I am now entering the last few days of my pregnancy (almost 40 weeks!). BabyDumpling can come any day now, although I think she may come right around her due date (May 13th, right before Mother’s Day). I can’t believe I am nearing the end of this nine month journey. Obviously I know that pregnancy has to come to an end at some point, but I have almost gotten used to it, as if I’ll be carrying BabyDumpling around in my belly indefinitely like this. Looking back on the past nine months, I realize how different each trimester was, in terms of pregnancy’s impact on me.
I found out I was pregnant around 5 weeks. I was only a few days late, but since I wasn’t very regular to begin with, I couldn’t be certain. The first pregnancy test I took came back negative. I was traveling to New York every week at that time, and during the week, there was one morning when I opened up the shampoo bottle in the shower and suddenly wanted to throw up. The smell of the shampoo was suddenly overpowering and disgusting to me. I had been staying at the same hotel, using the same shampoo, for months, so this was definitely out of the ordinary. As soon as I gagged at the shampoo smell, I knew I was pregnant. But I wanted to wait until I got home on the weekend to take another pregnancy test, that way PapaDumpling could see the result with me. The day after I got back to Boston, I took another pregnancy test, and this came back positive. PapaDumpling tried to trick me, since he looked at the result first and told me it was negative. “Really?” I asked, since I was almost certain that I was pregnant, and then he told me it was positive. “Yep, I knew it.”
That weekend, we had rented out a house for a weekend getaway with our friends. It was too early to tell anyone of course, and I wondered if I needed to make any excuses for why I wasn’t drinking alcohol, or if anyone would notice. I don’t think anyone noticed that I wasn’t drinking, although one of my friends noticed I was hyper emotional. I didn’t realize it myself, but I think she was right in hindsight. I got super angry, to the point of tears, over something completely trivial during that weekend. It made no sense, other than that maybe my hormones were acting up.
The most difficult part of the first trimester was the nausea. Relatively speaking, I had it light. I would gag but not really throw up, except for one time when I vomited during a client meeting that I was leading, practically throwing up in the client’s face mid-sentence. They were really nice about it. I don’t know if anyone thought I was pregnant, but again, I didn’t offer an explanation. I had read that it’s best to wait until Week 12 to announce the news, since the chances of a miscarriage are pretty high early on. I was also “lucky” in the sense that I spent most of my first trimester at home. Due to my employment visa issues, I had to be “unemployed” for two months during that time, so although I threw up once in a client meeting, I didn’t have to worry about it happening a second time. Nonetheless, it was difficult to eat out, or go anywhere that smelled of food. Sometimes just the thought of food made me nauseous. I ate very little during the first trimester, often skipping meals. This annoyed me because, as a food-lover, every meal is an opportunity to do what I love (eat) so I normally never skip meals. But I just had no appetite in the first trimester, which apparently is pretty common among pregnant ladies.
I don’t think the idea that we were having a baby really sunk in for PapaDumpling until our first ultrasound, which was around Week 12. It was kind of crazy how clearly you could see the features of the baby even at such an early stage. We could see her (we didn’t know it was a “her” at the time) nose and hands and feet and toes! It was crazy.
By now I was itching to tell our parents. Ever since we had gotten our puppy, our parents had been on our case about why we got a puppy and not a baby (like they’re the same thing, pfft). PapaDumpling wanted to delay telling our parents, mostly because he knew they would start giving us “advice” in the form of old wives tales that are rarely based in science, and it would become very annoying very quickly (he was right). When we finally told our parents, by sending them one of the ultrasound pictures, they were ecstatic. They were even more excited than we were. Unsurprising, since being grandparents is probably universally better than being parents.
A couple of weeks later, I told my closest friends. I sent a picture of a bun in an oven to one of my group chats, and the first response I got was, “What are you making?” As a foodie, it wasn’t entirely uncharacteristic of me to send a picture of food-making in progress. But this bun wouldn’t be ready for another six months.
At around 20 weeks, we had another, longer ultrasound where they checked and measured all of the baby’s parts and told us the gender. Before the visit, PapaDumpling and I had made a little bet on the gender. I was sort of expecting a girl, but PapaDumpling called “girl” first, so my bet was on “boy.” The winner of the bet would get to decide where we go for our next big vacation. PapaDumpling won, so he was going to get to decide (he hasn’t decided yet, but it’s currently a toss-up between SE Asia and Australia/NZ).
In the second trimester, my appetite returned to almost-normal. The nausea had subsided relative to the first trimester, although it didn’t go away entirely. Halfway through my second trimester, I was mistakenly diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that arises only during pregnancy, but goes away after pregnancy. It occurs because the woman’s body develops less insulin to keep more glucose in the blood to feed to the baby. Unfortunately, when this is not actually “needed,” the lower insulin production leads to spikes in blood glucose levels for the mom. It also tends to result in larger babies, because the baby is getting extra glucose in the blood that he/she doesn’t need, and it gets stored as fat before they are even born.
The news that I had gestational diabetes felt like the worst news I’d heard in a long time. I loved eating carbs during my pregnancy (especially after everything made me nauseous during the first trimester) and the baby had a real sweet tooth (for example, I started enjoying cupcakes and I don’t normally like cupcakes), so the idea that I’d have to spend the next five months eating primarily vegetables (I wouldn’t even be able to have a lot of fruit or juice!) and protein made me very, very sad. Plus, I’d also have to prick my finger four times a day, to test my blood glucose level throughout the day, which is not something anybody wants to do. Luckily, a few days after the diagnosis, the nurse called me and told me she’d made a mistake. I immediately threw out the salad I was eating and got myself a cookie.
Even towards the end of my second trimester, most people couldn’t tell I was pregnant unless I told them so. I was barely showing, it was winter so I was wearing layers, and with my coat on, it was impossible to tell. This meant that I wasn’t getting “special treatment” as a pregnant lady (especially when I was traveling, which was sometimes a pain). I was traveling to New York again every week, so I started to leave my carry-on suitcase at the hotel over the weekend and just travel back and forth with my essentials stuffed into my laptop bag. This avoided the hassle of trying to find someone to help me with my carry-on luggage for every plane ride. To be fair, I had trouble putting my carry-on in the overhead bins even when I wasn’t pregnant, because I am short and there is quite a distance to lift above my head compared to someone who is taller, but I didn’t like knowing that I had to ask for help every single time, so I just tried to avoid it altogether by not traveling with a carry-on suitcase.
I finally started showing in the third trimester, which I was actually relieved about. Although I had told many coworkers, I hadn’t told everyone I worked with, including the clients, and I didn’t feel comfortable randomly announcing I was pregnant (it’s not exactly the sort of thing that comes up in conversation either). But now that I had a visible bump, most people could guess that I was pregnant (unless they just thought I was getting fat) and would congratulate me or ask me when my due date was. This made things a lot easier, especially so I could bring up the fact that I would be rolling off the project early to go on maternity leave.
It also helped that people were more willing to help me with my carry-on, on the few instances I had one with me, or helping take my luggage out of the trunk of an Uber, or not shoving me out of the way for walking too slowly, etc.
The vast majority of my nine-month pregnancy had been relatively peaceful, and I had far fewer side effects than I expected, for which I was very thankful. Some people have horrible back pain or carpel tunnel, which affects their ability to work. Others continue to throw up after every meal throughout their entire pregnancy. I had one friend who had pre-term contractions, and of course, some just go into labour super early (e.g. 4 weeks early). I have had none of these symptoms, and every doctor’s visit became almost boring because there was nothing to talk about. “You’re measuring right on track!” they’d say every time.
Towards the end of the third trimester (i.e. the past few weeks) is where things started to get really uncomfortable. This is the kind of uncomfortable where seemingly everything hurts, and your mobility is affected, and you can barely sleep. This is the kind of uncomfortable I’d always associated with pregnancy. The good news is that you don’t actually have to suffer like this for nine months, it only comes toward the end (although for some people, it can start in the second trimester). The bad news is that you do have to suffer a little.
I had already started to get tail-bone pain from sitting, for which I got a special pillow for my butt. I’d also started getting really bad acne, far worse than any acne I had had when I was a teenager. I don’t want to use any medicinal acne creams while I am pregnant, so I have just been using some natural remedies (which don’t work very well). I am hoping that the acne will subside as soon as I have my baby, since they’re related to hormones, but I am not really sure if I’ll still have these particular hormone levels throughout breastfeeding. I have also gotten swollen hands and feet, which makes my finger joints hurt, but this is apparently all normal, and some people have it far worse than I do (swollen wrists and ankles to the point where they have to wear special braces and can’t even type).
The worst, however, is sleeping at night. My stomach is so big now that I can’t even lift it off the mattress, or else I will feel a strong pull downwards (thanks, gravity) to cover any gap and it feels like my stomach might split open. So, turning in bed is surprisingly painful. It makes it hard to fall asleep, and after sleeping for too long on one side and wanting to switch positions, I am awakened by how much it hurts to turn to the other side. My pelvic bones have also moved apart, or so I’ve been told, so my hips will hurt in certain positions or sometimes when I stand (standing on one foot is surprisingly painful and not recommended). Add on top of that the fact that I can’t help waking up at night with the urge to go to the bathroom, and basically it means that I get about 3-4 hours of sleep a night.
The only solace I get from this is knowing that I won’t be able to sleep through the night once the baby comes anyway, so in some ways, this is just getting my body used to waking up at night and going back to sleep a few hours later.
That pretty much sums up the past nine months. Despite the discomforts of the last six or so weeks, it’s been pretty smooth sailing most of the way. Even now, I am almost expecting that BabyDumpling will just stay in there and I will continue to carry this giant belly around. I try not to think about what labor will be like, since I know it could start at any minute, and I have not heard one good thing about it. Every mother I have talked to, including my own and my mother-in-law, describes contractions as the most painful feeling they have ever experienced. I still haven’t felt a single contraction, and I am apparently already 2cm dilated! I didn’t know you could be dilated before labor starts, but apparently that’s normal, too. I sometimes wonder if it’s possible that, since I haven’t felt anything so far, maybe I wouldn’t feel the contractions either, but I have been reassured many times that when they come, they will be unmistakable.
BabyDumpling: I can’t wait to meet you. But, please don’t hurt me!