Pregnancy: The Real Deal, By a New Mom

Pregnancy: The Real Deal, By a New Mom

     One of the best parts of having a baby is not being pregnant anymore. I’m always in awe, and some degree of disbelief, when I see the breed of woman who bask in the elusive glow of pregnancy. I thought that glow eluded me. Don’t get me wrong. I was ecstatic, knowing there was a baby growing inside me. I was elated that I was granted the lucky fortune of getting to conceive and caring my own offspring. I loved my daughter when she was just a speck, a little cell, even before she had a heartbeat. I just didn’t have the same infection for the nausea that came in waves all day, every day, for 16 long weeks. I slept with a stack of saltines next to my bed. I couldn’t pep talk myself out of the fatigue. Who knew being tired was so exhausting? My poor husband was the unlucky recipient of my new mood swings. Hormones are a force of nature I couldn’t tame.At the ripe age of 35, I was of "advanced maternal age," a nice way of saying old. They used to call pregnancies like mine "geriatric." Thankfully, someone got wind that such phrasing was rude, and the medical terminology was updated. Because I was "advanced," my pregnancy was considered high risk. Being a little older when you’re pregnant does come with a few perks - you receive additional testing to rule out chromosomal abnormalities, and you get extra, more frequent ultrasounds. Ultrasound appointments are always the most exciting appointments. No one speaks in terms of weeks quite like a pregnant woman. Around week 22, I went in for a standard glucose test. It’s not uncommon for women to develop high levels of blood sugar while pregnant. By week 23, I learned that I had developed gestational diabetes. This meant that for the next 17 weeks I would have to watch my diet and use a glucose monitoring test. I am a wellness enthusiast and consider myself to be a healthy eater. But still, I had to reduce my carbohydrates and sugars. I had to forgo my beloved five bowls of cereals that I craved each day. In addition, I was required to prick my finger with a little needle to measure the glucose in my blood in the morning after each meal. I would have made a lousy nurse; I’d often times screw up my first prick or two and have to keep trying until I drew a good blood sample. My finger pads were tender and blue.

 Initially, the diagnosis scared me. My concerns for the baby were assuaged as my doctor reassured me that the baby would continue to grow healthily so long as I kept the protocols. What I didn’t expect was to feel some degree of shame around my diagnosis. I’m an Ayurvedic counselor; I teach people how to eat well and live a healthy lifestyle. Yet, here I am with diabetes. The shame was of course, unfounded. I would never think poorly have a client who is dealing with an imbalance or illness. I had to afford myself a similar level of compassion.

Pregnancy requires a woman to relinquish control. The saying "babies are a miracle" has stuck with me for a reason. One day a woman is not pregnant. The next day, she is! She carries on with her life. She answers emails, runs errands, and forgets to return texts. Seasons change, and her belly balloons. All the while, a person is forming inside her body, without her doing. As a self-declared control freak, having so little control over such a large production, was not easy. In a way, having gestational diabetes, gave me some sense of control. I couldn't monitor my baby’s heartbeat, the development of her organs, or the length of her little bones. But I could, and was advised to, prick my finger and try to log my blood sugar levels five times a day. Oddly, charting my little numbers, in my little notebook, felt soothing. It helped me feel like I was actively doing something. 

As much as I say I hated pregnancy, I was admittedly one of those women who ambles around with her hand glued to their belly. The baby's impending arrival became more real in the moment I felt my daughter's first kick. Her movements became my tangible evidence that things were progressing. Each movement indicated to me that she was thriving. My hand stayed attached to my belly while I worked, walked, and slept. My short torso was full. Sitting was uncomfortable. Multiple times a day, for months on end, I walked around the lake in front of our house. I daydreamed. I wrote songs for my unborn baby and hummed them in my head. A few times, while particularly lost in daydreams, I catch myself singing out loud. I still sing the same songs to Harper every night before bed. Oh geez, here I go getting all sappy. See this is what time will do; it sugar-coats memories, glossing them over like silky icing on a shabby cake. A page from my journal will give you a better sense of this reality.

Journal Entry: 33 Weeks Pregnant

I barely slept last night. I keep getting tangled in my pregnancy pillow. By the time I get unleashed, I’m all wound up and it’s hard to fall back asleep. I’d stop using it, but my back hurts. Bad. I got called out yesterday- I asked my professor a question he apparently had just answered. It feels like the baby is somehow punching my bladder and simultaneously taking my liver while I’m sitting in class, it’s super distracting. I looked in the mirror this morning. My nipples are enormous. I haven’t pooped in nearly a week. I’m going to take MiraLAX today. 

There are, however, a few advantages to being pregnant; I didn’t have to clean my hairbrush or my shower drain for months. Thanks for the hormones that come during pregnancy, hair shedding ceased. We also get a break from buying tampons and dealing with periods. Especially towards the end, when walking is replaced by waddling, people are polite - holding doors and offering their seats. Oddly, I had a libido of a college frat boy during my second and third trimester. My husband was scared he'd poke the baby. A concern I've read is more common than you might think. My elevated sex drive was shocking and undeniable. I bought my first vibrator. Nature is really funny, kind, or both. Nature knows a woman doesn’t feel her sexiest while pregnant, so she serves us a hormonal cocktail that allows us to experience our sexiness. Nature is also wise to know that new moms are not going to have the energy or time to experience anything remotely erotic once the baby comes, so she throws a bone ahead of time.

One of the most fascinating pieces of pregnancy is how it bonds women. Pregnant women find each other and ask "how are you feeling?", "When are you due?" Elders offer advice, solicited or not, on what to expect and what to do. While waddling around the lake a lady, pushing a pomeranian in a stroller, introduced herself as a pediatric nurse. I walked in the same direction, passing her each morning. "You must be, what, 36 weeks?" she asked. The next time I saw her she said, "you’re carrying low, she’s coming." Weeks later she offered the advice, "walk the other way, by changing directions induce labor." I laughed. People say the oddest things. I changed directions. There’s an entire society of mothers -  novice and veteran. When someone is obviously pregnant, mothers come out of the woodwork to share their otherworldly experience of creating and caring for a tiny creature - an event, that for every mother, has left an indelible mark.

          Pregnancy is time consuming, especially towards the end. In the beginning, I went to the doctor once a month. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I went to the doctor once or twice a week. Visits were routine, and I learned the drill. Weight and blood pressure check upon arrival. Ultrasounds every other visit. Once gestational diabetes was diagnosed, I became a star pupil- proudly handing the doctor my little notebook where I charted my glucose numbers.

I can recall a few standout doctor visits, especially one around the eleventh week when the nurse took so many vials of blood for various tests that I nearly passed out. Extra nurses rushed over to place cold compresses on my head and drape me in warm blankets. I was humiliated. I thought if I can barely handle getting my blood drawn, how am I going to handle a human exiting my vagina? I was very nervous. 

Week 38 offered another little thrill. My fundal height was measuring small, so the doctor ordered an emergency ultrasound. The word "emergency" before anything is not what a pregnant woman wants to hear. Luckily, it turned out that everything was fine, however, the baby was measuring small. During that appointment, my doctor informed me that the best plan would be to plan an induction for my 40th week of pregnancy. At 10 PM, the night before my daughters due date, I would be admitted to the hospital. Modern medicine would assist my daughter in arriving on her planned birthday. All I had to do now was…give birth.

Kristen Lillian Riordan is a KiraGrace Ambassador, and a three time author. In her new book, Clueless & Wise: Pregnancy, Postpartum, Early Motherhood- Adorable, Raw, and Taboo, Kristen reveals the real-deal regarding her journey to becoming a mother. Through joy and vulnerability, her words serve as comfort and support for expecting women and new moms. This refreshing book makes for a perfect bedside read and gift! Available on Amazon. @Kristen_Lillian