After 2 months of experiencing nausea 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it finally broke, just like a fever does. I was standing in the kitchen and all of a sudden I felt it lift and float away. Then, I felt something so familiar and comforting that I just wanted to cry. I felt “me” again.
The feeling, as comforting as it was, didn’t last because, of course, I’m not exactly me again. “Me” is carrying another “me” inside of this body. Me is pregnant, 15 weeks as of December 15th.
This new me has already experienced many changes. For 2 months, I couldn’t do hardly anything physically active. I tried going for runs early on but that was short lived. I couldn’t catch my breath, I felt exhausted, and my heart rate was 50% higher doing 75% less. The sensation of sweating made me even more nauseous and I felt queasy exerting myself in any capacity. I gave up cardio, gave up weights, and I eventually resorted to brisk walks after several weeks of doing nothing as my sole form of exercise. My yoga practice (both physical and philosophical) was limited to long bouts of savasana with a few gentle poses here and there if I could muster up the desire.
Me also had to pull back from many other kinds of activities. A book that I was working steadfastly on was losing momentum with all my creative power being redirected toward creating a human rather than text. In exchange for giving up my creative potential, I became extremely efficient at knocking off to-dos from my hefty and ever-present list. The simple, structured-nature, and clear task associated with checking off a list was not just fulfilling but was all I could manage to think about. New ideas, new content, new developments was not within my capacity. “Housekeeping” so to speak was.
I also began to consume… all sorts of weird things including an obscene number of informational pursuits. I learned about thyroid hormones, iron’s interaction with thyroid hormones, folic acid, causes of miscarriages, what to eat, what not to eat, exercise and pregnancy, chromosomal abnormalities, advanced maternal age, advanced maternal age with a younger partner, home births, birth centres, birth art, birthing from within, risks of ultrasounds, benefits of ultrasounds, the different training requirements for ultrasound technicians, vaccines (for me now and for the baby later), co-sleeping, bed-sharing, SIDS, what car seat to buy if you don’t own a car… I spiralled downward and started to lose my mind several times during the feast. I even signed up to become a Doula because I could no longer feed myself and needing someone else to shovel it in.
I also started to consume different foods, not too surprisingly — foods I hadn’t thought about in years. McDonald’s and A&W would have killed my ethical standards a few short months ago but didn’t seem to bother me when nothing but fries and a teen burger would do. I lived off white potatoes, white rice, pasta, all garnished with nothing more an a dab of butter and some salt. I also regressed 15 years back to my favourites of kraft dinner, shreddies, and special K. Meat (other than teen burgers) - no way! Cheese (particularly goat cheese) - ick! Wine, beer - I couldn’t even stand the thought of it!
Ah!!! What has happened to me???!
I know these are variations of normal for women during pregnancy, but in all honesty, I was prepared for none of this. The first trimester was hard and I didn’t know who I was any more. And I worried I would never be the same. I wondered, What would I do if I was stuck like this for the rest of my life?
The second, I was told, would be a welcomed surge of energy. I trusted that. I relied on that. And indeed, I felt that briefly when the nausea lifted at 12 weeks, 3 days. But, I took advantage of being me again. I overdid it. Worked long hours at an expo one weekend, compromising my sleep to prepare for a lecture I agreed to deliver, followed by bike sprints during my first work-out back at the gym on the Monday. I learned my lesson quickly and was knocked out for 5 days after that. And… I was devastated. Evidence that I would never be the same.
Somewhat, reluctantly, I agreed work with my body in this new space. I’m learning (again!) to understand my body, it’s needs, the baby’s needs, and the continual changes in my new shared body. I’m back to running but I’m forced to take it easy. Instead of running 5K in 22 minutes, I’m now running 3K in the same amount of time. My body simply cannot do more, without a huge cost. My previous 10-minute daily power naps have turned into 2-hour, completely unconscious, dead-to-the-world crash times. I struggle to keep up with feeding myself, housework, and relationship commitments, all the while feeling incredibly guilty that I’m not contributing enough good work to the world at large. I want to hang a sign from me that explains all of this with “Give me a break!! I”m growing a human inside of me!!!! That’s work!!!!” But even if I did that I think, Who the hell am I to complain. Every other mother has done this.
This new existence is a struggle indeed, whether temporary or not. I feel the struggle. My best friend who is also pregnant feels it. My sister-in-law who just gave birth last week felt it. I’m sure many other women feel it. We simply are not who we used to be and for some of us it’s a hard truth to digest.
But with great wisdom, my sister-in-law said to me a few days ago: It’s like pregnancy is preparing us for a new existence, where we simply won’t be able to do what we did before.
Brilliant, I thought. Then the truth sunk in… again. I’m already not who I used to be and I will never be that person again. I thought I had my pregnancy to prepare for that but it came quicker than I expected. My body has changed. My brain has changed. My mind has changed. My heart has changed. And my identity has changed too. “Me” has already changed as a result of getting pregnant.
Hard. Raw. Truth.
But the real truth is that none of us are who we used to be, whether pregnant or not. We are all changing every moment, every day, every week, every birthday. We have countless experiences every moment that change us by leaving footprints on our body, brain, mind, heart, and literally on our DNA. Pregnancy just happens to be a very obvious one, which is well celebrated and well acknowledged. So my mistake was not in failing to realize that pregnancy would change me but failing to remember that everything changes all the time. “Anicca” (i.e., impermanence) as the Buddha would say. It’s a law of nature and it is bound to happen, to us all, no matter what the experience.