I’ve realised that every pregnancy blog/vlog/diary/updated I’ve ever read starts 95% of the time with someone saying ‘I can’t BELIEVE I’m XX weeks pregnant’. So I vowed not to do that, yet here I am, falling into the cliche, because I really can’t believe I’m 24 weeks – or more shockingly SIX MONTHS’ pregnant today. At six months, I thought I would be gigantic, yet my bump, although an inch bigger than a week ago, is still relatively small and manageable. I don’t really feel six months’ pregnant at all. I actually feel instead that this is the first week where I feel actually properly pregnant finally, in that it’s definitely on my mind all the time now. And turning over in bed has started to get a bit weird as my body moves and my stomach sort of follows a few nanoseconds later.
Physically, not much has happened this week, but I have been thinking a lot about mental health in pregnancy. The other night, after a particularly long and stressful week and a sleepless night the night before (I woke up at 4.30am and lay there till 6, before getting up and working through some emails), I had my second pregnancy ‘hallucination’.
My first had been sometime late in the first trimester; I can’t remember when exactly now. But I had woken up terrified because I heard someone open the front door, climb the stairs and open the door to my bedroom. I lay there for several seconds in the pitch black, not moving, before deciding I had to confront whoever it was. Finally I sat up in bed and turned on the light. It was 4am. There was no one there.
I was so confused at the time as I had been sure of what I’d heard, and sure that the door to my room would be open. I had heard it open! I even went into the hallway to check, but there was nothing and nobody there, and the front door was locked tight.
My second hallucination came last week and was altogether worse, albeit really bizarre. I woke up because beside me in the bed (Oli has been away on tour so I’ve mostly been sleeping alone) a man pushed the duvet onto me as he sat up next to me. He was naked from the waist up, and his face was in shadow, but he had a cushion balanced on his head (this is the bit that’s just WEIRD). I screamed ‘Get the fuck out of my room!’, ran out of the bed and opened the door. And then suddenly stopped. And realised that he had disappeared.
Both of these episodes, I’ve decided, boil down to one thing: feeling vulnerable. I don’t feel vulnerable very often. I’m an independent person, used to living alone (have done for nearly eight years, before Oli moved in last year) and have very rarely felt exposed or worried about my safety. But being pregnant is the most vulnerable state you can really get, because, as I’ve said before, so much of what’s going to happen to you is outside your control. And it really affects your mental health and your sense of self-identity.
I hate being a needy person, but now I find myself asking Oli to carry the washing basket for me, because honestly bending down to pick it up makes me worry I might throw up (that lovely acid reflux again). I’m aware more than ever that I MUST sleep well and eat well because it’s not just my health at stake, but that of my baby too. I don’t want to travel on the tube in rush hour because I’m scared of getting ill and somehow impacting my baby. I don’t want to go to noisy bars and stand there making conversation with people all the while knowing I must eat because my low blood sugar level is making me feel nauseous and panicky. And all this has made me feel uncomfortable, and pathetic, and vulnerable, and dependent.
Pregnancy is incredible, and insane. Hormonally, it’s like puberty in many ways, with the bodily changes and the mood swings, but even more intense, and concentrated into a shorter period of time. I actually think I’m lucky in that I’ve not found my mood has changed that much – apart from crying at everything in the first trimester, and feeling less tolerant of people and things in general. I haven’t been depressed, or particularly anxious, or deliriously happy either. But I have felt desperate to prove that pregnancy won’t change me, or my independent lifestyle. To my detriment.
Personally, I don’t think enough is talked about of your mental health and wellbeing during pregnancy. We’re told a lot about nutrition and exercise but little is said about our own personal emotional care. Not much is said, for example, about the crazy dreams you get, of which I’ve had too many to blog about. But these are just as common a side effect as morning sickness and thicker hair, and I think even more important.
Something I’ve found of interest is Tommy’s Wellbeing Plan – and this is the sort of thing that I think should be included in NHS pregnancy literature from the outset.
So, the moral of this ramble is: from now on I’m going to sleep better, ask for help without beating myself up about it, and stop doing things I don’t want to do because I don’t want people to see me as a pregnant wimp.
I am a pregnant wimp, and I don’t care anymore.
PS I’ll be on holiday next week so won’t do a 25 week post! Enjoy your week off – I’ll be back boring you with more thrilling updates before you can say ‘third trimester’.