I’ve been wanting to write for a long time but I found myself stuck in a rut unable to think of what I should write about. Then I remembered a piece of advice I once heard: write about a topic that you’re familiar with or one that speaks to you and the words will flow naturally. So here I am, about to write about babies, more specifically pregnancy. I can’t think of a more appropriate topic to get started and hopefully I’ll catch the writing bug along the way.
Current situation: I’ve got a 16-month old. In my close friends circle, there are 6 babies under 3 (including mine), in my extended social circle there are at least 5 babies that were born the same year as mine and a close friend of mine is currently expecting. In short, I got a baby, they got babies, everybody’s got babies *Oprah voice*
Before the beginning
I got pregnant about 1.5 years into my marriage. My husband and I had talked about it and decided we were ready for it. I had 3 friends who were recent moms and they were all quite open about their respective pregnancies and motherhood experience that they made the whole idea of getting pregnant appear less scary than I’d imagined. Let me tell y’all, movies lie and Hollywood has made a fortune based on lies. Don’t ever make the mistake of using your favorite mama comedy as a measuring stick for your future pregnancy. You might be thoroughly disappointed by the absence of weird cravings- that would serve as funny tales to tell your friends and future child– and the fact you may end up getting daily nausea that “eating for two” won’t even be an option.
You may be equally shocked by the sudden onset of nightly insomnia when you used to be a perfect 8-hours-of-sleep-per-night kinda gal. I don’t mean to scare you but there are so many symptoms, occurrences that mainstream media doesn’t even scratch at the surface of in common dialogue that I found my pregnancy journey to be baffling at times, if not throughout the entire period. Through this series, I will share my own and my friends’ experiences which may serve as inspiration, encouragement or… just cause for you to delay your plans. That last one’s a joke. Lol!
The early days
Sleep had never been so good. I had always been an avid sleeper but man, pregnancy sleep was a whole other dimension of sleep I had never experienced. Quick to come and long to last. Every single episode was sweet from beginning to end; it was as peaceful as I imagined an induced coma to be like. I never slept so much in my life as in my first trimester. At a certain point, my sleep statistics became alarming but thanks to Google I discovered that the first trimester is when the hCG pregnancy hormone peaks and its primary side effect is to induce dreamy sleep. Surely it had a relevant function other than but I defer those details to the doctor. I had no nausea or discomfort and I thank God for that. One of the downsides of sleepiness was the inability to concentrate on anything. I found myself avoiding meetings at work because it was really hard to focus on what people were saying or to follow complex dialogue. It was a strange feeling and if I’m being honest, it was uncomfortable and it made me feel insecure. It felt like my brain was stuffed with a bunch of fluffy clouds. Try to remember how uncomfortable it is to breathe through a thin passage of air in a single nostril or through your mouth when you have a stuffy nose…Well, apply the same scenario but now to your brain. When I reached that point, I started tracking obsessively the hCG hormone chart (courtesy of Google) to find out when the hormone levels would decrease so I could estimate when I’d get my brain capacity back. Spoiler alert: it was never fully restored.
On cravings and eating for two
Depends on who you ask. My husband’s version is that I had all sorts of untameable cravings but my version-which happens to be the correct one– is that I had compulsive streaks of preference for one particular food item lasting between 1 to 2 weeks at a time. Among them: scones with strawberry jam, ice cream bars and gorillo’s. If it wasn’t for my being restricted by a gluten-free diet, I think I would have eaten pizza everyday. Throughout my entire pregnancy, my appetite was steady. I never felt like my hunger was larger than usual but the one thing that changed was the intensity of hunger. I woke up with serious hunger pangs every single morning and every time I approached mealtime, I could barely wait to warm up my food before intense hunger swept over me.
Favorite sleep position
I never realized how much I loved sleeping on my stomach until my belly became too big to sleep on it comfortably. My new subscription to sleeping on the back was quickly halted when I read that it was not “safe” as it restricts blood circulation to the heart. That’s basically when I kissed sleep goodbye. Even my lifesaving U-shaped pillow was not enough to restore my sacred sleep.
Definitely the “I gotta eat NOW” intense feeling and the ability to fall asleep at the drop of a dime. Also, the amount of attention and care that’s given to pregnant women, it’s a beautiful thing!
My least favorite part of being pregnant was the frequent visits to the doctor’s and the never-ending waiting for my turn to enter the doctor’s office. Hopefully by the next time I’m pregnant the number of ObGyn will have increased everywhere in the world.
There were two. The first one is insomnia. While I could easily fall asleep I developed a bout of insomnia somewhere in the middle of my second trimester, whereby I woke up almost nightly around 2am and was awake for up to 2 hours. My solution? I bought myself a Kindle and got through my reading list. The second symptom I developed is itchy eyes, like seriously, for days at a time, I could not stop rubbing my eyes. I mentioned it to one of my mom friends and she told me it also happened to her during her pregnancy. Odd, right? Oh and how could I forget the profuse sweating!!! I’ll spare y’all the details.
Actual pregnancy vs what I thought it would be like
I never dreamed about what pregnancy would be like, I didn’t ever envision the whole thing from beginning to end. In fact, I always feared the act of giving birth so never gave much thought to the state of pregnanthood. Having said that, there were a few factors that were different from what I expected of pregnancy. For example, I was taken aback by how 40 weeks ended up feeling like halfway to eternity. Also, I expected my hormones to lead to all types of emotional meltdowns but that didn’t happen.
On bonding with the babe
Honestly, until my belly started growing and my baby started kicking, I did not feel any bond. There were like 5 wholes months of pregnancy when it felt like I wasn’t even pregnant yet because my body had barely changed. The only sure giveaway was the fatigue and extreme hunger. But when my baby started kicking, the surrealness of it all was undeniable and I developed feelings for him. I always felt awkward talking to him but I tried my best as I was advised (lol!) Real talk, for some of my friends talking to the baby in the womb came naturally but for me it wasn’t the case. There are no negative after effects that I know of, so do you.
While bonding with the baby was not something that came naturally to me, pregnancy did help create all sorts of new bonds. For starters, with my co-creator, also known as my husband. The pending birth of our son gave us so much to dream about, a future we both looked forward to with so much excitement and that we knew would be totally transformed by the arrival of our sweet munchkin. He handled his co-creator role really well, most importantly by attending every doctor’s appointment with me and making sure I was fed on time! I made him late to work so many times, but he never complained once. Waking up with an alarm while pregnant is practically impossible.
On a closing note, never have I felt more loved and taken care of by my girlfriends than when I was pregnant. Becoming a mother opened the doors to new conversations, new vulnerabilities, new perspectives, new sets of worries but also amazing advice and encouragement. I’m going to let you in on some classified information here, there’s a secret society of mothers waiting to sweep you up into their large security blanket and take care of you throughout your pregnancy. Whatever the state of your heart, joy, fear, excitement, or worry, one of them will avail themselves for you and that’s the truth.
To me, that was one of the purest form of beauty I’ve witnessed during my pregnancy journey and I’ll forever be thankful for that.
Previously published in Fromthe1Inside
Marie-Ange Rukundo is a dynamic Rwandan, mom to the cutest boy in the world and married to one exceptional man. She is at her best when connecting with fellow humans on topics that speak to her heart, including motherhood, identity, food, the mystery of life, and God.
She advises university students in career matters during the day and when she is off the clock, you can find her at home with her family. She keeps her schedule busy with playdates, books, podcasts, a blog and trying out new recipes. She is an extroverted libra on an unending quest for balance.
Insert photos (1 & 3) by Iris Lasry, Cynthia Butare.