Welcome to the Club
Pregnant? Me too! Congratulations!
Are you still in shock? I know I am.
I think I’ve been slightly stunned since getting a positive reading on the pregnancy test. I was in such a rush to get to work the day I took the test that I didn’t wait for the result to develop and left the test in the bathroom. I was almost positive that I was not pregnant. I had already taken a pregnancy test a week prior, which was negative. While quickly cleaning up the bathroom before leaving the house, I almost swept the pee stick into the wastebasket. That’s when I noticed there was more than one line. Positive? What?! I’m pregnant!
Can you believe it? We’re pregnant! There is actually a microscopic life growing inside of us, and we are soon going to become someone’s mother! Egads!
Before we get to the drama and implications of parenthood, we have a whole ten months of pregnancy to contend with. (Yes, ten months. 40 weeks: 9 months + 3 weeks = 10 months, at least in my book!)
So, what do we do now?
When I discovered my first pregnancy three years ago, I remember that my mind became frantically cluttered with questions: What was this pregnancy going to do to my life? What was it going to be like to “be” pregnant? Were people going to look at me differently? Were my feet going to grow? Was I going to get stretch marks? How much does childbirth really hurt?
Being a planner, I made a detailed list of everything I thought I needed to know and set out to find the answers.
During that first pregnancy I bought and faithfully read all of the standard pregnancy books: What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Your Pregnancy, The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy, The Everything Pregnancy Book, Pregnancy and Childbirth, the gory yet interesting A Child Is Born, and so on. These books were very helpful, but I felt I needed more. I wanted to know everything about pregnancy—from the most intimate physical changes to the psychological roller coaster I’d heard it could be. I wanted to hear every single detail from someone experienced and not afraid to discuss the various states of the vagina during pregnancy.
I questioned my doctor, my sister, my mother, and all of my closest girlfriends about their pregnancy and childbirth experiences.
I enrolled in the standard classes: Lamaze, Childbirth & Infant Care 101, and a pregnancy relaxation course.
After I completed all of my research, I still felt that many pertinent details had been omitted—by the books, by the doctors, and even by my own sister!
These details, sometimes quite gross or embarrassing in nature, are important for every pregnant woman to know (at least in my opinion!). For example: No one ever told me that I might feel baby hiccups in my rectum, that my nipples were going to crack apart into dozens of small sections that resembled dried desert mud, or that I would automatically earn a “pregnancy card” that would be handy when cutting in front of a hundred people waiting to use a public toilet.
You too probably have a gazillion questions about what to expect from your pregnancy. Some of your questions may be answered by your doctor or by reference books. Others may be answered by relatives or experienced maternal girlfriends.
With this book, a journal of my second pregnancy, I hope to help fill the gaps in between, and I promise not to withhold all of those “gory details.” I will tell you when I wet my pants in public, what my body (and relationship) went through, and the story of my third nipple. Yup, third nipple.
My purpose is to give you, my dear reader and fellow pregnant pal, as much info as possible about pregnancy and childbirth—dirty details and all—while omitting most of the standard textbook stuff.
Be warned: I am sometimes brutally blunt and explicit (not for the dainty mannered gal). If you share my mentality and really enjoy a good “Ewwwww! Really?” among girlfriends, then read on!
If you have never given birth, the pain of labor and delivery may be your biggest fear. Before my first child was born I had envisioned the pain to be so encompassing that I feared I would lose my mind. I had been told many horror stories of women punching doctors, biting husbands, and spit-fit cursing the nurses.
I am happy to report that my brain (and saliva) remained intact during my delivery, and I knew I would gladly go through it all again to have another child.
Some people say that a mother forgets the pain of childbirth once it is over. I’m not so sure this is true. If you want to know what it’s really like in the moment, I’m going to give you the real story.
I will document the birth of my child, blow by blow. I will have a laptop in the delivery room as well as a tape recorder to chronicle my various states of pain and sanity. I promise not to edit!
During my first pregnancy I remember thinking, Wouldn’t it be fun to have a girlfriend who was pregnant and due about the same time, so we could share the experience and compare notes? I could ask her questions such as, “Are your boobs as sore as mine?” and “Do you have an equal ratio of skin tags to pills on your sweater?” I wrote this book so you can have what I didn’t—a week-by-week chronicle of the hormonal highs and lows and everything in between.
I hope that by sharing my experience with you I may give you a more personal insight into the real experience of pregnancy and giving birth.
Keep in mind that not all women have the same experience and not all pregnancies are alike (even within the same person). If you are not having the same symptoms as I am, or even if you are experiencing something entirely different, it does not mean that you are abnormal. The range of what pregnancy symptoms you experience and when is vast. My friend Carol had morning sickness for the first three months; Abby never had morning sickness; Caroline was ill for the entire pregnancy. Guess what? All of these cases are considered “normal” for pregnancy.
If you’re ever concerned about unusual symptoms, just ask your doctor or midwife. Some questions that came up for me and some of the women who logged onto the Web site include:
How is it possible there’s enough fluid surrounding the baby when my vagina is leaking like a sieve?
So, is it normal to be limber enough to join Cirque du Soleil?
What is this sticking out of my butt?
Chances are, your doctor has heard that very same question many times before and your weird symptom is within the “realm of normality.” And remember, the “realm” is very, very big!
One more thing. If you are one of those women who have an absolutely wonderful pregnancy every step of the way without a single discomfort or unpleasantry, well, cheers to you! Consider yourself doubly blessed.
I tend to be a bit of a complainer. I enjoy sharing my present states of discomfort and oddities with close friends. The daily reality of being pregnant, in my opinion, is not always a glowing miracle. Although it may be ugly at times, it can also be hilarious!
By the time you are finished reading this book, I hope that you may find the humor in a hemorrhoid and laugh when you break water on your mother-in-law’s brand-new Persian rug.
Throughout this book you will notice that I quite often discuss (and complain about) the multitude of pregnancy symptoms I am experiencing. Here’s a list of symptoms I had. This is by no means a comprehensive or definitive list. You may get a few of these symptoms. You may get none of these. You may get all of them and more. Who knows? Every pregnancy is so different, but it is fun to compare (and commiserate over) our stories.
Symptoms of My Pregnancy—The Unedited List
Abdominal muscle separation. A separation can occur in the muscles of the abdomen from the pressure of the expanding uterus. This may be sore and accompany an umbilical hernia, or you may not notice it until after pregnancy.
Baby mambo. It can feel like your baby is doing the mambo from all the jabbing, kicking, poking, and squirming going on.
Backache. In early pregnancy it can seem like PMS back pain. By the last trimester it may be feeling more along the lines of a fractured spine.
Bleeding gums. Mucous membranes in the body become swollen and sensitive, including the gums. Even when brushing very carefully, your gums may bleed.
Bloating. Excess gasses and fluid retention can lead to frequent feelings of being bloated or overstuffed.
Braxton Hicks. These contractions can feel like menstrual cramps, intensified and then spread over the whole uterus. It reminded me of the crampy/nauseous/sweaty feeling one gets right before a bad bout of diarrhea. These contractions are quite common and normal for women in their third, and sometimes even second, trimester.
Breathlessness. Not only is the baby squeezing the space for your lungs, but the placenta is drawing oxygen out of your blood. If you overexert yourself, you’ll be the first one shorted on the oxygen supply, not the baby.
Cauliflower butt. This is a result of multiple hemorrhoid eruptions. If you’ve got three or more hemorrhoids and they become irritated and inflamed, your anus may end up looking like a piece of purple cauliflower.
Cheeseburger crotch. The vaginal area becomes engorged with blood and fluids. My friend Grace and I fondly coined the term “cheeseburger crotch,” because that’s what it looked like she had stashed in her panties during pregnancy!
Cocktail-wiener toes. Retention of fluids in the lower extremities can leave you with toes that resemble overcooked cocktail wieners.
Constipation. Constipation during pregnancy is due to the fact that a mother’s body draws and retains more fluids for the growing baby, placenta, and amniotic fluid, therefore making the stool dry. A dry stool has a much more difficult time moving through the pipes than a lubricated one.
Cramps/pain. Uterine cramps and pains can happen for a number of reasons, such as a muscle spasm; stretching tendons or ligaments; the baby kicking your cervix, bowels, or spine; or Braxton Hicks contractions.
Depression and anxiety. These, among many other wacky mood swings, can strike at any time.
Diarrhea. Speed of digestion and production of digestive enzymes can vary drastically during pregnancy, making diarrhea a common occurrence. Unfortunately, frequent diarrhea can bring about masses of hemorrhoids too.
Dry, flaky skin. In contrast to those super-oily spots, the dry spots of skin can become so flaky that they produce a small snowstorm of skin when scratched.
Ear popping. Swelling and fluid retention in the ear canal can create an ear-popping or clogged ear sensation. This is especially bothersome while trying to have a telephone conversation.
Extra padding. An entire-body covering of extra fat and fluid. Even if you’ve never had it before, you could get hand fat, ankle fat, neck fat, and back fat.
Faintness and dizziness. Sudden feelings of light-headedness and dizziness. I often saw sparkly stars before my eyes when I stood up too fast.
Fatigue. The feeling of being very run-down and tired.
Fetal hiccups. It might first feel like gas, but once you notice a rhythm you’ll know your baby has the hiccups. The fetus and even newborns frequently get these muscle contractions in the esophagus.
Flatulence. A mother’s body slows down food in the intestine so that she may suck up every last nutrient. All the while, the contents are fermenting and creating huge pockets of gas. When the baby kicks or squirms, this gas can uncontrollably expel.
Food cravings. These must-have-or-I-might-hurt-someone-type foods can be the same for the entire pregnancy or may change from month to month or even week to week.
Frequent urination. During pregnancy, a mother’s body processes many more fluids to feed the baby and expel wastes from the fetus. It’s no wonder you’ve got to pee ten times a night.
Greasy hair. It seems the oil glands everywhere in the body work overtime during pregnancy, and it really shows in the scalp. Stock up on the shampoo!
Headaches. They can vary from a slight pressure in the skull to a jackhammer in the brain.
Heartburn. With limited stomach space, overactive stomach acids, and a lax reflux muscle, it’s no wonder heartburn plagues pregnant women. During my last trimester, I felt the contents of my stomach rising up in the back of my throat whenever I lay down to sleep.
Heightened thermostat. A general feeling of being too hot, especially while sleeping.
Hemorrhoids. Growing pressure in the pelvic region compresses veins, arteries, and blood vessels. A hemorrhoid is a varicose vein that pokes out through the muscle wall near the anus. It can become very uncomfortable, even painful.
Herniated navel. A small hole in the muscle wall in or around the navel can cause bits of innards to squish out, and boy, is it painful!
Horror-monal hysteria. A general feeling of heightened emotions and a very short fuse to anger and rage. (Be careful while driving—road rage can run rampant.)
Increased appetite. I found that eating for two was not only my duty but also a pleasure. No one questions a pregnant woman
ordering two cheeseburgers, two shakes, and two fries just for herself.
Itchy belly. Sensitive skin, expanding dermis, and a body that reacts more extremely to allergens makes belly itching most prevalent in the third trimester.
Leg cramps. One of the major causes of leg cramps during pregnancy is dehydration. Maybe that’s why they happen so often at night when you’re not able to drink a pint of water per hour.
Linea nigra (black line). Starts just under the navel and ends at the top of the pubic bone. The line seems to be a pretty good indicator of how ripe your melon may be. The more prominent and dark it is, the closer you are to giving birth.
Loose ligaments and tendons. Not only do they loosen and stretch to accommodate a growing middle, but they also get rubbery in other parts of the body. You may have trouble holding onto small objects or even navigating your way to the bathroom with your looser-feeling limbs.
Loss of bladder control. Pressure from an expanding uterus puts the squeeze on your bladder. Since you are expelling liquids at an accelerated rate, the bladder fills up much more quickly. It can get harder and harder to hold your urine as the months progress.
Magnified sense of smell. You’d think with the nasal congestion, just the opposite would be true, but it’s not so. It seems like the volume on the olfactory sensor is turned way up during pregnancy.
Nausea. Usually lasts for only the first trimester or so but can be constant (day and night) for weeks at a time.
Nipple cheese. This cheesy substance is a buildup of sebaceous fluid and/or early colostrum that collects on the nipples.
Nosebleeds and nasal congestion. Mucous membranes become very swollen and sensitive during pregnancy. You may feel like you have a continual stuffy nose. Do be careful—if you blow frequently or too hard, you may end up with nosebleeds too.
Pimples and rashes. Since your body is prone to more allergies, your thermostat is heightened, and your sweat and oil glands are working overtime, it’s no wonder you can be more prone to pimples and rashes just about anywhere on your body during pregnancy.
Pins and needles. When there’s a temporary blockage of blood to an area of the body, you’ll have that pins-and-needles feeling. During pregnancy, excess weight and fluids and a shifting baby can cause pins and needles to happen to various parts of the body on a daily basis.
Saddle sore. Once the baby drops and the head is engaged in the pelvis, you’ll notice a tremendous amount of pressure on the bowels, bladder, and pelvic bones. It can feel like you’ve been horseback riding for two weeks straight.
Skin sores. Most women’s skin becomes extra sensitive during pregnancy, and sores can crop up anywhere there is an irritation. I got a smattering of sores just under my breasts from the friction of my bra.
Skin tags. Similar in appearance to pills on a sweater but they’re actually small bits of skin attached to your underarms, groin, neck, and/or eyelids.
Sore boobs. It’s no wonder they’re sore with all of the expansion going on during pregnancy. By my second trimester it felt like my boobs were made of lead, and it was more than uncomfortable to go braless.
Sore spots. The baby can put pressure on, kick, or jab an area of the uterus, making it sore. It can feel very much like an internal belly bruise.
Stabbing back spasms. Muscles in and around the back can suddenly spasm and cause shooting pain throughout the body. My spasms sometimes left me looking like I’d been struck by invisible lightning.
Stretch marks. The skin stretches to the limit and the connective fibers within can break—creating a scar or stretch mark. Chalk it up to one of the battle scars of motherhood, I always say!
Stronger and different BO. Body odors can become much more pungent and entirely different smelling.
Super-oily skin. It seems the oil glands everywhere in the body work overtime during pregnancy. I got more grease off my forehead in a day than from two slices of fresh-from-the-oven pizza.
Third nipple. Most women never know they have excess nipple tissue until they become pregnant. The hormones released during pregnancy can make it swell up like a tick. Apparently, it is fairly common for people to have excess nipple tissue within a vertical line of the breast from the clavicle to the hip.
Vaginal discharge. This discharge, called leukorrhea, gets heavier as the pregnancy progresses. Eventually, you may have to use a sanitary napkin, a panty liner, or tissues to absorb the increasingly abundant discharge.
Varicose veins. An expanding body requires more blood supply, increasing the size of veins and arteries. Blue, purple, or greenish varicose veins and spider veins may crop up on your legs, belly, and breasts.
Veiny boobs. Expanding breasts require more blood supply, increasing the size of veins and arteries. Blue, purple, or greenish veins can give your breasts a road-mappish appearance.
Water retention and swelling. During pregnancy, your body can retain excess water. Changes in your blood chemistry cause some fluids to shift into your tissue. Usually the lower extremities, such as the legs and ankles, swell the most.
Yeast infections. Excess heat, perspiration, and discharge in the vaginal area create a breeding ground for yeast infections, which can happen frequently during pregnancy.
Copyright © 2006 by Stacy Quarty