11 Things That Have Surprised Me About Pregnancy

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Even though I’ve kept myself reasonably well-informed this pregnancy (by regularly reading books like What to Expect When You’re Expecting and frequently doing Google searches on questions I have), there have still been several things that have totally surprised me about pregnancy.

In no particular order, here are 11 things that I DIDN’T exactly expect while I was expecting:

1. The lack of crying. Maybe it’s because Hollywood and books and word on the street seem to all stereotype pregnant women as hormonal train wrecks who cry at car insurance commercials and weep over spilled flour, but I haven’t found this to be true of my pregnancy. True, there were a couple incidents in my first trimester of serious emotional meltdowns, but I can count on less than one hand the times I’ve cried during this whole pregnancy. I was expecting a lot more tears, but since I’m not a big crier to begin with, I guess it makes sense.

2. The lack of rage. Once again, I’d been told that it’s not unusual to randomly despise your husband’s habits all of a sudden or to lash out at total strangers, but I would venture to say that I’m about the same temperament I’ve always been. Of course, I was never really one to have PMS too bad or anything either, so I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising. (But now, after writing the last two things, I wonder if I should have asked those nearest and dearest to me if I really am acting as I say I am).

3. The lack of sleep. You hear all the time about how tired pregnancy makes you, and–granted–the first trimester definitely brought a fatigue unlike anything I’d ever experienced. However, as I worked my way into my 13th or 14th week, my fatigue drastically lifted, and I’ve found I actually have MORE energy than I normally do. The only problem with the uptick in energy and the downturn in fatigue? I’ve found that, for the first time in my life, I’m becoming a bit of an insomniac. Between frequent trips to the bathroom, not being able to find a comfortable sleeping position (since I’ve always been a stomach or back sleeper, not a side sleeper), and just general restlessness, I can’t tell you the last time I had a truly restive night of 8-9 hours straight sleep.

4. The conflicting emotions about the pregnancy. It’s easy to focus–when you’re first pregnant, especially–on all the physical changes your body is undergoing (and all the physical changes looming in the near future). And while some of those have been a bit, uh, interesting to get used to, I was surprised most of all by the conflicting emotions I’ve felt about the pregnancy itself (and about the idea of being a mother in general). Maybe this one’s unique to me (because I’ve always been super nervous about becoming a parent), but I seem to go between extremes–some days, I am beyond elated about our baby girl and can’t wait to just meet her already. Other days, I’m terrified of what this new change will bring in our lives and just know that I’ll be a dreadful failure at the whole parenthood thing. On days like that, I am more than happy that Baby Girl is still firmly inside me, kicking away.

5. The baby’s kicks, turns, and flips. Although I knew to start expecting to feel some movement by the fourth and fifth month, I was still super surprised when I felt the first definite movement that was not digestion-related. I remember I was driving home from work when I felt my stomach flutter, and I was absolutely certain that the baby had just done a complete flip because that’s exactly what it felt like. I was so surprised I almost pulled over to the side of the road just in case the baby had any more gymnastics in mind, but I somehow kept on driving (although I turned my audiobook off because the sensation had completely put me under a spell). When the movements became more regular, I was surprised at how soothing they were–they were a daily assurance that all was well, and it was like a secret little code between this little creature in my innards and me. The movements felt a little selfish, actually, because there were so many times I called Matt over to try and feel them for himself, but he never could. When the day finally came this very week that she kicked hard enough for us to see it from the outside and Matt finally felt her for the first time, that was another surprise—the intimacy and joy of that small (but hugely significant) little movement. We were a family about to be three, just starting to bond all together.

6. The fake contractions. I didn’t even know Braxton Hicks contractions existed until I was a couple months into my pregnancy, and when I first started feeling my uterus seize up like a hand was clenching it, I thought that maybe the baby had just found a particularly sensitive area or something. Now that these fake contractions are becoming more regular, they don’t shock me quite as much, but the twinges and cramps are still taking some getting used to.

7. The onslaught of advice and stories that seem to be much more tinged with negative than positive. With pregnancy, I expected the extra attention–the belly rubbing (although no strangers have attempted to touch mine–yet—),the constant asking how I’m feeling, the questioning about the baby’s name and gender, and the well wishes of friends and strangers alike. What I wasn’t so prepared for were the many dire warnings about everything from breastfeeding to sleepless nights to labor and delivery, and when I divulged that I planned to have the baby naturally through hypnobirthing methods, you’d think that I’d just spoken heresy or something by the way most people respond. Sometimes it can be difficult to stay positive amidst all the negativity, but then I’ll talk to one of my sisters (who delivered almost all of their babies by natural childbirthing methods) or to a thriving new mom, and I feel my hope renewed that parenthood might turn out to be a lot like marriage for me—I might hear a ton of negative about it, but overall it’s an enormously joyous and positive experience.

8. The skin discolorations. I know this one doesn’t happen to everyone, but I have developed one of the not-so-pretty features of pregnancy that’s known as “the pregnancy mask,” which is where parts of your face become discolored temporarily due to hormones so that it looks like you are indeed wearing a mask. In my case, the discolorations are down the side of each nose and under my eyes, so it looks like I’m constantly sunburned and/or flushed. I think my students sometimes take it to mean that I’m frequently embarrassed to be talking about verbs or pronouns or something.

9. The sensitive joints. While I’ve been lucky not to suffer from back pain yet, lately the joints on my ankles and feet are starting to act up hardcore. Whenever I’m going downstairs, for example, I have to be uber-careful to  step  just right, otherwise it feels like my ankle will roll to the side and I’ll sprain it right then and there. I can’t explain it exactly, but it’s like my shifting joints are always just seconds away from popping out of place, and it’s made walking around a real hazard lately.

10. The unexpected triggers of nausea. In my first trimester, I felt really pretty sick almost the whole time. Very quickly, I learned to avoid the obvious culprits (certain food odors, dirty dishes, etc.), but a very surprising trigger of nausea for me was reading (a very inconvenient truth, considering my profession). I’ve talked to many a woman about pregnancy in the last five and a half months, but I’m apparently the absolute only one who has ever had nausea triggered by reading before. What gives?

11. The marvel I feel at my changing body. As a woman who was never eager to get pregnant, I always thought that when we did finally decide to have kids, I would feel like my body had been taken hostage by an alien parasite and that I’d detest my new shape and all the uncomfortable physical truths that come along with growing a baby. And while some of those things have been a little weird to get used to, I have overall felt an overwhelming sense of wonder at what my body can do. No longer am I worried about my body’s shape or how attractive it might look to anyone else. No longer am I beating myself up over the fact that I haven’t lifted weights in however long or that I’ve been slacking on running. Instead, I’ve cut my body a break this pregnancy, and you know what? It’s been a pretty beautiful thing. (Here’s hoping that feeling of wonder and beauty is there AFTER the baby is born too, eh?)

If you’ve been pregnant, what’s the thing that surprised you the most?

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