• Karine Wlasichuk

15 Things I Didn’t Expect About Pregnancy: the Ella Adeline Edition

Updated: Feb 29, 2020

They do say every pregnancy is different...so here are a few *pages* of what surprised me about my very first pregnancy- basically how absolutely wrong I was about this topic my WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE. And before I go any further, don't get me wrong. It was absolutely wonderful and I will fully accept an encore later on. But there are weird aspects of pregnancy that nobody warned me about. So this is not an 'I got fat' article, because everyone expects to gain weight in the process (you're creating a LIFE your marvellous goddess!!!), rather an 'and why didn't anybody tell me about THAT?' article. So pour yourself a glass and laugh along - it's fine if you don't, however there's something about non-wine drinkers I just don't trust, I get this eerie feeling?

1. Atypical Nausea

The movies have it all wrong- at least in my case

You know how in 99% of TV shows and movies the glowing mother-to-be starts vomiting uncontrollably and stares into the camera whispering 'oh, dear' or something along those lines? Well. No. Being pregnant made me understand that nausea not only affects people in very different ways, it also does not mean that anything has to come out. Indeed, I never threw up once during my first trimester (only when giving birth, another glorious, soothing story for another day). I did however feel incredibly nauseous at all time for a good 5 weeks and my only remedy were these anti-nausea pills prescribed by my OBGYN which had the spectacular effect of making me sleepy. That one time in my life I couldn't chug coffee at my own leisure. But I diverge. No, I did not find out I was pregnant whilst throwing up in a beautiful restaurant bathroom or at a friend's wedding, whichever movie scene you have in mind.I already knew. Which brings me to our next point, am I a medium!?

2. You just 'KNOW'

The test is just to confirm

The day I decided I needed to take a pregnancy test was the day I missed my exit on the highway because I was daydreaming about a baby boy (do not pay me to predict your future, we had a girl) and about me showing up at dinners and at work with a baby bump. It was playing non-stop in my head and I felt very eerily calm about it, like I had already accepted that this vision was my reality. So I dropped my boyfriend off at a poker game one town over that night, parked the car and called my friend Melanie (OH ANGEL-SENT MELANIE) and warned her I was coming over with a bottle of red wine (our typical weekend-is-starting night) and a pregnancy test. I then got a test in a tiny pharmacy off the highway and made my way to her. I recall it was a Friday because we headed out to the night market at 1 am to get her her weekend melon- which she gets on Fridays. I diverge once again. I remember feeling the exact same way once I read 'pregnant' - no it wasn't a basic test with lines I invested in the real, electronic stuff. I felt calm and didn't say much. I was already aware.

3. Secrecy sucks

Got a secret, can you keep it, swear, this one you'll save,

Being aware and having to wait to tell the people in your life is very difficult. Other than my boyfriend, my friend Melanie and my sister, nobody knew about it for weeks because you simply cannot jinx it (I'm Ukrainian, I'll be as superstitious as I please). It is pretty common to wait until the second trimester to inform your friends and family, and it can be especially hard to hide at work. Sometimes it would help to go to IKEA alone and browse the baby section (I didn't want to prepare her nursery too early for the same reasons and I would look around aimlessly, lying to everyone and saying I was there for some useless kitchen item). When Ella reached the size of an olive in my belly, I got her an IKEA teddy bear which now sits above her fireplace, wearing a beautiful pink bow.

4. Insomnia. Hard core.

Is caffeine withdrawal the ultimate rock bottom? Oh honey. No.

I have never gotten up in the middle of the night before. I would close my eyes, wake up at dawn. No in- between. And as pregnancy makes you get up about 4 times a night because you are incubating your best friend and they are twisting and turning on your bladder, I figured that would be my biggest change. In retrospect, I really wish peeing was my biggest worry. I basically started not sleeping. At all. And, as you know by now, I couldn't show up at work and drink tons of caffeine to stay up. So I didn't. And I would escape my desk to go sleep in my car for 15 minute intervals in the middle of the winter. As the snow covered my windows, I slept incognito (freezing, mind you) on my reclined seat until my alarm reminded me I was apparently paid to work and survive yet another day in corporate culture. I do not wish those nausea-filled pathetic short car naps to my worst enemy- which I don't have, I'm pretty stoked about that. The walks back to the office were always terrible and as nobody knew I was pregnant yet, I would simply act like the girl who had insomnia in general and hated her life most days. It was weird and I felt bitter to watch people running around the office with their Starbucks cups (did you ever notice that someone looks a lot more important when they're carrying a to-go coffee cup? Like their job matters even if it doesn't?). I do want to add that when my co-workers did find out, they made my experience amazing and even people within the company I did not know were always trying to help with doors and making sure I was feeling good. It was pretty great. So: a lack of sleep in general.

But when I did sleep, Oh man, those dreams...

5. Horrifyingly vivid dreams

Pregnancy dreams are how Harry Potter was written. Undoubtedly.

While experiencing a series of incredibly intricate and deeply troubling dreams, I came to the realisation that this MUST be how J.K. Rowlings came up with the Harry Potter universe. Eureka! It all made sense! Contrarily to any dream I've ever had pre-pregnancy, I can recall every detail of the dreams I had when I actually did sleep. They were traumatic, to say the least. I was actually shocked that my mind could come up with such odd and terrifying thoughts and also disappointed in myself for not waking up during this process- did my brain not have my back!? The level of details in those dreams surpasses any bit of imagination I ever thought I'd had so far in life. I could write novels about the strange women staring at me while rocking themselves back and forth or the airport terminal where you had to be brought to the plane in an elevator and then cross a bridge as it was already parked in the sky, waiting to go forward. People would fall to their death thousands of feet lower and everyone would go about their normal, uneventful day. I can remember the features of the man who had to bring me on specific journeys to odd Prypiat-post-Chernobyl vibe buildings where I would have to carry on with my pregnancy. I would remember the sounds and smells for days on end, like the final scene from The Usual Suspects. I mean some of these dreams would have plot twists even Dan Brown didn't see coming. Everything connected full circle, which would make you believe my dreams must've lasted countless hours, yet I barely slept. The sounds and images were still so clear in my mind when I would wake up that I would think, 'I should write this down and sell rights for a morbidly realistic and gripping psychological trailer'. I even had the soundtrack to go with it. And you know what? Maybe I should. Huh. DM me for title ideas. Just kidding I have those too. Okay next.

6. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

Apparently not exclusive to the Mean Girls cast

Do you remember that scene in Mean Girls when Tina Fey needs help getting her shirt back down and Mr. Duval describes his summer vs hers (who would divorce Tina even in a fictional world what the heck)? Well it turns out he was describing having carpel tunnel syndrome. And not once did I ask myself what that was because who cares I was about 12 when the movie came out and he was an old school principal. WELL. Turns out, he was having an every-pregnant-woman's summer. Perhaps it was only the case for me, don't come for me current preggos- but your time might still come, mine only showed up during my third trimester. Your fingers basically become sore because the blood tissues around your wrist swell (surrounding the flexor tendons) which puts pressure on the median nerve. You're not here for an in-depths medical analysis, but your fingers basically swell it and HURTS.

Foot tangent: don't you EVEN get me started on my feet (not CTS, just really swollen as well). The minute I got to my desk every morning I would pop the shoes off (we’re talking the last month okay don’t judge me- or do, couldn’t care less) and I would prop them on the blue recycling bin that I had turned upside down into my own little pouf. I needed the garbage available for my multiple morning snacks. I proudly showed my male boss who laughed out loud and seemed pretty amused by my oh so ingenious lazy mind.

Fun fact, because my fingers (and everything from my cheeks to my thighs) swelled so much, I got to wear those rings I always wanted to (I have tiny fingers and everything keeps sliding off) and I was also reminded of the scars I had. I actually got quite a few stitches in my days as a waitress, like that time I applied too much pressure on a Champagne flute whilst cleaning it and the stem split and tore through two of my fingers (it was at an airport bar so I got to delay an Air France flight as they needed that door to carry me into an ambulance- the stretcher ride in front of everyone I had just gotten drunk that night was quite the way to end a shift- I wish I could tell you it ends there but I also broke my arm and cut all my fingers a few months later at the exact same place, hopefully nobody recognised me from their previous flight delay because I exited through that gate again- oh, gate 53-, hope you enjoyed the hold and your missed connections!) But enough glamour! All that to say that your scars become very white and prominent because your fingers are about to burst. Not a cute look. While we're on the topic of white and prominent things...

7. Stretch marks

Had none. Can't complain. Next paragraph.

*Although, Bio-Oil sent me a PR package for my Instagram page and I very much appreciated that so keep'em coming?

8. Am I Rapunzel?

Hair and nails of the GODS.

So something you need to know is that you might think that your prenatal vitamins are turning you into a goddess (they pretty much are, keep taking them while you breastfeed and then until you're 90), but your scalp is actually retaining your hair. So it's not necessarily creating new hair follicles. Although your hair and nails do grow faster (seriously, take those vitamins forever, I'm no doctor, but do it!!!), the thicker component is due to this whole scientific process in pregnancy about retaining hair- google it- which ceremoniously falls out about 3 months postpartum (again, it's the hair your scalp was retaining for so long, women keep acting as if they need to buy a wig but you're not losing more than you should, it'll balance out- but if you want a wig for the thrill of it who am I to stop you).

9. Nose bleeds: the possessed kind

Imagine waking up next to me in the dead of night

Well luckily for you, you didn't have to. As some of your blood vessels expand during pregnancy, some may pop. And if you have a weird breathing situation like mine (do I even use my nose at all!?) then the ones in your nose do as they are smaller, which makes your nose bleed while you're at your desk or (because who cares what I look like at work), after a vivid nightmare, thus of course making me think I was possessed. It's all fun and games until you ask yourself that question. Speaking of blood.

10.Blood donation

*Sarcastic rant intermission for this very helpful information*

This information pertains to Canadian women but I'm pretty sure that wherever you are in the world (so fun, hello!), there is a way for you to do so. In any case, you have until 36 weeks of pregnancy to fill out the paperwork to donate your cord blood. Your placenta and blood loss at birth (we're talking tons) are either used to help sick children (bone marrow and tests among other things) or simply thrown out. So fill in your information sheet and do the phone interview. It takes no time and it helps families in dire need of hope and research. I could paraphrase a bunch of scientific facts on living stem cells (they are not embryonic stem cells, they come from bone marrow , circulating/peripheral blood or umbilical cord blood) at this point in your pregnancy and all their benefits but just know that it could help a child with leukaemia and if you were going to have it thrown out anyways, why not let someone use it? Seriously, don't be that woman who keeps it in a jar at her house.

11. Unsolicited advice

Which, unfortunately, will follow you into motherhood

Now that in itself should be your birth control. Hahaha. I need to stop laughing at my own jokes but I cannot. I somewhat mean it. The title of this part should also be 'say goodbye to your privacy'. I've noticed that many people like to either relive their pregnancy through yours or fantasise about the one they'll have one day- either ways, it seems to be enough grounds for them to give you advice, the do's and don'ts (great thanks, things are the same as when you gave birth 40+ years ago stranger on the elevator). Don't get me wrong, I think strangers bonding over the beauty of giving life is sort of adorable and I loved interacting with people who missed the days when their wives were pregnant or 'oh how time flies by' etc. People are typically adorable around pregnant women. But you always get the odd 'let me tell you how much this part sucks' or 'you better not do this' or better yet, people who don't care that you want to live certain experiences alone. I was lucky enough that my family was brilliant about it (although to be honest we're so close I basically called them everyday with updates- pretty much still do). My favourite comment by random people was probably 'why is the cat still here'- because he's our first born thank you very much. But people giving their opinion on pets around your newborn is a good example: not your house, not your business.

I also marvelled at how people loved to ask which classes we were taking as parents-to-be. Yes Susan. I want to take time out of my no-sleep-yet-still-working schedule to lock myself up in a hospital basement - or worse, a high school class- to have some rando tell me about breathing techniques. Guess what. Contractions hurt so much nothing can save you. Abandon all hope now. The sooner you know, the better. I'm sure some classes are great if that's your thing but listen. I already have a hard time showing up at work and they pay me. I am not about to pay a fee to have someone tell me how to be. HOWEVER I did go to my hospital's 'virtual room visit' and information session because each hospital has different rules regarding when to come check in during labour, visiting hours and what they provide to you in terms of diapers or wipes etc. So that was helpful. And most importantly, I got that morning off from work.

12. Food aversions and cravings

The glory of oranges vs. the gore of chicken

I figured my cravings would be pickles dipped in whipped cream or some other disturbing combo, but they turned out to be only one thing: a daily pile of oranges. I even had to google 'how many oranges are too many' or 'daily oranges acidity cap'. I would buy roughly 25 a week and had 3 sitting (rolling) on my desk at all time. My fingers smelled like Christmas and I loved every minute of it. I can't explain how amazed I was by them. They were the most delicious and unique tasting jewels to me. Now I think they're okay.

On the other hand, the sight of chicken- and eventually all meat- made me sick. I was so grossed out by it that I cooked if for my boyfriend my entire pregnancy and never touched it once- not gonna lie, Korean food doesn't count. It's too delicious and we don't deserve it. It was a great thing in the end because it made me research a little more and become further creative with my recipes -I also learned that you can throw hummus and roasted potatoes onto just about any plate and it makes it complete. However, it also made me fall into a black hole on articles discussing the psychology of cows and boy oh boy do these vegans have a point. If you're pregnant and hormonal, don't go there. Just remember that whenever you eat, it's not just about you anymore, so the food guilt trips will happen- still, go for that slice of cake. Maybe just throw some hummus on it to be safe.

13. The pregnancy pillow hoax

Just don't?

OK I have a thing to say about this industry, which caters to pregnant women by selling them crazy expensive pillows (mine was a gift, not a collab- thank you mom and dad!) that they not only do not need (sorry mom and dad!!) but also take up the ENTIRE bed- think of our poor partners!? To be honest, I might be too small or just lazy, but this thing was hard to manoeuvre and not useful whatsoever. I instead chose to use a plush bunny my boyfriend got me years ago (I know you're thinking 'awww' but I basically crushed the poor thing with my belly every night, he was extremely helpful though and I will never get rid of him).

14. The myth behind maternity clothing

Always remember: you're never too pregnant for cheap stretchy pants. They will never let you down.

Now, before I get attacked by the companies I collaborated with on Instagram posts (ahem, I always appreciate free dresses and jumpsuits and they were all beautiful/comfy), I must say, most people don’t have the budget to adjust their wardrobe to each step of their pregnancy, which by the way, all FLY by! Don’t waste your money on specific tops and skirts that won’t last. Go to a cheap clothing store and buy accordion-style pants with a bow and make sure the fabric is flexible and that they are in a couple of sizes larger and you’re good to go. For office wear, I strongly suggest comfy ballerina flats for your swelling feet, one pair of pregnancy tights (15 bucks on Amazon) and a few loose tops from Zara. Voilà. Don’t break the bank on yourself, you’ll look like a homeless in pjs most of the time anyways because you’re tired (I’ll admit I made quite the effort to sport cute skirts and tops but my makeup sessions never happened- again, no sleep). Giving birth in the summer? BONUS you may live in maxi dresses. Wore those to and from the hospital thank you very much. What you really want to spend your money on is on soft and cosy sleeping robes for your baby. You will need more than you can possibly imagine (pee, poo, milk, adorable drool swamp moments, you’ll need to change them often).

Speaking of clothing, a quick tangent (shhhh you love them): although you will find many amazing little seasonal outfits such as puffy tutu summer dresses and winter wool skirts (Zara Baby makes winter collections to die for), you might want to hold off on spending. I personally received many cute outfits which never ended up fitting our daughter by the intended season. Even if you calculate from their birth months, all babies grow at their own different rates and they can be premature, late bloomers, who knows. So I would spend on loose sleepers and other pyjama items, stack up on diapers, but leave the seasonal outfits shopping sessions for when it’s actually time to wear them!

15. Let's talk about fish, baby

Sashimi? Go to hell.

If you’re a pregnant pescatarian out there, GOOD LUCK. I read just about every single article telling me bits of negative and positive information which were on constant opposite ends of the spectrum. Tuna is great! However only on Tuesdays and Fridays- kidding, but not that far-fetched. Don’t touch this type of tuna though! Never-mind, we approved it yesterday! Verdict? I did not touch fish for 10 months. After that, whoever wanted to come meet our baby could bring us sushi: it was the price to pay at the door. To be honest by my second pregnancy I will most likely relax regarding fish, but think about it for a second, envision a restaurant menu. Duck? No, you can’t have pink meat. Steak? Sure, burnt or extra burnt? Scallops? But are they seared lightly that’s basically raw right? Sashimi? Go to hell.

Bonus rant: lemon tea and bullsh*t

Decaf isn't the real thing. Don't tell me it tastes the same or gives me the shakes that I love so much. Stop. 0% wine is also insulting. Vinegar in a bottle (you were worth all the wine and Champagne abstinence Ella baby!!!). A little tip? From someone who drinks red wine and dark coffee daily. You have to stop cold turkey. The replacements HURT your soul. I remember when Rene got a nice bottle of Champagne for New Years (with Chinese takeout because we're dreamy) and he told me 'have a tiny sip to ring in the NY and celebrate you're doing so good' and I thought, if I take a sip I'll be so sad to be missing out on my love of bubbles. So I bravely said, no. Just stick to lemon tea and bullsh*t. You are most welcome.