Wednesday, April 8

Pregnancy Diaries, Vol. I

In just one week, the first trimester pain has begun to ebb away. As it fades, the memory of misery decays along with it. The heartbeat seems to erase the struggle, and there is smiling, and brunch with Ben, and excitement - giddier than when we first found out. But below is the reality of the first.

first the worst
second the best
third the golden eagle

When we found out that I was pregnant, we were elated. We’d didn’t take falling pregnant easily for granted. We were giddy with amazement. We were terrified. There was a poppy seed child growing within. It was a mixture of us – we hoped the best genes had been picked, that it wouldn’t be a red haired boy with acne and severe eye problems, likely to be bullied. We prayed for less superficial things too.  It was all happy, miracle, wow, is-this-real?

Two days later it was all ewww, need nachos, this-is-ugly. Lucky we had felt such high levels of joy on finding out and crammed them into one ecstatic day, because they weren’t to last.

I had always suspected that pregnancy cravings were a socially acceptable notion formed by expectant women who wanted an excuse to indulge. I thought pregnant women got away with lax diets because pregnancy had become a permissive ‘eating for two’ state. I thought they couldn’t complain about baby weight if they’d given into cravings in pregnancy. I was going to exercise and eat healthily throughout the whole thing, and enjoy returning to size six in due course. Preferably by the time I left the birth centre.

Soon, I would slump to the pantry in the morning. Opening the doors and staring at offensive foods like rice, tuna, chocolate and weetbix would cause me to dry retch. Seeing food, imagining food, even former favourites, made me queasy and depressed. Posts of food on social media were my undoing. My impeccable gluten, fructose and dairy free diet collapsed overnight, after years of self discipline. I was too sick and tired to care. I sat on the couch with Ben’s box of cereal, stuffing my fist in and pulling out sugared flakes. Some days I ate an entire pack of corn chips for breakfast. One week it was noodles for all meals, then mashed potatoes, and then toast with vegemite. Whatever pleased me one week was nauseating to me the next.

The next week I began to vomit. The first time was when I opened the fridge, to get the butter for my mashed potatoes. It was the sight of the cherry tomatoes sitting on the top shelf, all perky and red. I would fight the urge to vomit all day, and all evening long. Hurling is the thing I hate most in life, I abhor the experience. I blocked my nose when Ben walked in the room after preparing food. I lay most of the day on the couch, dozing, stomach churning, incapacitated. When I had to move to another room, I did so with my body doubled over, because of the faintness. By late morning I would cry, because I couldn’t endure it and I had to endure it. I daydreamed of a drug induced coma, unconsciousness more powerful than sleep. I was afraid to wake up in the morning to my deeply lonely, couch bound, vomiting existence.

One morning I decided to make a brave trip down the road to the supermarket. I knew the gentle stroll in the sunshine would be good for my low spirits. I entered the supermarket, and was assaulted by the food, packaged, yet still offensive. I went to find what I needed, and realised that I was feeling increasingly bad. I didn’t really want to buy anything after all; I just wanted to get outside. Once outside the shop, the nausea started to rise up my oesophagus. I began to self-counsel. Breathe, it’s ok, you can control this. You’re not going to throw up. I saw a seat outside a cafe – could I sit there without buying something? My rule-abiding temperament said no so I kept walking.

Oh no, and it then it began: the heaving, and the sweating from trying not to heave. In an instant it had risen to the top. There was no return. I rushed my hands to cup my mouth and threw up into them. I dashed to the closed rubbish bin, and let it slide off my hands into the bin. My hands and cheeks were splattered, and I had no tissues. With bystanders unashamedly staring, I used my clean arm to wipe the vomit away, and I was shaking and teary. I felt like the lowliest hung-over woman that ever lived.

I had thrown up just outside Gloria Jeans, and there was a lady trying to enjoy her morning coffee while riveted by my display. She asked if I was ok, and if I needed to get to the doctor. While repeatedly retching with my hands over my mouth, I told her that I was just pregnant and she commented that I shouldn’t have gone out. Well, yes. After throwing up in one more bin, and being rudely asked for the time by a male with no idea of the personal crisis and shame I was facing, I made it to the toilets, and sat in the cubicle cleaning up with toilet paper. That was the last time I left the house without a throw-bag and tissues.

I realised that cravings weren’t so much indulgence, but an instinct to stay alive. Food was required for life, and if there was any food I could tolerate, that was the food I would eat. I have never thought about food so often. I thought about vomiting it up, and I salivated for all kinds of things that I have been an advocate against. After eating, I felt my oesophagus burn with gastric acid and wondered whether the heartburn tablet I just popped would harm the baby, as the packet clearly suggested.
In Week 6 I was struggling to zip up my black skinny jeans. I thought this was a little premature given my child was sesame seed sized. In reality it was my constipation, bloating, and sudden carb overload, masquerading as four months pregnant. We wanted to take a ‘before the bump’ picture in my first month, but that day never came. There was no more flat stomach.

The fatigue was like a heavy blanket, crushing and debilitating. I slept before lunch, and after lunch, and was held at gunpoint in my dreams. I woke drenched, worrying I’d miscarried. It was like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome on steroids, with the stomach bug twenty four hours a day. I dropped all the balls, and when Ben got home from work, he picked up armfuls. He cooked the one thing I wanted, shopped for my desires, cleaned, washed, and hugged me. Our poor puppy got walked half as often because we were drowning. I was googling cleaning help, and Light ‘n Easy meal delivery, and grocery delivery, and dog walkers.

I had no glow, no ultrasound picture, no energy, and a noticeable constipated bump. There was nothing glamorous about this experience, no, it was the hardest of my twenty five years.  I know this sounds incredibly melodramatic, because I wasn’t dying, rather, I was giving life. All I can say is that 24/7 nausea is demoralising. There was guilt that I was experiencing something many dream of and are denied, and feeling so miserable. I worried the baby would sense I didn’t love it and wouldn’t stick, because I felt wretched. And wasn’t pregnancy meant to be the calm before the newborn storm, and if we were drowning now then what? The pregnancies I’d observed were beyond the 1st trimester, they were in films, they were excited, and they were couples looking adorable on outings, women in curve hugging dresses. I’d never seen someone hobble around with a bucket, wondering if they were the weakest woman on earth for detesting every passing hour.

The worst thing was demanding a feeling of joy, yet struggling to even make it to the end of the day. I was forcing an emotion that was rightly in hibernation, and feeling guilt that I could not properly awaken it.

How do your reconcile joy and pain, and let them exist side by side? How do you tell people the most miraculous thing is coming to be, and you’ve never been more physically oppressed? How many times can you tell a friend that you are not really ok, and expect them to care? It has been the hardest time, but I believe it will lead to good times.

Right now it is bitter but it will be sweeter than I can comprehend. I’ve never met a woman who didn’t think it was worth it. I trust the truth of a million women who have walked this road, and vowed that when I first hold our baby on my chest, I will see this time as the smallest price to pay for something so precious.  

A hundred thankyous to the women in my life who sent me messages, meals, gifts, beautiful flowers, and quotes. This experience has brought me to my knees, and I have never wanted out more, so thankyou for keeping me in. 


  1. 'How do you tell people the most miraculous thing is coming to be, and you’ve never been more physically oppressed?'

    'I have never wanted out more, so thankyou for keeping me in'.

    This was brilliant writing, Dee, you conveyed the awfulness so well. It's okay to want out when you feel like death (but as you say, there's conflicting feelings because of the precious gift inside). Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks for a beautiful comment E!
      It is ok to want out, isn't it. I know you've been there, and I love friendship with the ones who know that life rarely comes in neat happy packages all the time. Xx

  2. Tears for you Dee and tears for the truth that early pregnancy can be the loneliest, sickest and hardest x