Expecting her first baby any day, Sara Wallis shares her searingly honest view about pregnancy. Today, I am 38 weeks pregnant. That’s about eight and a half months to anyone who has never been pregnant and therefore cannot understand why everyone talks in weeks. I still don’t know why that is. In one single shopping trip I have endured three conversations with strangers about my imminent arrival, including parenting advice, diet tips, warnings about killer buggies and information on the sex of my baby.
A saleswoman in John Lewis even chased me out of the store to tell me I’m having a boy. And this has been going on for months. My grandma told me if my face got fat I was having a girl. The next time I saw her, she looked at me, threw her arms out in delight and announced: “It’s a girl!”
And once, a fellow journalist questioned the paternity of my baby in a crowded lift.
“So is the father that same bloke or someone else?” “Er, my husband? Yes, it’s his, thanks for asking.”
Basically, being pregnant seems to be an open invitation for everyone to comment on your weight, grope your stomach and tell you what makes a good parent (and a bad one).
Opinions come hurtling your way on everything from nappies to names.
(Note to my family: I will NOT be naming the baby after Great Aunt Edna.)
Over the past few months I’ve been told I look both “massive” and “too small”, but mostly “pale”.
This is because I have been vomiting for eight months. No, pregnancy has not been the glamorous affair I’d hoped for.
Instead of swanning around looking blooming and getting spa treatments for my glowing complexion, I’ve been squashed into unflattering maternity clothes (most of which inexplicably have horizontal stripes), battling stretch marks and trying not to throw up.All I can say to all those women who just love being pregnant is, well, bully for you.
“Ooh isn’t your pregnancy just flying by?” they gush. No, actually, I feel like I’ve got the gestation period of an elephant.
Most mornings have been spent hunched over the toilet bowl, while my dutiful husband (known to my colleagues, unfairly I think, as Poor Sam), hovers nervously by the door asking if I’m OK. “DOES IT LOOK LIKE IT?”
That’s not to mention the fact that your internal organs are all being used as squeeze toys while your baby gets comfy.
Put it this way: nothing works as well as it used to. I’m fairly sure my bladder was not designed to be a trampoline.
If I’m not falling asleep at my desk (sorry, boss), I’m frantically searching for the bag of Twiglets I’ve suddenly decided I have to have, or running to the bathroom after getting a whiff of someone’s egg sandwich. And that’s if I’ve managed to survive the train journey into the office without crying for no reason at all.
Although sometimes it’s not just my hormones that are to blame. I thought at least one advantage of being pregnant would be getting a seat on the train.
But even with a hefty bump (and a “Baby On Board” badge in case people think it’s cake), most commuters are too engrossed in their newspapers or mobiles to notice.
It’s often the most surprising people who actually do offer up their seat – a young schoolgirl and a tough-looking teenage boy have both jumped up straight away while middle-aged men and women have glanced at me and looked away. These are the people I hover close to when feeling nauseous.
I’ve tried every sickness remedy from ginger nut biscuits to a pregnancy fitness class, which involved several flustered women panting and asking if someone could please put the fan on. But nothing works.
And there is no old wives’ tale I don’t know about. My favourite is: “If you clean your oven your baby will arrive.” Eh?
For the record, I am feeling sick (girl), carrying out front (boy), craving oranges (girl) and have a north-facing pillow (boy). Work that one out if you can.
Every piece of advice is conflicting. While the midwives encourage you to go drug-free during labour, your friends are muttering “get the epidural,” before you see their eyes begin to glaze over at the sheer memory of childbirth.
One Born Every Minute is now a banned TV show in my household. And on a tour of our local hospital, there was more anxiety as we witnessed several rather pale looking men wandering the corridors aimlessly holding car seats, clearly in shock.
Alongside the usual concerns in pregnancy, a multitude of health checks, scans and blood tests can ramp up the fear factor.
At my last appointment, the doctor announced my baby was “measuring well”.
When I asked if that meant the dreaded “big baby”, she looked at me with what can only be described as pity in her eyes and said “Um, possibly.” Oh God.
The local NCT (National Childbirth Trust) course, popular among first-time parents, had us labelling diagrams and changing dolls’ nappies filled with mustard and other stinky condiments.
But this just brought the class out in giggles. Prepared, we are not. Well not mentally anyway.
Practically, this baby, who isn’t even born yet, has absolutely everything it could wish for.
After one particularly gruelling five-hour stint at the local shopping centre, we are now surrounded by dozens of alien-looking baby items.
Stuff we never even knew existed. I still don’t really know what a top and tail bowl is for, but I have one. And after a salesman told us the more expensive car seat was “safer”, what else could we buy?
Shop assistants can spot clueless first-timers a mile off. I also have a gym ball, which so far has only been used by my friend’s toddler as a Space Hopper, a strange looking pillow, several unopened tomes about parenting and a baby bath (despite the husband’s protests: “Can we not just use a washing-up bowl instead?”)
And my mother, who has turned into an unstoppable buying machine since I told her I was pregnant, has already bought enough clothes to see it through to secondary school – which, by the way, I should start thinking about now.
I am excited about having a baby, and I wouldn’t change a thing. And yes, yes, I know: “It will all be worth it when that bundle of joy arrives”.
But this doesn’t mean I have to enjoy being pregnant does it? Is it OK that I am counting down the days? Bring on all the nappy changes. How hard can it be?
And to all you bleary-eyed parents who are smiling knowingly to yourselves, please stay silent for now and let me wallow in ignorance. It’s the least you could do.