What I learnt from pregnancy food aversions and weird cravings for ’no-no’ foods. Do less, be more. The first trimester of my surprise pregnancy is teaching me some crucial lessons that life has tried in a myriad of other ways to explain to me.
It’s taken getting pregnant to finally realise that my self-diagnosed disease of constant academic and career achievement is not always in my or others’ best interests. That softening, doing less, and deferring my third university degree are in this case the sane options.
I’m 12 weeks pregnant and so far it’s been a wild ride! Wild in the same way one might feel after crash landing on an alien planet and finding themselves not only in a new outer landscape, but in a new extra-terrestrial body too. It’s my first pregnancy and although Andreas and I are thrilled, we didn’t plan for this pregnancy nor do we have any idea what the hell we are getting into, having spent hardly any time around kids, ever.
It’s been downright challenging, having to learn a whole new way of being in this new and constantly changing body. Some days I feel exhilarated, strong, feminine, capable, proud, and intuitive. Others I’m bewildered, overwhelmed, depressed, anxious, furious, and clueless. Often I feel all of these emotions on the same day.
For me, being pregnant is like having PMS, all the time –or at least what I imagine PMS to be as I’m one of those lucky women who usually gets no unpleasant physical or emotional reminders that my period is coming until it’s actually there.
I feel overly sensitive to EVERYTHING. The cigarette smoke from 200 meters away. The way my partner touches me on the back the ‘wrong’ way. The smell of food cooking in the kitchen on the floor below even with my bedroom door closed (coconut oil being heated is the most repulsive thing to me in the world right now!) The older man behind me in line at Woolworths who, upon inspecting my groceries, challenges me with his own theories on the futility of buying organic food.
The Richter ratings of these events and more are greatly amplified in my hormone-flooded body, leaving me cowering under a blanket holding my nose, or trembling in fury outside my local supermarket when usually I’d barely notice such stimuli.
For someone who has been flat-chested her whole life and has become comfortable with the physical and social ramifications of this (even living on the Gold Coast where surgically enhanced breasts are a dime a dozen), watching my breasts grow has been surprisingly disturbing. Brushing my teeth and jogging have never been an issue until now, when I’m constantly reminded of their growing presence. I find myself wondering why on earth I coveted bigger boobs throughout my entire adolescence and early 20s as I had no idea how bloody annoying they are–and I know they’re only going to get bigger.
Morning sickness is like being stuck on a ferry between southern Thai islands in the Andaman Sea during a storm, except the ferry ride never stops. For a period of a couple of weeks and still on the odd day, the feeling of nausea is nearly as frustrating as the inability to actually vomit. Why they call it morning sickness has me stumped as it certainly extends far into the afternoon and night.
Eating has become a whole new world of food aversions and radically different bodily cues. Being a three-solid-meals-a day kind of person for most of my whole life, I’m used to eating a large and satisfying meal, then not thinking about eating again for at least four hours. Nowadays I can be perfectly fine one minute and ravenous the next, yet my stomach capacity seems to have shrunk to the size of an egg. Having to eat small portions every two hours has finally allowed me to sympathise with those people who get hangry (i.e. hungry to the point of anger) if they forget to bring a snack to a one and a half hour yoga class. As an advocate of intuitive eating, never has there been a more important time to practise what I preach.
Food aversions to all vegetables led me to subsisting for several weeks on Cruskits, Vegemite, cheese and fruit–hardly a balanced diet, but who gives a s#¡it when most of the time you feel like vomiting?
Thank goodness for natal multi-vitamins – it’s a wonder how any pregnant woman before 1940 managed to give birth to a child without spina bifida as getting folate naturally from green leafy vegetables during those crucial early weeks has been impossible for me. The occasional days when I can manage to sneak some spinach into a green smoothie are gifts from the universe.
So much for my perfect pregnancy ideals of eating a ridiculously nutrient-dense diet and spending my days on the couch dreaming of baby names. I spent a good chunk of last month eating Cruskits and Coco Pops because they were the only thing I could stomach, while dragging myself through meetings, consultations and teaching classes. Only when the nausea got really bad did I finally realise I can’t do it all, and deferred full-time university in lieu of only working full time for myself –as if that weren’t enough!
But pregnancy isn’t all constant urges to spew and an annoying new cup size. Being pregnant has encouraged me to be mindful of looking after myself as best as I possibly can –and that ’best’ varies from day to day. I spent the first few weeks being overly cautious and not wanting to walk up stairs in case I ’did something to the baby.’ Predictably this left me feeling confined, depressed, and even more nauseous.
I’ve since realised that, the better I look after myself, the better I feel (no news there), and the more energy and head space I have to nurture myself and my growing baby. Jogging on the beach, surfing, riding my bike, yoga are all still totally doable and make me feel wonderful.
Not for the first time in my life, I’ve felt the need to slow down, do less, be more present. But for the first time in my life, I have a greater motivation to do so. It’s no longer about pushing on through the fatigue to get the work done, only to do some more. Now there’s another person involved, and that person’s well-being depends entirely on how well I care for myself.
It’s become far easier to say no to things that aren’t of utmost importance and benefit to my physical and mental health. I’ve reduced my work hours and made some big decisions, including ending my tenure at the creative space and community I have spent the last year building. I’m incredibly pleased to say that I’m handing complete ownership of the space to my very capable business partner.
I’ve cut back on some of my yoga classes and as of now will most likely be running monthly workshops instead of weekly classes. Of course when one door closes, about 20 new doors open and I found myself being offered to teach a bunch of restorative yoga classes for chronic disease patients.
Being pregnant is not something I was ready for, but it is something I’ve needed.It’s a wake-up call to stillness, to new awareness, and to acceptance of the change that is inevitable in life –the change that keeps life interesting, exciting, challenging and rewarding. I regret nothing.
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