Tuesday 19 November 2019

It will be worth it in the end, Kate

At 20 weeks' pregnant, Bryony Gordon knows all about the 'joys' the Duchess of Cambridge will experience

Quite early into the fabulous, jaw-dropping, mind-blowing journey that is pregnancy, I remember thinking that if I didn't know I was with child, I would have to conclude that I was dying.

In fact, that is exactly what I said to my other half as I lay on the floor next to the loo one evening, having retched the last drop of bile from my body. "I feel like I'm on my way out," I snivelled.

Not for the first time since we had seen the fateful two lines on the pregnancy test, my boyfriend rubbed my back. I crawled away from him ungratefully – really, what was a back rub when he had impregnated me and was thus responsible for the way I was feeling? – and promptly fell asleep with my head resting on the side of the bath.

I'd like to think that the Duchess of Cambridge is experiencing a more glamorous early pregnancy, though evidence suggests that the poor thing is having an even ghastlier time of it. Hyperemesis gravidarum is as nasty as it sounds.

How Kate managed gaily to criss-cross the hockey field in a pair of heels without being sick or falling into a narcoleptic coma last week, I do not know. Whatever her trick is – crackers, ginger beer, pretzels, old-fashioned British stoicism – I salute her.

For all the talk of pregnancy being a time to treasure, it can also be bloody awful. Expectant mothers don't just "glow" and "bloom" and all those other patronising terms ladled out to describe the bloating that strikes the face when you are "in the family way". They also cry and scream and – cover your eyes, boys – fart.

Though pregnancy is often seen as the ultimate state of womanhood, in reality there is nothing less ladylike.

"Morning sickness" is a complete misnomer – as the Duchess has discovered, it can happen at any time of the day.

A heightened sense of smell doesn't help. I am convinced that a sniffer dog is no match for a pregnant woman. I recall very early on in my pregnancy going out for lunch, and being overwhelmed by nausea at the very sight of a man across the table tucking into his salmon.

The first trimester is the worst, though if you think it's all plain sailing once you pass 12 weeks, you're in for a big surprise. I am 20 weeks' pregnant, and this weekend, I woke up choking on my own vomit, apparently "normal", caused by acid reflux.

Pregnancy comes with a whole host of symptoms that vary from person to person. Take your pick: nose bleeds, acne, headaches, incontinence, insomnia, overly greasy hair.

And then there are the moods. I have cried for an hour because I couldn't find a bra – HOW DARE MY BOYFRIEND TIDY THINGS UP? – and I have "run away" three times, usually as far as the churchyard around the corner, for reasons I do not remember.

When people say they are embarrassed because they cry at the John Lewis Christmas advert, I want to weep. "If you think that's emotional incontinence," I say, welling up, "then you should see me every time they play the opening strains of the X Factor theme tune."

But I'm pretty sure that the worst thing about pregnancy is the uncertainty. The first 12 weeks are particularly gut-wrenching, because doctors and nurses and books and websites and other women do not let you forget that anything could happen, that this precious little thing you are creating inside you could vanish at any moment.

Every twinge – and there are heaps of them – brings a wave of anxiety. When I realised I was bleeding at eight weeks, we went straight to A&E, where they told me in hushed tones that it was likely I was having a miscarriage.

I cried all weekend, and when I got to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit and saw my baby's heartbeat for the first time I felt stupid for panicking. But you do panic. And I suppose you always will – it's preparation for a lifetime of looking out for someone else.

And so you learn to take nothing for granted. You almost begin to enjoy pregnancy's weird and wacky ailments for what they are – signs that you are going to have a baby. Just as I'm sure the Duchess is doing right now, you take on the sickness and the tiredness and the potential for tears, and you do this because, deep inside, you know that it will all be worth it in the end.

Irish Independent

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