I took this photo on Friday. I am 20.5 weeks pregnant, and this was my first, “hey, I’m for real pregnant,” photo.
So. I’m pregnant.
Now, let’s rewind to a rainy, Sunday morning back in August. August 21st, to be precise.
Ben was at work. I woke up, and made myself a cup of walnut green tea, wanting something soothing to counteract the vague unsettled feeling in my stomach. I sipped it slowly, but halfway through the mug I came to the realization that it was not helping. In fact, my discomfort intensified the more I sipped. I made a mad dash for the sink. Fortunately the feeling passed without more trauma than me gagging temporarily.
After that gnarly moment, I began texting back and forth with my HusBen.
I had taken a pregnancy test two weeks prior when I first missed my period, but it was negative. Which I confidently attributed to my tonsillectomy back in July. I assumed that my surgery had thrown my body out of it’s habits, and I went my merry way. Which explains why I was wholly unprepared to discover two lines on that frail stick. I had intended to take the test to show Ben that I was legitimately sick so I could justify lounging about all weekend. Ha.
Ben couldn’t get away from work for another hour or two. I sat numbly in my apartment for about ten minutes when I was seized with anxious energy that propelled me to a nearby park. It was raining outside, but I walked for over an hour, listening repeatedly to this song my friend Myrill had played for me the day before. It seemed fitting, and the sound of the piano helped me center my thoughts.
All I could think was that everything was different. My life would never be the same. Hell, maybe one year from this exact moment I would be back at this exact park with a kid. My kid. I cried. And it was about 50/50 happy and sad.
There have been a select handful of moments in my life where everything felt so sharp and clear that I could almost hear the gears of my life shifting as the planet tilted on its axis to send me in a different direction. Meeting Ben was one of those moments. And this was another.
Ben finally came home. We both felt shaken and strange. And excited? And wigged out. We decided to treat ourselves to lunch out. As we walked out to the car, I found this penny heads up in the parking. “Huh,” I thought to myself. “This must be my lucky day.”
Poor Ben was so tired. He had worked a 24-hour shift, but I guess this was enough of a jolt to keep him conscious for a couple of hours. I kept thinking, “am I supposed to do something? I feel like there is a step I’m supposed to take? Do I call somebody?” So in my desire to do something appropriate, I said, “hey–we better take a selfie.” It seemed like a good idea at the time. And I’m glad I have this photo now. Look at us. Such a pair of babies ourselves.
Now. I’m going to talk pretty candidly about my pregnancy experiences in the next following paragraphs. And it isn’t pretty. So. If you want to go on thinking that pregnancy is blossoms and cotton candy, I’d close this tab and peruse this instead.
The following weeks/months after my initial positive pregnancy test were pure hell. Never in my life have I felt more utterly helpless than I felt during weeks 7-19 of this pregnancy. I threw up every few hours for the first couple weeks. Finally got some zofran. Took it every 6 hours. That cut the vomit down to maybe twice a day. It didn’t diminish the nauseated feelings, or the constant hiccuping/burping from feeling ready to hurl, but it got my through work every day. I began taking zofran during the day and diclegis (another anti-nausea medication) at night. That got me down to hurling once a day. A welcome relief. Of course, the anti-nausea medication caused pretty considerable constipation. Huzzah.
What’s worse, is that the nausea didn’t even care if I’d eaten supposedly offensive food items or not. My body would wake itself up at 2AM to vomit the water and saltines I’d sampled before bed. Or stomach bile. Body didn’t care. Up, up, and away. Or I’d throw up the zofran I’d taken minutes before leaving for work. Goody.
It was around this time that I realized how much I hated being pregnant.
I know those words are strong. And they might cause uncomfortable feelings. But I mean them. I hated being pregnant. I hated feeling so helpless every day. I hated that my bladder control was evaporating. I hated that I couldn’t enjoy the foods that I like because somehow my body had decided that eating them would cause a gastrointestinal rebellion. I hated feeling embarrassed and undignified when I’d cough or sneeze and pee myself.
Worst of all, I hated feeling so consumingly guilty for how much I hated what was happening to me. I felt like I was losing myself to a disease, and there was no cure except some far-off delivery date in April. Of course, as well-meaning individuals kept reminding me, that was when my life would really get rough.
There was one especially dark day during week 17. I was actually sitting in the same exact spot I am now: at my kitchen table, facing the glass doors that look out over the forest by my apartment. I had just thrown up a handful of lays potato chips. And I thought to myself, “if I was a dog, and if I demonstrated every symptom I’m currently experiencing without the knowledge that I am pregnant, they would put me out of my misery.” And I believed it. I felt like I was simply surviving, minute to minute. I couldn’t enjoy food. I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t appreciate the things that used to bring me joy. My entire purpose had shriveled down to supporting an invisible being that was wrecking havoc on my health and happiness.
Eventually (as in around weeks 16-18) I got good at predicting the difference between, “the vomit is coming–prepare yourself,” and, “you have about 30 minutes to do damage control before this gets serious.” I drank a lot of flat ginger ale during this period. And I ate numerous small meals throughout the day–careful to avoid foods I really like so that I wouldn’t be tempted to overeat and then get sick.
I am very fortunate that I had an incredible handful of friends throughout this bleak period, each of whom I owe a specific debt of gratitude. Having people I could safely vent to made a considerable difference to my sanity. I don’t think I can ever repay any of them, or even adequately communicate how much their support saved me.
Finally, on November 16th, I had my first ultrasound. This was the day the tide turned.
I am young and healthy, so I had foregone any genetic testing/sonograms during my initial visit (I was afraid they’d cost money), so this was the first time I would actually see anything of the Fetus costing me my bladder control.
Ben took the whole day off of work that day. I took a half day. Finally we drove together to the hospital. All of my appointments were at one specific clinic that Ben hadn’t seen before. It was a funny role-reversal having him follow me through the hospital halls, trying to keep up with my confident pace and not knowing where exactly we were headed.
I signed in. We waited. They called my name, and we were led into a dim little room. And that is where I saw my baby for the first time.
Ben immediately teared up as soon as he saw baby Cragun. It was so small. And so wiggly. The ultrasound tech had me rolling back and forth like a Lincoln log, trying to get all the anatomical measurements because Fetus wouldn’t stay still.
Ultrasounds aren’t the most detailed pictures into the uterus, but being face to face (in a manner of speaking) with this baby changed things for me.
I won’t lie–being pregnant still feels like the worst thing that has ever happened to me. I won’t be forgetting the distress and frustration I felt for almost 4 months straight anytime soon. But seeing the vulnerability of the product of my pain and sacrifice was a game-changer. This was honestly the first time I felt even faintly connected to the child I have been carrying since July. And it still isn’t the magical bond my pregnancy books promise. But it’s better than nothing. So I’ll take it.