Your nine months can bring some surprising curveballs - Daisy Wilson reveals the things you won’t find in your antenatal books
1 The Smell Of My Home Bothered Me
In the first trimester, all I could focus on during Corrie was how much the living room smelt of chimney soot. Lighting scented candles made me dry retch, so the chimney was cleaned, but the smell still irritated me. Thankfully it stopped affecting me after a few months – I just learned how to breathe through my mouth.
Your sense of smell can become more acute in pregnancy, according to midwifery teacher Denyse Kirkby, author of My Mini Midwife (Vie, £8.99). ‘Some experts think it’s because of an increase in plasma (blood) volume, so things get to your brain more quickly and in larger quantities, while others believe it’s a protective mechanism to stop you breathing in anything harmful.’ It should ease, but in the meantime, avoid strong-smelling products. ‘Occasionally, acupressure bands can help dampen down your heightened sense of smell and reduce nausea, too.’
2 I Went Off Sex – Immediately!
'My sex drive just switched off'
Even before there was a baby-making purpose to our love life, sex was always something I enjoyed. But a couple of weeks into my pregnancy, my drive just switched off. It’s not that I saw it as a means to an end, but I was just so tired, and the thought of our baby being in there was a bit disconcerting.
This. Is. So. Normal. ‘You’re more exhausted than you’ve ever been, while also getting your head around the life changes ahead – is it any wonder you’re not thinking about sex?’ says Christine Puckering, psychologist and director of parenting support service Mellow Parenting. ‘Things may change as your pregnancy progresses, but make sure you talk to your partner about how you’re feeling.’ And ask your midwife if you need reassurance – especially if you have a history of miscarriage and fear is the cause of your low libido.
3 I Felt Sick 24/7
I did enjoy a lot of my pregnancy – the scans, the somersaults. But I wasn’t always basking in a contented maternal glow. I had morning sickness – all day – in the early months. I felt irritable, uncomfortable and filled with an impatience to have my body back.
Don’t expect to be pregnancy’s answer to Wonder Woman. Nausea can be an all-day problem in the first 12 to 14 weeks. For some it lasts throughout pregnancy. ‘To tackle it, have a cracker in the morning – a little bland food can help settle your stomach enough for you to hold down breakfast,’ says Denyse.
4 I Had Small-Bump Anxiety
Secretly comparing my bump with other pregnant women was my favourite way to pass time waiting for hospital appointments. But I’m 5’11’’, and my baby had plenty of room for expansion upwards, so my bump was pretty small. As the months crept by, my midwives did their best to reassure me, but it wasn’t until after my daughter was born healthy and a good weight that my anxiety disappeared.
'Comparing my bump with other pregnant women was my favourite way to pass time'
Plenty of factors influence how big your bump both seems and actually is. ‘If you’re tall, it’ll generally show less – it’s a case of proportion,’ says Dr Roger Marwood, obstetrician at pregnancy advice site doctoranddaughter.co.uk. Mums-to-be carrying multiples will usually have a larger bump, and women having their second, third or fourth babies tend to show earlier than those carrying their first.
5 My Labour Was Super-Short
Most of the birth stories I heard from friends involved 52 hours of pushing followed by an emergency C-section. However, my entire labour and birth took under three hours. Yes, really! Don’t panic. It can happen (although short first-time labours tend to be the exception).
‘The average length is between eight and 12 hours from established labour (3cm dilated),’ says Dr Marwood. ‘But there’s a lot going on before this while your cervix gets ready for birth.’ The position of your baby and how engaged his head is also makes a difference, as well as the efficiency of your contractions and how relaxed you are. The thing is, nature will always find a way to surprise us, so if I learned anything it was to worry a bit less about being totally pregnancy-prepared and just enjoy the ride.