Sunday 17 November 2019

13 things your friends will never tell you about being pregnant

As Aoife Cogan and Gordon D'Arcy celebrate the arrival of their first child and TV stars Leighton Meester and Adam Brody announce they are expecting, new mum Chrissie Russell reveals what you really need to know when you're pregnant and during those first few months

Mammy's boy: Chrissie Russell with her 7 month year old son Tom
Mammy's boy: Chrissie Russell with her 7 month year old son Tom
Chrissie Russell when she was expecting with all the essential baby equipment
New parents: Aoife Cogan and Gordon D'Arcy
Parents-to-be: Adam Brody and Leighton Meester

Chrissie Russell

The Twittersphere has just exploded with the pitter-patter of tiny celebrity feet. Not only did Gordon D'Arcy and his model wife Aoife Cogan welcome their beautiful baby daughter to the world but it was also revealed that Gossip Girl Leighton Meester and her actor husband Adam Brody are expecting their first child. There's no denying that a new arrival is a wonderful and exciting time, but there's plenty they don't tell you to expect when you're expecting and the dizzying days that follow.

…baby garb meltdowns

It really doesn't matter if you're an A-lister or a normal pregnant Joanna Public - I defy anyone not to be utterly overwhelmed by the bewildering world of baby merchandise. Bath thermometers, room thermometers, ear thermometers…and that's just thermometers. Do you know what a travel system is? A gro-bag? A diaper genie? You might think splashing the cash will buy you the best but prams at every price point come with at least one online review screaming 'DEATH TRAP!' In your nesting, hormonal state, and despite having run baths for yourself for 30 years, you'll find yourself weeping that you could potentially boil your baby if you don't buy the damn bath thermometer.

…your baby is a kumquat

Does anyone who hasn't had a baby know that the internet's standard way of measuring baby growth is to compare bubs to fruit and veg? By the end of 40 weeks you feel like you're giving birth to a veggie hotpot and have spent at least some measure of time picturing your unborn child in the shape of a leek.

…fashion lines and TV series have launch dates - babies don't

No-one does fashionably late like a first baby. In fact, only 5pc of babies arrive on their 'due date' making it more of a 'guess date' really. As someone whose son was 16 days overdue my advice is lie (or face weeks of 'any news?' calls and texts), and accept that baba will come out when they want and not a moment before. As model Amber Rose put it: "It's really irritating to hear people say 'God, you've been pregnant forever…' I'm making a baby, not Ramen Noodles!"

…You might not feel ready for your close-up

Despite spending a couple of decades not being ready to have kids, I assumed that once the little bundle of joy took up residence in my uterus I'd be flooded with readiness, consumed in a sea of bubbling maternal instinct. But no, if anything, I felt less ready. Even if I'd had the gestation period of an elephant, I'd never have felt ready, and that's okay. You can feel utterly terrified, it doesn't make you a bad mum.

…birth expectations

Chrissie Russell when she was expecting with all the essential baby equipment
Chrissie Russell when she was expecting with all the essential baby equipment
Mammy's boy: Chrissie Russell with her 7 month year old son Tom
New parents: Aoife Cogan and Gordon D'Arcy
Parents-to-be: Adam Brody and Leighton Meester

Look, it's great to prepare for the birth and have an idea of what you'd like to see happen, but it's just the opening credits not the main event. I spent weeks of antenatal classes preparing for labour and sort of lost sight of the fact that I was having a baby, not just a birth. There's also absolutely no point worrying about what you're going to wear during labour and whether or not you're going to poo yourself. I can't stress how much you won't care.

…the 'feeling' might not happen immediately

After being induced, two nights of no sleep and being chock-full of drugs, I did not get the immediate rush of happy hormones when himself finally emerged. I was glad he was out, I wanted to know he was ok and then I wanted to hide in a cold, dark room and sleep. I still feel guilty that we didn't do immediate skin to skin (I was busy vomiting at the time) and I felt super teary that I wasn't more elated. But that changed and we've an amazing bond now. Don't worry if you don't feel it straight away, you'll get there.

…menus are minefields

If you thought pregnancy dining was a straight forward case of laying off the booze and ditching the expressos, think again. Depending on what website you read it turns out most of the good cheeses are out, ditto pâté, meat not cooked all the way through, various mercury-laden fish…there's a question mark over shell-fish. Listeria is like a ninja lurking under every deli counter.

…keeping mum

Once you're posting ultrasound scans on Twitter the cat's out of the bag, but gosh, isn't it wildly difficult keeping schtum at the start of a pregnancy? It's also unfair - you feel queasy, knackered and stressed out worrying about miscarrying but aren't supposed to tell anyone.


Maybe like, Mila Kunis, you'll "love being pregnant" and maybe, like Drew Barrymore, you'll feel "blessed"… or maybe, like the singer Pink, you'll feel RAGE. Having spent nine months being mostly furious at my husband (generally over slightly irrational things like the fact that he wasn't too bloated to wear his wedding ring) I was gratified to read Pink's experience. "I didn't have morning sickness, I didn't have cravings. I had rage! I got into a fight at Bed, Bath and Beyond." Jaime Presley tells a similar tale: "My hormones were all over the place and I acted like some lunatic, picking fights with my boyfriend over how he made my coffee." You will also want to kill everyone who tells you to do impossible pre-baby things like 'bank sleep'.

After birth the hormones are even more mental. I wept in front of a breast-feeding support group on day three and then wept again because everyone was so nice to me. "Mummy wars" are a myth.

…feeling frisky

All I'll say is in the third trimester you may find yourself surprisingly up for action (and waking from some rather saucy dreams) but your other half, traumatised by the very obvious presence of a kicking third party, may not be quite so keen. The delicate negotiations of returning to ground zero after birth is an article all to itself…

…weird body stuff

'Morning sickness' is a misnomer and can happen at any hour or, as was my experience, might not involve vomiting but leave you feeling like you've been on the high seas in a 10-force gale. In keeping with the nautical theme I also spent nine months (and an additional three postpartum) farting and burping like a sailor. I spent the first trimester feeling like a narcoleptic then an insomniac in the third, a situation not helped by needing to pee six times a night and developed restless leg syndrome. You'll never see it mentioned in glossy magazine interviews but oh, the excess of fluids - nasal dripping, leaky boobs, discharge down below, sweating, bleeding gums…even more ear wax. I sprouted strange skin tags and developed piles. And no matter how diligent you think you're being with your pelvic floor exercises there will still come a day when you'll sneeze and a little bit of wee will come out. As Christina Applegate put it "I love making a person…but it's hard, they don't tell you everything! 'It's a miracle of life…you feel like a flower the whole time…' It's like bullsh**. You feel like a fat-ass, you are exhausted." And don't expect it to end post-partum. Bleeding, wind and leaking boobs a-plenty!

...and yet - it's great!

I never thought the day would come where I'd gaze happily at my reflection like a big, bloated Narcissus. Growing a person is a feeling like no other and there's nothing anyone can tell you that will ever prepare you for how amazing the experience is, warts and all. And once you've given birth you never feel the same again about how utterly amazing the human body is.

...the perineum

Never heard of it pre-pregnancy? Suddenly caring for it becomes very important. I was never entirely sure I was massaging the right area but reporting from the other side of an episiotomy (another previously unknown term pre-bump) I can say I probably wasn't.

Irish Independent

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