As I approach 27 weeks and the third trimester with a certain joy at knowing me and my baby will meet each other before I know it, a raft of new symptoms appear.
My body is swelling all over. The bump feels enormous, and with its new curves and weight comes surprising, uncontrollable physical symptoms. The sore back, the swollen ankles that threaten to make knee high boots a thing of the past, the new-found clumsiness, bringing an impromptu “oof” when doing up shoes or having to pick something up off the carpet. The heat and hot flushes that make me thank my lucky stars this isn’t the height of summer. There’s bleeding gums and spots, hiccups and heartburn and constipation. There’s the fact that, like many of the women in my pregnancy yoga class, I have been known to let out an unexpected burp after eating. I don’t feel beautiful or voluptuous now, I feel creaky and ancient, like an old dusty bookcase.
And then there’s the emotional stuff. I’ve been told – oh don’t worry, you’re probably “a bit hormonal” – which suggests a bad case of PMT or teenage heartbreak. But I’ve been reading up on what these hormones are doing, what they will do in future, and am frankly amazed we pregnant ladies manage to get our shoes on the right feet in the morning, let alone do a full day’s work*:
- There’s progesterone that basically stops the baby falling out. And if you imagine it sending waves of stupor to do so, you can also envisage it being responsible for that sluggish feeling, that slow heaviness, and with it constipation, heartburn (and also spots, aching bones and bleeding gums).
- And we have oestrogen which stimulates blood flow, giant boobs, and is responsible for that attractive “glow” (bright red sweaty puffy look).
- There’s relaxin that makes your hips expand, your pelvis grow, and I am personally blaming for my giant bottom.
- As well as oxytocin to trigger contractions and prolactin to make milk and unwanted hair, and which is also bizarrely linked to sexual satisfaction – seriously, look it up.
- And finally there’s adrenalin to help you push and endorphins that will be secreted during labour – your own natural pain-relieving happy pills – that some say, perhaps optimistically, can make the process enjoyable…
So, hang on a second.
If I’ve got this right then, left to go about its work unhindered, and without help from man or science, my body can hold in a baby for 9 months then push it out by summoning up super-human strength, while pumping me full of pain-relieving chemicals, and others which put me in such an animal-like trance that I will barely know my own name, and might even make the whole thing pleasurable?
A little idealistic perhaps. But while I still don’t understand why I find myself flying uncontrollably from clingy affection, to red-mist rage, to pathetic sobs, and back to boundless joy within a manner of minutes, I expect its something to do with these powerful chemicals inside me. And though I can’t use them as an excuse for bad behaviour generally, it does allow me to give myself a bit of a break, to respect what my body is doing and allow myself a bit of rest and relaxation.
For me right now, this involves massages, chocolate, sofa time, comfy PJs, cuddles, yoga and reflexology. And a very understanding Chef.
* please note this is based on no medical or scientific knowledge whatsoever