There are many secret, hidden delights to pregnancy – and by delights, I mean torture – but “morning” sickness has got to be near the top of the tree. For me, “morning” sickness kicked in really early. All day sickness kicked in about 2 days later.
It’s funny how not a single woman told you before you got pregnant that “morning” sickness is one of the greatest misappellations in the English language. Funny too how not one of them will admit to you how long theirs lasted. And it just makes you so glad you wore your laughter corset when you learn you can’t take Andrews or Pepto-Bismol or anything else you have relied on the rest of your adult life, because it’s not safe for the very thing that’s making you feel this ill.
See, I understand that the sickness is caused by all the upheaval, too many hormones, the body’s shock at what is growing inside it, and the speed with which your precious invader asserts its right to a food supply (and spacious living accommodation). What I don’t understand is how we haven’t evolved beyond this sickness stalemate. Has Mother Nature not realised that if I don’t feel sick, I can eat, and my baby can get all the energy and nutrients it needs ? Does she not realise that all “morning” sickness accomplishes is a pissed off mother and a baby feeding off water and chips (because this is all you can keep down) ?
You are, frankly, shocked at what the body will no longer tolerate: fizzy drinks, meat, chocolate, crisps, anything more substantial than a 2oz meal, in fact, just about anything you try to squeeze down your throat.
You know you must eat, so you try to do the decent thing, and force your way through the nausea (you have a large appetite, you have fought nausea before, and won). Just as the last mouthful drops however, you get that bowling ball feeling in your tummy, that weighty, tingly, hot-and-clammy Oh My God feeling. Within seconds the £4.50 it cost you for lunch is floating in the basin sticking its fingers up at you, and grinning in its triumph: ha ha, it seems to laugh. You, well, you just sink to the floor of the toilet cubicle and shake, too exhausted and depleted to even cry.
It's exhausting. And miserable. You know the only thing that will clear the exhaustion is food, but hahahahaha that’s not really an option, is it?
But hope is a cruel thing. You really fancy a bag of beefy crisps, so you toddle out and get some. Sharp, dramatic flavours are what you need. You put the first one in your mouth and it sits petrified on your tongue, filling your mouth with saliva and dread. But you wanted this 5 minutes ago!! In the jittery, slightly hazy world of nausea, 5 minutes can seem a lifetime.
You have 10 more weeks of this yet.
You try to cut a deal with your baby – “Mummy knows you need food to grow, but if Mummy feels sick she can’t eat. If you let me eat during the day, you’ll grow. Can’t I just feel sick at night?”
Amazingly the baby responds, and sends your brain the weirdest, scariest images: I would like to eat fruit please. I have not eaten much fresh fruit in years, not since the produce in supermarkets became harder than a porn star’s tackle, but astonishingly, my baby wants fruit. Lots of it. Where once I was never to be seen without crisps in my hand, now I carry round a bowl of grapes, plums and cherry tomatoes, which in itself is enough to warn everybody that knows me that Something Is Not Quite Right.
As the weeks progress, my perverse daughter will demand salad – this when her mother has for years famously fumed that salad is not a meal, but a garnish – jacket potatoes, tomato soup, pancakes, oats (sympathetic boyfriend remarks how at least one of us is now getting some oats), Hobnobs, and eggs. There will be a week when I cannot get enough egg down my gullet, prompted I think by my sudden aversion to meat. Not only does the baby know what I can keep down, she can also work out what she is not getting and manipulate me into eating it. The weird thing about the egg episode though, is that for the last 10 years they have triggered migraines. I can just about get away with eating them as an ingredient in cake (its tough, but I make an effort) but eggs on their own, fried or scrambled, equal the next day being spent in bed.
In 7 days I think I eat 35 eggs. There is not even the hint of a suspicion of a prelude to a migraine. And just like that, pregnancy gives you a miracle.
So what did I learn? Well, morning sickness is varied, no one size fits all. Some women barely get it, others suffer all day, every day. Like the Duchess of Cambridge, I had hyperemesis gravidarum and ended up being signed off work for 2 months. Amazingly, it affects 1 in 50 women – so why does no one mention it?
They say that if you knew what pregnancy and childbirth were like, you’d never do it, and there probably is a lot of truth in that, but there is also no helpfulness in a conspiracy of silence. I had noooooo idea that morning sickness could be a 24/7, 5 month affair. But at least by the time I was 6 months pregnant, I’d lost a stone and half.
Since having my daughter, I’ve learnt more about what I think triggers morning sickness - and this is just my personal opinion. Before pregnancy, if I was hungry, I would get hunger pains in my tummy; ever since I’ve had a baby, if I’m hungry, I feel sick. There have even been times when I’ve thrown up because there has been too long a gap between meals.
So now, I think “morning” sickness is the body’s alarm system, actually telling us to eat, but doing it in the stupidest, most contrary way possible. If you think about it, the reason it’s called morning sickness is that while we’ve been sleeping, the baby has been leeching our energy stores, sucking us dry, and as soon as we wake up, baby wants us to eat. Baby’s communication skills are shit.
So if you’re struggling, try and eat your way through it. Little and often. And listen to your body. It will tell you what it needs – like the miracle of the eggs; interestingly, my allergy ended during pregnancy. Clever, huh.
By the time things level out, baby will even be telling you what her favourite foods are – she used to cartwheel in my tummy whenever I ate carrot cake – and eventually you’ll be able to eat enough for the 2 of you to survive. Until your pelvis ruptures, that it, but that’s another story ……