The four most surprising “hidden” things about being pregnant

This past weekend I spent some time with friends, one of whom has a 5-month-old baby named Meghan, and the other doesn’t have children named Jane. Jane asked Meghan and I what the most surprising things about being pregnant are, beyond the ones you hear about all the time such as random unsolicited advice, the morning sickness, the cravings, the missing wine (was that one just me?), etc.

For the next 12 hours or so Meghan and I would randomly think of something else to add to the list, despite Jane never having asked for such an extensive list, nor having asked for the conversation to periodically continue for such a ridiculous time period. Jane, you’re the nicest for not punching us in the face after the first fifteen minutes. However, I thought I would divulge the list Meghan and I came up with, in a more condensed version. So here it is, the four most surprising things about pregnancy beyond the “normal” symptoms you hear about.

1. Leg cramps

family guy fall hurtI had never heard of these before until one night my husband woke up to me grasping at my calves and screaming. Apparently these are super common, no matter what you do, how much water you drink, how much you walk every day, how much or how little you do anything. (I asked my doctor about this, by the way, on what I could do to have this never happen ever again, and her response was essentially that they happen to some people no matter what. So have fun with that.)

For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, essentially what happens is that a wild animal sneaks into your bed in the middle of the night, crawls into your calf, and then proceeds to ferociously eat your calf muscle. These cramps happen while you’re sleeping and are indescribably agonizing. During the first one, I found myself screaming and had magically turned myself 180 degrees around while contorting trying to get these cramps under control. This ended up being convenient as I now had my feet near my pillow and my husband could slightly touch – not massage, mind you, as that would have been torment – my calves until the cramps calmed down.

Personally, the more I walk during the day and the more I stay hydrated, they seem to stay abated. Meghan said that when she would get them, if she could get her foot down on the floor the cramps could stretch out. For some reason this is something that a lot of pregnant women experience but goes unknown on the list of “crap you have to deal with to grow a human.”

2. First trimester exhaustion

tiredI think maybe sometimes this was mentioned in passing to me before getting pregnant but truly, I think if I could sit someone down wanting to get pregnant and shake one piece of information into them, it would be this:

You will be more exhausted than you have ever thought possible in the first trimester

Stop thinking, “awww, adorable! I’ll be a little more tired than usual but I bet it’s actually like getting less sleep than normal.” NO. You will be so tired that you will lie down on the couch look at the remote on the coffee table and then sob because you would have to sit up to change the channel. You will be so tired that you could literally fall asleep on a conference call and then have to act like you were absolutely paying attention the entire time. (All of these are purely hypothetical. Ahem.) When I say tired, I mean energy level of a coma patient.

What is extra hard is that you are more than likely desperately trying to hide the fact that you’re pregnant from most people until you hit the second trimester when the “risks” are lowered of telling people and having something still happen, so you can’t even tell people why you suddenly can’t even manage to lift a piece of pizza to your facehole.

3. Deteriorating eyesight

cant seeSupposedly this might not be as common or noticeable if you already wear glasses, but a real-life side effect of pregnancy is that supposedly the extra fluids in your body can temporarily change the shape of your cornea, which results in blurry and/or blurrier vision.

As someone who has never worn glasses or contacts, this was especially disconcerting until I realized that this was yet another human-growing side effect. However, the cure is simple enough: expel said human from your innards. Can dosville, babydoll!

4. The length of time of actually needing maternity clothes

confusedThis one may have actually been my own personal inability to grip with reality, but before getting pregnant I thought that, “Oh, well, pregnancy is 9 months,” (no, please don’t tell me pregnancy is actually 10 months, it’s not.), “I’ll get to wear adorable new maternity clothes for 9 months! Awesome! NEW WARDROBE! TOTES ADORBS!” 

Wrong.

Wrong wrong wrong.

First, when you get the blue lines/smiley face/digital readout of being pregnant you’re already a month pregnant. One down, 8 to go. Okay, well then, 8 months is still pretty good, right? Wrong again. What I didn’t realize was that you actually go through another, oh, 3 months or so of just looking generally bloaty/puffy where actual maternity clothes don’t fit you right, but neither do your normal clothes.

During this period you actually start looking online and realizing the time you’ll actually wear these outrageously expensive new frocks is ridiculously short and you don’t actually want to spend money on a whole new wardrobe you’ll need for 6 months or so total. It’s vicious. Sure, J.Crew makes maternity clothes now, but spending $150 on a pair of jeans that your widening hips might need a bigger size of later on? It’s a little much, in my opinion.

Just because it zips, doesn't mean it's appropriately proportioned. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, PEOPLE.

Just because it zips, doesn’t mean it’s appropriately proportioned. LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, PEOPLE.

However, the one caveat to this comes when, literally overnight, you find yourself needing maternity clothes for really real and suddenly everything that may, yes, technically zip up, looks completely ill-proportioned and horrible. Seriously folks. Overnight. One day I looked fine acceptable mediocre/passable in non-maternity clothes and the next day I didn’t.

So while the period of needing maternity clothes is short, once you need them, you really need them. If you shop online sample sale sites like Zulily (which tends to have the largest collection of “nice” maternity clothes at fairly good discounts), remember that Zuliily can take up to 6 weeks to get your stuff. Often it’s too late or your body just re-shaped itself again and you might need a different size. Trust me, it’s a bummer if that happens. (“Bummer”, of course, being the operative word, as it was inevitably my ass that has made my clothes fit in all sorts of horrible ways.)


So there you have it. Those four things would be the items that I literally had no idea about when I got pregnant that just smacked us straight up surprised.

Do you have any others?

Europe Trip Numero Deux: France, Luxembourg, and Belgium

For anyone who’s counting, I have officially made it across the pond and back for the second time this pregnancy. Wee Connor is officially better traveled than I have been over the past few years, but since his travels are inextricably connected to mine, I can’t complain.

When I tell people I went on a week-long vacation with my mother-in-law the general reaction has ranged from, “Seriously?!” to “Whoa.” to “…and that’s…okay?!” I always knew I had won out in the lottery of mothers-in-law but truly, deeply, this vacation confirmed it. We had an amazing time together (well, at least, I had an amazing time, I have no idea if she came out the other side feeling the same way or not, which is always possible that she could be glad we’re an ocean apart for a while) and the week flew by. My doctor simply asked that we stay in cities just in case something happened, which I was happy to oblige. Here are a few of the highlights from the trip.

Paris

jardin du luxembourgWe flew nonstop from Charlotte to Paris, arriving at 7AM local time and we hit the ground walking nonstop. I don’t believe for a moment that we didn’t cover over 8 miles a day (thank goodness I love walking and walk a lot anyway!) The only true “tourist thing” I really wanted to hit was the Musee d’Orsay, which houses the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world. Our hotel was a gorgeous boutique hotel on the left bank and only a 10-15 minute walk (if that) from the museum. We got some coffee, walked around, went to the museum as soon as it opened, and then promptly spent the next two days simply walking around Paris absorbing how gorgeous a city it truly was.

Overall favorite surprise: I truly loved every moment in Paris, but if I had to choose, it would be Le Jardin du Luxembourg (pictured). A large park in the middle of the city, part palace, part normal park with tennis courts and playground and benches. No matter where we walked, we seemed to keep coming back into this park unintentionally, yet could not complain even a little bit.

Luxembourg City

luxembourg cityAfter the magnificence of eating delicious bread and crepes for two days, we hit the train and went to Luxembourg City. This was probably the most “off-the-wall” places we went, and to be honest, I left completely perplexed by the experience. For a city of its size (~100,000) it had more shopping than I had ever seen combined into one location, but all the shopping was stuff you could find in a high end mall in America (think: Coach, Chanel, Tommy Hilfiger (??), Lacoste, etc.).

We went down into the “old city” – down being an operative word as you literally take an elevator in the middle of a bunch of government buildings – but mostly it was completely devoid of people. The views down from the “new city” into the old city were quite picturesque, but since we arrived semi-late we didn’t walk the “old wall” (in between the two cities) as it started raining and it would have taken almost 2 hours, supposedly.

via

This is EXACTLY what our dishes looked like. EXACTLY. Source.

We then tried to find some more “local” flavors but it seemed very hard to find for dinner as the city seems quite…commercialized. We ordered the “Luxembourg National Dish”, called the Judd mat Gaardebounen. This dish consists of boiled pork collar and broad beans. To be honest, you know when sometimes you look at a dish and it looks gross and then tastes awesome? This dish looked gross and tasted grosser. We left laughing and taking it all in stride, but not exactly sad to move on to Belgium the next day.

Overall favorite surprise: how truly quad-lingual this city/country seems to be. Residents and signs seemed to effortlessly switch between French, German, Luxembourgish, and English. I could not have been more impressed.

Brugge

bruggeThe next day we grabbed our things and headed via train to Brugge in Belgium. Apparently called “Venice of the North” Brugge is an extremely picturesque town with many canals that tourists flock to, and for good reason. The city is gorgeous. While it seems that the city’s only existence is due to tourists, we still had a fabulous time walking around and admiring the architecture, the immense beauty, and general history of the city itself.

We ate “traditional Belgian food” while there (mussels, fries, and beef stew), as well as tried to find some other places that were slightly less tourist-trappy (difficult!). We spent 2 days in Brugge before heading to Brussels for our final stop in Brussels to see the flower carpet.

Overall favorite surprise: just how gorgeous the architecture and city truly were. The entire “old” city was traversable in 15-20 minutes.

Brussels

flower carpetThis stop was honestly the impetus to the entire trip: seeing the famed Flower Carpet that takes place in the Grand Place of Brussels every 2 years. However, by the end it almost seemed like an afterthought with the rest of the amazing trip. It was also, by far, the single most touristy thing we did the entire trip. I don’t know if we were just tired, but dealing with hordes and hordes of tourists by this point was simply exhausting and mentally draining. We stayed right next to the flower carpet, decided that standing in line for 3 hours to view it from above was too much, and went about exploring more parts of the city.

Unfortunately for us, it was a national holiday on the day we visited, so many of the restaurants or “less touristy” parts of the city were closed, but it was actually more lovely than I had expected, seeing as I had always heard that Brussels was mostly a governmentally institutionalized city where it was better to live than visit.

Our last day of the trip in Brussels at 7.5 months pregnant - my mother-in-law seriously puts the belle in belle-mère, n'est pas?

Our last day of the trip in Brussels at 7.5 months pregnant – my mother-in-law seriously puts the belle in belle-mère, n’est pas?

We bought all our chocolates in Brussels and the concierge had some particularly good recommendations on places to go for them that weren’t as touristy but were just as delectable. Clearly, the chocolates were among the biggest wins of the trip because truly, Belgian chocolates are divine.

If I could summarize what I saw of Brussels, it would be as if Paris and New York City had a baby that got into politics.

Overall favorite surprise: I thought Brussels was actually more pleasant to walk around past the tourist destinations than I thought it would be. I could see this as a place where it would be easy to find a neighborhood to live and commute, while still having a lot of beautiful architecture and buildings to find yourself around.

And the chocolates. But that’s just a little obvious.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, I love Europe and traveling. I never felt nervous about traveling at 32 weeks pregnant, and I was proven right. This was the trip of a lifetime and I couldn’t be more grateful that my mother-in-law was willing to go with me on it.

I of course was beyond happy to see my husband and animals again, and to be in a place where restaurants don’t seem to hoard water like a leprechaun and a pot of gold (my one true complaint about Europe in general). Every time I return from Europe I want to go back even more. I am already plotting our next adventures with Wee Connor in tow, but for now will just have to get by on the exorbitant amounts of chocolate I hauled back as I prepare for the realization that I will have a real-life other human in my house in a month and a half.

…wait, WHAT?!

Animals aren’t just practice for having kids, they ARE kids.

Chris has started calling him our "little sunflower." Even sick, he's adorable.

Chris has started calling him our “little sunflower.” Even sick, this dog is gosh darn adorable.

If you have read my posts before, you probably know one thing about me: I love my fur babies animals. I have a dog named Brinkley (who has a certain affinity for a certain giraffe baby toy) and a cat named Madison, whom my husband has re-named Miss Madison because she “should be fancy.” They are both rescue animals; I got Madison in July of 2007 and Brinkley in December of the same year – so I have had them for almost 7 years each.

We joke they are my fur babies, but really, truly, they are. The terminology that my husband used to shift my outlook on having kids was to start calling babies “human puppies.” It worked, obviously.

A lot of people have told me that having animals is “good practice” for when you have kids, but something always struck me a little odd about that. These animals are my kids. One time when we were moving someone asked me if I was going to take them with me and I indignantly asked them back, “I don’t know, did you take your children with you when you moved?” The rest of the encounter in line at the grocery store with that person was really awkward.

This is why my world shattered when we got the news last week that my dog, who is only about 7 years old, has cancer.

A few months ago we found a bump on Brinkley’s toe. We had it looked at by the vet, they aspirated it (which, to my understanding, means they stuck a needle in and tested some of the cells from it), and then told us that it was benign and nothing to worry about, but if it got bigger or anything that we should bring him in. Last week, we decided to bring him in again because we thought it was indeed getting bigger. They gave us the option to try and take the mass out, which I agreed to. Midway through surgery I got a call that the mass has grown very large and into the toe, and the only thing they could do was to take the entire toe. Luckily it was a non weight-bearing toe, so walking and recovery would actually be fairly straightforward.

After the surgery, the doctor called me again with the news. It turns out when they looked at the growth it was cancerous, and considering where it was they had to take a considerable margin out just to make sure they could get all of the cancerous cells out. However, they needed to send everything to the pathologist for a report in order to see what the chances of metastasis (spreading) were. Last night we got the news that while the surgery was successful and all margins were cleared (meaning they were able to get all the cancerous cells from the toe) the location and type of growth apparently has a high chance of metastasis, and our next steps will be to go to a veterinary oncologist for more tests and, probably, chemotherapy.

That’s where we are right now.

head explosionAnd clearly, because life works that way, to make the timing extra special I’m leaving for Europe for a week starting Saturday, which means that the initial oncology appointment will need to be handled by Chris. I already despise and distrust this new vet based on the fact that when I asked to be put on a waiting list for cancellations for today and tomorrow (the last two days I am here) they replied with, “Just so you know, it’s really not likely at all” while LAUGHING. THEY LAUGHED. THEY ACTUALLY LAUGHED AT ME WHILE I WAS SCHEDULING MY DOG FOR CHEMOTHERAPY. So leaving this appointment in the hands of anyone else makes me want to throw a brick. Seriously, though, they laughed. How could a vet’s office specializing in oncology actually have the nerve to laugh at their new patients? I held it together to not blow my lid at her for fear of having “crazy bitch mom” scribbled at the top of Brinkley’s chart forever, considering they are the only veterinary oncology game in town. But it was a really close call.

It’s possible Brinkley could start treatments as soon as next week, which means that not only will I not be there to give Brinkley a million extra kisses and hugs and cuddles, but I won’t be there to talk to the vet and ask all my million neurotic questions. While I of course trust Chris to sustain lifeforms in my absence (that’s the point of choosing someone to procreate with, right?), it still hurts my soul that I won’t be there myself. What if Chris only asks 999,999 neurotic questions and not the millionth? What’s the point of having quit my job if I can’t be the one to do this sort of stuff? What if Chris decides he has to hurry back to work and then only asks 500,000 neurotic questions? Will he remember to call back with the remaining 500,000? The potential for a worry spiral is endless.

I know I’m describing the sensation of being a mom all the time, or at least when something happens, but my point still stands. I love this damn dog to the end of time, and will do anything for him, just how I know I’ll feel if something happens to Wee Connor after his arrival.

brinks with the playmat

I mean, COME ON. This is just too freaking cute.

Pets aren’t practice for kids. They are kids. If you do happen to have room in your thoughts or prayers for us, we would appreciate it. We know that Brinkley will be fine, but figuring out how that fine is going to be achieved is what we’re up against now. We shall prevail!