It is common knowledge that every pregnancy – like every child – is distinct, and yet, with nothing but prior experience as a frame of reference, I found it difficult to imagine what would be different this time around. [Please note, although I often try to back up my observations with actual science and research, this post is based solely on my personal experience and speculations.] Of course, the biggest change with a second child (and I would guess, with a third or fourth to an even greater extent) is that it is easy to forget my body is growing a baby because I am so busy trying to keep up with my toddler.
Last pregnancy, I slept in most mornings and spent many evenings curled on the couch watching TV … it seemed shamefully lazy and dull at the time but sounds glorious in retrospect. I was hypersensitive to what was happening to my body – I could practically feel my belly expanding and every fetal movement prompted a daydream about what my son was doing in there. This time, I honestly forget I am pregnant at all. When colleagues ask how far along I am, I immediately search my mind for which project they might be referring to; I am consistently caught off guard when strangers offer me a seat on the train. For my first pregnancy, I counted down the days to each doctor’s appointment, and always brought along a list of questions. Now, it’s a good thing the office calls to remind me when to come in and that my OB proactively offers some helpful advice from time to time.
Aside from falling prey to the inevitable ennui of a repeat pregnancy, this pregnancy has been unlike my last mostly because the little person I am carrying is different. For example, I have never had super-strange pregnancy cravings, but the types of foods I have felt like eating have been vastly different this time around. I have been mostly vegetarian my entire adult life, not for political reasons, but because I am skeptical of the quality of meat in this country and generally feel better when I limit my intake to three or four servings a week. While pregnant with my son, however, I suddenly became a carnivore, wolfing down hamburgers and snacking on beef jerky. I was also drawn to spice, consuming pounds of make-your-eyes water wasabi peas and double-chili-icon take-out food.
One of the first indications I might be pregnant this time around came with a surprising attraction to all things chocolate. I have never been a fan of chocolate (with the notable exception of hot cocoa), and frankly, have never wondered the preoccupation that many (especially women) seem to have with it. For the last seven months, I have been eating chocolate chips by the bag, double-chocolate brownies for no special occasion at all, and chocolate milkshakes for breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. [This, of course, has contributed to me gaining almost three times as much weight with this pregnancy, which I will discuss in a separate post.]
Simultaneously with this preference for sweet, I have developed a complete intolerance for spicy. Foods that once verged on bland now seem hot, and I cannot stomach spicy foods I used to enjoy. Black pepper, zesty pickles, and brown mustard have been banished from my meals. Sometimes I forget and stir some salsa into my omelet or order my sandwich with everything (including peppers and onions), but despite hunger and valiant efforts, I cannot make myself eat it. Similarly, I know my baby needs protein, and I want to expose her to a variety of flavors, but I have been really struggling to eat meat.
The differences in my food preferences may reflect the fact that I am carrying a girl this time. I believe the hormones associated with being pregnant with a girl are responsible for my different psychological experience of this pregnancy. Last time, people often commented on how calm I was about being pregnant. Despite being high risk, I was very relaxed and mostly went about my regular life (which included teaching group fitness classes until I was 37 weeks along and then going on vacation to Puerto Rico). Although I did not experience any strong mood swings, I suffered from “pregnancy brain” the entire second half of my first pregnancy.
Now pregnant with a girl, I feel like a teenager with raging hormones again. Over the past few months, I have had more angry outbursts and tearful breakdowns than in the past several years combined. I seem to feel things more deeply and quickly and am less able to temper these emotions with reason. I hope this doesn’t mean my daughter is going to be a drama queen (although, being my daughter, that is more likely than not).
Worse than the mood swings, the brunt of which has mainly been borne by my patient husband and parents, is the paranoia. Before I fell pregnant, we had never brought my son to the doctor for a sick visit; last week he went for the fourth time in as many months. I know he is at an age where he is prone to injury and illness, but I cannot stop the runaway train that leaves its station whenever I feel a lump on his head or notice a strange bruise. Similarly, I had leg cramps on and off while pregnant with my son, but I just took warm baths and stretched while waiting for them to pass. In light of a persistent cramp last week, by contrast, I went in to the E.R. for an ultrasound to rule out deep vein thrombosis (of course, the doctors did not see anything worrisome and the cramp was completely gone the next day … coincidence?).
So I cannot say that I have worried less this pregnancy by virtue of having been through it all before, but most of my concerns are chemically-driven and irrational. Ironically, this mental state is helping me to identify and sympathize with my impulsive toddler, as well as the pre-teen daughter I’ll have a decade from now.
One of the most fun parts about being pregnant with a 1.5-year-old at home is watching my son try to figure out what is happening. Almost as soon as we found out we were expecting, he started to display interest in small babies for the first time. He now peers into every stroller we pass, and pets and kisses my friends’ newborns. I hope he is as gentle and loving with his own sibling. For the past two months or so, my son has been increasingly obsessed with my growing belly. When I get home from work he runs over with outstretched arms to hug me and then lifts my shirt to kiss my tummy. He likes to pull up his shirt and place his stomach skin-to-skin with mine – if he feels his sister kick, he leans away and gently kicks her back with his own little feet on my tummy. It’s really cute! I don’t think he has any concept of a little sister just yet, but we are hoping he will love her – or at least not be bothered by her too much – when she arrives in two months. I’ll let you know how it goes …