How To Get Shit Done While Pregnant*

*NB – this blog post has most definitely not been approved by a medical professional, and probably wouldn’t be if subjected to scrutiny, but it works for me.

To give you some context, here’s a wee update on how I’m doing right now: the nausea comes and goes depending on how hungry and tired and stressed I am, but I can usually keep stuff down unless I’m exposed to an Übersmell Of Doom, which is why I hold my breath when I open the fridge. Most days I’m pretty hungry and very tired. Yesterday I had three naps of varying lengths during the day and I was still in bed by 9pm (and I got up at 9am). We planned to go to the beach, but decided against it because the 1hr40mins journey there would probably be lengthened by the whole of Belgium making the most of the sun and heading in the same direction. We went to the park instead, and it was mostly ok as long as I ate regular snacks and walked slowly.

What I wanted to do yesterday, and didn’t get done, was change the bedsheets. I’ve been wanting to do this for days, and have been stubbornly refusing to ask Bf to do it, because he does basically everything else in the house. So I try to do it, but then I have a shower first, and showers really take it out of me these days, so I have to rest and eat a bit after that. Or else I’ve just eaten lunch, and my body seems to have lost the ability to digest and do anything else at the same time including think straight, so then I need a nap.

The rest of the time I forget.

So, TIP NUMBER ONE for getting shit done while pregnant: Make sure you’re neither hungry nor tired. Because if you are either of those things, then as soon as you begin your limbs go all heavy and you have to sit down, and you start getting that knot in your throat so you have to breathe deeply to relax again, and you lean back on the bed and think “I’ll just close my eyes for a few seconds” and by the time you wake up it’s 6pm and you’re famished and the cycle starts over again.

Changing the sheets is pretty physical work. No, seriously, for a pregnant woman who wasn’t what you’d call “sporty” to begin with, it’s the kind of activity that leaves you out of breath for like ten minutes. So, TIP NUMBER TWO is to ask for help with these things. So far I haven’t, due to aforementioned stubbornness, but at some point you’ve got to accept that making a new human being is pretty hard work on its own, even though you might not feel like you’re, y’know, doing anything. You are. So you need help.

And some things are pretty damn impossible, so TIP NUMBER THREE is to do what I’ve been doing since the nausea set in, and delegate all the tasks that you can’t even start doing without running for your basin. Taking out the trash. Cleaning the fridge. Food shopping. Cooking. And here’s the important part: accept NO excuses, and do NOT guilt trip yourself about this. Your other half participated in creating this life with you – they should suffer at least as much as you are. Bf managed to do all those things plus work 45hrs a week for the whole month when I was too ill to even stand up without retching into a basin. He was tired and he got ill and his boss chose that particular moment to double his workload, but he was an angel about it.

TIP NUMBER THREE AND A HALF: Don’t get used to being treated like a princess. It may be tempting to ask Bf to bring you things from the kitchen even though you secretly know that you’ve been able to go in there without throwing up ever since he spring-cleaned it, but that’s going a wee bit too far. Instead show him your progress and rejoice together in this small victory over the Evil Nausea. It’ll give him hope.

So far I’ve mainly talked about Getting Shit Done with the help of a partner (or neighbour, parent, sibling, friend…). These tips are particularly helpful if you’re in the can’t-stand-up-without-retching phase. If you’re in the massive-hunger-pangs-every-few-hours phase, you can Get More Shit Done.

TIP NUMBER FOUR: Eat sweets. Candy. Biscuits. I’m being totally serious, people, the other day I ate three Werther’s Originals chewy things when I getting tired and they perked me up for a good twenty minutes (which I wastefully spent browsing Twitter). Yesterday I asked Bf to buy me some chewy sweets and some more Werther’s Originals and – it should be obvious – eating them prevents low blood sugar. Until, of course, you stop eating them, at which point you need to get some whole grains into your stomach for when the sugar high wears off.

Obviously I’m not saying you should eat sweets all the time when you’re pregnant. Gestational diabetes is a thing you do not want happening to you or your baby. But unless you have some kind of health problem that prevents it, eating three or four chewy toffees before changing the sheets or emptying the dishwasher should see you through the task. Maybe keep another couple nearby in case you need them midway through.

TIP NUMBER FIVE: Check out the sports food section of your supermarket (or get someone else to do it if, like me, supermarkets are slowly becoming a brand new phobia). Look for energy sweets, the kind runners eat before or mid-marathon (probably, I dunno how sports works). You’re looking for the kind that’s mostly pure glucose or dextrose, because those are the ones that are going to save you when you suddenly come over all dizzy and nauseous from low blood sugar. They’ve saved me several times even when I was in the can’t-stand-up phase, because sometimes you want to be able to fetch the mail without retching the whole time. I take one or two of these when I get sick and dizzy, followed by a biscuit or some cake, followed by something more whole-grain-y if possible, or eat least something potato-based.

TIP NUMBER SIX: If you can, Get Shit Done sitting down. Make sure it’s useful. I’ve started crocheting handbags in the hopes of maybe selling them, but I’d probably be better off crocheting baby clothes. There are more practical things you can do sitting down, though – pay bills online, make phone calls, check your bank account, food shopping (many supermarkets nowadays offer pick-me-up services, and it’s a lot easy for Bf to pick up the shopping on the way home from work than if he actually has to spend an hour scrutinising your weirdly specific shopping list). If you can survive the smell of dirty dishes (I can’t), there’s probably some way you can do the dishes sitting down. The prep part of cooking can also be done sitting down.

TIP NUMBER SEVEN: Know your triggers. I nearly threw up just thinking about cooking. Let’s not talk about cooking any more.

TIP NUMBER EIGHT: Have counter-triggers. Mine are cats. I haven’t had a cat since my last kitty died a year and a half ago, which is good in a way because I haven’t had toxoplasmosis and she’d be sad and confused if I stopped petting her suddenly. But one day recently we met up with a friend who sold us one of those wooden animal car things that babies can sit on or push from behind, and the meeting place was this bar we used to go to, and next to the bar was a window with no less than SIX different cats sitting in it, watching the world go by. So I sat in front of it (visibly annoying two of them), and messed with them throught the window. They were so cute and funny and now Bf knows that when I start retching sometimes just saying “kitty” calms me down enough to eventually stop.

TIP NUMBER NINE: If you have to leave the house, take a bag that doesn’t strap over your stomach or chest, and put in it:
– Water bottle
– Packet of biscuits
– Glucose sweets, candy, or sugar cubes
– A banana, or other filling, handy thing
– Many, many tissues
– Anti-nausea meds if you’re out for a long time.
You probably won’t be able to put the basin in your bag, but if you’re thinking of cancelling your outing in case you vomit, that means you need your basin with you. Which bring me to….

TIP NUMBER TEN: Get over it. That is, have absolutely no shame whatsoever. You’re a mother now, mothers are above and beyond the notions of “cool” and “respectable”. Also, you’re pregnant, you have the ultimate excuse to run off and throw up behind a tree/car/lamp post and then come back, slightly trembling but feeling loads better, and go on like nothing unusual has happened. You’re going to need this trick if you’re working during pregnancy. A friend of mine working in a shoe shop would periodically run out the emergency exit at the back and throw up in the car park before drinking a bit of water and getting straight back to work. Throwing up when you’re not pregnant is a Bad Sign and you’d usually panic and ring the doctor first thing (unless you’re drunk, then you just sleep it off). Throwing up while you’re pregnant is normal. You cannot afford to be fazed by a wee bit of vomit. In fact, I bet you that after three weeks, you no longer will be.

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