My pregnancies were not what I was expecting while I was expecting. They weren’t laced with complications (I am extremely thankful for that), but it wasn’t a breeze for me either. I didn’t enjoy all the parts of pregnancy the way I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, I was always, always thrilled to be pregnant. I have loved my little ones from the moment I found out I was pregnant – both times – with a fierceness I didn’t even know existed. Again, I am in no way saying that I hated pregnancy, it was a gift that I will always treasure…It was just different than I thought it would be.
Maybe I was oblivious to it before, but once I announced my first pregnancy, it was like people came out of the woodwork to share their own pregnancy horror stories. At that point, I hadn’t started feeling any symptoms and I liked thinking that the next nine months were going to be nothing but unicorns farting rainbows while skipping through a meadow. (I know that imagery is dancing through your head right now.) We told our families we were pregnant very early – 1) we can’t keep secrets, 2) we were so excited.
Around Week 8, I started to feel queasy all of the time. It was that I-think-I’m-going-to-throw-up-but-I-don’t-want-to-throw-up-but-I-might-feel-better-if-I-throw-up feeling…constantly. My love of coffee is no secret, but after tossing that up several days in a row, I finally got it through my thick skull that I had to break up with my favorite brew. It made me so sick that I didn’t even mind parting ways with it. People would say, “Jess, you are just glowing!” I was so unbelievably happy, but I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t referring to the sheen of sweat that was constantly on my brow due to my nausea.
I was still waitressing when I was first pregnant with JJ. By this time, I was keenly aware that I had developed super powers – a heightened sense of smell and a sensitive gag reflex. This is a poor combo for a waitress. I would drop food off at tables and run off for fresh air. If I couldn’t make it to the fresh air in time, I would text my co-workers from the bathroom to ask them to keep an eye on my tables for a few minutes. Thankfully, they always had my back. I started a job at the local hospital when I was 15 weeks, so at least I wasn’t bombarded with these smells throughout the pregnancy. But to be fair, hospitals are full of their own funky smells.
By the time my second trimester rolled around, my third super power would make itself known – raging hormones . I was an aggressive, emotional wreck. I had just started to show, and while I was excited about that, it was like a magnet for everyone else who was also pregnant or had ever been pregnant. Women would come up to me and ask me how I was feeling. I would explain that I was so excited, but I felt pretty rotten so far. That’s when they would say things like, “What!? I have never felt more healthy and wonderful in my life then when I was pregnant!” Congratulations – I just mentally punched you in the face. With the hormones coursing through my veins, they were lucky it didn’t turn into a real punch. Like I said earlier, people come out of the woodwork to talk about pregnancy and I knew tons of people who were experiencing the symptoms that I was. It made me feel so much better once I realized that I wasn’t alone.
The emotional roller coaster I was riding didn’t help things. It was like I was being forced to watch those SPCA commercials with Sarah McLaughlin singing “In the Arms of the Angels” over and over again. One time I was craving Taco Bell, so I went there on my lunch break and started crying in the drive-thru. I have no idea why I was crying, I just was. I was crying when I ordered my food and then when I pulled around to pay and pick it up, the workers just kept asking me what was wrong and if I was ok. I couldn’t tell them why I was crying because I didn’t even know. And no, I didn’t think I was ok – I thought a major screw was loose somewhere in my brain. Just give me my stinkin’ burrito so I can get out of here!
Thanks to meals from Taco Bell and the lasagna that I washed down with orange juice, I began getting heartburn for the first time in my life. Several hours after the lasagna and orange juice debacle, I thought I was going into cardiac arrest. This is no joke – the heartburn lasted for THREE DAYS!! I had to sleep sitting up and there was nothing I could do to make it go away. The doctor told me that Tums were safe to use, but I should avoid red sauce and acidic foods and drinks (i.e. lasagna and orange juice). I had heartburn throughout both pregnancies and by the end of my pregnancy with Jett, JJ would point to the bottle of Tums on the counter and call it “Mommy’s candy.” It was so necessary.
My cravings were not too crazy, but pregnancy hunger is unlike anything I have ever experienced. When you get hungry, you have to eat immediately or else it becomes so overpowering that you can’t function. This is the weird thing about being pregnant – you can feel sick yet simultaneously want to eat everything in sight. For example, one night Jeff and I were out and about and we both decided that a stop at Cold Stone Creamery was a great idea. My sensitive gag reflex kicked in and something made me run for the bathroom. I puked, rallied, got back in line and ordered some cake batter ice cream. “Gotta Have It’ size, please! That would never happen with the stomach flu. When I get the stomach flu, I convince myself that I can go without food for the next 48 years.
During my second pregnancy, I got headaches that turned into migraines. At one point, I had five migraines from one Monday to the next. The doctor said that I could take baby aspirin. Sure, that will help. They started to go away about halfway through, but it was such a rough stretch to overcome. When the migraines subsided, my blood pressure started to go up. I have always had relatively low blood pressure. One day I was sitting at work and I suddenly felt like I was going to pass out. My face was flushed, I could barely focus, and I felt so weak. There really wasn’t anything that could be done. I didn’t have preeclampsia or gestational diabetes. I was just told to drink plenty of water and rest. The water I could do, but resting while working full-time and raising a toddler was impossible. I just powered on through.
One morning I woke up and I had such terrible pain in my pelvis. I could barely lift my legs to put my pants on. I thought something was seriously wrong so I called my doctor. The poor doctor was on speed dial at this point, but when it came to the health and safety of my baby I wasn’t going to take any chances. I told her that it hurt worse than my arm did when it was broken and it felt like I had been kicked in the crotch thousands of times. She said that my pelvis hurt due to the position the baby was in, but also because my pubic bone was essentially breaking. It was separating in order to prepare for birth. Say what!? I had to waddle from there on out just to relieve the pain. I always thought that pregnant women waddled because they were getting bigger. Not me – I waddled because my crotch hurt too much to walk normally.
I also experienced incontinence for the first (and hopefully last) time ever. No sneeze was safe with me. One evening, I was dressed to go to dinner and sneezed as I was coming down the stairs. I didn’t even finish the flight, I just turned around and went back to my room to change my pee pants. Another time, I barfed and peed my pants at the same time. I am so glad that I was home when this happened; although, I did learn to bring a change of pants with me to work just in case.
When I reached the last few weeks of pregnancy (with both kids), I just wanted them to come out. The anticipation was so great and my body had been through enough. I never would have wanted to go into labor if I thought it wouldn’t be safe, but around week 37 I started to pray that it would happen at any time. During one of my last appointments, I asked my doctor what I could do to naturally induce labor. She was a straight shooter and said that the best way to get the baby out was to do the same deed that got them in there in the first place. That’s when I looked at my OB/GYN and asked her point-blank if she was doing drugs. I guess the baby was just going to stay in there a little bit longer.
Pregnancy is one of the strangest, craziest, most wonderful things I have ever experienced. It’s one of the only things in my life that at times felt like torture, yet I would happily go through it again. There were so many things to enjoy and look forward to in the midst of all the sickness. There is nothing quite like hearing your baby’s heartbeat. I cried every time I heard it with both boys. It was amazing and reassuring and it gave me the strength to get through the toughest parts of my pregnancy. We decided to find out the gender with both pregnancies. I felt like I needed to know so that I could plan things a little better and so that I could call our little ones by their names. As you know, we have two boys. I didn’t have a preference either time, but the sheer joy I felt when I could see our guys on the ultrasound monitor was overwhelming. Again, I cried. Don’t even get me started on what it was like to feel their kicks and movements. I still daydream about what those kicks felt like and how precious they were to me.
The cherry on top was that both of my labors were quick and way less dramatic than the nine months that preceded it. I delivered two healthy baby boys and have thanked God every day for his abundant blessings. I can laugh about my pregnancy experiences now because I know how completely worth it everything was. This stuff is small potatoes compared to what some women go through. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience pregnancy again (Jeff says no), but if I do I’ll know what to expect while expecting.