In recent years, my reporters have filled these editorial pages with humorous and terrifying stories about parenting, while I would sit on the sidelines, chuckling in my blissful, childless ignorance.
Well, those days are soon to be over because my husband and I will be expecting our first child in August.
Now, I'm not intimidated about the idea of being a parent. I've always wanted children and many of my teenage years were spent babysitting various ages of rugrats. I can handle it.
And so far, I've been able to handle pregnancy too. It has created quite a few surprises, though. Having never been through this before, every little ache or twinge makes me wonder what in the world is going on inside me. The long periods between ultrasounds or doctor's visits has me on edge because I don't have proof right before my eyes that there's a living, kicking human being inside me.
That will come soon enough, though, as I'm entering my fifth month and should soon feel the baby myself.
In the meantime, I've had to get used to other pregnancy symptoms I had no clue about. Fortunately, I've emerged from the first trimester unscathed by morning sickness, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been discomfort along the way. Basically the main symptom I was expecting was one I didn't get.
What did surprise me?
1. Stomach pains. I went a whole month thinking there was something wrong with my digestive system, because I had heartburn, indigestion, an upset stomach and what felt like menstrual cramps. So I was surprised to learn it was in fact a baby, not gluten or some food allergy. I guess it was my body's way of making room, but did it have to make me feel like I had been punched in the gut every time I stood up too quickly? I say that in the past tense, but really, it's appropriate now as well. While the cramping isn't so bad, I do take my time these days raising myself from the seated position.
2. Fatigue. It makes sense to have it when you're pregnant; you're a 24/7 baby-making factory, so even when you're doing nothing you're doing a lot. But I didn't expect to feel like I had just gotten home from traveling halfway around the world every single day. I didn't think I would be the one passing out on the couch in the middle of a Netflix show (that honor usually goes to someone else in my household who shall remain nameless). I think it helps, in a way, because it's the body's way of saying, "Get your sleep while you can!"
3. The amount of (conflicting) information out there. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise, but no matter how much I guard myself against getting advice or looking something up, I feel inundated with information, whether from other moms or from the various stores I've visited that have signed me up for daily emails complete with scare-inducing articles. Perhaps the most unexpected piece of advice has been to "pamper yourself." I kind of struggle with this one because I already think I'm a little on the lazy side. To me, pampering myself means reading a book or binge-watching a show on Netflix while folding laundry — pretty much how I already spend every Sunday afternoon and weekday evening. So how do I as an expectant mother pamper myself beyond that? I don't have too much patience (or money, for that matter) for a manicure or shopping. I might be inclined to soak in a bubble bath, but I know too hot of a bath isn't recommended. My husband is amazing and cooks a lot of the time anyway. I guess I've pampered myself in that instead of doing the dishes, I play a game on my phone. Instead of vacuuming the house I read through the baby name book.
4. Thick hair. I've always had fine hair — easily tangled and prone to static electricity. But I'm experiencing thick tresses for the first time in three decades. I didn't know this, but apparently when you're expecting, your hair growth slows down, so your older hair doesn't fall out as rapidly.
5. Bad breath. OK, so I think part of this might be due to my increased cereal and milk diet (that's not all I eat, but I've definitely seen an uptick, especially when the smell of cooking meat or onions was unappealing in the first trimester). But it's come up when I've not had milk for a while, and it's so bad it tastes foul. It's worse than the more common soul-crushing, eye-watering morning breath. So I've been reaching for gum a lot more these days to mask the scent — and the taste (thanks to Susan in our office for keeping me well supplied!).
6. Tastes. I've become a lot more sensitive to foods, but it helps in that I'm much more decisive in what I want to eat. I used to tease my husband for being the picky one out of the two of us, but now I'm finding I have less of an appetite for specific foods at specific times. While I haven't really had full-on cravings yet, I am gravitating more toward sweets.
7. Aches and pains. I figured this was a third trimester woe, but here I am already waddling around with a constant pain in my lower back. I think it might be the pressure from sleeping on my side at night. With a baby pushing outward, it's no wonder there's a lot of pressure on the lower spine. While I'm hoping it eases up (ha, yeah right), I am looking for ways to alleviate the pain.
Overall, the surprising side effects of pregnancy have been a lot more tolerable than I anticipated. I know I'm one of the fortunate ones, and I'm sure there will be more surprises along the way — namely, the gender reveal next month. While it's hard to expect surprising symptoms, at least I already know that question and the two possible answers!
I've always been one to seek out adventure in life, and parenthood will be no different. I expect it to be both challenging and rewarding, both aggravating and heartwarming. And I expect that, even though I'm still just expecting, there are more unexpected things on the horizon. I expect it's all part of what makes life an adventure.