They say that there are certain experiences that can be life-altering. Travel is one example, and I can confirm that visiting another country can have a profound effect on your perspectives. Winning the lottery is another example, and just in case anyone in charge is listening, I would definitely like to volunteer to find out how life-altering this would be.
One of the biggest changes in your life, however, can come from something fairly routine: pregnancy. And while there are plenty of books out there detailing how things are meant to go, after four children, I can tell you that there are lots of things these publications don’t tell you as well.
So this week, I present: What They Don’t Tell You To Expect When You’re Expecting.
You discover you’re pregnant and happily report news to your partner. You are astonished to discover they can do cartwheels, handstands and back flips. It takes you three days to get their head out of the clouds.
No matter what pregnancy books you buy, two things can be said about all of them: 1) You will be completely horrified at the number of things that could go wrong and 2) Your baby will not have read any of the books and will be blissfully unaware what it is supposed to be doing.
You will feel smug about how easy this pregnancy thing seems to be for you.
A woman’s blood volume is said to double over the course of a pregnancy. This is just as well because this month, your doctor will take the first of approximately 38,475 blood samples. By the end of your pregnancy you will not be able to cross any international borders without being questioned by guards about a suspected heroine injection habit.
You will experience sudden waves of tiredness so intense that you will end up face down on your keyboar(*HDFOa..a
Just like the word “wedding” or “bridal,” affixing the word “baby” to anything results in a 3000% retail mark-up. This means that in certain stores a crib, change table and small dresser could cost you more than your car did.
At these same stores, you will realize that there are some expectant parents who regard their first born as something to accessorize. They will spend hours debating which shade of Ralph Lauren paint best matches the tones of the Classic Winnie the Pooh bedding set.
Your partner will develop a pathological inability to pass any rack of stuffed animals without stopping and loading up the shopping cart.
Morning sickness will hit you like a ton of bricks, without warning. One minute you’ll be springing out of bed and heading for the shower. The next minute you’ll be crawling back under the covers and moaning piteously.
Your partner, bless them, learns the exact moment after that in which its safe to offer a restorative cup of tea.
Everything involved in baby care these days is part of a ‘system.’ You cannot buy a plain old diaper pail; you must purchase a ‘diaper disposal system.’ Likewise there is the ‘bottle management system’ and the ‘baby cleaning system.’ See also the 3000% mark-up mentioned in the Second Month.
You and your partner will start looking at baby names by coming up with a long list of names you know you don’t want to use. These might include the names of your bosses, ex-girlfriends or boyfriends, or that irritating kid in grade five that used to throw erasers at you. Friends and relatives will helpfully come up with suggestions like: Potiphera.
When you’re not feeling ill, you will have the appetite of three full-grown Belgian quarter horses.
Fortunately, your husband knows how to feed Belgian quarter horses. This is because he eats like one most of the time himself.
Your friends and relatives will begin having frequent ‘grandma moments.’ This is the pathological inability to pass by any baby product aisle without putting at least one, if not several items in the shopping cart.
You go shopping for maternity clothes, and actually believe that the pregnancy pillow they give you to fit under your shirt will be an accurate indicator of how you will look in a few months. Note to maternity wear stores: A watermelon would be more accurate.
The ultrasound appointment that always seems like a fun time on TV shows will actually involve:
1) Drinking and holding 32 ounces of water for approximately eight hours; only 45 minutes of this will be your actual appointment, the rest of this time will be spent in the waiting room.
2) The application of goop on your tummy that will be a temperature of approximately -32C. (Americans: this is as many as five football fields)
3) Assurances from the technician that this grey smudge over here is a knee and that dark grey smudge over there is a head, and that really, there is a baby in there. But you’ll go home with a cool picture.
This is actually the best month of your pregnancy. You’re not too heavy yet, you’re having fun eating for two, and you’ve felt the first few baby movements, which seem really, really cute.
Your partner can feel the faint movements too. The number of stuffed animals per cartload increases exponentially.
Best of all however, is meeting people you haven’t seen in a while and watching their internal struggle. You just know, as their eyes shift from your face down to your tummy and back again, that they’re asking themselves: “Is she pregnant? Or has she just put on weight? Should I say something? Argh!”
They don’t warn you that eating for two also means that you’re also doing other things twice as much. You spend 23 out of every 24 hours from now on making trips to the bathroom.
You discover that you’re already a derelict parent in the eyes of your neighbour when you are scolded for not having decorated your nursery with a theme. Never mind that you thought you had, and that the theme was, well, “baby.” No, you were meant to choose something like “1930s Mickey Mouse” or “Cute Australian Marsupials” and go from there.
There will be at least one if not several news items reporting a health scare directly related to pregnancy, or something you’ve done during your pregnancy. Your partner will talk you down.
Baby movements are less cute now, as they develop the ability to do roundhouse kicks, karate chops, and full force hockey checks.
Since your pregnancy is now unmistakable, people develop the irritating habit of assuming your brain has shrunk or disappeared altogether. For example, if you visit a hardware store you’ve never been to before, and make the mistake of asking where you can find their Bosch 3/8-in. 5.5A variable speed drills, you will get the response: “Awwwww, are you wost? Now don’t you stress, I’ll have some cute little stockboy find that drilly willy for your hubby wubby.”
You will get the worst cold of your life at this point, if only because you can’t take a thing for it.
You will get the worst headache of your life at this point, if only because you can’t take a thing for it.
Your partner will come up with ways to help you with your cold and your headache, and develop excellent shoulder massage technique.
You will have memorized everything you have read on baby care, which will be absolutely useless when baby arrives, as baby hasn’t read these books either.
You learn the names and distinguishing characteristics of every horrible disorder known to affect a woman’s nether bits. This is because 1) Your ob/gyn’s preferred method of decorating is to have graphic, full colour posters of said disorders in every waiting and exam room. 2) You have several hours to read them.
If you should mention to someone that you’re going to do the dishes, this will be attributed to the ‘nesting instinct’ simply because you happen to be pregnant. It will not matter that the only reason you’re doing the dishes is because you haven’t seen the kitchen sink in three weeks.
If your partner decides to do the dishes, they will be told they are having sympathy nesting instincts.
Everyone you know, and several people you don’t care to know, will feel compelled to share their labour horror story with you. Whether or not they have actually been through labour personally will be irrelevant.
You will acquire a condition known as “hobbit feet.” This is where your feet swell to two or three times their usual size; it is extremely uncomfortable. Presumably this is to let a pregnant woman know where her feet are, since she hasn’t seen them in three months.
You will need a block and tackle set just to get out of bed in the morning.
At some point, you will be in the obstetrician’s office, wearing nothing but a giant paper napkin (given to you for the sake of preserving what little dignity you can in an ob/gyn’s office) while waiting for your latest exam. You’ll be suffering from stretch marks, water retention, weight gain, and hobbit feet. Naturally, the only magazine for you to read will be a copy of People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People issue. It is permissible to allow the nesting instinct to kick in, and shred the magazine.
Your partner will not get any sleep all this month as they are on permalert for the three a.m. elbow in the ribs to tell them it’s time.
Finally, everyone will forget your first name. You are greeted instead with either “Are you still pregnant?!” or “Haven’t you had that baby yet?”