A strong heart beat and a tiny blob on a screen confirmed my pregnancy. Although I had done a pregnancy test a few weeks earlier, I couldn't actually believe it was true. My obstetrician handed me an ultrasound photo and a few hours later I was on a plane for work with my precious cargo. As I took my seat I looked at my scan and remember feeling like I wasn't alone. I had company.
At just nine weeks pregnant, my news wasn't visible. It was my secret - the best secret imaginable. I had a grin from ear to ear the entire flight to Japan.
I've been pregnant three times now, barely catching my breath between pregnancies. My "baby" is now 2½, and while I will always swoon for a newborn, I think it's time to bow out of the baby-making game. As I contemplate that decision, I find myself reliving the joys along with the not-so-joyous moments of pregnancy. And while there are certainly things I'll miss about pregnancy, there are also many things I'll be glad never to experience again.
Things I won't miss
There are veins and there are veins. And I've had them all – and in very unfortunate places! Vulvar varicosities is the medical term, or, as I call it: "elephantitis of the vulva". Swollen. Veins. Vulva. A collection of words you never want to hear. It's not pretty and there's no treatment.
2. Alcohol abstinence
It's really not normal to have that many alcohol-free days in a year. Perhaps giving up alcohol isn't hard for everyone, but for others, it's a very long time between drinks. My husband reaped the rewards by having a designated driver for a good three years; that charitable act of mine is now over.
3. A catalogue of side effects
No one gets through pregnancy unscathed. I was spared morning sickness but endured crippling headaches throughout my entire pregnancies, along with insomnia, restless leg syndrome, heartburn … and those darned aforementioned veins.
4. Body heat
Suffering through the two hottest summers on record with no air-con at home was a real lowlight of pregnancy. I remember laying on the cold bathroom tiles for some relief, wishing I had planned for winter pregnancies. I slept with a bucket of ice water and a washer by my bed to cool off during the night.
5. Fielding questions
Having to respond to intrusive and ridiculous questions like "Was it planned?", "Are you sure you're not having twins?" and "Any movement yet?" isn't fun. The latter enquiry becomes particularly tedious if your babies are a little reluctant to enter the world (like each of my three) and you end up receiving about a dozen text messages about movement every day!
6. The swab
The self-administered swab, AKA the lower vaginal swab (LVS), is something I'll certainly never miss. It's particularly undignified with a small audience (at an inconvenient height), questioning why you are putting that thing up there?!
Things I will miss
1. The anticipation
There are few things in life that elicit quite the same level of excitement than the impending arrival of a new baby. Approaching this life-changing event is sacred, buoyed by love, hope and possibility. Pregnancy gently prompts a contemplation of life and family values.
2. The little and not-so-little kicks
When I first saw the two telling blue lines, my hands instinctively reached for my tummy. And they returned to that spot every day for my entire pregnancy. I loved touching my rounded belly and feeling the air bubbles turn into butterflies and then later into Olympic-style acrobatics. A prodding elbow here and a foot kick there, "waves" of physical anticipation and evidence of the miracle growing inside.
3. The way people treat you
People tend to treat pregnant women with a greater level of care. I enjoyed the many smiles from strangers, offers of help from family and friends, and the kindness from people I had never met. But I especially embraced my husband's gentleness and tender touch. And pregnancy impelled me to regard myself with extra kindness too. I felt a greater appreciation and respect for my body and I rewarded its hard work with suitable pampering.
4. The baby name game
I loved the hunt for the "perfect" name. I would write hundreds of baby names down in a book, observing the response and emotion stir within me. I would look at each individual name and then as a collection of names, overcome by an innate sense of pride in someone I had not yet met.
5. The physical "perks"
I fully embraced my rounded shape. No more sucking in the gut was a major advantage. Pregnancy also gave me a natural boob job for nine plus months, long fingernails for the first time in my life, and a genuine glow.
6. The scans
While there's something special about the first time, each time you see your baby through an ultrasound is a moving experience. Convincing yourself they are waving at you is part of the fun. Hearing the sound of a heartbeat and the flood of relief and excitement is truly one of life's extraordinary moments.