Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pregnancy Reflections

This post is neither educational nor interesting; it's also off-topic. I just wanted to get my thoughts down on "paper," as I've been reflecting a lot on this pregnancy.

I'm not the first woman to be pregnant, and I don't feel particularly special. What I do feel is bewildered. Bewildered and curious about how women over thousands of years handled the challenges of pregnancy. About how they endured pregnancy again, again, and again. And again. And how in spite of the challenges of pregnancy, they produced healthy, well-developed offspring.

I feel so nauseated, so disgusted, so lousy, so exhausted, and because of this, I think I actually am experiencing a touch of depression (and I consider myself a generally well-adjusted, content, and happy person; I've never been depressed before). I wonder if many pregnant women experience this, or if I'm among a "lucky" minority. I wonder if it's because I'm older (my first pregnancy, 5 years ago, wasn't this intense). I also wonder if feeling this way is a function of modern life; if women felt better when life was simpler -- small-town, little-house-on-the-prairie lifestyle. I wonder if being indoors so much, if dealing with the stresses of a career and modern life (on top of the usual responsibilities of mom and homemaker) explains why this pregnancy is kicking my butt to the moon.

I don't know. What I do know is that feeling this way makes it nearly impossible to work (I'm behind on all of my projects), impossible to clean the kitchen (the smells are overwhelming and just the sight of crumbs in the sink makes me gag), and I just want this to be over and done with already. I have about 26 more weeks to go.

I've been contemplating the ironies of pregnancy. How the most nutritious foods are often the least appealing. And how the junkiest foods are often irresistible. How I am sure that a glass of wine would relax me and make me feel better, but can't have it. How I'm getting a lot of help (thanks, family) but am still behind. How I feel utterly debilitated during one of the most critical periods of my life: I'm responsible for the healthy development of another human being (what is more important than that?), yet taking good care of myself is more difficult than ever. So why can't I catch a break?

Scientists don't really understand exactly why pregnancy causes these symptoms; it is known that nausea tends to increase with an increase in pregnancy hormones (though this is not the case for all pregnant women) but the mechanism remains a mystery. For me, it's a different kind of nausea than, say, motion sickness. I've been able to reverse motion sickness in seconds by eating a small piece of candied ginger; if I have ginger now, I just feel additionally nauseated.

For dinner tonight I had a bowl of cut up fresh fruit. And honestly it's all I could imagine keeping down. To have to actually plan to get enough protein is something I'm not at all used to; in general I love all sorts of healthful foods and get enough just as a function of getting enough calories from a variety of plant foods. These days, I can't read my own appetite at all (the thought of eating sends my stomach spinning, but often it's a sign that I need to eat something), again, ironic, considering that now more than ever, my appetite should dictate how much I need.

I know what to do: I know the nutritional guidelines for vegan pregnancy inside-out, and I've helped other women eat optimally throughout their vegan pregnancies. It's just particularly challenging to follow those guidelines.

I'm not worried about the baby. I got an ultrasound last week and all is well. In fact, according to my tests, my risk of carrying a baby with Down's is about 1 in 2300, while an untested 38-year-old has a risk of 1 in 114. I have not lost (or gained) any weight, and the baby's growth is right on track. So I'm not apprehensive about the pregnancy's outcome; I'm just sick of being sick, as they say.

Here's to hoping that as I become further immersed into the second trimester, these symptoms dwindle away so I can feel human again.


Debra said...

First, congratulations! I have had 6 babies. I love being pregnant but I didn't suffer much sickness- tiredness- yes.
I think women of long ago were able to do it again and again.. their lives were not as busy as our lives are these days. They didn't have the worries we have today. They had worries but we have so much more pressures..
Check out the cookbook giveaway on my blog.
Debra @ Vegan Family Style

Hollie said...

Pregnancy is really hard, isn't it? Even when it's easy, it's still a challenge. I had one baby in August and the other baby in February, and being really big through the winter was a lot harder. It wasn't as easy to get sunlight (but then I live in the Pacific Northwest), it wasn't as easy to go for walks that would clear my head, and I struggled a lot more with finding clothes that fit and layered well and were warm - which led to me feeling a lot more hassled and stressed, even though I loved my pregnant body.

In other words, you aren't crazy, and even if you are in the majority, that doesn't make it easier. But you'll get through it!

Alanna said...

My heart goes out to you! I am also expecting my second (due in June) and have found pregnancy much harder this time around... especially the first trimester morning sickness and food aversions. It has been better for me in the second trimester--hope the same will be true for you! Best of luck getting the support and rest that you need. It certainly isn't easy, but it sure is worth it!

Katie K. said...

Oh my gosh, you pretty much summed up my pregnancy so far. I thought I was alone as well because several of my friends had no sickness at all. Before my pregnancy I worked 6 days a week, about 50+ hours a week as a Pilates instructor and at a natural foods grocery store. I was healthy and strong 30 year old woman, riding my bike nearly 10 miles a day. At 3 weeks of pregnancy I was so debilitatingly tired I literally worked and slept. I don't know how I got through those 2 weeks without missing a day. At 5 weeks my "morning sickness" began. I hate the term morning sickness because mine lasted all day long. I was so nauseated, so weak, so dizzy and literally couldn't get out of bed. Nothing helped. I tried every natural remedy and nothing eased my symptoms. My sense of smell was something supernatural, superhuman and superhero. It was not a blessing at all. The smell of my own urine, breath or body odor made me vomit. I couldn't step foot in the kitchen without a mask over my mouth. I couldn't ride in the car not only because of my motion sickness, but also because of the smells from the interior as well the odors from outside as well. My blood pressure got dangerously low and I felt completely out of control of my body. Something I've rarely felt in my life because I don't drink or do drugs. At six weeks the vomiting began. At first it was only once or twice a day, but then by 7 weeks I was vomiting after every meal. I lost 10 pounds the first 8 weeks of pregnancy and still haven't gained it back. I'm at 12 now. I lived off of sourdough toast for the first 10 weeks. I couldn't keep down anything else, nor did I want to. Protein disgusted me and anything else wreaked havoc on my digestive process. I was vomiting so much I was concerned about my electrolyte count. I was miserable. I was depressed and I felt like no one understood. It felt like I had the stomach flu all day long, every day. I didn't do anything for 11 weeks. I didn't exercise, clean, or work. I layed in bed all day long in the dark and the quiet hoping for it to ease up. It finally started to ease up a couple days ago. My vomiting has lessened considerably, but I still have nausea and fatigue. They say the second trimester is better and I'm a couple weeks away. I do hope it is. I can't wait to start enjoying this pregnancy. It has been the most humbling experience of my life and I often wonder, like you, if woman hundreds of years ago felt like this. How did my grandmother have six kids and her mother have twelve? I originally wanted 2 or 3, but after this experience I think we will adopt the next. I just want to let you know that I understand what you're going through. I have researched it, trying to find an answer and there are none. No one knows why some women get it so bad and others do through pregnancy with little discomfort. It doesn't seem fair, but all my doctors and midwives agree that it's a sign that the baby is developing properly and is strong.