By Emily Kaye Lazzaro
Before I got pregnant, I told my best friend: "I can't wait to be pregnant. I'm going to get so fat and not even care and take prenatal yoga, and it will be so easy, and I'm going to make a million pregnant friends."
The reality has been a bit more . . . terrible.
I'm 29 years old, and my first baby is due in October. It's been a difficult journey, so being pregnant this long feels like a real accomplishment, and it's everything I've ever wanted, and I'm very happy, for the record.
But also, it's actually a waking nightmare. Surprised? I was, because of all the lies I was told by my mother and movies and the Internet. I am here to disabuse you of these misconceptions.
Lie 1: You can eat whatever you want, and it's fine because you're pregnant.
This is untrue not because it can't be done, but because if you really eat all of the cheese and the chips and the cupcakes, you'll have to have a very upsetting conversation with your midwife or ob/gyn about how you've gained too much weight and you really shouldn't gain any more even though you have three months left of your pregnancy.
This didn't happen only to me — I'm not a monster — it also happened to my friend. So, it's science.
Some of us enter into pregnancy thinking it's a magical world of naps and cupcakes and bacon. But it's actually two months of wanting to vomit and only being able to eat crackers and bagels; one week of feeling pretty okay and being happy you want to eat salads again; two months of eating your feelings in the form of ice cream and pizza and more bagels because you're mad you can't have wine; a week of shame; and the remaining three and a half months of eating kale and chicken breast because you have already gained more than you're supposed to gain in the entire pregnancy.
Okay, I know Giselle Bundchen didn't do it like this, but she sucks and I hate her. And also: I was told I could eat whatever I wanted! When did this change?
At my last appointment, after actually losing a few pounds because of the aforementioned kale, I asked my doctor if I should be worried about losing weight. She said: "Well, we are mostly worried about, like, famine-level malnourishment. If you have a normal or high-normal BMI to start with, you don't really have to gain much weight at all."
Now that I know about this, I will do the next pregnancy better (HA! NEXT PREGNANCY! MAYBE IN 2035 WHEN THEY INVENT BIONIC UTERUSES), and I will eat healthy and try to gain weight at a normal rate instead of all at once. But in the meantime, my new favorite thing to do is Google celebrities who got fatter than me when they were pregnant, because I am the worst, and it makes me feel better. I'm not proud of it.
Lie 2: Pregnancy makes you glow!
Nope. Pregnancy makes you have to buy all new underwear because you destroyed all the pairs you have with your powerful pregnancy crotch sweat.
Lie 3: Take it easy! You're pregnant! Sit down, don't strain yourself.
In the first trimester it is basically impossible to exercise because of the fatigue, but guess what? You have to do it anyway. Even if you are in good shape, it will be awful and painful, and you will think you might die. But if you stop exercising in the first trimester, it's really hard to start up again in the second trimester because now you're fat and your muscles are not used to carrying all that around.
Yes, your hips hurt. Yes, you are tired. Yes, your muscles are sore. All of this is true. But you have to do it anyway. Otherwise your heart might explode before you have the baby. Not to mention that labor and delivery are like an extreme sport, and if your muscles hurt from walking a mile with your dog, imagine what will happen when you have to push a human out your sex hole.
Oh, and what if the baby's hand is in his face and you have to push for six hours?! That happened to another friend of mine. Do you think she could have pushed that long if she hadn't been exercising? I don't actually know if she had been exercising, but I feel like it could only help.
Since I was shamed by my doctor recently, I started walking about two miles every day, and, whoops, I feel great now. Shocking, right? Exercise makes you feel better, mentally and physically. Ugh, I hate it when exercise wins, but it always does.
Lie 4: During pregnancy you will have a stronger sex drive!
Hahahahahaha. No you won't. Or if you do it doesn't matter because you fall asleep at 9 p.m. every night, and also your vagina is weird now. Oh, and you have the strangest body ever and mostly just lose respect for your partner for still wanting to have sex with you.
Lie 5: Pregnancy is natural, and women have done it for the entirety of human existence. You can do this!
This is true, but that doesn't mean it isn't hard. For the entirety of human existence people have been miserable, and we forget that in this modern information age when everything is easy and nothing hurts.
Obviously nothing is easy and everything hurts for everyone always, but it's important to remember that just because things are hard doesn't mean they're not worth doing. In fact, it is my personal life philosophy that everything worth doing is hard. Otherwise, why do it? The greatest challenges reap the greatest benefits, and there's no satisfaction to doing something that didn't require any effort. Life is about facing trials head on and doing your best.
That doesn't mean I'm not going to complain about it. Complaining is the one thing I can still do that I enjoy.
Emily Kaye Lazzaro is a writer, actor, and playwright in Somerville, Mass. She wrote this essay for the Washington Post.