“Well, madam. I’m pleased to inform you that you’re pregnant.”
I face the doctor, stunned. It is such a cliche moment. The day before, I nearly cut myself with a knife because my hands were trembling so hard. I thought I had a fever (or Lou Gehrig’s). The thought of pregnancy might’ve crossed my mind but I dismissed it because…Nollywood. Nollywood taught me that the first sign of pregnancy was puking your guts out, and I wasn’t puking my guts out.
And a part of me didn’t think I could get pregnant without fertility drugs. Call me pessimistic but I know so many women struggling to have babies that I was starting to accept that as the new normal.
“You’re married, aren’t you?” The doctor asks me quizzically. My reaction isn’t what he’s expecting, I guess. Lol.
I smile. “I am. Thank you, doctor.”
“You’re welcome. So come back in 4 weeks, and we’ll see if this pregnancy is viable.” In other words, we’ll see if you haven’t miscarried. So brutal, really.
There are a variety of cute ways to tell your husband you’re pregnant. Put a bun in the oven, and have him check it. Get a “Baby on Board” sign and stick it on your belly. Suddenly decorate the guest room as a nursery! When it came right to it, though, I didn’t have the heart for any of that. I whisper it to him that night, small words, intimate words in our bedroom shrouded in darkness. And it feels more appropriate than sticking a bun in the oven. (I didn’t have an oven, anyways.)
I get the sick feeling soon afterwards. I get acne. The deep, painful bumps that I haven’t had since my teenage years. Hormones wreak havoc on my body, on my aspirations of carrying my pregnancy a la Kate Middleton or Victoria Beckham. My emotions plummet; I am cranky and short-tempered. I know it’s the hormones, but I can’t make it stop. I give serious thought to running away from home, to a place where I can just eat and sleep and not have to talk to people. Loud noises, strong perfumes give me headaches, make me gag. My hands are still shaking, and I have a godawful taste in my mouth that makes me want to go everywhere with mouthwash (this is why pregnant women spit a lot, I think. I could never bring myself to do that.)
It is malaria, depression and intense hunger all in one. My body disapproves of my BMI and decides to rectify this ASAP. I am always hungry. So hungry that I double (triple!) my portion sizes at meal-times, and still carry snacks everywhere I go. I gain 6kg in 3 months. I, who have maintained the same weight (53 kg) for almost 10 years. My clothes stop fitting almost immediately. Still, I am too small for maternity clothes. Such an awkward stage. I gaze despondently at pictures of pregnant-but-svelte Kate Middleton and Victoria Beckham, and bid those dreams goodbye for good. I wonder what other dreams (impending) motherhood will make me give up. Is this a good time, Lord? How much time do I have left by myself before my entire life is changed forever by motherhood?
I crave pepper, and oranges. I take my folic acid (almost) religiously. I sleep often. I cry a few times. I must repeat this, I am an emotional wreck for the entire duration of my first trimester. Convinced that my whole pregnancy will be the same, I don’t ask for help that I dearly need because I don’t want to be a drama queen, a prima donna so early. I try hard not to be the typical-manipulative-demanding-picky pregnant woman. I should’ve swallowed my pride and asked, though.
My symptoms magically disappear. Apart from a few aches and cramps in my back, it’s like the sun breaking out from behind dark clouds. My appetite returns to normal. My energy levels peak. My hormones level out, and my skin is once again, clear. I feel happy. I have a bump and maternity clothes fit, a bit. I get the “glow”. I trim my hair and marvel at the “fullness”. My bladder is the size of a pea, and I get really familiar with the toilets of Lagos state. Lol.
I attend antenatal clinics. The doctors confirm Baby and I are healthy and progressing quite well. They’re a bit concerned about my job working in a remote location without easy access to medical intervention, in case anything goes wrong. They’re concerned about the fact that my job forces me to travel often, at least two flights and four 3-hour road trips per month. But God is merciful, Baby is a real star and doesn’t mind my hectic lifestyle. We are in rude health, really. So full of vigor that people notice and start to comment that I’m carrying my pregnancy well.
I start reading books on childbirth. I’m one of those sensitive, squeamish souls who can’t stand pain. Understandably, childbirth scares the bejesus out of me. Only one thing can comfort me and that is knowledge. And so I start to read. Books, web articles, blogs. I read Dick Read’s fascinating book Childbirth Without Fear on the psychology of pain during childbirth. I read Erica Lyon’s The Big Book of Birth on what exactly happens during delivery. I learn about episiotomies and epidurals and doulas. I learn about the women of North Africa who belly-dance during childbirth, as a way to facilitate contractions. I learn about pain-coping mechanisms; breathing, showers, counter-pressure, changing positions. I learn about Pitocin. I research breast-feeding. I discover that lying flat on your back is the absolutely worst way to give birth (thanks for the misinformation, Hollywood!). I learn that wearing heels in pregnancy is bad, bad, bad for my back. Sigh.
And then, in my second trimester, I start to announce my pregnancy. And this is the interesting bit.
p.s. This was a really long post and I didn’t want to over-burden you guys. I will post the 2nd part next week. Stay tuned!