I had a textbook pregnancy.
I didn’t hit any of the stereotypical “high” notes that people expect from pregnancy: I never threw up, I didn’t have any strange cravings, and nor did my water break to alert me that Jai was on his way.
Yet my MS played a small role in how the pregnancy was handled and how it played out. I don’t believe it was particularly different than someone without MS or a chronic illness, but I did have a couple extra steps that other women may not have experienced.
Below is my pregnancy story. Because I was a first-time mother, I probably did things wrong, did things backward, or overdid things I didn’t need to stress over. It was a new experience and I did the best I could with what knowledge I had through trial-and-error and research.
My pregnancy will always look different from another woman’s experience: in fact, if I got pregnant again, my second pregnancy will be different from my first. What you are about to read shouldn’t be viewed as “the best/correct” way, but the way I handled it for good or bad. If you have MS or a chronic illness and thinking about getting pregnant (or are pregnant), understand that my experience is going to be vastly different because of how my disease manifests itself. Always speak with a healthcare professional if you have any questions.
Pregnancy with MS
Because I have MS, my pregnancy was always going to be different.
First of all, I would not be able to be on my medication. Second, I had the chance of seeing an abatement of my normal, day-to-day MS symptoms. It wasn’t a guarantee, but there was a chance and I was looking forward to normal, something I hadn’t experienced since high school.
At the OB-GYN’s, I was flagged as a potentially high-risk pregnancy due to the MS, so I needed to meet with the high-risk OB to get a screening. To say this was intimidating and stressful would be an understatement. Fortunately, after some questions and some simple in-office tests, the OB determined that I would unlikely need her care unless something drastically changed towards the end of the pregnancy.
Each trimester brought a new set of challenges and experiences but nothing I couldn’t handle with a shake of my head or a laugh. Because when it comes down to something you can’t control, all you can do is laugh.
First Trimester – Thanks, MS!
MS prepared me for my first trimester.
If I am going to say anything positive about this disease, beyond forcing me to re-prioritize my life and begin the process of letting things go, it did prepare me for the first-trimester fatigue.
I don’t believe the pregnancy fatigue compounded my MS fatigue. I believe my body switched over to “we’re busy making a baby so we don’t have time to attack ourselves” at some point early on. My fatigue was probably standard for any woman going through the experience of building a baby.
But MS prepared me for the reality of coming home after teaching and crawling straight into bed for a nap. And being okay with that.
With my MS, I didn’t need to nap often, but there were days where students were so stressful that coming home for a nap, or curling up on my office floor, were the only ways to handle my fatigue. Once I was pregnant, I had to come home more often for a nap.
The other thing that happened early on is I lost my appetite. Completely.
I got nauseous, but I never threw up. What I couldn’t do because of the nausea was eat. So I would have to force food down to appease Ash’s reasonable concern. At one point this consisted solely of apples and whatever else was appealing in the house and wouldn’t make me more nauseous.
It’s funny because I had originally planned to have a strictly vegan pregnancy. I quickly reached a point of “if I can eat it without feeling sick or bad, then who cares what it is.” Food as fuel became super important when there was very little I could stomach to be around.
I also lost my ability to drink coffee and eat candy. This wasn’t because I was being mindful for Jai’s sake, but because I just couldn’t drink or eat either. Ice cream? That was another matter. Later in the pregnancy, I would treat myself to a California-based frozen yogurt place located next to an organizational store I visited frequently while nesting. To be fair, it was in the middle of July in the South. It was a means of survival.
Because of this inability to eat I “lost’ weight.
Before I got pregnant, I was 183 pounds. This was my highest weight ever – several different external factors went into this number. I had tried to lose weight before getting pregnant but found that I lacked the motivation to maintain the weight loss.
Once I was pregnant and weeks turned into months, I maintained my weight at 183 pounds for the entire pregnancy. Jai was growing because each ultrasound showed that he was increasing in size. Ash and I asked on several different occasions if we needed to be worried about the lack of weight gain on my part. My OB stated that Jai was taking everything he needed from me first and if I was feeling fine (and I was), then the baby was absolutely fine.
Turns out he was taking all that I had “stored up” and the weight was balancing out as fluid and baby.
I don’t recommend doing it this way.
It was nice to not see the scale inch up, but it did add stress to the whole “am I eating enough? am I doing damage because the baby isn’t getting enough food?” mindset. I took my prenatal vitamins as recommended, but there was always this fear that Jai would come out underweight and I was starting his life off as a horrible, neglectful mother.
It was one of those moments where I finally understood the premise of shows like “I didn’t know I was pregnant.” If we hadn’t been planning the pregnancy and I hadn’t been vigilant over taking tests, there was a good chance that I wouldn’t have known something was up until he started kicking. Those couldn’t be confused as gas.
Second Trimester – Nesting Begins
Tuesdays were the start of a new week for my pregnancy. I would wake up Tuesday mornings, check the pregnancy app to see where he was at developmentally, and rouse Ash to update how big Jai was at the moment. “He’s the size of a yam!” or “he’s the size of lettuce!” “his eyes should be opening!” Ash would smile, pat my belly, and get up to feed the cats.
On the Tuesday of my 13th week, I noticed something different when I got up.
I had energy.
As funny as it sounds, but on the very first day of my second trimester my energy was back. And back more than ever. I distinctly remember the switch because of how unexpected it was. I had anticipated it taking a few weeks before my body would shift out of the fatigue phase and into the next one. Surely it wouldn’t be that cut-and-dry. But it was for me.
More importantly, I felt what I perceived to be normal.
It was such a wonderful feeling to have boundless energy. I took advantage of this energy and began the nesting phase. Where we live has extremely limited space, so I needed to purge and reorganize the space to create room for the nursery.
It was during this trimester that we became aware of the possibility my pregnancy would be high-risk. It was during the same appointment we got the anatomy scan to make sure he was growing properly. Once I was cleared of being high-risk, it was time to settle into the next set of tests.
At the beginning of the second trimester, I took a blood test to check for possible chromosomal anomalies. It was during that test I found out whether we were expecting a boy or a girl. I decided prior to the pregnancy to find out the sex of the baby due to personal preferences.
When I thought of the possibility of having a baby, I always wanted a girl. I absolutely did not want to have a boy.
It’s hard for me to admit this, but it was the truth. I did not want a boy. I knew that since it was out of my control, I would want to be emotionally prepared for the possibility. Finding out the sex of the baby was important because it would give me time to warm up to the idea if the baby happened to be male.
The funny thing was, they drew my blood and during the two week waiting period, I felt strange over waiting for this particular bit of information. I was more nervous about the possibility there would be a chromosomal anomaly, but I started having strange feelings about the baby’s sex.
Several years before getting pregnant, I had a dream about giving birth to a baby boy. Now I was getting this weird 6th sense that the dream was an omen.
By the time I received the phone call with the results, I already knew I was having a boy and I was okay with this information. I was also at a point where if I was wrong and it was a girl, I was going to be disappointed. So when the nurse told me that the baby was healthy regarding their chromosomes, she asked if I wanted to know the sex. I was relieved to learn I was right all along. I was having a boy.
Third Trimester – Baby Prep
The final trimester was the major push to get prepared.
I rounded out my final set of tests and began the process of deciding how everything was going to go down. Ash and I participated in a month-long birthing class and I had it in my mind that I would attempt a natural birth. I would still do a hospital birth because I wanted the ability to change my mind and get the epidural or if there was an emergency we’d be able to get a C-section. But taking the birthing class helped get me familiar with what to expect when nature took its course.
Because it was a relatively easy pregnancy, I had to have fun with it. There’s a local Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention I’ve attended every single year since moving down South. I decided to incorporate my belly as part of my cosplay that year.
Pokemon Go came out earlier that summer, so I turned my belly into an egg given all the walking I do during the convention weekend (NB: part of the gameplay is walking specific distances to get eggs to hatch). I got a lot of people stopping for pictures and making comments about my belly. I always remarked that it was a 10k egg and not a 3k, so I still had a ways to go.
My second cosplay was one of Immotan Joe’s wives from Mad Max: Fury Road. While her character doesn’t fare well, nor does the baby, I thought it would be a cool cosplay for the times I was stuck in the late-summer heat. I even convinced Ash to participate in the cosplay by going as Mad Max. I wasn’t complaining because I love Tom Hardy.
The final and most popular cosplay of the weekend was my Carl from Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Carl, a loud-mouthed balding man, was also a comfortable cosplay because I got to wear sweatpants and a tank top. I also got away with allowing my belly to hang all out because it was part of the character. It was the perfect late-night cosplay after a long day of panels and lines.
Below are photos from each of my cosplays that weekend.
The most exciting part of my pregnancy?
Ash donated plasma the first day we were at the convention. Because he has a special blood type, they love it when he steps in to donate. They tried to get the full amount which was three bags, but because he wasn’t feeling well, he only donated 1.5 bags. We went about our business and headed back to the hotel to go to bed.
I woke up in the middle of the night to Ash falling in the bathroom. He had gotten up to go to the bathroom and fainted due to not eating enough to replenish. Knowing he bumped his head, I helped him up, get dressed and I took him to the Emergency Room down the road.
It was the same hospital where I would be giving birth in a month’s time.
I brought him in the only way I knew how and that meant I had to take him past the security desk. A very befuddled, but sweet security guard pointed me back the way I came:
Her: Labor and Delivery is that way!
Me: Oh? Oh! Oh, no. I am actually looking for the ER for him. He fell and bumped his head and I want to get him checked out. I have another month to go, knock on wood.
She and I had a good laugh while she directed me towards the ER. Long story short, Ash was fine and I had overreacted. I was worried he hit his head really hard and didn’t want to lose him one month before his child was born.
Ready to be Done?
I never really hit the point of “get this baby out of me” for an extended period of time. I think I hit that point the day before Jai was due and I was in the middle of a hot parking lot arguing with my Father-in-Law over something extremely minor. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was in the early stages of labor and feeling exhausted over everything.
It was unusual given how much energy I had up until that point.
Wednesday I will post about my labor and delivery and discuss some things I wish I advocated for Jai and myself while I was in the hospital.
I will leave you with my favorite picture from early labor. It’s my firstborn, my furson, comforting me in between contractions. Throughout the duration of the pregnancy, he always plopped himself on my belly or by my head as a means to comfort me and get attention.
Ash and I always joked that he acted like a secondary father to Jai and was infusing his kitty-essence in the little one growing inside. Jai is cat-like enough now that we suspect it worked.
I can tell you this: he was better than a heating pad when dealing with those contractions. So ladies, if you are planning to have a baby, get yourself a cat.
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