I suppose I should at least address that I'm pregnant, almost 34 weeks actually. I must say the past 7 to 8 months have been... well, interesting. And by interesting I mean exciting, frustrating, fascinating, depressing, exhilarating, and about forty-five additional "ing" words. For those of you who have never been pregnant, let me tell you that no book can prepare you for the adventure of being knocked up.
When I first got pregnant, I read Jenny McCarthy's Belly Laughs since I was told that she wrote about the stuff no one tells you. And while this is true (seriously, there are a couple chapters that have proven especially valuable), her book only scraped the tip of the proverbial iceberg. No one--not even the fearmongers who produce those What to Expect books--can truly tell you what to expect. Every pregnancy is different and every woman approaches pregnancy differently.
With that said, I want to share some of my experiences and feelings about pregnancy. I'm not sharing this as a guide or as advice for other pregnant women. I mean, if someone reads this and can identify with what I have to say, BONUS! but please don't misinterpret this as any type of guide to pregnancy.
Am I Glowing Yet?
Before I got pregnant, I remember women saying things like, "I never felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant." I didn't question this because, even without being pregnant myself, part of me could understand why they felt this way. Despite the extra weight and stretch marks, these women had a life growing inside them. Their body was nurturing another life and that made them feel like a vessel, something sacred and beautiful. When I got pregnant, I fully expected to feel this way. The first few months, however, I just felt sick. Every. Single. Morning. And most afternoons, too. I also felt like I had mono, constantly exhausted. Then, as my pregnancy progressed and my body started to change, I kept waiting for the way I felt about my pregnancy to change. I wanted to feel special, to feel beautiful. I wanted to get that damned "glow" everyone talked about. I didn't. I felt increasingly more tired and bloated and UGH-ly. There were days I even felt resentful. I wondered, How on EARTH does a woman who DOESN'T want to be pregnant survive pregnancy? I found myself feeling increasingly more guilty and depressed, even questioning my ability to BE a mother. I'm now in my last trimester with only 6 1/2 weeks to go and to be honest, I still don't feel beautiful--and I've been lucky enough to NOT get stretch marks! But I feel bloated and achy and, well, kind of gross. I struggle to pull myself off the couch. I pee a little when I sneeze. My body looks soft and dumpy (well, more so than usual). Every morning is a struggle to find an outfit that makes me look pregnant and not just fat. Maybe that's shallow, but I AM still a woman and most women would be bold-face LYING if they said they didn't care if they look fat. I'll go so far to say that I don't even like being pregnant. I like the end result of pregnancy--I'm super excited about the baby arriving. But when I see a woman like Michelle Duggar, I question her sanity. There have been times I've actually become kind of angry when women tell me how much they LOVED being pregnant.
Perhaps these feelings are more normal than I think. Maybe no one just talks about feeling this way because they're afraid of the reaction they'll get from women who enjoyed pregnancy. Regardless, it's how I feel. It doesn't mean I don't love my baby. It doesn't mean I won't be a good mother. I think of it as being like someone who hates to fly but loves getting to her vacation destination. The journey is hard but the end result is going to be totally worth it.
To Poke or Not to Poke
If there's one thing I've learned to refrain from discussing (unless asked directly), it's my birthing plan. I am one of those crazy (or so I've been told) women who has decided not to have an epidural. Now, I'm not totally opposed to pain relief (paging Dr. Stadol), but if I can make it through labor with only breathing and screaming, that would be great. The reactions I get from women when they discover my plan range from "Are you effing nuts?" to "You go girl!" to actual laughing in my face and eye rolling. One person actually started soliciting bets from those around us as to how long it would take me to break down and beg for an epidural. Some women have acted downright offended, like I'm judging them for having an epidural. Other's have even been mean. One woman's reaction was to snarl, "So you think you're some sort of superwoman, huh? You just wait."
This isn't a judgement call. I don't think any woman who has an epidural is weak or "bad" or wrong. I think every woman is entitled to making her own decision, whether she chooses natural birth, an epidural or an elective C-section. I just personally don't want an epidural. Can I say 100% that I won't break down during labor and beg for one? Well, no. I've never had a baby. I can't say anything 100%. I can say, though, that I feel strongly enough about this that it's going to take a lot to get me to that point.
I don't understand the women who hate on me for making this decision or the ones who even treat me like I'm downright stupid. Look, I know I'm in for a world of pain. And I would be lying if I said I'm not scared. But I'm also excited. I don't look forward to the pain, but I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to share in the joy and strife of birth, to be a part of this experience that women around the world have been taking part in for thousands of years.
New Baby/ Old "Babies"
Many of you know that I have two "fur babies." John and I adopted our Lady right after our 1st anniversary. She was a rescue dog who had been abused. Over the years, she has presented many challenges that are typical of a dog with her background. She has also, however, been a constant source of joy and comfort for us. She has seen us through many storms, both literal and metaphorical. There have been times that no one could make me feel better, that the only solace I could find was to wrap my arms around her and cry into her furry little neck. I have always been a dog lover, but Lady has changed the way I look at every dog. It will sound ridiculous to most people, but when I see a stray, I see my Lady and it literally breaks my heart. I start and end every day with my Lady and feel so blessed that God gave her to us.
Our Abbie came to live with us in the fall of 2005. Abbie is a totally different dog. She's more independent, less concerned about having our attention or approval. She's happy-go-lucky and loves everyone. The only problems we faced with her were housebreaking and dominance (she liked to boss Lady around when she first arrived). Abbie is my "cuddle bunny." Every night, I crawl into bed, situate my pillows (I've gone from two to five by the way since I got pregnant) and call, "Babbie! Belly!" Abbie crawls under the covers, snuggles up against me and off to sleep we go. I've literally gotten to the point that I hate sleeping in hotels because I don't have my Abbie. I can't honestly say I have the same relationship with Abbie as I do with Lady. It might seem I don't love Abbie as much. I just love her in a totally different way. She's my little bouncy ball of sunshine. Where Lady can be so needy, Abbie is my mellow girl.
By this time, you may be thinking, "Amber, why are you talking about your dogs? Isn't this about your pregnancy?" Well, it turns out that pregnancy prompts other people to bring up dogs quite frequently. I have been assured by many people that (1) my dogs will "just be dogs" once the baby arrives and (2) I will cage/throw out/get rid of the dogs once the baby arrives. People don't seem to realize that just as there are different parenting styles with children, there are also people who view dogs as more than animals or "surrogate" kids you get rid of once the real kids arrive. Our dogs are not just pets. to us While John and I both know that we will love our children in a totally different way than we do our dogs, it does not mean we will love our dogs any less. Once someone told us that we'd have to get rid of Lady once we had children. Our response? We just wouldn't have kids as long as we have her.
I resent when people insist that I don't know what I'm talking about when it comes to my dogs. Sometimes I wonder if they are projecting personal guilt, that they feel bad for neglecting their own dogs when the baby arrived. Dogs and children can co-exist in the same house. It may take some extra work, but it's possible. When we decided to have a baby, we knew there would be sacrifices. That's why we waited so many years to have children. When it comes to our dogs, that doesn't mean we will give the dogs up or push them aside. We will sacrifice time, though. It means we will have to work a little harder to "blend" our family together.
I hope and pray our little girl loves animals, especially dogs, as much as her daddy and I do. I would be a little heartbroken if I couldn't share this part of my life with her.
For nine months, be prepared for endless advice. Some of it will be good, and some of it will be frustrating. Store away the useful stuff and just nod and smile through the rest. But don't let anyone tell you how your pregnancy should go or how you should feel. Every woman is different. Our bodies react differently as do our emotions. I guess the only advice I'd give a pregnant woman or a woman planning on becoming pregnant is this: your pregnancy is your pregnancy. You're entitled to your feelings, to your birth plan and even to your dogs. This is the only advice I wish someone had given me before pregnancy. While you may share morning sickness or cravings or spontaneous fits of crying with other women, your pregnancy will be unique to you. Don't let anyone make you feel weird or wrong over how you feel. If you are excited about becoming a mommy and are taking care of yourself and the baby growing inside you, it's no one else's business as to how you feel or the decisions you make.
Six and a half weeks to go...