{Self} Portrait of a Pregnant Woman at 30 Weeks Gestation

{Well, 30+1, but whose counting?}

We have hit 30 weeks together, this baby and I, and I thought it time to jot down a few thoughts on how exactly this partnership has been. Because pregnancy is one of those things that has absolutely blown me away, in terms of how little I knew about what to expect, how it would feel, and how much of a secret society shroud the whole time appears to have over it right up until the day you announce your own child’s immaculate conception, at which point the veil is lifted, the curtain pulled back on the wizard, and a whole hoard of women gather around to let you know that pregnancy is rough, darling, sorry no-one told you sooner (and that’s without even considering the birth at the end, which brings on a whole host of its own in-depth horror stories, gleefully told with the shining eyes of absolute sadists who want you to know you’re about to be in pain, and that they aren’t.)

First things first, this baby has progressed brilliantly, hitting every milestone with ease, his weight always bang on average (average in this case being a great thing), and his due date never once deviating. His heartbeat is strong. His organs in tact. And absolutely no signs indicate any abnormalities, resulting in this being deemed a straight forward, low risk pregnancy. I am grateful for that, and am so proud of both my child and the capabilities of my body, but the term ‘straight forward’ is a double edged sword, as it implies that this pregnancy has been something it has not been: easy.

Pregnancy is a strange time. It’s a time when your body is simply not your own and, as such, everyone starts to treat it like public property - which can be difficult if inflicted with shyness, which I am in some circumstances. They’ll touch your midriff without asking, and comment on your shape in a way that would be considered rude if you weren’t with child. In the past week alone I’ve had the following: “You are tiny, are you sure you’re 30 weeks?” “You’re only 30 weeks? You’re enormous. Are you growing an extra large baby?” “You can’t even tell she’s pregnant can you?” and “Your boobs look huge.” Some of these might sound like compliments, but let me tell you, they are not. I don’t get outwardly upset and I don’t kick up a fuss, because people don’t tend to mean anything by it, but I do go away from these meetings feeling somewhat less. Less entitled to my pregnancy symptoms. Less in control of how my body is reacting to this journey. Anxious, even, about my size (a tiny baby can be a bad sign, and an extra large baby can be a very bad sign.) The people that don’t treat your body as public property treat it simply as an incubator, with all welfare concerns being addressed toward the baby alone, as though the mother is of no concern. ‘As long as the baby is doing well, mum should just get on with it’ being the implication, which is fine, unless mum is struggling. Which, at times, I have.

I love this baby. And I’m in no way complaining about what I have had to endure for him to thrive, because I would do it all again if I had to to ensure his safety, and I’d rather be the one that goes through some bad times than him, every time. But I could have done without the morning sickness – six full weeks of absolute hell that had me so unwell that I couldn’t move my head without being sick, and quickly became fast friends with a bucket (named Hyacinth Bucket, before I became so bad that my sense of humour fled the scene of the crime without so much as a parting high five). And without the frequent trips to the doctor, begging him to help me, and being told that there wasn’t really anything that could be done, but that I should be happy this was happening, because it meant baby was doing extremely well. (I love my doctor, and he did make me laugh in these meetings inbetween crying all over him, but that’s beside the point.) I could even have done without the musing of a well meaning visitor, who pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to react in this way if we already had a child, as I’d just have to get on with it, making me feel immediately as though I was failing at this whole thing, when in reality I could barely move without projectile vomiting. The worst of it passed after the first trimester, but I’m still sick from time to time, and still react badly to some foods (milk curdles and makes its way back up as soon as it hits my stomach now.) The first trimester also brought with it uncontrollable crying, absolutely horrendous headaches, insatiable hunger and, at one point, a three day migraine that I was shocked didn’t lead to my untimely death.

The second trimester was better. I felt baby move at 16 weeks, and have never felt anything like it, emotionally and physically. It is a definite silver lining, and every time he bumps about it all feels worthwhile, even if his kick is aimed at my ribs. Which, inexplicably, were incredibly sore for a time when my bump began to grow, which I wasn’t expecting, though I can be grateful that it didn’t coincide with the breast pain that had me walking like a thunderbird, unable to lift my arms without screaming on the inside. Sometimes the outside. Sometimes it couldn’t be helped. With baby’s movements came more input from outsiders, which had me questioning myself in a way I wouldn’t usually. Conflicting comments, once more, consisting of ‘you will have felt movements before 16 weeks, you just don’t know it’ (I hadn’t) and ‘no, definitely just gas, 16 weeks is far too early’ (it wasn’t gas) both delivered on the same day, as though my fast deteriorating baby brain (which, to be fair, 100% has resulted in a significant IQ drop in the past few months) rendered me incapable of understanding myself and my baby. The doubt over movement has ceased, but I’m still questioned about all else, with one server telling me last week that she wouldn’t add salt to my food because it was bad for my baby, and a store assistant telling me yesterday that ‘holding on’ was bad for my baby, after telling me that there were no bathroom facilities. Not sure what she wanted me to do with that one, in all honesty. There are many things I will do for the unborn love of my life, but peeing myself in public, strangely enough, is not one of them.

I can’t eat chocolate without heartburn. I miss wine. I miss quietly going about my life without openly given judgment at every turn. I overheat in cold rooms. A walk downstairs on the way back from the bathroom often results in an about turn, as the movement makes me need the bathroom. I pant like a dog on heat rather than simply breathing quite often, and a simple walk on flat land leads to excruciating pain in my thighs, as though I’ve just run a marathon uphill with no training.

But still, and always, I am told that this has been straight forward. And I feel guilty for even implying otherwise. But in truth it hasn’t been. It’s been hard.

Despite it all, I've managed to remain positive and happy - with great help from my husband - and, as I’ve said, I’d do it all again, and probably will, as we plan to have more than one. This baby is worth all discomfort, he is worth all of the aches and pains, everything. I wouldn’t change him for the world and if this is what I’ve had to do to have him, then so be it. And I wouldn’t take it back. But that doesn't diminish the fact that I have suffered for my art - that the majority of pregnant women suffer, and yet we continue on. I have never felt more impressed by what my body can do, especially as I've been lucky enough to expand massively without yet getting stretch marks (the vibrant purple criss cross of veins that have appeared on my underboob don't count, because who looks there?) and yet I, and I imagine all of us that have experienced the dark side of turning into the moon, would be really grateful if science has advanced enough by the time I/we have my/our next one that they can be grown in an incubator rather than in my/our womb(s), so… Fingers crossed for that.

We will be separate entities in approximately 10 weeks.

For more than one reason, I cannot wait.


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