Second Trimester.

Today marks the start of the the fourteenth week of this pregnancy, which means I am officially into the second trimester. Right on cue, as the first semester ended, I shook off the cloud of exhaustion and hazy thinking that kept me in bed for the entire month of December and have rejoined the land of the living, doing really impressive things like “the dishes,” “walking to work,” and “being upright for more than twenty minutes a day.” Right now, my PhD requires a ton of thinking, strategizing, and article reading, and I was very concerned two weeks ago, when peeling myself out of my jammies to take a shower seemed an insurmountable task. It’s nice to have my brain back. I guess I should enjoy this brief reprieve, because according to my (many) pregnancy apps, I’ve got a good 14 weeks before things get rough again.

So, I’m feeling much better, despite the fact that I am edging ever closer to not being able to wear to my favorite jeans anymore. Luckily, it’s winter and I can hide the fact that I’m busting out of my pants under lots of giant sweaters.

Now that I am briefly normalizing, you’d think I might not worry as much. If you thought that, you’d be mistaken (and I’d assume you were new around here). Do you want to know what the most terrifying thing about being pregnant is?

EVERYTHING.

I’ve only known for about two months, and I’ve already had enough emotional breakdowns to last for years. Apparently, perpetually being on high alert is something that never goes away. It’s from now to always. (Yay!) To paraphrase something Fertile Myrtle told me as I panicked by myself in a Cardiff hotel room (after I’d known for three days, but was still trapped on my work trip), “you spend your entire pregnancy hoping that your child will be born, and then the rest of their lives wishing you could have them back inside you.”

Because, I’m learning, making a person is a tremendously stressful journey into the unknown, where any myriad of things could go wrong. According to every parent I have ever spoken to ever, this is only amplifies when your child is born, because then it’s not just your body that you have to side-eye and worry about constantly – it’s everything in the whole world for the rest of your life. It is all out to get your child and you just have to accept that.

UGH.

In our family mythology, my mother is known for being an over-reactive hypochondriac who never let me touch the ground or eat dirt or walk barefoot in parks (because: germs, parasites, and used hypodermic needles). My brothers and I were made to wear water shoes (the kind with thick, grippy soles designed for hiking in rivers) into the ocean on beach days until we were teenagers. My grandparents and great aunts would tell, and continue to tell, stories of my mom’s seemingly incomprehensible desire to keep me, the first-born, and later my two brothers, hermetically sealed against the terrors of the world. SHE IS SO NUTTY, they would all say.

When I was 14 and wearing too-small, bright pink water booties to the beach, I wanted to tear her apart.

As an adult woman currently pregnant with my own child, I am buying stock in water booties. And helmets. And vaccines.

That is, assuming I make it through the next six months of panic and actually have the opportunity to raise the first baby in a bubble.

It’s A…Human!

On Monday January 12th, the one year anniversary of my move to England, I had my first ultrasound, which was firm confirmation that another huge life-changing event is on the horizon.

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IT’S A BABY.

I’m getting my health care through the NHS, so I have the benefit of not needing to pay for private insurance, which, as a US citizen, is a little bit like living in opposite land. However, because I’m not paying for the health care, the experience has been different than what it might have been if I were in the states. For example, I met with both a general practitioner and a midwife before the 12-week scan I had on Monday, and neither of those medical professionals confirmed the pregnancy (through urine or blood). I also wasn’t offered an early ultrasound (at around 8 weeks), like I might have been in I was back in California. So, for the first three months, until I saw the little babe kicking around on the ultrasound screen this week, I could have basically been making the entire thing up like a hysterical crazy person and no one would have been the wiser, myself included.

As a notoriously high-strung individual, it was really strange for me to have very little medical intervention during a time when all I wanted was as much reassurance as possible. Thankfully, I have my midwife’s cell phone number – that poor woman probably hates me.

As I understand it, because there is very little that can be done in the first three months of pregnancy, the ethos here is to just let it happen. It’s all very c’est la vie.

That was very, very difficult for me.

Additionally, the NHS keeps sending me totally vague and absolutely terrifying text messages as my various blood test results are received by my doctor’s office. Nothing says peace of mind like getting a text at 4:55pm that reads, “Your test results are now available. Contact your GP as soon as possible.” So fun trying to frantically contact a health center administrator in the last five minutes before the office closes. Fortunately, as of now, all results are normal.

In England, prenatal care – and often, birth itself – is managed by full trained, highly educated midwives, not OB/GYNs. I think this is excellent, because in theory, it should cut down on the amount of unnecessary intervention suggested to women as they prepare to have babies. That being said, the strangest thing that’s happened thus far occurred during my “booking in” appointment, the first time I met my midwife. We went through family ancestries and histories, I told her my height and weight, she took my blood pressure, and then after this extensive testing, she deemed me “low-risk” and advised me to have my baby at home.

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WHAT.

As an American, this casual suggestion was similar to hearing a nurse tell me that I look pretty competent so I should just handle the stitches myself. For years, I’ve harbored some obnoxious ideas about how medicalized pregnancy and birth can be in the United States, so I absolutely appreciate living in a place that treats this like a natural process, and not a terrible disease. However, having a midwife use 30 minutes of conversation to determine that I wouldn’t need any medical help was a teensy bit surprising, even for a liberal granola nutcase like me.

Luckily, the options are basically endless here, so as of now, I’ve decided to use a birth center inside a hospital, staffed with only midwives, but an elevator ride away from some serious surgeons, just in case. I’ve read that for a home birth to be truly effective as an experience (and also, I guess, as a way of getting an 8 pound human being out of your body), you have to be relaxed. I, queen of the tightly wound, would not fare well with a potentially life-threatening situation intentionally scheduled away from a hospital.

Luckily, I am slightly less anxious now, as I’ve got four photos of our tiny martial artist and I know it exists. However, now that I know this is for real, I am ramping up tons of anxiety about making sure I don’t screw it up.

I’m such a well-adjusted human being. It’s just amazing.

Surprise!

Inspired by the comments and emails I’ve received from people telling me that their lives would be empty, wasted shells if I were to stop blogging, I’ve decided to be brave and stick around. Thank you all for your kind words. I had no idea this blog gave all your lives so much meaning. (In all seriousness: thanks for the encouragement!)

The following is both a dramatic recreation of why I’ve been absent and a sign of things to come. I’ve struggled a lot with whether or not to publicize this, because it’s hard, fast proof that I am moving into a vastly different life than I ever could have imagined for myself when I started this blog two and a half years ago. However, I really do loving blogging, I love this space and the people I’ve connected with, and if I were to not share this, I might as well give up on writing here altogether. So, here goes:

On November 7th 2014, I left home for a four-week work trip around the UK. I was touring with an exhibition I’d spent the previous several months curating research for, and so I packed a month’s worth of underwear into a suitcase, said goodbye to my boyfriend, and flew out of Southampton. I was exhausted.

On November 16th 2014, I stayed up working until 3am and woke up five hours later with a vicious head cold, which was both terrible timing, because I was deep into my UK tour, and really surprising, because I hadn’t been sick for over a year. I was exhausted.

For dinner on November 27th 2014, nearly three weeks into my UK odyssey, I ate a “jacket potato,” which was basically a baked potato covered in Heinz baked beans and is essentially a totally justified way for me to eat as many carbs as possible in one sitting.

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Vomit.

 

Then I stayed up until midnight in my Birmingham hotel room and Skyped with my entire family for Thanksgiving – the first I’d ever missed. Seeing everyone (and the amazing Southern California weather and all the food) was both really wonderful and also super sad, and I ended up balled up in my rented bed, sobbing like a maniac. (I had the decency to end the Skype conversation first.) I was so emotional. I was exhausted.

On November 28th 2014, 24 hours after devouring my jacket potato, I glanced at the photo I’d taken and almost threw up. No exaggeration. A food I’d gleefully forked into my face on Thursday had become totally repulsive to me on Friday. Given my sudden, intense food aversions, my ever-present fatigue, my recent crippling head cold, and the fact that I had grown out of my bra, I figured something might be up. Feeling a little suspicious, and in an effort to shut up my boyfriend and Fertile Myrtle, who are both saints who tolerate nonstop text messages about my various (real and imagined) ailments, I took a cheap pregnancy test in my hotel bathroom. I left the test and went to eat an apple, content that the result would be exactly what every pregnancy test result had been for all the years I have frantically taken pregnancy tests.

Despite the symptoms that encouraged me to invest in some £3.85 pregnancy tests, I knew with absolute certainty that they were a waste of money. The tests always had been and always would be, because my insides were made of sourdough bread and dust. So, as you might imagine, I had a complete emotional breakdown when I went back into the bathroom and found this:

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And then later, this:

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On Black Friday, 5,000 miles away from my family, alone in Birmingham, England after being on the road for three weeks, in a hotel room that shared a very thin wall with my boss’s room, knowing there was still a full week before I could see my boyfriend again, I found myself holding a positive pregnancy test for the first time. The insanity of the situation was not lost on me. The Universe is nothing if not consistent.

Right this minute, I am thirteen weeks pregnant. I AM PREGNANT. I am pregnant and living in England and starting a PhD.

Never a dull moment.

Going Private?

I haven’t posted anything in a long time, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I have a pretty impressive list of unpublished drafts hidden away. The reason I haven’t hit “publish” on any of them is that there have been a lot of really insane developments in my life lately, and I’ve been doing some soul searching about how comfortable I am broadcasting them into the universe. No one is more shocked about this than I am, as I used to live for the validation that came from having people like my ridiculous ramblings and post comments about them. I think, just at a basic level, these developments are so huge and personal and so very deeply mine that it’s strange to imagine opening them up for discussion with (and perhaps even judgment from) a wide audience I can’t control.

On the other hand, I do so desperately want to keep a record of this time and I would like to have the silly (and sometimes profound) feedback I used to get from the people who read this online piece of self-serving nonsense.

I’ve kept a lot of blogs in my Millennial life and I have never in all those incarnations begged readers or followers for comments. I’ve never shamed people who loved to lurk into becoming participants, and I’m not going to do that now. However, I would like, just this one time, to ask that if you read this (or used to read this, back when it was interesting), and if you want to continue to read this, that you let me know, only because I don’t want to devastate huge swaths of the internet by making this blog private.

Additionally, I’d feel really guilty for shutting down a blog that provides Googlers of the world with search term goldmines like “worst looking girl” or “yo betta shut yo ass up.”

Basically, do I stay or do I go?