Pregnancy is bittersweet. Overall, pregnancy is beautiful. It’s a surreal, life changing experience. Sex can really create a whole ‘nother organism by chance with time. A sperm and an egg really turns into a cluster of cells that becomes a fetus and is born into a baby. Overall, pregnancy is awe-inspiring. Day by day though? Let’s talk about it.
What I have to say about pregnancy is solely based on my experience. Everyone experiences pregnancy differently. Each pregnancy is typically different than another, though there are common symptoms. One person will most likely have a different pregnancy experience with each pregnancy they have. I always say it and I always will say, being pregnant has made me more passionately pro-choice. I say pregnancy is bittersweet because, while I love feeling my baby move and hearing her heartbeat at the doctor’s is relaxing, the entire process is exhausting.
I don’t think pregnancy is talked about enough with transparency, when it comes down to the symptoms, feelings, and overall journey. It is about a whole nine-month process that takes up a person’s life, yet the details of it are barely discussed. Maybe it is because I haven’t seen someone’s journey firsthand. Maybe it is because pregnancy can be a personal thing and not everyone wants to talk about the details. Maybe it is because some people have nothing to say about it and walk through pregnancy like a breeze. Maybe it’s because we’re expected to be grateful to be able to create and carry a baby full term. I want to talk about my pregnancy journey, raw and unfiltered, as a 22/23 year old black woman living in a pandemic. And no, it’s nothing like it’s portrayed on tv.
We can start at the beginning, when I first found out I was pregnant. Looking back, a lot of the signs were there. I just wasn’t looking for them. My breasts weren’t sore but they did look bigger to me, which I didn’t question. My sense of smell was slightly stronger. I had the cravings that I normally wanted during my period. I consistently had a very weird metallic type taste in my mouth that wouldn’t go away, even after brushing my teeth. I thought I had gotten a sinus infection because I was getting headaches, my ears were popping, and my nose was a little stuffy. Because Covid is a thing, I was getting temperature checks pretty much every day before work, and my temperature, which is usually around 94-96 degrees was reaching 98 degrees. I felt gassy regularly. I was told I was glowing. I was unexplainably tired all of the time and felt a tightness in my stomach. I noticed my uterus pouch bulging a little, but didn’t think to question why. All of this happened within the first couple weeks of pregnancy.
Technically, I have a healthy pregnancy. I don’t have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. My blood pressure is typically at a good rate. I’m not gaining too little weight or too much weight too fast. I have yet to have leg cramps or worry about blood clots. The baby moves and is growing where she is supposed to. In this way, I am lucky and thankful. I do see the doctor every two weeks though and have since I started going, which is more often than most people who are pregnant.
My pregnancy experience encompasses the unique experience that I have an autoimmune disease. The biggest hardship has been the flare-ups from the disease. My version of it is considered moderate to severe and is linked closely with my hormones, which pregnancy has a big effect on. The flare ups have made me relatively immobile and put me in an intense amount of pain or un-comfortability for days at a time. I used to give myself a shot in the thigh every week for it. With pregnancy, I could no longer be on the medication, and I was already behind doses when I found out the exciting news. My doctors gave me at least three different antibiotics to try instead and none of them were as effective as the shot I was taking before. It has taken a while for the most recent prescription to help ease my symptoms. The disease had gotten the worst it had ever been during pregnancy, and now, eight months later at the end of my pregnancy, is the most comfortable I have been in regards to flare ups. I spent a good 75%-80% of my pregnancy in pain or uncomfortable and probably 10% of that crying my eyes out solely because of this wretched disorder that maybe one day I’ll explain. It has gotten easier as the pregnancy went on, and with my third trimester it has whined down, but damn it has been rough.
The nausea is the second hardest part about my pregnancy. Some women are blessed not to experience nausea at all. For some, the nausea goes away by the second or third trimester. Mine has lasted throughout my entire pregnancy and it is accompanied by vomiting. Though my doctor hasn’t explicitly told me I have hyperemesis gravidarum, I think it’s fair to say I have that, which is extreme morning sickness. In the beginning I couldn’t even keep down water. Some days I still can’t. Anything I ate I would throw up; for at least two weeks I barely ate anything at all. The smell of food and coffee at my job made me nauseous. I spent so much time in the bathroom and my disease was increasing in intensity, it was best for me to go on a leave of absence.
Throwing up everyday turned into throwing up a couple times a week. There was maybe a month or two where I was vomit-free and that was because of medication. Now, around 33 weeks the nausea has come back. All the vomiting has led to a little blood in my throw up from time to time. Throughout this pregnancy, I have been on at least three different antacids and if memory serves, two different nausea medications. Pregnancy is the first, and only time, I had to get an IV to resupply the nutrients in my blood. That happened recently in my last trimester and I proceeded to throw up in the hospital as well.
There are also other little symptoms that come with pregnancy that I had no idea about until I experienced it. Heartburn is a big one for me, and is also a source of where my nausea comes from. Back pain is the obvious one most people know of. I get headaches more often. Sometimes, not very often, my nipples have been sore. I see un-concerning floaters in my vision from time to time. I’m out of breath easier and towards the end of my pregnancy can really feel my baby applying pressure, which affects the way I move, sit, lie down, and get up.
My heart rate randomly speeds up and is noticeably faster because a pregnant body is working twice as hard. During pregnancy, your joints loosen and your center of balance is different than before. Your feet and hands can swell, it can be hard to sleep, and towards the end, you really do have to pee all the time, which doesn’t help when it is hard to sleep. There is also this thing called sciatica, which is nerve pain in the hips, that was aroused in me for about a month. The constipation that comes with pregnancy can also be annoying depending on the severity. I have luckily only had one really hard morning. UTIs and other vaginal infections are also easier to catch. I am hot literally all the time, even when it’s freezing outside. I’ve been a different type of tired throughout most of my pregnancy. I’m sure there are other little symptoms that pregnancy brings that I can’t remember or haven’t experienced, at least yet. If you’re reading this and are pregnant, contact your doctor for any symptom concerns. Some are signs of bigger issues, they just haven’t proven to be for me.
Those are all the physical aspects of pregnancy that I can remember I’ve been experiencing. There are also the mental and emotional sides too. Pregnancy brain is really a thing. Sometimes, I just can’t think. The emotional rollercoaster that comes with hormone changes hasn’t been as dramatic for me as people claim it to be. Still, things that wouldn’t normally make me cry have made me cry to the point I question why I’m crying. I get agitated easier. Some days I’m just sad for no real reason.
In the beginning, I struggled with if I even wanted to continue with this unplanned pregnancy for months. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made and it will probably be the most fulfilling. In general, I have anxiety. Being pregnant, especially pregnant in a pandemic, has brought about more anxiety with it. I have worried about all the things that can go wrong during pregnancy and delivery. You honestly never really know what will happen until the baby is born. I have worried about catching Covid, about when it will end, and what it and its effects will morph into when my daughter is older. I worry about the racist, sexist, problematic world I am bringing a child into. I worry about if she is healthy and whether or not I will be okay and survive during childbirth, especially as a black woman. I worry about being neglected by doctors and if there are or will be obvious signs that something is not right that will be missed. I worry about being a statistic and being further stereotyped and about what life will look like when she’s here. I worry about the “dad” popping up in a couple years and having to deal with him. I worry if I can’t feel her move enough or if she is moving too much. I worry that the doctor won’t be able to find her heartbeat. I worry about sudden infant death and the newness of everything that comes with caring for a newborn. And this is all just on the top of my head. Literally anything there is to worry about regarding pregnancy and motherhood, I have worried about it as some point.
Being pregnant during Covid is also a different experience because I am taking Covid seriously. I was immunocompromised before pregnancy; now I’m further immunocompromised. Being on leave of absence, being high risk and acting high risk means I rarely leave the house or see anyone outside of my household and doctors. Few people have really seen my pregnancy bump develop. No one has really felt her move, partly because she tends to stop when anyone tries to feel. Every appointment I have, I have to attend by myself because visitors can’t come in. When I give birth, only one person is allowed in the hospital with me. It is nice to avoid the unsolicited advice and comments from strangers, but pregnancy during Covid is a different experience. I have no base comparison so who knows what else I’m missing out on.
Because of the stage I am in my life and because of Covid, I have chosen to isolate from others. As selfish as it sounds, not reaching out to others often, if at all, has given me space to focus on myself and the start of a new chapter. I haven’t avoided anyone, but I also haven’t engaged much with anyone who didn’t reach out to me first. For me specifically, isolating was a necessary step for growing and educating myself, though it may not be for anyone else, especially since pregnancy is essentially a waiting period. I’ve been waiting what feels like lifetimes for my daughter’s arrival. I’ve been waiting to be able to start working again.
There is also the whole gaining weight to support your baby thing. Pregnancy will be the most I have ever weighed. As someone who has always had her weight commented on, from when I was a fat child to when I was proportioning out to when I was losing weight, there was a time during this pregnancy when it was triggering to have my weight checked often and to explain my eating habits, especially when I was having trouble keeping food down in the first place. For the most part I got used to it, but there are still those days. For example, the IV caused me to gain five pounds in two weeks, and I was petrified up until my ob told me that my weight looked good and that I probably was dehydrated before the IV. Also statistically most people who are pregnant gain more then they’re “supposed” to. I find it a little arbitrary and though it is necessary it is tracked because excessive or too little weight gain can lead to other problems, I do think being super strict about it is a product of society. There is so much going on in your body and mind when your pregnant. Worrying about weight when it isn’t part of a bigger issue will only cause further stress.
Pregnancy in itself can also be a lonely experience, but not because you’re alone. Some know right away what their next step is after a positive pregnancy test is. I didn’t. When you are unsure, it is difficult to talk about making the choice to continue a pregnancy with people who have never been pregnant and struggled with the choice themselves. People understandably project what they would do or their concerns onto you when it is not their life being affected. At first, it was hard and strange to hear “Congratulations,” when the initial excitement that I could actually have kids of my own was taken away from me, when I didn’t feel like I had a choice, when I was being pressured into a decision that didn’t align with what my gut said, when I was unsure about having and coping with an abortion, and when I was overall confused about what I wanted. It can be hard to talk about pregnancy with people who aren’t currently or have never been pregnant because they can’t have a real understanding of it. And honestly, who really wants to hear about the nitty gritty of the experience in a casual conversation? Even with support, and even with someone I am close to being pregnant, there were times when pregnancy was alienating for me.
Being transparent about how pregnancy can be hard and tiring is not something people want or expect to hear. It can sound like a lot of complaining about a beautiful journey that not everyone who wants to gets to experience. People want to talk about food cravings, your growing baby bump, and names for the baby. (I crave a lot of sweets by the way, to the point that they show up in my dreams. I haven’t craved anything I usually don’t like, but sometimes I have craved something, taken a bite, and become disgusted. I also can’t eat some things I like such as spicy food.)
The conversations around pregnancy are usually light and full of excitement. After all, it is an exciting time! All I can think about is seeing my baby and what she’ll look like when she cries and laughs. I just think it’s important to be able to say “pregnancy is beautiful and I am excited for my daughter’s entrance into the world” as well as “fetuses and babies in the womb are basically parasites” without it being controversial, simply because parasite has a negative connotation and because, often times, continuing with a pregnancy is a choice. Also because, by definition, that’s what they are.
Continuing with or ending a pregnancy is a personal choice to be made by the person carrying the baby and should be treated as such by the other party involved, society and law. Even though I didn’t feel comfortable with it this pregnancy, we’re pro-abortion over here, especially because for about nine months, during pregnancy, your body isn’t yours. Your body will neglect you to encourage the growth of the eventual baby. You have to watch what you eat, drink, take vitamins, and ride out all of the symptoms to encourage the healthy development of the fetus . For almost a year. And then after that you are responsible for your baby in every way basically for the rest of your life if you aren’t putting the baby up for adoption and if you’re a considerate parent.
I didn’t research anything about pregnancy until I experienced symptoms and wanted to know if they were normal. There is so much that comes with pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for everyone who experiences it and I don’t think it should be portrayed that way. I decided to share my experience to normalize the hard and irritating parts of it. The truth is, pregnancy, just like life, has it’s good days and bad days. My pregnancy in itself has been good, but the side effects, most noticeably the hormone changes, have triggered other symptoms inside my body that’s not fun to deal with, especially on top of the other common pregnancy symptoms. It would be a lie to say some days haven’t been really hard. I am happy I continued with this pregnancy because after experiencing all of this I don’t know if I want to do it again. It’s made me consider if I really want more children, (which I do but like damn at what cost).
I say pregnancy is worth it, simply because of my mindset behind having children, which is different than the norm, because I’ve always wanted to be a mom and because I made the choice on my own to continue with my pregnancy. I am thankful for this experience. Pregnancy itself has already changed who I am and helped me grow as a person. I will also say I am over it. I have been ready to give birth and hold her in my arms for months. I am ready to eat what I want when I want without worrying about if it’s safe for the baby or throwing up. I am ready to be back on medication I know works. I am ready to stop throwing up and am ready to start becoming nimble and mobile again.
Few tell you the hardships of pregnancy. Maybe they’re focused on the prize at the end of the race. And though the rainbow is beautiful at the end of the storm, it doesn’t change the fact there was a whole storm you managed through to get there. The storm makes me more appreciative. The prize makes it worth it.