It took my husband and I twelve months to fall pregnant. One chemical miscarriage and forty pregnancy tests later, we finally conceived on a drunken night in late April when baby making was far from our thoughts, and tequila a lot nearer. Now, a year isn’t a very long time in the whole baby making spectrum, but if you have ever tried and failed at something for a whole year, you too might have started to feel the drag. You see, I'm a control freak. At 29, I have built a life that I love and am very protective of it. I spent years rehearsing with different relationships, in different countries, with different jobs, trying different workouts and different diets. Finally, with hard work, some failure and a lot of rational thinking, I worked out the things that work best for me. Being out of control isn’t one of them. I’m not talking militant lifestyle, but routine and minimum stress is my bag. A year spent out of control with fertility was more than enough. But – we’d finally got the hang of it, and life could go back to normal! Of course, I knew a child would change my life drastically, but, naively, I didn’t think pregnancy would. Ok, so I might not be able to party like I used to but I imagined my day-to-day would stay the same. I’d continue going to the gym each morning, maintain a (sort of) low sugar diet, keep running my events business, see my family and friends often and probably start something like baby yoga or pilates in the evenings. My husband is a professional rugby player, so our house is very fitness focused – it's what puts food on the table so it plays an important role. I got into it in a big way in the lead up to my wedding and the routines stuck. I’d do HIIT classes at the gym four times a week and a spin and yoga on the others. Rob [husband] has to eat a fairly clean diet so rather than make two different meals I too eat predominately clean. When we began trying for a baby I followed a heap of ‘fit pregnant moms’ on Instagram, and from what I saw, it looked easy to continue being fit while being pregnant. Pictures of women with washboard abs until week 24, or women nearly full term lifting 70kg weights and washing it down with a spinach and spirulina smoothie. What I didn’t realise was: while I'd happily stowed away my Emily Ratajkowski obsession, I’d opened the flood gates to a whole new genre of body image anxiety. The pregnant kind.
Then week six arrived and hit me like a tornado. It literally knocked me off my feet. A combination of flu, extreme nausea and chronic fatigue caught me unexpectedly. The nausea was all consuming. I had what felt like a brick lodged at the top of my abdomen. I was so uncomfortable. Any small movement would see me hurtling for the loo. I was bed ridden immediately. I didn’t know what was happening. Within days I had lost all control of my body and my life. I couldn’t stand, let alone go to the gym. I could barely talk, let alone run a business. The only time I felt normal was when I was asleep. Eating helped, but not too much. Anything more than small dry carbs made me retch. Weeks went by, and I wondered if I’d ever feel better again. It sounds that dramatic now, but I’d never felt worse. I couldn’t talk to anyone except my mum and Rob because some loon once upon a time decided it was taboo to talk until the 12 week safe marker. We had also suffered a chemical miscarriage in the early stages of a previous pregnancy so we were unsure if this would stick. I remember crying into my husband’s arms asking him to stop the pain, saying that even after our struggle to fall and my longing for a baby, I didn’t know if I could go through with this. This wasn’t the blossoming pregnancy I had imagined. Where was this part on the ‘fit pregnant moms’ Instagram feeds? Instead, google and forums became my best friend. Any feeling I had I would google. It was self-diagnosis at its most vulnerable. But I found out I wasn’t alone – women everywhere were suffering too. I was told that I would eventually feel better. But what if I didn’t? I also learnt that some women feel like this their entire pregnancy! Luckily, week 10 (a month later) came round, and things began to ease. I was extremely tired, malnourished and weak but the majority of the sickness had subsided. I had lost weight, although I’m sure that was all of my muscle leaving me as I felt like a blancmange. I could finally leave the house. I could see friends and socialise again but things had changed. I still couldn’t tell them I was pregnant. I felt insecure, like a shell of my former self. I was usually such a positive person, and didn’t stop talking. I told my friends I'd been unwell but in fact I hadn’t been ill at all, I had been growing a human. Like a wound without a cast, it’s difficult being pregnant without a bump. Everything begins to expand. I didn't fit into any of my jeans, and even leggings were too restricting around my stomach. Maternity clothes were too big and my clothes too small. So I bought clothes a few sizes bigger which did nothing for myself self esteem. My husband was a hero throughout; although logically this was barmy, he sympathised and let me feel. He kept reminding me that what I was doing was incredible. We talked in depth about how I wasn’t enjoying it so far and how I wanted to change my mentality in the second trimester. It became very apparent that although we have come on leaps and bounds with gender equality, this is what divides us greatly. I couldn’t pass him this responsibility, and he could continue with his life as normal. It was a huge responsibility to take on alone. Although we are very much in it together and I am unsure if I could have gone through this without his support, the physical side of the burden is frustrating and at times it would be nice if he too could feel the pain. As weeks progressed, I began to love the responsibility, but in the early stages, I’d have gladly passed the baton.
Week 13 arrived and we had our first proper scan. (I had had one at eight weeks but it was hard to see anything.) This was a huge turning point. It was the first time that I could associate with what was happening. My head had been so clouded with the loss of control that I couldn’t see what I was doing. I saw our baby kick its arms and legs and turn its back on us. I could see its little nose, and chin. I could see what I had built over the last three months. I had created a human! I could finally tell real people, and hear their stories, because as soon as you can share with women, they will share with you. I was fascinated by the response; it turns out that ‘fit pregnant mom’ Instagrams are a load of shit. I unfollowed them all immediately. It’s become clear to me that for the next year, my body is not my own, it is in fact a home that will house our baby and it will use it how it wishes for everything it needs. I got so frustrated that I had to go through what I did in silence before I could talk that I set up @themumclub a site where any women can go and read or write about their own experiences. Whether it be conceiving, pregnancy, being a mum or not wanting kids at all.