I’m always intrigued — and frankly, quite skeptical — when Hollywood star moms-to-be gush over how much they love being pregnant. They wax on about how they’ve never felt better or sexier. They blather about how beautiful their skin looks and silky their hair feels. My all-time favorite, however, is when they exclaim that they wish they could be pregnant forever. Better them than me, I say.
For me, pregnancy sucked. Getting pregnant sucked even worse. A little back story: My husband and I had tried for about a year to have a kid the old fashioned way. No baby showed, so we moved on to fertility drugs, and then artificial insemination. Still nothing. So we brought in the big guns – in vitro fertilization – because it turned out we were, reproductively speaking, a bad combination. Nice words to hear from your fertility specialist.
Fast forward four years and thousands of dollars later. The fourth in vitro attempt worked and an ultrasound proved I was pregnant. Understandably relieved, I naively thought the worst was over. Turns out, nine months is a very long time. Endless, actually. I did, however, make it through the first trimester with no symptoms other than exhaustion and fear of miscarriage. Not a bit of morning sickness. In fact, I felt so good that I got a little cocky about it. I thought I was a natural at this pregnancy thing. Wrong.
Then came the second trimester. On a trip to California, I was walking the streets of San Francisco when severe shooting pains caused me to double over. (What followed was an excruciating walk back to my hotel with many strange looks from passersby.) Turns out, uterine fibroids were causing the pain. Most unfortunately, my doctor said there was nothing I could do about it. The good news, she said, was that the fibroids would shrink after pregnancy. Fantastic! Four more months to go.
At this point in my pregnancy, I also began to experience light-headedness every morning on my way to work. I’d be on the train and start to see black spots in front of me. I’d put my head between my knees (or as close as I could get before bumping into my baby bump). Sometimes the faint feeling would hit as I was walking through Grand Central Station or standing at the deli counter paying for my decaf iced coffee. I’d sit down on a bench or even the floor until I was confident that I could race to my office, where I would lay, for a while, on my carpet. A couple of times, my co-workers thought I was dead. At least they checked on me, which was nice.
Then there was the constipation. I’m embarrassed to admit it (and apologize to my boss for all the time lost), but I would disappear into the bathroom for, I kid you not, 45 minutes to try and poop. I literally would have to strip down to my naked self because I’d be sweating so badly. I would brace my arms against the walls of the stall and contort myself into various positions in order to get something moving down there. It was beyond painful. Oh, and humiliating. I tried my best to ensure that no one else was present while I attended to my business, but if you’ve ever shared a communal bathroom at work, you know how successful that can be.
During my seventh month of pregnancy, my skin positively erupted. I had angry red blotches all over my body that itched nonstop. My dermatologist said it didn’t look like PUPP, a rash that usually shows up mainly on the stomach. She said it would clear up after the baby was born. Great, I said. Eight. More. Weeks. Of. Itching. Oatmeal baths at night helped a little, but mostly I was miserable. I’ve no doubt that I looked slightly insane as I scratched wildly and constantly over those last two months.
Just so you know, I did feel guilty that I’d tried so hard to get pregnant, and then found it something to get through rather than something to enjoy. The best part about my pregnancy? The end part. I arrived at the hospital at 6 a.m. for a scheduled C-section, and at 8:49 a.m., my son was born. Thank God he’s cute. Because today, when people ask me if I’m going to give him a sibling, I smile my most beatific maternal smile and coo, “Absolutely not!”
Elizabeth Rippey is a writer and editor who lives in Richmond, VA, with her husband and one-and-only child.