EXPECTATIONS V REALITY
I was going to be a sensual Earth mother who only put wholesome organic things into my body. My hair was going to be radiant and my skin was going to glow. I was going to be the best version of myself.
The reality has been that I more closely resemble a cat with an obstinate fur ball stuck in my throat that I’ve being trying to dislodge morning, noon and night (I’m calling total BS on whoever called it morning sickness) in between having to take numerous naps just to get through the day.
When I first realised I was baking a baby, I cried because I realised I’d have to reduce my coffee intake. Less than two weeks later and I’d have vomited in your face if you handed me an Americano.
It felt a bit like a loss of identity to suddenly realise all the things I once loved; avocado, garlic, anything with flavour, suddenly had to be avoided. I had two weeks where I only ate jacket potatoes. On top of that (and nobody ever told me about this one) is metal mouth. What’s metal mouth you ask? Good question. Why is it never discussed?! It’s when you constantly feel like you’ve just licked a rusting bicycle.
One night before meeting my friends I asked my boyfriend if my metal mouth was bad, to which he responded: “Yes, it’s awful. But don’t worry because nobody would ever think that that smell was coming from your mouth.” Nice.
What makes all of the above a lot worse is that for some ridiculous reason, you’re supposed to keep the whole thing a big secret. You’re supposed to carry on with your life without your boss, colleagues or friends guessing that something inside you is trying to slowly destroy you. WHY? It seems totally unreasonable and unfair that at the moment in life when you could most do with a bit of support, you instead decide to keep it all hush-hush in case telling people will somehow jinx your baby.
I’m aware I’ve painted a pretty dismal image here, so I’d like to add that you’re only looking at 6-8 weeks of feeling like total shit. Things generally start to pick up just around the time you tell everybody and no longer need help or sympathy. Also, I should add that in spite of all the negative side effects, I have been feeling pretty Zen.
Last week EasyJet decided to announce a two-hour delay (surprise surprise) after we’d boarded the flight. Pre-pregnant me would have been foaming at the mouth with anger. Just-arrived-at-second-trimester me closed my eyes and had a bloody good nap. It’s a bit like how I imagine a Koala feels, generally just pretty chill.
Everybody and their Nan wants to give a piece of advice or tell a birthing story. It’s well meaning BUT it’s also pretty annoying because in your first trimester it’s very hard to connect the above symptoms with the idea that you have a baby growing inside you.
It only really starts to have meaning after you have the first scan and even then it’s still pretty weird. The other issue with the advice and stories is that everybody’s advice is generally based on their personal experience or that of a friend of a friend or a cousin… and as every experience is different, it’s not always that useful and sometimes just down right scary.
BOOKS AND WEBSITES
I don’t know if you’ve ever opened a baby book, but if you haven’t, I recommend you leave it that way. It’s not that the information isn’t useful and interesting because it definitely is. My issue is with the pitch. They’re written in a way I assume is supposed to be charming and witty but which comes across as extremely patronising. Like somebody decided; Let’s make it all very simple so the pregnant lady can understand.
I’m not asking for a medical journal but I’d like to be addressed as the intelligent adult I consider myself to be. One thing I have enjoyed online is the pretentious baby/fruit comparisons. On one such website, they don’t just compare your baby size to different fruit and veg (which I get can be practical) but to the kind of fruit and veg only those who shop at Waitrose would comprehend. This week your baby is the size of a heritage blue Sussex tomato.
This is an interesting one. There are some truly horrific websites dedicated to suggesting how you can ‘announce’ your news. Mum/ Dad-to-be T-shirts. ‘We’re expecting’ movie posters. Writing it in flour, taking a photo of the flour and posting it on social media. Sending your parents a mug promising them a promotion. Cooking a special baby food meal for your loved ones…
Whichever method you choose (I went for with my mouth) you’ll find the reactions really vary. They range from joy to disappointment to indifference. All are fine but it’s important to be ready and aware not everybody is going to feel as pumped as you do. The most surprising reaction for me was that of the baby daddy, who from now on I’ll refer to as Señor B (because it’ll protect his identity and also makes him sound brooding and mysterious). Señor B and I had discussed starting a family in detail. I had period tracking apps and fertility sticks. So I thought when I arrived home with fizz for him and a non-alcoholic beverage for me and three positive pregnancy tests, he’d be overjoyed, maybe even shed a tear. Instead Señor B went into a kind of weird state of shock. Perhaps he’d been so into the lots-of-sex part of making a baby he’d forgotten the potential result. Rest assured Señor B has now recovered from his shock, is very excited/ terrified (as he should be) and has been more loving and patient than I knew a person could be.
What I haven’t mentioned up to now is that all of the above is happening in Spain, because that’s where Señor B, my intermediate Spanish, and I reside. Being pregnant abroad is a totally different kettle of fish. Imagine my surprise/ horror when I went for my first scan, the magical moment when we’d see our baby for the first time, and the doctor asked me to take off my pants before coming at me with a piece of equipment resembling a lubed-up dildo. Didn’t know they did vaginal scans? Me neither. Add to that the fact jamón, chorizo and tortilla are now off the menu, and it’s a pretty tough mix. As to how cross-cultural parenting and raising a bilingual child will go, only time will tell. Mira this space!