones here, you just have to scroll past the politicians).

What isn’t really lovely is that Kate (if I may call Her Highness that) has ‘acute morning sickness’ again, bless her. In fact that’s the only reason we know about the pregnancy; because she’s too ill to attend to her Royal duties. Now, I didn’t suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum (to use the proper medical term) but from what I gather calling it ‘acute morning sickness’ is a bit like calling a hurricane a ‘severe breeze’. It just doesn’t cut it. So, amidst all of the excitement (which, as you can see from above, I’m not that into) I’m wondering whether Kate is feeling much like celebrating at all.

I remember feeling like crap in the early days of my pregnancy. And when I say ‘the early days’, what I actually mean is the first 20 weeks (bloody ‘second trimester’ rubbish). I also remember all of the awkward questions people suddenly feel it’s okay to ask you. My favourite being, “was it planned?” Erm, sorry, WTF?? Since when did work colleagues feel it was appropriate to ask me if my baby was an accident?? And what if I said ‘no, actually, and I’m terrified’, what would they have done then, hey? Hey??

Another frequently asked question was ‘Are you happy’? Again, this is not something anyone would normally ask you whilst standing in the foyer of a church over a cuppa, or in the sandwich queue at work. There is only one socially acceptable answer to that particular question. So I would stand there, feeling like I wanted to vom due to the close proximity of a hitherto inoffensive smell, or so tired that I wanted to cry despite the fact it was not yet noon, and I’d muster up my sweetest smile and say ‘Yes, I’m thrilled’. Now, in the grand scheme of things, that was definitely true. I’ve wanted to be a mum every since I was a bit older than a baby. But at that precise moment, no, I wasn’t happy. I felt like crap. But we can’t say that can we? We all have to be ‘immensely thrilled’. Bleurgh.

Have you seen Prince William’s press statement? Have a look:

Now if that isn’t Royal-speak for ‘F off’, I don’t know what is. He’s basically saying ‘My wife is feeling awful, she’s not even 12 weeks pregnant yet, and yeah it’s nice in the long run, but can I go and look after her?? Oh, and I forgot to mention I’ve got a son who’s just old enough to realise mummy is ill, so, you know, I’m not really into standing in front of you all smiling right now’.

My favourite line of all is definitely “It’s important that we all focus on the big news, the big international and domestic things that are going on at the moment. That’s what my thoughts are at the moment.” So, if I decode that one for you I think it translates as “Scotland is seceding! There’s another Gulf War looming. Leave us alone and report some real news!” Okay guys, even Prince William is telling you to get a life/take an interest in politics, and I think it’s time you obeyed your future king.

So Kate and Wills, and anyone else who is currently in the early stages of pregnancy (like, loads of people, some of whom will have tried for years) I offer you many congratulations and a few commiserations. Because your entire body readjusting to another being living in it is, well, a bit much sometimes.

That’s all old chaps. Toodle Pip!

 

Bump to frump: the highs and lows of motherly body image.

There’s a lot of talk of women ‘feeling fat’ during pregnancy. All those movies where the size 6 Hollywood actress moans to her doting husband in a saccharine LA accent, “I just feel so bloated!” Yes love, that’s because there is an actual human in your womb, you know? It’s, like, growing and stuff. Still I can imagine there are lots women who genuinely do feel like that, especially in that early is-she-pregnant-or-getting-fat stage. But for many of us it’s liberating.

When you’re pregnant your stomach is supposed to protrude, Allelujah! Women who have spent years self-consciously sucking their belly buttons into their spines can let go. Finally our bodies have permission to look how they are actually supposed to look! I wore tight fitting dresses like nobody’s business when I was ‘with child’. I know a few women who did. Because suddenly all those lumps and bumps you are conscious of are just part of your fertile, womanly physique. Aw yeah.

I have never see a non-pregnant woman strike this pose in a photo. Ever.

I have never see a non-pregnant woman strike this pose in a photo. Ever.

Of course, I shouldn’t need to be pregnant to turn unselfconsciously to the side in a photo. OF COURSE I shouldn’t. But there you are, I did. And is it any wonder? I mean, have you ever read a women’s magazine that doesn’t have some sort of weight loss advice in it? No, you haven’t. (Oh, you have? No, feminist magazines don’t count my dear).

But even after my Bubs was born I had a good six months where I wasn’t body conscious. This period of grace was pretty empowering. I’d look in the mirror and think, I’ve had a baby, of course I look different. A little extra junk in the trunk is natural when you’ve had an extra human under the bonnet for a while! I could wear my slightly looser skin like a badge of pride! Eating a massive slice of cake every other day was fine; I bloody well deserved it, even if I wasn’t breast-feeding! Ah, those were the days.

Then, suddenly, something changed. Maybe it was that my friends started doing exercise again, or that less and less people seemed to be ordering ‘fries with that’. Or maybe it was just that I was slightly less sleep deprived and so had the energy to give a crap about my appearance again. You know, I would have been fine with just having the energy to do a bit of housework, write and/or socialise but, there you go, the brain prioritises in mysterious ways.

The baby-blue tinted glasses were off, and suddenly the mirror was not as kind. My midriff has always been the part of my body I am most self-conscious about. I do not purchase tops that won’t cover my hip bones and I am constantly ‘sucking it all in’, especially in photos. Now, Dear Reader, I am very much aware that there’s not a lot to suck in. I’m not fat, but I’m also not magically magazine-like and so these things get to me (ooh, ‘the air-brushing mirror’; now there’s an invention that would sell…)

Really, I blame three-way mirrors. I mean, why do they exist?? I’m sure shops sell less clothes because women suddenly see themselves from every angle and run, screaming from the store. It was in one of these monstrosities that I first notices my back rolls *shudder*. I’ve got very little flesh around my waist – it likes to congregate about 4 inches south – but what is there seems to have formed some untidy pleating either side of my spine. Nice one. Even though I am vividly aware that all that skin did stretch rather a lot, you know, around an actual human (think that’s becoming my catchphrase), I still don’t want it to be there. Instead of bearing the marks of child-bearing with pride I, like many women, would rather they disappeared!

Anyhoo, here I am, on my hols now in the South of France (daaaaaaarling). I’m wearing a bikini, because I bloody well want to. I’m swimming a lot. It’s all good. The other day my husband took some lovely photos of me and my son. I’d like to share one of them with you:

Aw, what a lovely photo!

Aw, what a lovely photo!

Dear Reader, when you look at this photo what’s the first thing you see? A very cute baby? A happy holiday snap? A contented mother? The most kickass paddling pool of all time? Well, I’ll tell you what the first thing I saw was.

Thigh!  Thigh! Thigh!

Thigh! Thigh! Thigh!

Yep, that’s the awful truth of the matter. My husband showed me the photos, saying how lovely there were, but as I scrolled through I found it hard concentrate on anything other than my cellulite. I told my husband this and he just said ‘aw, love, that’s so sad’. I agreed, tried to snap out of it and looked at the photo clearly detailing my amazing life.

The crazy thing is, I know my thighs are just pretty darn normal. They’re slightly wobbly and bobbly. They rub together a bit when I walk. They don’t have a weird triangular gap at the top, because that’s just not a real thing. They are significantly larger than my calves, because THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE. I also know the camera angle is not the best, and part of the reason my thigh protrudes so much in this pic is that I was bending over so that stomach wouldn’t be in view. Sigh.

So why share this all with you? I would like to state that I am emphatically not fishing for compliments! I am lucky enough that I have moments in my life where I feel good about how I look. Yes, those moments often involve make up etc, but they happen. I know some women don’t have them at all. I also want to share more than just a sense of common experience with you other body-conscious mums and dad out there. I want to share some indignation too.

So, on top of attending three ‘stimulating’ classes a week; giving my child fresh, health food at every meal; rejuvenating my social life so I don’t get isolated, keeping the house vaguely hygienic (clean is a bridge too far) AND going back to bloody work, we’re also supposed to to fit in exercise and say no to chips? Piss off!

Now, I do actually quite like doing exercise, and I know I feel better about myself when I do it, but I want to do it for those reasons. Not because I hate my body. In fact, I want it to be for quite the opposite reason; because I love my body.

Do you love your baby? Are you glad they’re in the world despite the ravaging, exhausting, devastating, heart-opening rollercoaster you’ve been thrust onto? Well, guess what? That baby is here because you grew them in your body! And even if your child is adopted, or you’re a dad (or both) your body may have changed because all of your time and energy is going into caring for someone else and you just eat a lot more frozen pizza than you used to. More power to ya I say!

When we have children we don’t expect anything to go back to the way it was, not really. So why should we expect our bodies to? Of course, we know the reason, it’s because every popstar worth her salt has done a post-pregnancy, how-I-got-back-to-six-stone-in-ten-minutes photo shoot. But I wonder how said pop star really feels about that. Perhaps she was so scared of being thrown out of The Saturdays/Atomic Kitten/Other Generic Girl Group that she lost weight in a crazy, unhealthy way. Or maybe she just hired a nanny and a personal trainer.

Either way, it shouldn’t be our job to imitate the fiction of postnatal banging-bods that the media wants us to. It’s bullshit. So let them eat cake!