I’m pregnant!

Finding out you’re pregnant is different for every mother. For some it’s euphoric, especially if they were consciously trying for a baby. For some it’s depressing if it’s unplanned, or if they’ve had previous miscarriages. For all mums it’s frightening, as you question your ability to be a good mother.

Most people will say the first sign of being pregnant is when you miss your period. This works fine if your period is regular, but sometimes your cycle is messed by stress, travel, medication, or even contraception, so you can’t really be sure until you’ve missed two, and by then you may be panicking so much that you freeze your periods with your mind.

There are other signs you can look out for to warn you that there’s a baby on the way. When I became pregnant, I’d recently dealt with a pregnancy scare, so I didn’t pay much attention, especially since I’d swallowed some Postinor. I felt my breasts were heavy, and I remember standing at the sink and swinging my upper body, wondering why my chest felt so tight. They didn’t look physically larger, and there was no actual change in my cup size, but I remember thinking they were unusually heavy. That was just two weeks after conception.

You’ll also feel unusually tired. You’ll want to sleep all the time, and you may feel like you’re on constant PMS, which will be strange as you won’t have your period. This may be partly from baby hormones and partly from fear over those missed periods.

After I had a test, confirmed my pregnancy and started ante-natal hospital visits, I discovered another handy trick to tell if you’re pregnant. This test can be used from as early as two weeks, but it’s not definitive, so you should still get a clinic test or a pregnancy strip.

Pregnancy releases hormones into your blood, and some of these hormones stray into your urine. If you pee into a white dish or a transparent dish while pregnant, you will notice that your urine is unusually dark, almost golden brown. That’s a sure sign of a growth in your belly. Of course it could also be a sign of infection, so you should use this in tandem with missed periods and a clinic visit, but the urine test has consoled me many times when my period was late. It would be wise to hide or label your urine-cup in case roommates decide to use it to brush their teeth.

Nausea and weight gain are also signs of pregnancy, though not all mothers develop this. I had no morning sickness and only gained 5kg, which I shed as soon as my baby was out. She weighed 2.2kg, so apparently the rest was just water. First time mothers often stay invisibly pregnant for months, so it helps to use the other signs as a guide. Incidentally, ginger – in tea, Stoney, or biscuits – is good for morning sickness.

Once the physical symptoms are done, you still have to deal with the mental and emotional ones. It helps to admit that you’re biologically fit to be a mother, otherwise a baby wouldn’t be growing in you. A lot of what you need is inbuilt – milk, womb, hormones, and even the initial germ protection that your baby gets from breast milk. Having all that makes you a mother.

Secondly, the fact that you’re questioning proves you’re a mum. We only worry about things that matter to us, so you fearing your skills as a mum shows you care enough to make the effort, and effort counts for a lot. There’s a book by Ken Follet where a man gets amnesia. He meets a prostitute and after saving her from a thug, he explains his problem. He asks her, ‘What kind of man was I? Did I have a wife? Is she worried about me? Was I a drunk, or a pimp? Was I nice to women?’ The woman smiles and replies, ‘ You were a good man. If you were a thug, you would have asked, ‘Did women find me attractive? Was I good in the bedroom?’

The principle is the same. Unless you’re good mother, your first instinct will not be to question your ability. An unfit mother would probably ask, ‘Will I get stretchmarks? Do I have to stop smoking?’ Please note that we ALL worry about weight gain and stretch marks, but if that’s your first reaction to being pregnant, you might want to talk to someone.

Find other mothers and discuss things with them. Sharing their experiences can make motherhood a little less daunting. Be careful who you talk to though, as some people just have bad kharma. Find a mother you respect and admire. She’ll tell you the good and the bad, and make your journey much easier.

There’s only one thing you need to be a good mother, and that’s love. Anything else is accessory. If you love your child, you’ll feed them and keep them warm and safe. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll find ways to fix them, and you’ll learn as you go along. So no matter what goes down, make sure your child knows that they are loved. That’s what makes you a good mum.

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