Pregnancy. It's been a shock. Not because it was unplanned (it wasn't) but because my notion of it was sort of like a Bodyform advert, without the menstruating. I would be a glowing earth-mother-type, floating around cornfields in a tent-sized dress and smiling beatifically. Fool that I am, I was way off the mark. I had fast-forwarded my imagination to the 'visible bump' second trimester of pregnancy, crucially forgetting about the stage prior to this, the 'no bump' first trimester. Or as I like to call it, the worst trimester.
It started at about five weeks in with morning sickness. Before becoming pregnant I knew all about morning sickness - hop out of bed, have a quick puke, then off to work - better out than in, right? Wrong. All-day nausea would be a more apt name for it. See, I was never actually sick. What I had instead was a slow roiling: an oily heaving in the pit of my stomach that lasted from 6am to 8pm. For seven weeks. All the plans to fill my unborn child with vitamins from fresh fruit and veg fell by the wayside as I mechanically and doggedly stuffed myself with the four major food groups: bread, butter, mashed potatoes and chips. If I managed an apple, it was a good day. Oh, and what they say about ginger? Doesn't work.
The nausea had an unexpected knock-on effect, too. I'd heard of weird cravings for things like coal or washing powder. What I hadn't heard of was aversions. I became averse to garlic bread, particularly the cheap, inoffensive baguettes with herb-garlic butter. Just writing the words 'garlic' and 'bread' still makes me feel sick (and a bit like Peter Kay). Sprouts and cabbage fell out of favour too, and piccalilli. The latter was because I'd been on a festive preserves-making course for work and had to make it in a hot kitchen while my belly threatened to add its own contribution of chopped veg to the mix.
If a pregnant woman tells you she's tired, don't compete with tales of your late night carousing. You'll lose. For us, tiredness is like an actual weight, physically dragging you down, without the fun of socialising the night before. I found my feet inadvertently taking me to bed as soon as I got in from work. My bedtime descended from 11pm to 9:30pm and now hovers around 8:30pm. At Christmas lunch this year I was too tired to stay up for dessert. It was 3pm. The tiredness is uncontrollable, irresistible and unrelenting. And you can't even have an extra shot of espresso.
It's made worse by insomnia. For me, this is partly caused by needing to wee every 90 minutes (until the uterus 'pops' out, it sits squarely on your bladder), but also by my anxiety levels, which seem to have rocketed in the last three months. I lie in bed and can't switch off the irrational part of my brain; the part that wants to go over and over that time I tried to reverse a car out of a small space ten years ago and had to get someone to help me.
It is impossible to vent to anyone else about the insomnia thing. This is because, a) if it's before the 12-week scan, you're advised not to reveal your pregnancy, and b) anyone who already has kids will gleefully say to you: "Oh yes, this is preparing you for when the baby's arrived. Then you'll never get ANY sleep EVER AGAIN. EVER." Well done if you manage to resist smashing their stupid faces in.
Other unpleasant side effect of harbouring another life has been phlegm - and I haven't found this symptom described anywhere online. Last thing at night and first thing in the morning I have a good hack to get it all out. Also restless leg syndrome - an uncontrollable urge to keep moving my right leg, that can strike at any time, and irritates anyone nearby who finds their cup gradually dancing off the table.
I think the absolute worst thing about the first trimester though, is keeping your pregnancy a secret. All this crazy stuff is going on and you can't talk to friends about it. This is possibly the biggest thing that's ever happened in your life, and, often the only thing that's happening in your life, and you have to keep schtum. It can turn you into a bit of a social leper. You stop going out because you run out of excuses for not drinking and can't be bothered to lie about what's in your glass any more.
I'm 14 weeks now - just starting the second trimester and things are getting better. The sickness has faded, the tide of phlegm is slowly receding and I'm constantly hungry. Since telling people that I'm pregnant, a lot of the worries I had about how bad I was feeling have dissipated. I wish I'd been able to talk it through earlier when I needed the reassurance, though.
It would be really great to hear from other people who have, or whose partners have gone through a tough first trimester. What symptoms did you have? How did you cope with them? Are there any tricks or tips you can share with suffering mums-to-be?