Yesterday afternoon my brain was fried from work, I was exhausted as I sat in traffic home and there was not much food in the fridge (we still haven’t done that big first shop that you do when you move house). All I knew is […]
Month: August 2018
Bubba and I are at the sixteen week mark – and boy oh boy have there been some noticeable changes. This last fortnight has probably been the most dramatic by way of both physical and emotional changes.
Physically, I am huge. Whenever I tell people how far along I am, more often than not they respond with, “REALLY?.. You look SO much further along than that!” Like, alright Carol, calm down. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, though. Am I abnormally large? Am I going to give birth to the world’s most gigantic baby? Am I putting or more weight than necessary? Don’t get me wrong, I am at the stage where I look pregnant, and I freaking love it. I have this sweet little soccer ball belly that juts out further than my chest (which, trust me, is no easy feat), I can easily rest my hands on my stomach and not have it look like I am trying to show the world that, YES, I AM PREGNANT, and people have started coming up to outstretched arms and eager hands.
On the flip-side though, just these last few days I have felt really self-conscious – and I mean, really self-conscious. I have been told that I have barely put on weight anywhere else besides my belly, but I can tell you right now that that is not what I feel, believe or see. I feel like a bloody blue whale that is posing as a human. I don’t feel sexy or attractive, and I certainly don’t feel that I am a ‘yummy-mummy’, nor that the pregnancy glow has reached me yet (or that it ever will) and I just feel a little bit frumpy.
There is a girl from my high school who is also pregnant – she is about a month ahead of me. She posted a photo to instagram last night and she looks absolutely unreal. She looks like a pregnant-goddess. She looks how I always prayed and hoped that I would look pregnant. I felt completely gross when I saw how utterly stunning she looks. I immediately launched into, “Pete, I really need to eat better and I need to do all the exercise and I don’t feel like and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T LOOK AT ME SHIELD YOUR EYES!” in my head, of course.
It took a lot of positive self-talk and reminding myself that every single woman and every single pregnancy is different. And surprisingly, it often takes me a lot of effort to remind myself just how much is happening inside of me, and to really remind myself of the fact that I am pregnant. Pete often says to me, “Leah, you are pregnant. Things are going to change..”
So instead of wallowing in the illusion that I am gross, fat, ugly, unattractive, not at all sexy, etc. (because I am hoping that that is just all in my head and people aren’t staring at the hideousness of my person as I walk down the street), I am doing the following:
- writing positive affirmations every morning (LAUGH IF YOU WILL, and about five weeks ago I would have laughed with you, but this has proved life-changing)
- getting my clothes ready for work the night before so that I am not scrambling around naked and in the dark of a morning and end up just wearing whatever is on the top of the washing pile and walking out looking like I just emerged from an op-shop bin
- when I can, replacing pasta and rice with cooked greens (cooked with butter.. because #healthy), for instance, we had stir fry last night but instead of white rice, I had my chicken on a bed of peas, beans and broccoli and it was bloody delicious
- being more prepared with snacks because I really do feel better in my brain when I eat all the good food (avocado on corn thins, carrots and hommus, popcorn instead of chips, pink lady apples, sultanas.. you get the idea)
- walking every morning before work and every lunchtime which works out to be just over 3km
- taking the time to really look at myself (like, really look) at my body in the mirror and appreciating what my body is capable of
- stop comparing myself to other pregnant women (especially mega hot goddess ones)
- getting a wax as soon as possible (tomorrow during my lunch break)
- seriously.. getting a wax as soon as possible (seriously, tomorrow during my lunch break)
Now, the other very strange but completely life-changing thing that has happened over the past few days is the state of my mind. I have long battled seriously, crippling anxiety on top of some incredibly tough bouts of depression. For as long as I can remember I have been paranoid, and stressed and worried about absolutely everything. Last week, as soon as the night stretched beyond 7pm I turned into some maniacal she-devil. I was not a nice person to be around. I was moody and riddled with anxiety, I made up completely invalid truths in my mind and believed them, and I was just a bit of a bitch. It started to affect the relationship between Pete and I, not in a serious way, and he and I are yet to have a fight, but I was just injecting so much unnecessary stress and awfulness into our evenings. It was feral.
Since Thursday last week, this has all changed. THE SHE-DEVIL HAS BEEN EXORCISED.
Not only that, but I genuinely feel as though I have never been sad before. I feel so fucking positive. I feel neither stressed nor worried, anxious or paranoid. I feel bloody brilliant. Seriously, I cannot put words just how content and happy and unfazed I am. It is as if my entire mental health history has been completely wiped clean.
There are a few factors at play here that I think led to such a huge, life-changing, life-affirming, complete and utter overhaul of my mental state, and really, of my life.
I am in the middle of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with is a twelve week coursebook that helps writers/artists/creatives unlock their creativity), which I will also be writing a separate post on. Part of the coursework is The Morning Pages where, every morning, you write three pages by hand. You can write anything and they often work as a stream of consciousness. On the days where you feel like you have nothing to write, you simply write, “I have nothing to write” over and over again until the words come, or don’t! I was sceptical, and even more so when it was requested of me that I write affirmations (something my mother has been trying to get me to do for years), but completely unconsciously, my mood brightened, I felt a happiness I never knew existed and I completely shed the darkness from my past. And then, slowly but surely, my creativity started to re-emerge.
On Thursday morning when I put pen to paper for my morning pages, I found myself writing, “Writing when you are happy seems so much more challenging than when you are sad. Sad words flow from the tip of the pen with such ease, completely void of resilience. It is almost as if conjuring up words and phrases and things to say that are filled with joy takes effort!” And it was true. No truer words have I ever written. As soon as I stopped complaining and worrying and whingeing and writing down every single trigger of stress in my life, I found that I had filled up barely any of my pages. Focusing on the negative is so much easier than voicing the positive. During the depths of my depression, I had people telling me to, “not focus on everything that is wrong.” If you have ever said this to someone who is feeling really fucking shit, please stop. In those dark moments there was no way I was ever going to be able to pick out the good and high points in my life because as far as I was concerned, they didn’t exist. Now, in my own time, I am able to do that.
I have also heard that the second trimester is the happy trimester. You have more energy, your hormones start to level out somewhat and you feel a lot more yourself. I am a huge advocate of the second trimester. HUGE. This shit is awesome. As I was typing the last paragraph, I felt our bubba roll over for the first time. It was surreal and amazing and oh-so-cute and quite possibly one of the most incredible moments of my life.
Moving house and being with Pete have been the two major contributors to this change over the last few days. I have lived in the same suburb pretty much all my life. Now, although where Pete and I moved is the next suburb over it still feels like we are away from everything I have grown up knowing. I have never been able to go to the shops without running into someone I know, or a customer from the cafe, or someone who knows my mum and then interrupts me and my shopping for a rundown on her life. I was over it. I have realised that all I want is a quiet, simple, happy little life. Constantly having to play nice with acquaintances sounds like it isn’t a big deal, but living in the same area for almost thirty years kind of catches up with you. Moving just that little bit further away has had somewhat of a placebo affect on me; I feel far enough away from my family and the cafe and the rest of my childhood landmarks that it feels as though we are creating a whole new life for our new little family. On Saturday night, our first night in the new place, we really did feel so removed from the rest of the world. Home is now our little oasis, and that feeling is something that I have always yearned for.
Pete is just everything. He really is. He is patient and kind, loving and thoughtful. He is generous with his time and always puts his family first. He puts my mind, my heart and everything else around me at ease. He has taught me so much about myself and for the first time in a long time, I feel like I have grown as a person.. and for the very first time, as a mother. Each and every day he gives me a new reason to fall in love with him; I guess it’s no wonder why I am so freaking happy, right? Who doesn’t want to fall in love every day?
It truly has been a remarkable few days. Pete has a few bucks’ weekends coming up which normally I would be freaking out about – not because I don’t trust him or anything like that, but purely because it is the unknown. That was, and always has been my trigger, fear of the unknown. Last night while we were cooking dinner he asked me, “You going to be alright here next weekend while I am away?” Honestly? I could not fathom why he was asking me. “OF COURSE I WILL BE FINE!!” I beamed back at him. And I meant it. I cannot – not even now – think of any reason to be stressed, concerned or to even give a second thought to the fact that he is going away for the weekend. Couldn’t give a toss! Instead I find myself celebrating it! GO AND HAVE FUN AND BE WITH MEN AND I AM GOING TO DRINK COFFEE IN BED AND WATCH GOSSIP GIRL! Seriously.
It is 165 days until my due date and bubba rolled over and over and over again today and the weather is dark and grim and my favourite. More importantly though, and what I didn’t realise this post was actually about, is that if you find yourself completely unable to see the light, or the happy, or the positive – whether you are pregnant or not – reach out. Please, please I implore you to reach out. I have been there and somehow I got myself all the way out, which is something that I never thought I would ever be able to say. I’ve got you and I am here.
Well – I never thought that I would see the day where I voluntarily let Don’t Ask Leah go. To be honest though, when it came to the decision to move on from that brand it was an absolute no-brainer. I am not that woman anymore. Sure, she was great and fun and riddled with anxiety (which did make for some funny “I’m so glad that’s not me” pieces), but that Leah is well and truly done and dusted.
And now, here we are.
A brand new business, a flash new website (that I run through WordPress now – something that really scared me in the past), a budding child in my belly and a whole new Leah to set loose on the world.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I started to scour the internet out of pure curiousity. What is happening inside me? What advice is out there? Why am I so sweaty? The list of questions that I had was endless. As I waded through website after website of the exact same information and facts and advice, I realised that what I was actually searching for was something that I could relate to. I didn’t want to keep being reminded that soft cheese is an absolute no-no (HA! As if I would exist if I couldn’t eat soft cheese) or that I need to practice yoga and not put on too much weight and I simply mustn’t eat deli meat. Seriously, the list of exceedingly controlling “Tips For Pregnant Women” made me pretty fucking angry.
During the first trimester – when I was doing the bulk of my research – I was having a pretty rough time. I was under the illusion that even amidst the morning sickness and nausea, I was going to freaking GLOW and everyone would somehow know I was pregnant because I looked so glowy and clear and ethereal and goddess-like. None of that happened. I felt like shit. My clothes started to become uncomfortably tight, but I was nowhere big enough to wear maternity clothes. My skin went (and remains) blotchy, dry and uneven. I started crying even more than I already do. I was more tired than I thought humanly possible and the nausea was so real/relentless/cruel/awful.
Sure it is well documented across the internet that nausea and morning sickness are things, but what wasn’t shared was how it affected women day-to-day. Nowhere did I read of anyone else’s real, honest and vulnerable accounts of pregnancy. I felt alone and guilty that I had so many feelings of sadness and overwhelm so quickly into the pregnancy. I wanted someone SOMEWHERE to connect with me, hold me and say, “Yep, it can be seriously shitty sometimes.”
So – I held my damn self.
I started to document everything that I was feeling and experiencing with each new day that passed. I started to celebrate the weird and wonderful cravings that I was having. I started to find the humour in my odd behaviour, like the time I tried to heat up by wheat bag in the fridge. I made peace with how sick I felt each and every day. I learned to ride my mood swings as best as I possibly could whilst profusely apologising to Pete for said mood swings. I started to create the content that I so wish existed in the darker, harder moments of the first trimester. This process actually made me feel more connected to our Bubba, it made me more open and communicative with Pete, and it relaxed and soothed me (somewhat).
At first I thought that The (Oblivious) New Mama could just be a page on Don’t Ask Leah and that I could keep my regular blogging and writing separate from the pieces that revolved around the pregnancy. But what I have come to realise is that absolutely everything I do, think, say, eat – I am doing pregnant. It isn’t just a sub-part of who I am – right now, it IS who I am. And moving forward, I will never again be just Leah. I will be a mother. When that realisation dawned on me as I sat in my car this morning before work, I knew that I had to let Don’t Ask Leah go. I want to support women and humans through my own experiences. I want people to feel safe in their vulnerability. I want people to find solace in my words and inspiration in my mistakes.
And maybe a little bit more selfishly, I want to build an empire. I want to be able to make this blog financially viable so I can have the life that I so desire for myself. I want to be able to work from home (or from a cafe or a beach or the country or some other idyllic environment). I want to make a living and support my family through my own creativity and hustle. I want a ‘job’ that allows me to be there for our child, always. Most importantly though, I want to create. Each and every day I want to create and make and write and cook and inspire.
Don’t Ask Leah and I went through a lot together – I met some incredible women, achieved my goal of meeting Michelle Heyman (still some serious swooning that goes on there), I was able to celebrate some truly wonderful people and I created a platform for myself to be heard.
What I can see for The (Oblivious) New Mama though – well, that’s just plain exciting.
I have figured out yet another little not-so-fun thing about pregnancy: once is hits 7pm, every single niggling negative thought that I could possibly have will fill my brain entirely. I have aired the same concerns and anxieties and worries and stresses and triggers with […]
A lot of rice and noodles and banana pancakes were also involved, so that was a huge plus for me too. Carbs and sugar. Brilliant.
The reality, of course, was not that at all.
I drank my body weight in virgin Pina Coladas and coconut slushy shake things, I woke up every day fresh and without a hangover and not surprisingly, I was not left out of anything. I really did think that it was going to be a challenge as all Pete and I had spoken about leading up to the trip was drinking cocktails by the pool, on the beach, in bed, etc. but I didn’t miss alcohol at all. Not only have I not missed it, I haven’t felt like it. Well, okay, there was ONE instance in Thailand.. we were all up at the bar at Kata Rocks, watching the sun set over the ocean and Pete decided to buy himself an Elijah Craig whiskey.. I wanted.
I also realised a pattern that my body has been going through, something which I am sure will be subject to change (just like every pregnant woman before me has said, as soon as you think you have figured it out, it will all change). There are about three days each week where Bubba is doing his growing because those three days see me being almost completely incapable of doing any kid of cardiovascular activity including being able to breath steadily while I walk. So, on those days I kick back when I can, sleep when I can (never) and remind myself that I am growing one of the world’s most complex creatures right inside my belly.
Another happy discovery whilst in Thailand was the complete joy of listening to my body and what it needed. Just before Thailand, still in the deep throws of the first trimester (and sitting in front of a computer with internet all day, every day) I was conducting a lot of research. I researched everything I could think of about pregnancy and what to expect, not to adhere to the advice or recommendations, but simply due to my curiosity. Don’t eat sushi, always make sure your dental hygiene is a-grade (shouldn’t that be for even when one isn’t pregnant as well?), don’t eat cheese, make sure you take this supplement and that supplement and do all the exercise, etc. etc. Pregnancy, if a woman wants it to be, can be completely controlled and determined by the advice and stories and experiences of all those that preceded her. And, working in hospitality for as long as I did, more often than not, women do let outside resources dictate what is possibly the most intimate and personal experience one human can have.
In Thailand, we didn’t have 3G, we were far too busy relaxing and eating all the food on the island of Phuket and I did not research anything about the stage of pregnancy that I was at (except checking what size fruit bubba was that week – a strawberry, then a lime). Instead, I tried to stay as ‘in my body’ as I could even though I hate that phrase more than life itself. When I was tired, I rested. When I overheated, I swam. When I was emotional, I listened to Mumford and Sons and cried. When I was hungry, I ate pad thai and banana pancakes. And in every other moment, I looked and watched my body change shape and grow with each day and often woke up with Man’s hand resting on my belly.
We were nearing the end of our time in Thailand when, all of a sudden one night sitting across from Pete and his brother at dinner, I felt incredibly sick. I knew that it had nothing to do with the pregnancy, it was far too severe. I took myself for a walk along the beach with my hands behind my head and tried to breathe deeply. I didn’t get very far before I had to sit on the beach, completely incapable of lifting my head let alone signalling back to the restaurant for Pete’s help. I felt like absolute ratshit. Luckily it didn’t take long for him to come and find me, but by that stage I was almost completely beside myself in pain. He doubled back to the table to get our things, propped me up and helped me walk back towards our room. The searing pain in my stomach was excruciating and we had to stop constantly because every step was agonising, and I was using the rest of my energy to not vomit. Once we finally got back to the room, all I wanted to do was throw up, but it wouldn’t come. Instead, the pain churned in my belly and made me increasingly scared and panicked for both myself and Bubba. It isn’t often that I cry or scream in pain, but on our bed, I writhed and grabbed at the sheets and cried and screamed from the pain. It felt like my stomach was splitting into fragments.
After a couple of hours, I was granted relief (or so I thought) – I managed to vomit and I felt a lot better. I thought that that was it, I thought I would be able to lie down and fall asleep and let my body feel. In fact, that was only the beginning of what was the most violent illness that he or I have ever had (yep – Pete got it too, the day before we flew home). I couldn’t stop vomiting. And even when there was nothing left, my body kept trying to throw up. I was up all night, the pain in my stomach still very much there, punctuated only by hideously excruciating bouts of dry-reaching. All night.
The following day I stayed in bed. I felt okay – but I couldn’t do anything except drink my disgusting Sprite with sea-salt combination and do my best to rest.
The next morning, I felt bloody brilliant. Yep. I was hungry. My appetite was back and I had my energy back. Man took me to the buffet. I noticed something was wrong when, on the one minute walk to the buffet, every single ounce of my energy was usurped and I felt drained. I ate two pieces of plain toast and managed to say to Pete, “I’m going to faint,” before I did, in fact, faint. I came to, and then fainted again. And again. Pete called his brother as he needed to get me to hospital. In my moments of consciousness, all I could think about was how worried I was for Bubba. We weren’t at the twelve week mark yet and something felt very, very wrong. I was panicked. I was wheeled (rather comically) in a wheelchair to Shari’s step-mother’s car and she took me to hospital.
Long story short – I was in hospital for about eight hours with a bacterial infection that had reached my blood. My blood pressure was lower than it had ever been before at 88 over 40, and I was severely dehydrated. I was on a drip, given a lot of medications – all suitable for Bubba – and I also had an ultrasound where we saw Bubba and heard his still very strong heartbeat. Relief flooded through me.
When we arrived back to the hotel, Pete got it. The very same series of events were repeated that night.
In hindsight, it was as awful as it sounds. I also realised how lucky I have been so far during this pregnancy. So many women have terrible morning sickness – granted, I had terrible morning nausea that stretched well into the afternoon, but after having vomited whilst being pregnant, I really am grateful. Even though you know deep down that everything is going to be okay, you can’t help but worry frantically whether all the clenching of muscles and energy of being sick is going to hurt your baby. Or maybe that is just me. Either way, I am thankful for my health thus far.
- Definitely pack Panadol, because your lower back will start to hurt after about two hours on the plane
- Purchase a neck pillow for the flight
- Drink ALL the water, and if you are going to a place like Thailand where the tap water is not drinkable, always make sure you have at least three giant bottles of water handy
- Pack different size of clothes if you are away for more than a week. By the end of our trip, I only had one dress I could fit into and the rest of my luggage was completely irrelevant and unusable
- I learned that charcoal tablets are suitable for pregnant women, and are a natural medicine to settle stomach pains and nausea
- Hand hygiene is king, if I had my time in Thailand again (please god, no) I would have packed or purchased a bottle of Dettol hand-sanitizer as I am sure that that is how the infection spread
- Most bars will make you a virgin version of any cocktail so you can still feel like you are a part of festivities without the risk of a hangover!
- Get travel insurance
As always, every single woman (and their partners) will have a very different pregnancy experience, so much of what I said may be completely irrelevant (though I hope it was still entertaining). All I know is that, today I am fourteen weeks and I still have no idea what I am doing but what I do have are my own experiences and a platform to share them on. So if you are travelling while pregnant, don’t worry yourself too much. If I can go to Thailand, eat the food (not street food, I’m not an idiot), end up in hospital and still be alright, then you will be too.
Sorry if that last bit sounded preachy. It totally did, didn’t it? Sorry.