Pregnancy is probably the most visible physical experience a woman can go through in her lifetime, yet at the same time the most personal. For some, so personal that the goal is to keep it under wraps for as long as possible. From conception to birth, the details, the ups, the downs, the aches and pains… the less is revealed the better. I am (or I have been) one of those women, to a certain extent. Culturally speaking this is how I’ve been raised and these are the beliefs my mother instilled in me. Where I’m from, pregnancy is as biological as it is spiritual. You’re taught to protect the life that is inside of you by revealing as little as possible about it. You’re told pregnancy is a private matter: the unborn baby is precious, and ‘hidden’ for a reason. And I’ve always embraced this way of thinking.
This post however, is my attempt to break out of this shell just a little bit, for once, without completely rejecting what I’ve been taught. I think sharing experiences can be a very powerful thing. And whilst I’m not the type to over-share and over-expose, I find it liberating to write about parts of my journey so far. I’ve found other women’s pregnancy and birth stories really helpful when I had my sons, so sharing some of the things I’ve gone through during this pregnancy is my way of reciprocating this.
It was a lovely afternoon earlier this year. I was at work, about to finish for the day and head to dinner with a few of my colleagues, when I felt the urge to take a pregnancy test. I don’t know exactly what prompted this – maybe the fact that I had felt exhausted, uncomfortable and ‘achy’ all day. I left my desk and headed to the store to buy a couple of cheap pregnancy tests, before going back to the office to take them.
And there they were, the two very strong pink lines, on both tests. My heart started pounding. How long had it been? Most women can rely on their cycle dates – I couldn’t, due to health reasons. I called Rom straight away and told him the news. I could hear the joy in his voice as I explained what had just happened. I could hear the surprise too – not that we hadn’t wished or anticipated that I’d get pregnant again in ‘the near future’, after all this is why we decided to move into a bigger house – we just had no idea it would happen at that particular time. You know what they say, it’s when you expect it the least that it happens. Not to mention that I hadn’t done this pregnancy thing for seven years… All of a sudden it hit me that I’d have to gear up for another tough nine months. And I was ready. So, so ready.
But let’s go back a few weeks prior to that. The truth is, I hadn’t tested for a few weeks, having taken a break from the obsession that is the world of ‘TTC’ (‘Trying To Conceive). It had only been a couple of months since Rom and I had decided to try for another baby but very early on, I chose to take a step back and let nature do her thing. I stopped taking my temperature in the mornings; I stopped taking folic acid, and subconsciously forgot all about the cycle of ovulation testing, doing the deeds, testing for hCG, repeat. My head just wasn’t there anymore and my focus was elsewhere – probably work-related stuff.
You see, TTC is another thing we don’t discuss much in my culture. Again, it’s one of those secret ‘battles’ we get protective over, and don’t really elaborate on. I don’t recall ever wearing my TTC experiences on my sleeve – the African woman in me tells me to guard this part of the journey, too. Lately however, I have felt an inner desire to open up about the joys and pains of conception, the hurdles, the frustrations, but also the small victories along the way. I haven’t found the right medium yet, but maybe one day I’ll feel comfortable enough. That ‘medium’ may just be an honest discussion with a friend as opposed to a 35-minute Youtube video.
Shortly after I found out, and after an initial dating scan that revealed I was already a few weeks gone, every possible pregnancy symptom surfaced. From the nausea to the vomiting, the extreme fatigue and all the other first trimester aches and pains. I was so unwell at one point I had to take a whole week off work. One of the things I struggled with the most during that period was having to commute to work. I decided to start wearing my TFL ‘baby on board’ badge very early on – my anaemia and nausea meant I was simply too weak to stand for long periods of time in the morning, and after a long day at work. I got to experience the ‘everyone for themselves’ vibe you sometimes get from London’s city workers on the commute. People would stare at my bump but rarely offer me a seat. Not that I expected the gesture from anyone, but it would have been nice to experience that act of kindness on London’s busy trains a bit more often than I did – in total, about three times so far.
One thing that can be hard to comprehend is the happiness and the depression some of us simultaneously experience during pregnancy. Yes, this baby is exactly what I wanted, but the physical changes that suddenly occur and the lack of control over my hormones turned me into an emotional wreck the first few weeks. I didn’t want to be at work – I spent a lot of time crying discretely in the office, it was all too much. I sought help from my GP straight away, not wanting this feeling to turn into prenatal depression. It was hard to confide in anyone but Rom and my GP, if I’m totally honest. Strength and courage are expected of me at this time – admitting my moments of weakness to just anyone wasn’t something I felt comfortable doing.
With all that said, in all things, for every pain, every tear, and every moment I get to experience in this pregnancy, I give thanks. Because this baby was our heart’s desire for 2017 and it would be vile not to show gratitude. My heart is full of love for a being I haven’t even met yet – and no amount of sickness or discomfort can change that.
If we keep it real, pregnancy is also the fears. A simple trip to the toilet, especially during the first trimester, can cause the worse anxieties – anxious about seeing red, morbid thoughts going through your head… So many apprehensions because after all, nothing is guaranteed until you finally get to hold that baby in your arms. Google is your friend but also your worst enemy. And unlike my two previous pregnancies, this time round I no longer feel the need to join every pregnancy forum on the web.
It also helps to have someone to help you put things back into perspective. My midwife encourages me to keep thinking positively and stop worrying. No matter how difficult it is, I’m determined to go through the rest of my pregnancy with this mindset. Yes the fears are real but so is my faith. God’s got this – it’s about preparing for the best case scenario, not the worst.
And so here I am, getting on with it, slowly but surely. I’ve had a few people ask me why I haven’t blogged or vlogged my pregnancy. I think people automatically expect bloggers/vloggers to do so, when something so huge happens in their lives. And rightly so, I suppose. My Youtube journey has come to an abrupt halt since I found out I was pregnant. I remember my friend telling me I would now have premium content for my channel. He wasn’t wrong – but it’s a constant battle between wanting to talk about my pregnancy, but not wanting to ‘perform’ the pregnancy. It’s an inner conflict between wanting to be real about what my body goes through, without revealing too many intimate details about my health. So how do you find the balance? My answer is – you follow your heart.
Following my heart means I’ve shared some things and omitted others. I’m okay with being a rubbish vlogger these days. And on the other hand I’m also okay with the amount of maternity photos I’ve posted on Instagram so far. I’m okay with the fact that I’m not the type to film weekly pregnancy updates or gender reveal videos for YouTube. And I’m okay with the amount of stuff I still choose to keep to myself – my actual due date, the gender, whether or not I’m having a singleton or multiple babies, and some of the other stuff I want to hold on to a little bit longer. And last but not least, the realisation that no one really cares unless you’re an actual public figure has also helped me keep my feet on the ground.
I think it’s fair to say, I see pregnancy as a ‘public secret affair’ with myself, my body, clearly visible to anyone who crosses my path, yet at the same time, a very personal experience filled with details I can choose to guard closely if I want to. But ultimately, pregnancy and childbirth are part of God’s plan for womanhood and something to carry with pride.