I adore being pregnant. I can’t really explain why, but I love it. Making life is amazing.
It’s also really hard. There are things I forgot from last time (like, everything); for example, I worry constantly that something is wrong. Maybe the baby has stopped growing? Or he’s not developing consistently. Or (before I had the “you’re an old lady” maternal tests), there was the spectre of Downs Syndrome and the various trisomies. And as a mother, as the incubator, you definitely feel like these things fall under your purview. I worry daily about screwing up the baby in some way. I desperately want sashimi, but I settle for California roll, because there’s a tiny chance that I could ingest a bacteria that would hurt the boy. That’s the kind of worry that doesn’t really go away once your kids are born; it just changes. You worry about them hitting milestones, getting enough sleep, sleeping right (Henry wasn’t, if you think that is a weird thing to worry about – he had apnea), as they get older, you worry about them falling off playground equipment, bashing their head into something sharp (it will happen), making friends at preschool, being happy.
So it’s taxing, mentally, pregnancy.
I also have found out new things that are hard. Like, symphysis pubic dysfunction. Even though I was pregnant with twice as many babies last time, I had never heard of this – and it’s relatively common. With this, I feel a sharp pinching when I move my legs or shift my hips in certain ways. At my baby appointment this week, my midwife directed me straight to physical therapy, as when it gets bad, it gets bad fast. I feel like it’s probably not that bad yet for me. I can’t pick up the kids anymore, because of it, and they have actually been very understanding.
A physical ailment I’d remembered but really hoped wouldn’t recur was PUPPS. I think it’s charming that Wikipedia refers to it as “annoying” – that doesn’t even scratch the surface (pun intended). Here’s what my arm looks like:
My whole body looks that way. Basically every inch, except for the soles of my feet, my face, and one of the palms of my hand (the other palm has a few bumps on it).
Everything you read about PUPPS will say “it doesn’t cover the face, small mercies” – that’s actually a huge deal. A lot of my body looks like it’s covered in an aggressive brush burn from itching. If I let my mind wander, I find myself scratching some part to bleeding.
PUPPS doesn’t usually strike to week 35 or 36 or so. So many people deal with it for about a month. I’m at week 19, and started getting this about two weeks ago – so I’ll have 3-4 months of this during pregnancy. It’s also supposed to clear up on delivery; last time, it lasted 12 weeks post partum for me, so I have little faith it will clear up promptly this time.
I’ve tried multiple things to deal with the rash, and right now the best solution seems to be pine tar soap. I have to shower 2-3 times a day for it to be effective, then smooth on an oatmeal lotion (I use Aveeno) afterward because the pine tar soap is super drying. People routinely complain about the smell of the pine tar soap (read some reviews on Amazon – all the men are like “this soap makes me a real man!” all the women are like “this stinks and helped my pregnancy rash!”) – but it’s not strong after the shower itself. It smells like pine tar, so a bit like campfire. On a scale of “bizarrely gendered candle” (imagine a sandlewood scent) to “Axe bodyspray” (basically the male equivalent of Lipsmackers – you should know better, but we all have guilty pleasures), it’s far closer to candle sent. And it doesn’t linger – you’re most able to smell it in the bar of soap, not on your skin (sorry men who say it makes them more manly!)
The PUPPS keeps me awake at night, and the effort to not scratch can make me literally twitch. The strain by the end of the day is noticeable, and I get a little snippy. I have areas (not shown, because they’re really gross) that are completely hived (raised and red) and also patches that bleed, because I can’t stop scratching. The itch is worse than any mosquito bite I’ve ever had (mosquitos love me and I get huge welts from them), and the intense satisfaction I get from scratching is like an addiction. However, the problem with PUPPS is, the moment you start scratching, the itch moves just a tiny bit – so you have almost the most blissful sense of scratching the itch, but you’re just a little off the mark. So you keep itching, but it moves again. And before you know it, you have scratched a very large patch of skin raw. The worst areas are where the bone is right under the skin – backs of my hands and feet, knees, elbows, collarbone, ankles.
Despite all this, all of which is temporary (except the worrying part), this is really the best. At this point, I can feel the baby as he swooshes around in my belly. Eleanor has learned to say “amniotic fluid” and finds excuses to use the phrase “oh, he’s swimming in amniotic fluid, Henry.” Henry likes to talk to the baby and kisses my belly. When I pick them up from school, they both like to hug the baby. I’m really looking forward to having just one baby to cuddle and care for! It’s really empowering to create life. It’s a great big responsibility, and I appreciate being able to do it. It is one of those things that is not diminished in the least by how difficult it is – there is no less enjoyment from me because I have these couple extra things to deal with. Some people legitimately dislike being pregnant; they’re in it for the prize – their baby. Of course, that’s fine – every pregnancy is different, every person is different. I happen to love doing this (even though this is my last time running this particular race), and I’m going to enjoy the remaining 20-21 weeks I have as much as I can!