On this site, May is Body Month, a series of discussions about perceptions, emotions, politics, business decisions, and prevailing cultural dictates that influence who we are as we inhabit our flesh. This week I talk to my wife, Sara, about the changes she has felt as she embodies pregnancy.
If the waistline on my pants starts to feel a bit snug, I have a hard time sitting down and allowing the tightness to press on me. If an air bubble works its way into my digestive system, I can find myself to be terribly uncomfortable. So, I can’t imagine what it would be like for me to experience pregnancy. Luckily for our family, the cool, calm, and collected Sara gets to carry our baby, and I can say she has done it with little complaint and a lot of cheer.
I have observed that she didn’t deal with feelings of near sickness except on two occasions when she had not eaten enough. She certainly burped a lot in the beginning – events a few people called nausea, though I contend that nausea would include that swooning feeling that brings about vomit – and felt a little snug in her clothing as she grew. She has dealt with allergies as the pollen count has been quite high. And now that the baby is crushing her bladder, she pees a lot more. As a frequent bathroom user, if I were pregnant, I would never leave it!
Sara and I do our best to live as naturally as possible on the budget we keep. We are committed to eating locally and organically when possible, to keeping our foods minimally processed (if at all), and finding agricultural offerings that are the most ethical. So, we have spent the extra money for pasture raised eggs and reduced our meat intake so that we can spend our carnivore dollars on pasture-finished beef and ethically raised chickens. A lot more beans and whole grains have entered our diet in order to make up for the nutrients we’d normally get on a diet heavier in meat. This is a deal we have made for the sake of our child’s health and well-being as we seek to raise it simply, wholly, and out of the predominant cultural contexts, as detailed in last week’s piece.
This is the external background of our pregnancy, and I have been curious about what’s going on inside the only person who can articulate it to me right now. Normally quiet and reserved, Sara opened up as we talked about her changing body – the physical and emotional manifestations that have been a part of this process for her. Currently at the halfway mark, here’s what she had to say.
Chris: What does pregnancy feel like?
Sara: There’ve been various points where it didn’t feel very different at all. In the very beginning. And then, when I started to feel better, and some yuckiness went away, and even when my energy came back and I was starting to show a little bit, I couldn’t feel any movement and it felt more like extra weight. It didn’t bother me. I could have looked at it as I’m getting big; anyone who didn’t know me would have thought I gained weight. It was not a problem for me. It was part of the process and exciting.
Chris: How about from the inside out?
Sara: That’s hard to describe. I’ve been amazed by the process and had no idea how much happens to your body (laughs). Kind of an adventure learning what happens: my breasts getting so big, the veininess. It was unexpected that they’d grow as much as they did, which in a way has been uncomfortable because bras didn’t fit and the bigger your boobs are the more they’re kind of heavy. I’m starting to feel like my center of gravity is shifting. There’s a lot more weight going forward. I find myself needing to be more conscious of my lower back, trying to stretch more.
Sara: I love that. It’s just pretty amazing. I feel like I’m growing pretty fast and now that I can feel the baby a little bit, it’s really cool. I can’t wait till you can feel it.
When I first started growing, I was tired all the time. That was one of the toughest things to deal with – I felt like I had no energy to do anything; I’d come home from work and lay on the couch or the bed. I get crabby when I’m overtired, so it effected my mood. I don’t do well on small amounts of sleep, and though I got lots of sleep, I didn’t feel like I was getting any. Physically it felt like I was getting a gut, because there was nothing baby-like about it. So, from an emotional standpoint it was cool, because it was part of the process.
Chris: What is the hardest part about being pregnant?
Sara: Making sure I eat enough nutrients. I’ve never been so conscious of how much protein, vitamins, and nutrients I’m eating. I’ve always tried to eat healthy, but the volume required I’ve found difficult. It requires eating more than I normally eat and my appetite hasn’t increased much. I’ve read that eating for two isn’t right, because you don’t need that much more at this stage.
Also, I’m a stomach sleeper, so not being able to sleep on my stomach has been hard. I spend the whole night rolling from side to side. It’s back and forth all night.
Chris: What’s the best part?
Sara: Sharing the experience and anticipation with you. Learning about what actually is going on. There’s so much that happens that I had no idea about. Things like your hormones producing the anti-insulin because the baby needs sugar, so now I understand gestational diabetes. I’ve been conscious about not adding extra sugar to my diet. Eating more healthfully.
I feel really good now. It’s really fun to be visibly pregnant. I like rubbing my tummy and imagining the baby in there.
Chris: Do you have any advice for first-timers?
Sara: Be accepting of the changes in your body and love what’s going on, because it’s an amazing process. Pay attention to your diet – learn about what nutrients you need and the best foods to find them in. Know that you’re taking care of both yourself and the baby when you eat well.
Chris: You were quite the coffee drinker…
Sara: I don’t miss it now. It was harder to stop in the beginning, because you crave it. We had a lead up before pregnancy.
Sara: It was… trying… because you know there were two weeks every month where we were just waiting and hoping, but not knowing. Umm, I’m trying to remember. There were some times that were disappointing. Farther along, when it felt like we were trying and nothing was happening, I kept reminding myself we were within a normal time frame and it can take a long time. [Ed note: Experts have told me that it can take up to a year to sync everything up, and that taking that amount of time should not be considered abnormal.] Interesting learning process that the timing of getting pregnant – that small window you have [Ed note: About 18 hours during the ovulation.] It helped me accept that it could take a while, because getting pregnant is not that easy of a thing to do.
Chris: Despite the trying, this was a surprise…
Sara: I felt like I was getting my period and that we timed it wrong, so it was a total surprise, which was pretty cool. I like that it happened like that, because the anticipation was gone and I was expecting a negative test. It was a completely happy surprise.
Chris: How about the physical sensation of the stretched belly?
Sara: It’s hard to put into words the stretchiness. I think when farther along and my body is more stressed, it will be easier to describe what it feels like. In many ways it feels like my stomach got fat. In the beginning the skin was very itchy. Some days things felt tight. But in general, I feel like it’s been pretty smooth process as far as my belly growing. I don’t have a stretching sensation. I have more like an expansion – I don’t feel pressed at this point. When transitions happen, I did, but right now I’m comfortable.
Chris: How do you handle any physical limitations?
Sara: I fight them to a degree. People have in a joking way have scolded me at work for carrying heavy boxes or standing on a chair. No one lets me carry my massage table. I’d probably still do it even though I shouldn’t. I’m definitely used to just doing what I need to do and take care of things. But I don’t feel like the limitations have been too hard, because I guess I feel like taking care of myself is important right now. When people started telling me to call them when I needed something, I was like, “I can do it!” But then I thought, “They’re just concerned.” So I let them do it. I’m not good at asking for help, so it makes me do that, which I’m now okay with.
Chris: And the allergies?
Sara: I’ve chosen to be natural, and if I wasn’t pregnant I would definitely take an allergy med. But it’s important to me and you not to take anything that’s not nutritious or beneficial to the baby.
Chris: Anything else you’d like to say?
Sara: I’ve felt really happy and that’s been really nice. It’s such a joyous thing.