Thank you for joining me on my journey through pregnancy in recovery. By the time you read this, baby may have already arrived as I am writing this in advance! If this is the case, this may be one of my last articles for a few months, as I will be taking a break from blogging until we settle into our new routine.
I will be back soon enough with lots of content from our friends of recovery about eating-disorders, finding-help, warning-signs, and mental-health before the end of the year. And of course, the usual updates on life in recovery. Please consider subscribing if you would like to be updated once the next article is uploaded. x
Top 10 Takeaways
What better way to wrap up my journey than with my top 10 takeaways from this whole experience? But before we get down to business, I would like to re-iterate what I said at the start of this series of articles. This is my opinion based on my experience. Everyone is different so please don’t take this as a prescription for a happy pregnancy. This said I expect that my experience and what I have learned will help me in my next pregnancy and many parts of this will be of benefit to my readers.
#1 My body is truly amazing
Never ever have I had so much respect, admiration, and love for my body. It’s ironic that I love my shape more at my highest weight than I ever did while chasing the perfect body.
My body is making a new little human, all whilst preparing me for the process of delivery and for motherhood. It is doing this all by itself and in such a clever way.
This goes way beyond feeding my baby and providing what she needs to grow for 9 months. The hormone changes which get a bad rap for creating those nasty mood swings are actually wonderful. The body creates more growth hormone estrogen than ever before and gets to work building the complex home inside itself for our baby to grow and develop. Having spent a short time working in an engineering company, I can safely say that no man-made structure complete with a protective housing, energy, water, and fuel supply has ever been created so quickly or to such high quality.
And then there is the hormone relaxin, which basically allows the muscles and even bones to become more flexible for that delivery. I did wonder how it would be physically possible for my baby to get through the bones, but I needn’t have worried because my body has that covered. I wonder when I am midst the delivery itself will I be so in awe and trusting of the work my body does. But right now, I feel it has me covered.
It is simply amazing that it had these hidden talents all along. To women everywhere, I encourage you to remember what your body does for you every day and to thank it. Even outside of pregnancy, our bodies carry out little miracles every day. To my body I say; ‘for all the times I have looked in the mirror and judged you, I am sorry.’
#2 Sharing the experience only enhances it
I am so happy to have my Husband Amo to share this experience with. You wouldn’t believe how my unborn daughter actually recognizes his touch even now. She kicks for him more than me. Maybe it is the heat of his larger hand or the sound of his voice. They are bonding too.
Having him there at some of the scans has been so special. We laugh about her stubborn way of hiding from the camera (just like mammy) and try to figure out who she will look like. We laugh at how she hides behind both her hands and feet in every scan. So far, we have great pictures of her hand, a foot, one eye, and her exceptionally pouty lips. No real full view, she is keeping us guessing.
Even beyond my husband, the whole experience has been a real opportunity to connect more with our extended family and friends. Even though we are thousands of miles from our families, we love sharing our scan photos and even some videos of my moving bump. I am truly touched by how much involvement our families wish to have even with the distance. They have been there to listen to my aches and pains, or to advise us when we don’t know the difference between a romper and a onesie. And they have laughed along with us at this little one, who seemingly has a personality already. Princess Peanut, you crack us up.
#3 My constant companion
Once the movements and kicking started, I really felt I had a new little companion to come with me every day. When I felt stressed, I remembered she was present and would give her a rub. It kept me sane at times and reminded me of what really matters.
Even at my favourite times of day, like having a nice shower in the morning, I felt happier. I now sing nursery rhymes as I shower. I probably sound insane, but I love to think she is enjoying it.
And then there was this time when I got caught in one of those situations where someone was literally in a 1-hour monologue, so utterly boring, I wanted to scream. Princess peanut nudged me from inside, as if to remind me she was there. I even imagined her rolling her eyes and saying ‘will they ever shut up, snooze!’. I was instantly entertained and loved that I wasn’t alone.
#4 Perks of the job
Fun fact: Everyone is nicer to you when you are pregnant. It’s almost bizarre. Strangers smile at me. And I don’t mean just some of them, but ALL of them.
On the train, I am offered a seat straight away. A lady in our building actually got out of the lift to help me get bags to my door, despite living on another floor. Even my barista at Starbucks complimented me on my coffee cup today. (see picture).
My husband has even revealed a new hidden talent (back massage), which he suspiciously never had before my pregnancy and will likely lose once baby arrives.
I am not sure how often I truly need this special treatment but I am really grateful that it has been given so freely. I am enjoying this whole experience while I can.
#5 Recovery can strengthen in pregnancy
The motivation to take care of myself and my body has increased in pregnancy. After all, I am not just caring for myself anymore. Anything good I do for myself, is also good for my daughter. If I sleep or relax, she will be more relaxed. It is a unique time because of this.
For me, this has helped me step beyond my comfort zone in terms of recovery. I have been able to relax more and just ‘do nothing’. I have cuddled up with my husband and watched a movie instead of worrying about fitting in an extra online coaching class or doing extra exercise. My inner drill sergeant is giving me a break for once. I have also broken through many of the food rules that still existed in my subconscious.
My recovery feels stronger. I feel less concerned with how food feels in my body than before. Sure, the weight gain has been challenging, but on balance, my recovery has improved, not declined.
#6 Support is essential
Being pregnant involves so much change. A changing body, changing hormones, a change in outlook and priorities and even changes to medication and diet.
Change is hard, so support is needed more than ever. I am blessed in this regard. I have the support of my treatment team, recovery friends and of course my own family and friends who know all about my history.
Staying close to others, who have been where I am now, has been a great help. Other mums have taken me under their wing. Some who have had eating disorders or addictions in the past so have felt what I am feeling now. There is something really comforting about hearing that what I am going through is normal and will pass.
However, I will say that it felt harder to stay connected to my support network during this time. I was too tired, or too sore, or too far away (when I moved from the city). But it is worth the effort to stay as close as possible to others. Isolation is a slippery slope where I am concerned. I have started asking others to visit me and I pick up the phone more when I need. As I near the end, I need to remember that I cannot do this alone, nor do I need to. People are more than happy to help and it is often just a matter of asking.
#7 Rest is best
Exhaustion is par-for-the-course in pregnancy. Even the smallest of tasks get my heartrate up these days. Walking up a small hill, or even reading a book out loud gets me breathless.
Add to this that there is more on my plate; more appointments to attend, moving home and the whole nesting process have taken up a lot of time. Then there is the small matter of my body working around the clock to make another human being. Tiring work!
Rest and relaxation are key; and there is no better excuse to take some afternoon naps, or to seek out some pampering, than being pregnant.
Pampering may not be what you think though. I had expected to get far more massages during my pregnancy than I did. Most places will not massage you before 12 weeks due to medical risks and it becomes unpractical with bump later. Plus, there is a lot of concern about certain pressure points bringing on labor so even foot massage is frowned upon. I don’t personally buy into all this and have had some foot massages. But I did choose my venues carefully and eventually stopped going because I figured it is better safe than sorry.
A prenatal massage is an option. There are plenty of these on offer in Hong Kong, but most of them at a huge premium. I found the few I got were a little too ‘stroky-stroky’ (gentle) for my liking. As I said, I got a few normal foot massages with neck and shoulders included but avoiding full body. Personally, I would rather just have an afternoon nap than pay for the expensive ‘stroky-stroky’ variety.
#8 Comparison is futile, everyone is different
I heard early on that everyone’s body is different, and in pregnancy, even your own body is different. I love this and it is so true. Comparison with others and even your past self is a one-way ticket to dissatisfaction.
Social media is flooded with mums-to-be sharing their diet and fitness advice. They share their week count along with bump shots. Some are of super-trim yummy-mummy’s that made me worry if these women were actually healthy for their level of gestation. Others were more of the real-life variety, and to me equally beautiful while less concerning. Regardless, ALL of these are different from me. It is pointless to try and place myself on some scale with all these ladies. There is always someone trimmer or with a nicer curve to their bump. I choose not to torment myself.
Going back to point #1, my body is beautiful just how it is. The yummy-mummies and keeping-it-real mummies are beautiful too. We are creating new life and this is a beautiful thing.
#9 Be prepared for unsolicited advice
This morning, a guy who works in our building took it upon himself to give me advice on breastfeeding. Yes, this actually happened. He doesn’t have children himself, and I am fairly sure he has never breastfed.
This is the sort of stuff that happens when you are pregnant. Honestly, everyone has something to offer. A lot is useful but a lot more is just noise. Even on social media, I have been bombarded with advice videos about pregnancy and parenthood.
I have never been the type to take unqualified advice too seriously but I did feel annoyed at times. At first, I thought it best to tell these well-meaners why I disagreed. But believe me, this isn’t a good tactic. It invites debate and can come across rude or ungrateful. I have resigned now to smiling and nodding and am much happier because of it.
#10 Time flies by so enjoy it
I cannot believe that I am 37 weeks. Where has the time gone? It feels like only yesterday we were desperate to make it to 12 weeks and to get that all important first picture of baby and assurance that the pregnancy was on course.
Other mothers at 37 weeks have shared that they just want the baby out now, but because I have had such a pleasant pregnancy, I am feeling the opposite. Please stay inside me a little longer Princess Peanut. I want to meet you, and I want to see your little face; but I want to feel your kicks a little longer.
I acknowledge that I have been fortunate to have escaped much of the aches and pains most women seem to experience so enjoying the time has been easy enough.
However, it is easy to let the time slip away worrying about planning or getting everything organized or trying to resist the change in lifestyle that is inevitable. I have spent time worrying that I will never work again after baby. Trying to force myself to decide on an exact direction and future plan.
Letting go is the biggest gift I can give myself and my family right now. So, it’s time to enjoy the last little kicks inside of me, the smiles from complete strangers, the touch of my husband’s hand on my bump and the company of my little one everywhere I go.
Before signing off, I just want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout my pregnancy.
To my husband Amo, you are my rock and my link to sanity. Thanks for laughing with me and holding-your-tongue on those occasions I snapped. Oh, and thanks for showing me that you actually are good at massage, don’t think I will let you off easily when baby arrives.
To our family who has been so involved despite the distance between us. Thank you for allowing us to bore you with the minute details of baby’s movements and hijack the WhatsApp groups with our scans. For all the help getting ready and the gifts. But most of all for the love and the laughter.
To my Nana, who prayed for us to conceive and cried when we told her our news; we love you and our daughter loves you already. Now stop telling us you are trying to hold on until you see her – we all know you will live well past 100.
To my friends (those in recovery and in my social group); thank you for making me feel so special, so pampered, cared for and loved this whole time. And to those friends who pushed me to stay in touch when I was getting lazy, thanks for not giving up on me.
And, finally, to you, my readers. Having this blog has given me an outlet for my feelings and thoughts and a motivation to keep pushing the boundaries of my recovery. I am forever grateful for every single person who reads this and hope that in some way my articles give you hope or at least a giggle.
Lots of Love,
Aunty Pam x
After next week’s article, I will be going on maternity leave for a few months. Please consider subscribing so I can notify you when the weekly articles start up again. xx