I never really thought much about pregnancy before. I mean, I did. I knew I wanted to be pregnant one day. More so, I knew I wanted to have kids one day so I knew I would eventually pass through the ‘being pregnant’ stage.
But other than that, I didn’t really give pregnancy much thought. I’ve never really spent much time around pregnant women. Even though a lot of my close friends and siblings have been pregnant and had kids, I’ve lived most of my adult life in a different country, so I was never really around them during their pregnant months. And when I was, I never really knew what the protocol was. I’d heard that pregnant women were supposed to be tired and hormonal, but they all seemed fine and normal to me. So, up until now, being pregnant simply meant just that, ‘being pregnant’.
My partner and I had talked about having kids one day. I was on the birth control pill when we met and had been on it, on and off, for about 15 years. Whenever I got off of it, my American gynecologists would always convince me to get back on because of its (Big Pharma) benefits like lighter periods, acne control and less menstrual cramps. My French gynecologists would convince me to get back on because it supposedly helped keep my Endometriosis at bay. However, I later learned the latter to be untrue. The birth control pill only masks symptoms and eases the pain of Endometriosis; it doesn’t cure or treat it.
And even though I did enjoy some benefits of the pill like the clear skin and predictable periods, by the Spring of 2019 I had read way too many books and watched way too many health documentaries to know that the birth control pill was just not good for me. So I decided to get off of it and detox from all of those synthetic hormones.
Ever since I’d first gotten my period, my doctor then and every single gynecologist since then had told me that I would have a very hard time getting pregnant. They all repeated more or less the same thing: “You will not be able to get pregnant without help”. And by ‘help’, they meant fertility treatments. This was because I’d been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when I was a teenager and then later with Endometriosis when I was in my early twenties. Just having one of these conditions can lead to infertility, but having both of them usually completely excludes a natural pregnancy.
Keeping all of this in mind, I figured that when we were ready to have kids, we would go through in vitro fertilization or something of the sort.
When I got off the pill in late Spring of 2019, I focused on taking a more holistic approach to my overall health. I slowly cut down on my drinking. I started paying more attention to what kinds of foods I was putting into my body and where those foods were coming from. I read more natural health books, started listening to well-being podcasts, and began cooking with foods I’d never heard of.
By late November 2019, I had become completely plant-based. I was no longer consuming any animal products and based all of my meals around vegetables, whole grains and legumes. And I was feeling physically and mentally great, which is why I was so confused in early February of 2020 when I started feeling terrible. My whole body was suddenly tired all of the time and my mood swings were on a mega-rollercoaster. After a few weeks of what seemed like unbearable PMS symptoms, my partner told me to take a pregnancy test. I put it off for another week because I was certain that I wasn’t pregnant; my periods had never been regular anyway. But when my period still didn’t come by early March, I decided to take a test and let the ‘negative’ indicator finally relax my body into giving me my period.
Except, the test was positive. I was pregnant.
This is something the mind can’t really comprehend. It’s too big. It’s too huge to process that you’re growing a life inside of you. I was in utter shock. I mean, I always knew I wanted to have kids one day. But still, it’s just so big. It didn’t feel like I thought it would. That one day never felt like it would be today.
The next day I booked an appointment with a random gynecologist. The little French town I live in is still new to me so I didn’t have any recommendations. She confirmed my pregnancy and told me that I was about 6 weeks along, which meant that we conceived about 4 weeks prior, but in ‘pregnancy counting’ they add on an extra two weeks to mark ovulation- which still makes no sense to me- but that’s just the way it goes. Pregnancy lasts for a total of 40 weeks, averaging 9 months.
What a gloriously confusing time. And this was just the beginning.
Next came the reality check. All of the first trimester pregnancy symptoms started showing up fiercely. I had horrible stomach cramps all day long, supposedly due to the stretching of the uterus to make room for the baby. Ouch. Knowing this made it hurt even more. The nausea hit me like a bad hangover every morning and lasted until late afternoon every day. And food aversions and cravings became undeniable. I felt like I was living in a pregnancy rom-com with all of the clichéd symptoms. However, the worst part of watching my world change wasn’t the physical aspect of pregnancy, but the mental part.
The first trimester of pregnancy was traumatizing for me because I truly didn’t recognize myself. I was a high-level fitness enthusiast up until becoming pregnant. I was an advanced yoga teacher. A food combination expert. I spent endless hours exercising and cooking and stretching each week to fine tune my frame. And suddenly, my body betrayed me. I was so bloated and so uncomfortable that I couldn’t do any of that. Taking a shower even got me out of breath.
I’m not sure which came first: the chicken or the egg. In other words, was it the pregnancy hormones that triggered my negative feelings and bad mood or was it the negative feelings toward my changing body that triggered a stress reaction and led to my physical depletion? Either way, I hit a slump between months 1–2. I missed my flat tummy and boundless energy that I had worked so hard to achieve, and I resented myself for having a hard time just taking out the trash. I hated that my sleep was being interrupted every night to get up and pee due to the pressure on my bladder from that growing uterus. I hated that I had to change my deodorant and my skin care routine and spend hours doing research to find the best natural products for my complexion that wouldn’t cause potential damage to the growing fetus. I hated Maxime for not having to change absolutely anything about his lifestyle. And worst of all, I hated feeling guilty and selfish for feeling so much hate. I couldn’t shake the thought that the life I knew was being taken away from me. It all felt so violently confiscating.
I had no one to talk to about these feelings because you aren’t supposed to share your pregnancy news until you’ve cleared 3 months, so I joined a mommy-to-be Facebook group for women expecting babies in November 2020. But that wasn’t much help either. I’m not sure what I was expecting to find anyway. I think I wanted someone to give me answers to all of the existential questions popping up in my head like: ‘Did I buy the public narrative?’ ‘Do I really want a baby or do I just not want to find myself at 50 regretting not having kids and possibly dying alone?’ And most importantly, ‘Is it all worth it?’
But what I got from the mommies-to-be were just a bunch of pregnancy announcement ideas, gender guesses, ultrasound pictures and baby-daddy rants. And a lot of concern over miscarriage.
Miscarriage: the spontaneous or unplanned expulsion of a fetus from the womb before it is able to survive independently. So dark. Yet so common. According to statistics online, 10–20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. For no known reason. So to add on to the physical and mental strains of early pregnancy, this notion also started lurking over my head, taunting me: Here you have this baby! But wait! It might not be for long. What a cruel, cruel world.
Or is it? This sent me even further down the rabbit hole. Maybe miscarriage is nature’s way of creating social justice. Do I deserve a miscarriage? I haven’t always been nice. I’ve done bad things. I’ve cheated and lied and hurt people. Supposedly, a miscarriage is due to chromosomal abnormality, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. Nevertheless, I allowed myself to spiral.
And so after a few despairing days and weeks of fighting with Maxime over everything and nothing, without expressing any of these deep concerns, I came to a mental fork in the road. I had a choice to make; my first decision as a mother-to-be. Would I be perpetually anxious, spending my days hating my body, pondering what-ifs, and relentlessly replaying mistakes of my past? Or, could I embrace this change and these moments and begin to envision my new life with this baby in November?
I went back to see my gynecologist for my second routine ultrasound in April. All the mommies-to-be in my Facebook group said that I would be able to hear the baby’s heartbeat by this point. So I was prepared yet again to see a black screen with a sac-like formation holding a raspberry-shaped fetus in the middle. And I did. But then, she turned the sound on and I heard a thumping, rhythmic sound. “Le coeur,” she said. Before I could follow exactly what was happening, tears started streaming down my face. And then pouring.
It doesn’t matter how much you prepare for this. It doesn’t matter what other people say about it. Pregnancy is twisted and magical and indescribable, all at the same time.
So I chose to embrace the future. I am going to have a baby. And all my tears shall be tears of joy.