Pregnancy & Childbirth

What pregnant women won’t tell you. Ever.

In celebration of the anniversary of Roe v Wade, the team at Grounded Parents have decided to dedicate an entire day to talking about what reproductive freedom means to us. And, as a reminder of what it takes to carry a pregnancy to full term, I’m cross-posting an old article I wrote for Skepchick a few years ago called What pregnant women won’t tell you. Ever.

 

Are you pregnant? Know someone who is? Might you become pregnant in the future? Do you have a uterus and engage in sexual intercourse with man(s)? Are you a man(s) who engages in sexual intercourse with uterus owner(s)? Are you exposed to people who engage in sexual intercourse? Have you ever seen or heard of a baby? Have you or any of your friends ever expressed interest in creating a human being from scratch?

If you’ve answered “yes”, “maybe”, “perhaps”, “I’d like to”, or “Does this site contain any content relevant to anyone anywhere?” to any of the above questions, this post is for you!

Behind the scenes at Skepchick, we’ve been brainstorming ideas and working hard at achieving our goal of getting more women interested in skepticism. Aside from blogging, podcasting, organizing conferences and panels and throwing skeptic parties, a few of us have also taken on the task of simply creating more women. Jen, Chelsea and I are Skepchick gardens… though, I admit, I missed on my first attempt and accidentally made yet another white male skeptic (fortunately, he has yet to grow a beard).

But while the human-baking process has been going on for like at least 6000 years or so, it’s hardly a process that’s been perfected. And shockingly, a good portion of the process is not discussed. Really. If you think that being pregnant is anything like what you’ve seen in the movies or heard from your friends or co-workers, you might be surprised to hear that normal uncomplicated pregnancies can suck.

So I made a list of things no one tells you about pregnancy until you’re already sucked in. Not everyone experiences all of these. Some women experience none of these. Some women experience all of these and more. And these do not include any of the things no one tells you about complications, miscarriages,  infertility or unwanted pregnancy. So this list is only for the lucky ones.

Ready?

You Must be Happy

You’re pregnant with a baby you want and you and your husband planned for! Congrats! You must be thrilled! Everyone else is! Don’t you love being pregnant? Everyone else does! It’s magical! It’s wonderful!

Except… you’re not. Don’t try to talk about it with anyone. It’s like explaining mustard to a frog. Women who are already parents will explain to you that you’re just dealing with some stress, and that everything will be fine. Everyone who is not a mother will just be confused or think you’re joking.

Reality: Pregnancy is terrifying. You don’t know what’s going on with your body. No one tells you what’s normal and what’s not. And suddenly, no matter how excited and prepared you thought you were, you realize you are totally and completely not ready to be responsible for another human being. You’re filled with doubt. You’re sure you’re making a mistake… and you know what? You might be. No one will tell you that either (unless you’re not married, in which case you are not to be happy at all and any mention of being happy will be met with feigned congratulations and followed up with lectures to your face and whispers behind your back about how naive/stupid/irresponsible you are.) But really, parenting isn’t for everyone. And even if you once thought it was for you, it might not be. For you, it is entirely possible that you made a mistake.

But even if it’s not a mistake (BTW, it probably isn’t), it can sure feel like it. And it’s not only okay, but normal to feel overwhelmed and confused… even angry. On top of being one of the biggest life changing events you will ever experience, you’re uncomfortable and your hormones are messing with your mind… and your body. And on top of that yet is the fact that it’s hard to find sympathy from anyone other than women who are currently pregnant and women who are dealing with their newborns.

Morning Sickness

Ok, everyone talks about morning sickness. But I don’t think it gets proper credit for being as awful as it is. Somehow, barfing endlessly for months has gained a reputation as being a romantic rite of passage. It’s not. It’s like being hungover with the flu for 6 weeks – 9 months.

People will think they’re laughing along with you as you struggle to keep anything down. They will either be completely unsympathetic or think it’s an amusing practical joke to expose you to smells that will bring on your nausea. They will even insist that you’re wrong that the smell of chicken a block away will keep you sick for days because “but you love chicken!”

Then there’s the morning sickness fetishists. They love hearing stories about morning sickness because it means that your pregnancy is going well. It’s true, kind of. There is a correlation between the severity of morning sickness and pregnancy outcomes. But really, when you have 7 months to go, and haven’t held down more than water and saltines for weeks, you don’t give a shit. Also, morning sickness does not necessarily mean that you will have a healthy, full term pregnancy either. You can puke for eight weeks straight and still miscarry… which kind of makes the whole cheering thing kind of a dick move.

Don’t be fooled into thinking “morning sickness” has anything to do with mornings. Noon doesn’t change anything. “Morning” sickness is better termed “all the damn time” sickness.  It’s sweet that Hollywood is naive enough to believe that preggos throw up three times before 9am then go on to have a normal day. And by “sweet” I mean that it makes me want to puke.

Staying awake

The first trimester, it’s not even worth it to try. You will not stay awake. You can’t fight it. You can’t sleep your way into more energy. You will feel narcoleptic.

The second trimester you won’t be able to sleep. You will be full of energy. Anything that can be done, must get done now! Before bed! Who needs sleep! You will feel like a manic on meth.

The third trimester you will be motivated but exhausted. You will want to sleep all the time but will not be able to. You will not be able to get comfortable. Once you are comfortable and dozing off, your baby will decide that it’s time to throw a uterus rave. You will feel like a narcoleptic with a conjoined manic-meth-head twin.

Aches

Everything will hurt. Your head, your boobs, your teeth, your back, your belly, your thighs, your feet.

If nothing hurts, something is probably wrong.

If everything hurts too much, something is probably wrong.

If everything hurts the right amount, that is a great sign and it means that everything is going perfectly.

How do you know the right amount? You don’t. And every day, the “right amount” can change. Good luck. You can take Tylenol (paracetamol for the foreigners), but don’t expect it to work for anything ache-related.

Cervix Kicks

Oh your sweet little baby is healthy and moving around and kicking. You can feel him bumping around. It’s magical.

HOLY SHIT! WHAT WAS THAT?

That? That crazy sudden pain that almost made you collapse? That feeling that someone just sent an electric fireball down your vagina and through your legs? That, my dear, was your sweet little baby kicking you in the cervix.

You can’t prepare for it. You can’t stop it. You can only hope that each time it happens, you are near something to break your fall. Or that you are in a place where no one cares if you scream.

Bladder Kicks

It’s probably unfair to say no one talks about this one. But I don’t think it’s talked about enough.

Once your kid starts kicking hard enough to feel it on the outside, it’s time to go to the pharmacy and pick up some Poise pantyliners. Do it. Do not be embarrassed. Do not wait to see if I am making this up.

At this point, your kid can kick with some force. Your bladder lives next to her feet. Think of your bladder as a crudely fastened water balloon. A quick punch aaaaand……hopefully you have access to new pants. Otherwise you have to start yelling at invisible people about Zeus to get away with walking around smelling like pee.

Gaining Sympathy

Don’t expect anyone to ever be sympathetic to any of the things you are going through. Maybe this is why no one talks about these things.

Your friends who want kids don’t want to hear this.

Your friends who don’t want kids will want you to shut up and snap, “You’re the one who wanted kids.” (Because wanting a family means that you want to be kicked in the cervix while urinating on yourself with a back that aches so bad you can hardly move… that’s what YOU GET!)

Your partner might try to be sympathetic, but is going through all this for the first time, too. He won’t have much advice, and will pretty much feel helpless.

With the exception of women with newborns, everyone who doesn’t fall into the first three groups just wants to tell you how great it will be when the kid comes out.

Yeah, it is worth it in the end… but that doesn’t change anything you’re going through right now.

Even though you’re literally never alone, pregnancy can be a very lonely time.

Swelling Junk

Everyone knows things swell when you’re pregnant. Your hands swell. Your feet swell. Your face swells. Your boobs enter a room 5 minutes before you, and 10 minutes after your belly.

But no one tells you that your genitals swell. No one. And once they start, there’s nothing you can do to stop them. And it hurts.

It feels like someone punched you in the crotch with brass knuckles. Sitting hurts. Standing makes the blood rush down. Laying down keeps the pressure off, which feels better, but also helps everything engorge for when you do sit or stand.

And as the baby gets heavier, it acts like a tourniquet, trapping your entire blood supply inside your labia. At some point, you may think you’ve grown giant infected testicles. Nope. Those are your girl parts.

At this point you’ll probably stab anyone who looks like they may even be thinking about sex. If you’re not ready to stab anyone, try having sex… a little more blood rushing down there will undoubtedly get you stabbing within minutes!

Feet

New moms always talk about how they want to get back into their pre-pregnancy jeans. This is their way of coping with the loss of every pair of shoes they ever loved.

By the middle of your 3rd trimester, none of your shoes will fit. Your feet will be swollen and all the muscles and ligaments in your feet will have relaxed, spreading your feet out. The swelling does go away once you’ve pushed your little doll out. The spreading does not.

I hope you didn’t buy your dream Manolos to celebrate your growing family. Now, the only place they’re going to fit is the donation bin. Bright side: some hobo out there is gonna look FABulous!

Pooping

You will poop during child birth. There is nothing you can do about this. Pushing is pushing.

Your doctor and husband (or other coach) will tell you that you didn’t so that you’re not too embarrassed to keep going. You’ll assume they’re being honest. You’ll brag to everyone that you didn’t. Then your husband will get drunk a year and a half later and laugh at you for dooking yourself… then laugh at you for thinking you didn’t. You’ll punch him in the balls, but it won’t change anything because he’s right. You did.

You pooped your bed while a room full of people were staring at your bloody gaping vagina.

Bloody gaping vagina

Yeah. That’s where the baby comes out. People will be staring at it intently. I have nothing else to add.

Alcohol

If you choose not to drink alcohol while pregnant, be prepared for After School Special levels of peer pressure to drink. It is apparently unacceptable to say to anyone ever that you feel safer abstaining completely. You can argue whatever facts you want. Everyone has a sister/aunt/cousin who drank and smoked through her entire pregnancy and gave birth to a healthy 13 lb baby. Your friends, family and co-workers will be annoyed by the fact that you choose not to drink… because for some reason an increased risk of raising a child with ADHD is no reason to stop kicking back with a 6 pack once (or seven times) a week. You need to stop being such a pretentious sober bitch.

The people who applaud your choice to be a pretentious sober bitch will freak.the.fuck.out if anyone drinks in your vicinity. Do not offer to mix up some of your signature cocktail for everyone at a party. Forget it. You’re pregnant. For 9 months, the world is to act as if alcohol never existed. If you mention that you’re really missing margaritas, or take half a sip of one, your friends will call DCFS on you.

Using TP

After giving birth, you will be instructed to stop using toilet paper. Not forever, but for a while. You will be sent home with a little squirt bottle to use to clean yourself after you pee.

Eventually your doctor will clear you to wipe yourself again. But really, it’s not like the TP thing matters. You’ll be too bloody down there for it to really make a difference. Every time you pee, you’ll want to jump into the shower to wash your unusable bloody sexy parts… and your bloody thighs… even your bloody calves and ankles, too, at least for a few days.

Advice

Everyone you meet who has ever met another pregnant woman is an expert on your pregnancy. Everything they will tell you defies logic, and is likely the opposite of anything your OB would ever tell you. The longer ago and the farther away they gave birth, the more advice they will have and the more they will insist your doctor is wrong. Example: 95 year old woman who birthed her youngest 80 years ago in Siberia knows more than your doctor, and will terrify you while going on for hours about what the best way to be pregnant is (using vodka to douche every hour is important for a healthy fetus! You don’t need prenatal care! Birth defect screening is rubbish; try a dowsing rod for your answers! Pickled fish make the best pantyliners!). Your 25 year old friend next door with a 3 month old daughter will not impose her advice on you.

Your husband will give you advice based on what he remembers from his aunt being pregnant in 1989.

Everyone else will ask you questions, benign questions compared to the stuff I’ve listed here, and will be horrified by your answers. “OMG YOU HAVE TO DO WHAT ON THE PREGNANCY TEST STICK? OOOOOOOH YUCK!” “Transvaginal ultrasound? What’s that? OOOOOOOOH YUCK!” “They look THERE? On the BABY? To find out what sex it is? OOOOOOH YUCK!” “Wait, it’s moving right NOW? Like while we talk? OOOOOOOOOOH YUCK!” “Can you still have sex? OOOOOOOH YUCK!”

So there you have it. Everything you may or may not have wanted to know about being pregnant that no one would have ever told you anyway.

Now, I need to go ice my crotch and change my Poise pad.

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Elyse

Elyse

Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

14 Comments

  1. January 22, 2014 at 10:23 am —

    Another awesome fun fact about All F-ing Day Sickness, during my 2nd trimester, throwing up made me hungry! Baby needs those calories, better replace them! I remember one day at lunch I excused myself, threw up, rinsed my mouth, and finished lunch. I even got a Frostie for dessert afterwards.

  2. LostDisk
    January 22, 2014 at 11:24 am —

    A friend re-tweeted the link to this article… and I went and read it. Don’t get me wrong, lots of good info, but I already had a fear of ever being pregnant, and to go and read this!!! Nope, guess I’m never having kids now!

  3. AudraTallis
    January 22, 2014 at 12:47 pm —

    Thank you for the straight up honesty. I now feel very confident in saying I am NEVER having children.

  4. January 22, 2014 at 12:51 pm —

    You know what could be added to this handy list?
    BLEEDING FROM THE ASS.
    I had hemorrhoids like WHOA. And they were unpleasant and REALLY scary at first because who wants to go to he bathroom to find blood especially when you’re preggers? NOT FUN.

    But yeah, on the advice thing: The only (unsolicited) advice I give to my pregnant friends is to listen to their doctor and everyone else can go to hell. My wonderful older sister made it her goal to tell me the most awful pregnancy stories ever and then wonder why I was upset. For instance, from the beginning of my second trimester on, I had a really difficult time sleeping because I was uncomfortable all the time. The only way I could sleep was on my back with a pillow under my knees. Well, when my asshole sister found out, she took it upon herself to tell me that sleeping like that will cause the placenta to tear and INSTANTLY KILL YOUR BABY. Needless to say, her “advice” didn’t help me sleep.

    (I did talk to my docs about sleeping position. In an otherwise healthy, low-risk pregnancy, there’s no reason to fear sleeping on your back and lack of sleep is more worrying to them than whether or not you’re sleeping on your left side.)

  5. EmbraceYourInnerCrone
    January 22, 2014 at 2:18 pm —

    I so wish I had met this post before I had my daughter! I would really have liked to know that my feet were going to grow 3 sizes…and only shrink 2 after the birth. Ditto about the Pouse pads. And what is it with random belly pats from people?

  6. January 22, 2014 at 3:12 pm —

    Constipation. That’s all I have to say.

  7. onamission5
    January 22, 2014 at 3:39 pm —

    In the everybody and the horse they rode in on will have advice for you whether you asked for it or not department, I have one thing to say about post-birth bleeding: those pads they give you at the hospital are fucking worthless, invest in a pack of Depends. Your bed sheets, clothes, and carpets will thank you. The End.

    • January 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm —

      Really? The ones at my hospital were AWESOME (seriously, they went from like my belly button to the top of my ass crack), plus they came with this neato disposable underwear. If I knew where to buy them retail, I’d rock ’em during my period.

  8. onamission5
    January 22, 2014 at 3:48 pm —

    I really, really wish someone had told me I was going to shit myself before the birth of my first kid, so I could have accepted that it was inevitable and stopped fighting it, thinking I was going to be the first laboring woman who’d ever crapped on her doctor during a cervix check. My whole birthing class was all about how labor is work, but nobody mentioned that part of that work involved involuntary public shitting. We need to know this stuff in advance, people! Information is preparation!

    • January 22, 2014 at 4:10 pm —

      The shitting was covered in my birthing class. They also said that they offer women enemas. Never had time for any of this, so I pooped. And peed. Almost in my midwife’s face…

  9. Dianne
    January 22, 2014 at 4:20 pm —

    And you didn’t even directly address labor. Everyone tells you labor hurts. Well, except for the extreme woo-files, but most people acknowledge that labor hurts. No one tells you that you’ll also be puking your guts out and pooping uncontrollably. Also, there’s this thing called “obstructed labor”, which, if you have it, means constant extremely painful contractions until c-section or death. Tons of fun.

    • January 22, 2014 at 7:23 pm —

      I had always had the impression from everyone and media that it was the baby passing through the vagina that hurt the most… boy was I surprised when I discovered the contractions were excruciating and the vaginal part was as nothing (even though I tore into my rectum)!

  10. onamission5
    January 22, 2014 at 5:39 pm —

    Hospital offered me an enema, they just never told me that it was to empty my bowels so I’d not take a crap on the doctor, like I was supposed to magically intuit the reasons or learn them via osmosis de thin air.

    The birthing class I had with my midwife team was *so* much more thorough than that class my OB recommended. He has no one to blame for getting pooped on but himself.

  11. onamission5
    January 23, 2014 at 11:14 am —

    It’s possible that the ones I got were bottom of the barrel, quality wise, but they would not stay in place and did nothing for side leakage. I kept waking up to discover that my pad had tried to escape out the back of my weird mesh underpants. When my MW’s gave me the same pads post-second birth, my reaction was fuck this there’s got to be something better, and lo, there was! Incontinence undergarments for the win.

    Have you tried a medical supply store for the pads?

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