It’s Pregnancy Awareness Month! *pelvic floor collapses in excitement* In the first of a two-part feature, three of our writers recount their personal experiences. From handbags stuffed with Creme Eggs to explosive bum gas, it’s a bladder-leaking, nipple-squirting celebration of all things bump related.
Pregnancy has turned Jessica Fostekew into a farting narcoleptic.
I should preface this entire thing by saying that I love having one in the oven. In terms of feeling ill, I’ve gotten off lightly, so far. Holy humanity though, there’s so much I wasn’t prepared for. I’m not even five months pregnant.
If you do a bit of research you can find out about most side effects. But no one, anywhere, on the whole of the internet, warns you about the farts.
It is unlike anything I’ve ever known. The smells aren’t worse but the frequency and newfound force behind them is incredible. There are days when I’m a walking orchestra; full trombone right through to strings. I have car journeys where I’m sure my turbo-ring must be providing as much propulsion as the engine. There are night times where I’m almost levitating. It is sometimes so prolific I wonder where it’s all coming from and fear that all my breathing out is now being done by my anus. It’s both hilarious and appalling. I pretend my poor partner finds it as funny as I do, and that’s why there’s often a tear in his eye.
Things are put to you quite negatively in the first trimester. Understandably, they prepare you for the worst. They tell you (I’m 31) that there’s a one-in-five chance you’ll lose it in the first 12 weeks. They don’t say, “There’s an 80% chance everything will be fine!” I’m pretty good at being positive about things that are out of my control but it was much harder than I’d expected. I subconsciously suspected disaster at every turn. For months I checked every single bit of wee-soaked toilet paper for signs of miscarriage. Every night I dreamed of horror. I couldn’t help it.
“Before anyone knows you’re pregnant, you need to invent good excuses for having rudely passed out while someone talks to you. ‘Oh, sorry, I thought I’d heard a pan pipe.’”
You’re told you might be more tired than usual at the start. You’re growing a baby but also, initially, a whole placenta. On top of that your heart is increasing in size to pump loads of extra blood around you. I’m used to being busy and keeping long hours so I cockily brushed my impending drowsiness off as something I’d take in my stride. But it didn’t make me “a bit tired”: it gave me temporary narcolepsy. I’d be in the middle of something interesting, loud and enjoyable, and my eyes would start closing. Sometimes, there was no stopping them. I had to succumb to three-minute deep naps in meetings, shops, at the gym and on benches. Not quite at any red lights. Just. Before anyone knows you’re pregnant, you need to invent good excuses for having rudely passed out while someone talks to you. “Oh, sorry, I thought I’d heard a pan pipe.”
So to the bit I was least well equipped for, the barefaced lying. I’m someone who’s pretty open with strangers about what’s happening in my life. I’m a comedian and the occurrences of my life, happy or horrific, are most of my fodder. I had no idea how hard and how horrible it would be having to keep it secret for three months. I’m a shit liar and I hated it. I loathed every “I’m not drinking for March.” I even came away grumpy from every ask of, “What are you up to at the moment?” I’d just mumble, “Gigs. Eating. And no other news from me. Don’t look at my spots, please. Goodbye.” I was so weird with people and it made me dread going out.
The rest of the surprises I got I would’ve been more ready for had I just read more. Onwards, to whatever wonderful bombshells await me next.
Jessica Fostekew is a writer, comedian, actor, law degree-waster, sister, daughter and beard-fan with an unabashed food infatuation. @jessicafostekew
“Pregnancy made me batshit,” bellows Dotty Winters from behind a pyramid of uneaten Creme Eggs.
Pregnancy made me very strange. People told me it would, but what do people know? I didn’t realise I had gone a bit strange at the time, but a few months after the birth I realised there may have been some small signs. I present the evidence for your consideration.
Exhibit A: Craven Cravings
Some stylish, elegant bump-bearers crave fruit, or ice cubes. The quirkier mums-to-be crave woodchip wallpaper or lumps of coal; it’s kooky and charming. Do you know what isn’t charming? The sight of a very pregnant woman sneaking up on smokers because she desperately craves the smell of cigarette smoke. I have never smoked a cigarette, not even so much as one drag. So why was pregnant-me suddenly so interested? No idea.
Similarly, I don’t like Creme Eggs. I’ve never liked Creme Eggs. Despite this, during pregnancy I was unable to leave the house without knowing there was a Creme Egg in my handbag, just in case. I never ate one. Again, no idea.
Exhibit B: The Great Greetings Card Mystery
Towards the end of my pregnancy I became utterly convinced that when this baby arrived I would never get anything done, ever again. So I headed to the shops to buy greetings cards for everybody I’d ever met’s birthday, anniversary and/or special occasion in the coming couple of years. Like a normal, sane person would. I intended to write and address them all too, just to save time. This amounted to a vast armful of cards. So you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at the counter and a concerned looking M&S employee asked me, “Is that everything?” I looked down at the single birthday card I was holding in my hand, and then slowly behind me at the river of scattered cards I’d left in my wake, leading all the way back to the card rack. I looked again at the card in my hand, and wondered how I would choose which of my friends and family would receive it. “Yes,” I confirmed. “This is everything.”
“My waters broke so I decided the totally sensible thing to do was to fill my pants with all the sanitary towels and head out to the hairdressers.”
Exhibit C: “Not ill, just pregnant”
I was due to give birth in less than a week, I was on a building site with a colleague, and I was terrifying. I pregnant-assertivenessed my way into being allowed to climb a ladder (that I could hardly reach past my bump), wearing someone else’s site-boots stuffed with newspaper; like a boss. “I’m not ill, I’m just pregnant”, I yelled at the visibly frightened site manager.
Exhibit D: Aspirations of Yummy Mumminess
As any of my neighbours who have seen me standing in my garden cutting my own hair will attest, I am not big on high-maintenance beauty regimes. However, in response to my never-getting-anything-done-ever-again-itis, I booked a haircut and (my first and only) spray tan for a few days before my due date. My waters broke on the morning of the haircut, but nothing much was happening, so I decided the totally sensible thing to do in these circumstances was to fill my pants with all the sanitary towels, head out for a restyle and dodge any awkward hairdresser questions about whether I’d had any signs of impending labour yet. If further evidence is required I can also submit photos of the haircut I chose that day (alternatively, Google “Daphne from Neighbours” and you’ll get the general idea).
Since all of the above happened, I’ve acquired some children, and a lot of friends who have also had children and I now know that it all falls somewhere in the bell curve of normal prenatal batshit behaviours.
When someone tells me that they’re pregnant, I don’t tell them that they might go a teeny bit bonkers, I don’t tell them that they may well need to wear dark trousers for Zumba for some years to come, and I don’t tell them that they’ll be exhausted. I don’t tell them any of these things, because if I did, I wouldn’t have adequate words to describe just how little any of those things will matter. Also, you never know when you might need a Creme Egg, so it’s best to keep your pregnant friends on side.
Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist. @DottyWinters
Zombies, fighting and a peanut-shaped bump: welcome to Daisy Leverington’s World of Pregnancy.
For the first four months of my pregnancy I worked as a zombie in a popular London horror attraction. I climbed nine-foot-high walls and jumped on horrified tourists. The first sounds my tiny foetus heard were most likely screams of sheer terror. I ran around in the dark, covered in fake blood. Once, an Italian guy was so scared he lashed out and punched me, so I thought I probably ought to change jobs. I moved up North and confidently strode into the Jobcentre. Jobs are easy, right? Just fill out some forms and bosh. “My last job was as a zombie and I’m five months pregnant, wotcha got for me?” I asked a nice lady. Turns out that not many people want an undead pregnant actress, so that was it for me and my bump, work-wise.
I filled the next four months with a bit of freelance fight work. I work as an assistant stage combat choreographer with my husband, and we really needed the money at that point. You’ve not seen incredulity until you’ve stared into the eyes of 20 RADA-trained actors when you waddle into a room, burp, and attempt to sit down on the floor with them. “You’re… the fight person…?” they would ask. “Shuddup and get me some fizzy orange,” I would answer. We left out the stomach punches but I taught on and off until I was eight months pregnant.
“Sex was sideways with no kissing. Pregnancy knocked the romance out of me. ‘Just bang it out, love,’ I said to my husband when I went overdue.”
My bump looked like a peanut shell. My child was sideways, so I had a head and an arse sticking out either side of my belly button. I looked like I had really massive, low-down boobs. Which is ironic, because post-breastfeeding that’s exactly what I do have. It wasn’t obvious that I was pregnant until I was past the seven-month point, so people just assumed I’d hit the pies fairly hard. People who did notice would ask about twins (nope), misshapen baby (nope) and stretch marks (nope, and stop asking questions). It was a little alarming but my midwife was a strict Miss Trunchbull type and told me in no uncertain terms to get my shit together and stop worrying about such nonsense.
I got pretty lucky with pregnancy symptoms. No real morning sickness, just a wave of nausea now and again. I formed the Nipple League. I was the only member, but I would totally beat my personal best every morning in the shower with the distance my nips squirted milk. It’s the little things, y’know? I’ve kept the markers on the walls in the bathroom, in case you ever visit and want to know what the stickers are for. My feet got bigger. My arse got much bigger. My ‘massive giant maternity knickers’ soon just became my ‘knickers’. I learned to adapt. Sex was sideways with no kissing. Pregnancy knocked the romance out of me. “Just bang it out, love,” I said to my husband when I went overdue. Fresh pineapples and raspberry leaf tea are banned from my house to this day.
But I loved every second of it. The kicking and squirming and rolling around, and feeling the baby move too. I felt beautiful. I WAS beautiful. I’ve never felt more alive. For me, being pregnant was like being a magician, a world of secret taps and turns and bumps which no one else in the universe knows about. Despite being a droopy-boobed out of work zombie, it really was magic.
Daisy Leverington – actor, mother, expert at winging it. @daisyjoy3954 Views
Some of Standard Issue's brilliant women's carefully crafted words for your reading pleasure.