In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell says it takes ten thousand hours of practice to master a skill. If that’s true, then I’m fairly sure that in the last three months I have officially mastered the skill of neatly throwing up into a sandwich bag in a public place. While learning how to empty my stomach without covering myself (or horrified passers-by) in vomit wasn’t one of the things I’d listed among my 'Goals for 2019,' it’s probably the only good thing that’s happened to me in the past three months. Regardless, I’m taking it as a win.
I found out I was pregnant on New Year’s Eve. I’d had a miscarriage a few months before, and so getting a positive pregnancy test was a terrifying delight. We spent the first few weeks of 2019 swinging wildly between joy and terror, happy that we got a second chance but petrified that I would miscarry again. Then, thankfully, I thought, at about five weeks the nausea hit, and I was suddenly too busy feeling terrible to worry about anything else.
Because I have felt terrible. There’s no other way to describe it. I don’t know why I’m using the past tense; I still feel terrible, but I suppose after ten weeks I’ve gotten slightly used to it. Occasionally, still, it overwhelms me and I sit, my newly-protruding belly sticking out over the top of my jeans, sweaty because I’ve just chucked up the dinner my husband cooked, ugly-crying because I want this baby more than anything in the world and it is making me feel so poorly.
I expected to feel a bit bad during pregnancy – everyone knows about morning sickness, tiredness, mood swings etc. I just didn’t expect it to feel quite this bad. I didn’t expect to feel sick from minutes after I woke up until I fell asleep, or to feel sick if I didn’t eat but be utterly repulsed by any food that wasn’t a dry cracker, or to be so tired that I could sleep 10-14 hours a night and still be in physical pain if I didn’t have an afternoon nap – or that this would be normal, and although my doctor was able to give me some tablets for it I was nowhere near the Kate Middleton-esque levels of hyperemesis gravidarum, and was expected to just get on with my life.
I also expected to have some – at least some – pregnancy “glow”, the smug feeling of inner-serenity you see radiating from mother-and-baby adverts and celebrities as they nurse perfect little bumps. But no. If I’ve got any “glow” somewhere inside me, I think I’m vomming it up round the back of the Co-Op along with my breakfast.
Then there’s all the stuff I wasn’t aware came with pregnancy. I’ve had period-esque cramps on and off the entire time! My nipples are so sore that I have to cover them in the shower because the force of the water is agony! I’ve come out in acne from my temples to my jawline! I am always either constipated or the exact – exact – opposite! I am dribbling because for some reason I’m producing more spit! And all of this is just normal pregnancy stuff. Don’t get me started on what’s happening inside – between the pregnancy hormones that saw me crying in Tesco because I couldn’t find a chicken pie to the constant worrying that anything I do, eat or touch will hurt the baby, I am unstable as I have ever been.
And that emotional turmoil is really, really getting me down. Even though I think I’m justified in complaining – I recently threw up into the sink while having a shower, then started throwing up again while cleaning it up and the force of my vomit hit the toilet water with such force it splashed back and hit me in the face, for god’s sake – I also feel incredibly guilty about it. I’ve lost a pregnancy. I know how lucky I am to have this tiny, beloved parasite inside me, ruining my life. I worry that I’m already a bad mother for complaining so much about pregnancy, and feel huge amounts of shame that I’m not on my knees every day thanking the universe that I get to experience it.
So I’ll try to remember that the next time I’m staring into the mirror at my spotty face, my sunken eyes, my grey skin and the greasy hair I’m too scared to wash in case it makes me throw up again. The only thing worse than being pregnant right now would be suddenly finding myself not pregnant, which means in a weird way I feel endlessly, joyously grateful for feeling so incredibly shit.