Or maybe it snuck up on you. How would I know?
Since it's almost Mother's Day and I received some very slight encouragement from my friends, I decided that I would write about another one of my occasional hobbies, parenting. My son is about to graduate high school, and I feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in the fact that I have reared him nearly to legal adulthood without him either going to jail or becoming a Republican. Since I know that any new or incipient parents with a lick of sense are flailing about in a hysterical panic wondering how they are going to get through this...and if you haven't reached that stage yet, dearie, you will....I will share some of my tips and secrets right here on the Internet for the benefit and edification of all.
Photographic evidence that I know what I am talking about. Note hippietastic skirt, homemade Plains-style choker and general air of blissful, youthful ignorance. Also not-yet-freakishly-ginormous belly.
Let's start at the beginning, shall we?
Oopsie, I'm Pregnant!
Perhaps you planned, waited, prayed, and, er, tried very hard for this day. Or perhaps you woke up one day feeling a little weird and went on a mildly embarrassing shopping trip to the drug store. Either way, you should realize that you have no idea what you're getting into and that there are very sound evolutionary reasons for that.
To begin with, eat whatever the hell you want.I mean...sure you should probably avoid alcohol, though the latest latest research suggests that small amounts are not going to do you or your baby any harm, so don't freak right out if you drank a beer the day before you learned you were pregnant. Follow your doctor's advice, etc. etc. But the reality is that during the first trimester, pregnant women come in two flavors: completely, unbelievably, ravenously hungry, and barf-o-rama. What this means in practical terms is that either you are going to eat whatever is available, including whatever you see in your refrigerator, your pantry, your friend's refrigerator, on the sample tray at the grocery store, on the plates of strangers in restaurants who look like they aren't really that hungry...or you are not going to be able to hold any kind of food down except some exceedingly weirdo combination of very bland nothingness...tofu cubes and soda crackers, or snowflake-shaped ice cubes and Sprite. Either way, it isn't really going to matter what it says on those lists of healthy foods and recommended preggo diets. You aren't going to follow them. Plus...
Fun fact #1: Your sense of smell is about to become your first Mom-related super-power.
Pregnant women are about a bazillion times more able to detect spoilage and toxicity in food than a normal person. This is because some substances which would merely cause discomfort or illness in an adult will cause serious damage to a developing embryo. In a very few cases, things that we normally eat with no problems whatsoever go on the OH HELL NO list. At any rate, your whole system goes on high alert for anything potentially threatening, at least anything potentially threatening that our ancestors a few hundred thousand years ago were likely to encounter. This reaction kicks in so fast that revulsion for foods they previously enjoyed is often the first tip-off some women have that they are in fact pregnant. Viva la evolucion!
The urge to stab people who are smoking anywhere near you or wearing too much perfume is just a bonus, really. Considering how weird people are about pregnant women. if you are far enough along you might even get away with it. Which leads us to...
People are freaking weird about pregnant women.
They either want to scrunch you up in a big fluffy rainbow of kitties and puppies and bunnies and pastel icing, or they are terrified of you. Possibly both. Sometimes they resent you. They want to touch your belly. They offer you unsolicited advice, including opinions about how you could have not become pregnant and where you should send your as-yet-unborn child to college, when they haven't even seen his or her SAT scores. They edge away from you or treat you with exaggerated, slightly demented, patronizing courtesy.
And that's just strangers. The people closest to you are likely to be either hilariously, ecstatically happy or freaking out. Usually both.
All of that can be very irritating. My best advice to you is to realize that people are frail creatures who don't really like reminders that they are physical beings with a start date (and by implication, an end date). It tends to throw them off-kilter. Also, everyone on the whole entire planet has Mommy issues, and you tweak them by your very presence. Try to maintain an attitude of serenity about it all, and also realize that if you are just a little bit ruthless you can turn it to your advantage. Enjoy it while it lasts, because no human is more invisible or disdained than the mother of a toddler. People like reminders that they too were once imperfect little barbarians with dirt and snot all over them even less.
Fun fact #2: Stretch marks are forever.
I still have mine, seventeen years later. Just deal with it. You can rub some shea butter on your belly and, er, lower abdomen, but it will only delay the inevitable. You are about to become the hugest giantest walking beach ball that has ever been. Except for every other pregnant woman who has ever lived. Just roll with it. Um, not literally, because that will be very uncomfortable. Eventually, you are going to be able to use your belly as a convenient horizontal surface:
Your feet are likely to grow half a size as well, permanently, so don't buy any really expensive shoes until after your baby is born. At which point you will not be able to afford them.
The good news is, your tits will also gain a lot of volume temporarily and at least some of the effect will be permanent. Your ass will also get bigger, which may be good or bad news, depending.
Basically, your body is about to go through a transformation and while you will not always be a freak of nature, it will never be quite the same. This is not a bad thing, though it's definitely a little unnerving at times.
You might as well have fun with it. Also, long before your belly gets this big...along about the fifth month for a first pregnancy...you are going to have a weirdest experience of your life, which is when you realize there's a tiny little being moving around in there.
Congratulations, you are now a host for an alien life form!
Except it's related to you. (Isn't being a mammal fun?) And it will not, I am almost 100% sure, pop out of your chest. It's possible that when you contemplate what it will pop out of, you may wish that it would.
At some point, that tiny barely perceptible flutter that is so cute and groovy and miracle-of-life will turn into very noticeable rolling around. And kicking. And thumping. There is nothing quite like losing your breath mid-word because someone has punched your diaphragm. From the inside. Let us not discuss what happens when the little freeloader kicks your bladder.
You should also know that fetuses have sleeping and waking cycles in the womb. Which will not, I repeat NOT, coincide with yours. Guess who keeps who up? This is of course practice for later, and to toughen you up. The first three or four months after the child is born is one long sleep-deprivation experiment.
Many mothers give their unborn children nicknames. My son's pre-birth name was "Wiggles." He earned it, with a single-minded dedication awe-inspiring in one so young and not even breathing yet.
There is such a thing as a "nesting instinct."
This is the cute, Victorianesque phrase, evocative of little birdies and interior decoration with feathers, that we use to refer to the fact that at some point along about the beginning of the second trimester (after you quit barfing. If you do quit barfing) you are going to look around at your house, neighborhood, country and planet and say, in emphatic tones and with a glint of determination in your eye, "This will not do at all."
What you do next is largely determined by your temperament, inclinations, and what resources fate has put at your disposal. Some women make booties. I built a counter and...stuff. Anne Bonney busted out of prison.*
Just go with it, for as long as the impulse lasts, but try to break your projects down into small, manageable chunks and don't let them get too far-reaching. That is because at some point, just as suddenly, you are going to decide that you'd rather take a nap every day. You are also going to reach a point (as I mentioned) where it is hard to reach around or see over your own belly.
My suggestion for any non-pregnant persons reading this is that your best bet is to just go along with whatever Preggo has in mind. At the very least, get out of her way. There is no stopping her, so do not attempt it. You will get hurt.
Advice for expectant fathers, non-pregnant-girl-partners, and concerned friends:I realize most of this is aimed at the pregnant mother. There is a reason for that, which is that for now, she is the star of this show. Remember, couvade isn't cute. Also, rest assured that the narcissism, obsessiveness, hysteria, sudden mood swings, and weird changes will subside some time after the baby is born. A year or two at most...well, that really depends on how long you leave her alone with a toddler. If it persists much beyond the child's entrance to middle school you should consider the idea that perhaps that isn't a mood swing, that's her personality, and adjust accordingly.
Possible future topics: why you don't need to buy a bunch of baby crap, toddlers are the devil, middle-school Machiavellis, and other stuff as it occurs to me.
*This may or may not actually be true. However, it is a fact that she and fellow pirate Mary Read both "pled their bellies," ie claimed to be pregnant which meant they would get a stay of execution. Mary Read died of a fever. Bonney was not executed, and nobody seems to be sure exactly what happened to her. But she was never hung for piracy. I draw my own conclusions.