I have been puzzling over how to write more about my experiences and insights of pregnancy. Obviously I have stories to tell, but I was unsure how to approach it- and then I got a message from my cousin. There it was, the frame. This is the first of a series of letters to her wherein I download some of my thoughts and feels from pregnancy. She’s given the ok that it be shared with all of you too. Enjoy….
Dear Cousin on the dawn of your pregnancy,
You were the youngest baby I had ever met. Until I caught my own two months ago. I was in grade 3 and I remember leaving class to go to the hospital. I remember being instructed to sit and have a blanket propped on my lap so I could hold your tiny body in my gangly child arms. Now as I hold my own tiny spawn on my lap you tell me from the other side of the world that you will be the next amongst us to have a baby.
You are early days, just barely pregnant enough to know that you are. I know this time. I’ve been there twice. I want to be excited for you and I also hold the same nervous anticipation as everyone else who has been pregnant, and then not. This nervousness feeds the social convention to keep the being growing in you a secret. I found this to be bullshit. So many pregnant people have had this type of loss. Along with the other struggles of the process of reproductive labour I wholeheartedly disagree with forcing people to experience this in isolation.
Not to mention the symptoms of first trimester pregnancy.
People I know who carried on serving food in restaurants, heaving at the smells and holding mouths of barf between runs of plates…. I just can’t even imagine. Although I was chucking road kill deer into the pig pen and cleaning their water dish out even when I was hurling along side. I was lucky. My morning sickness was mostly in the morning. And I found strategies to help minimize it. I want to share them with you because I know that we have some parallels in our relationships to food. I have learned in my life, as I know you have too, to ignore hunger. To push through and sometimes navigate life from a low-blood sugar haze of an altered state. You can’t do this anymore. If there is a time to put everything you have into healing any remaining disordered relationships to eating – it’s now. Your baby needs all the nutrients it can get. At times more than you may like to allow yourself. It’s gonna change how your body looks. For now. You can return to sculpting and training and all that when you are on the other side of this. Which if you are going to nurse is longer than 9 months. The caloric output while nursing is massive. You need to be getting a lot closer to 2000cal a day than you may feel even remotely comfortable with. Yes, it’s for your baby, but also your body will kick your ass if you don’t.
Early pregnancy nausea is worse if your blood sugar gets too low. Which means you pretty much need to keep eating all the time. Including while you sleep. I had to keep the supplies to make sprinkles toast with lots of butter or a bowl of hearty granola near the bed. I would wake up around 5am and need to eat. If I didn’t I would not make it til my 8-something wake up time without a blood sugar crash. The crash would bring on nausea and vomiting. Bringing your blood sugar back up once you’ve crashed in this ways is WAY harder than preventatively topping up before you are ready to be legitimately up and active. Give yourself as much space as you can to rest. The more active you are the more you need to feed back in. Small, simple, low profile flavours are also good tricks. Crackers, miso soup, yogurt, bananas, mixed nuts, granola bars, naan bread and sourdough toast all stayed fairly doable to me. Sour candies also helped. They stimulate salivation and help with the most simple blood sugar. Make sure to keep topped up- getting hungry can really quickly and easily get to a place where fixing the hunger is hard . Some folks have this part for the whole thing. Mine was worst between week 6 and week 14. At first it felt like a hangover. Then it got sort of old. Then I got sort of old hat at it. And then it was passed. Some of my tastes for things never came back, some of them are that much more familiar after being one of few go to’s through that process. Your experiences of pregnancy nausea will be something you get to know, they may be different each time you are pregnant (if you do this again). The strategies that worked for me won’t necessarily be ones that work for you. You’ll puzzle out the edges of your bodies needs and learn to filter out the endless advice of others.
Pregnancy, and once you get through it, birth and then parenting are super polarizing states. Everyone has something to say about everything. A lot of people are super dogmatic about how to do it right. Your fears, insecurities about being a good parent, they will be exploited. You will be marketed to around every bend. Some folks are just meaning to share their hard learned lessons, others are hustling products and others are just regurgitating the same judgmental bullshit that they were subjected to. And of course there are the opinions of people who’ve never been pregnant or parented, thinking that they know better than everybody else. You know, like politicians de-funding sexual health clinics and abortion services. Beyond all the labels (crunchy vs silky moms– it’s a thing. People actually align themselves with teams…) there is what works right for you and your kid. I personally found my groove somewhere between the labels. I had one ultrasound, saw a nurse practitioner throughout my pregnancy and had blood panels, I birthed outside the hospital with only unlicensed birth keepers, I currently use disposable diapers and took care of my post-pardom blood with cloth pads. My kid spends sometime in my bed, sometimes their own. I wear them, and carry them in a seat, push them in a stroller, pull them in a sled and set them on a sheepskin on the floor. The main thing to remember is to ignore the haters. And check everyone’s biases.
The reason I suggested you get a doula or a midwife is to help you sort out your feelings about the galaxies of information, sometimes contradictory and nonsensical. You can’t automatically assume that everyone’s opinions about things are best for you. In fact I’d argue that a lot of folks in the western medical paradigm are actually doing the opposite. That system is set up in ways that intentionally disconnects pregnant folks from their power and instincts and ancestral wisdom to make them more compliant patients. I know you don’t have access to medical services anyways, with your lack of residency and insurance and whatnot. Lots’ of people the world over are in similar situations. Think back far enough – we haven’t always had the ever patronizing OBGYN ready to slice us open in a neat and tidy c-section so he can get to his tee time. Having a C-section, or other medical interventions are sometimes useful, and are also over sold. I recommend watching either or both of these films to get a better sense of what I am referring to here.
The Business of Being Born (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCiQrcP0Qas)
Orgasmic Birth (http://www.orgasmicbirth.com)
The long and short- pregnancy and birth aren’t necessarily medical conditions to be treated. They are practices that our mothers did with us and our sisters, following in the tradition of their mother, and hers and so on. I believe that knowledge exists in our bodies, we just need to tap into it.
We’ve both found our homes far away from our families of origin, you even further than me. While your pregnancy is in your body and ultimately your experience, it is also an experience of community connection too. Your relationship will be tested – mine didn’t make it. I hope your partner takes the time to recognize the challenge and sacrifices you make to bring your child earthside. I hope he takes the time to learn from you and the other folks in your network how to best support you in this process. I hope he shows up to help create the nurturing and supportive home your child needs. And I hope that the other members of your extended network find their places around you too. Get connected with family and parent support networks where you live. They are great places to make other friends who are on the same path as well as to score free stuff by tapping the flow. Babies grow out of things really fast which makes it possible to get hand me downs with little to no wear. I know that the aunties of our family of origin will ache over the distance between you and them. Your mother will probably use this grandchild as a motivating factor of how she structures her life from here out. I hope that you are able to find the right balance in making a home and family that you can share with your new little one.
I intend to keep writing you as you move through this process. I’m so excited for you to get to experience all the joys and complicated weirdness that is this whole process.
For now, big love. Take good care.