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     Volume 4 Issue 19 | October 29, 2004 |

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Pregnancy Advice
that Makes You
Want to Throw Up

Shabnam Nadiya

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece on how people I know/don't know/ don't want to know were constantly egging me on to have a baby. The piece appalled some people and delighted others. However, no matter what their reactions, most people ended with "Still, it's time you thought about having one".

Well, I finally succumbed to this constant clamour to participate in overpopulating the country. Not only did I succumb myself, I inveigled my husband (the process generally and preferably being one of mutual cooperation) into agreeing that, yes, it was time we trod upon the well worn but joyous path to parenthood. A month later saw us traipsing up and down the stairs of doctors' chambers and diagnostic centres ushering in a whole new era of well-meaning advice from friends, relatives, acquaintances and (now that the whole pregnancy deal is written clearly as it were on my ever-expanding tummy) casual passers-by. The gamut of opinions runs from abstaining from food during solar eclipses to not drinking neem juice within an hour of eating any orange-coloured fruit or veggies to not letting Leo or Taurus women touch my tummy.

Of course, the whole experience of being pregnant has opened up a whole vista of experiences for me; given me a whole new perspective on life. Things I had taken for granted--such as being able to complete a whole meal without requiring brief interludes in the loo, bending down to pick up a pencil or a book I've dropped, completing a whole night's sleep lying on the same side have been transformed into challenges of endurance and dexterity without measure. Today I have only distant memories of how my feet looked or of blithely rushing up the stairs at one go to our apartment on the fifth floor.

The thing is that no one actually provided me with any advice on how to deal with the situations that being pregnant actually landed me in. For instance, during my first trimester, everybody told me about how I needed to drink lots of water; no one told me that I needed to stock my fridge with cream cheese, vanilla ice cream and egg halwa so I could get up at three o'clock in the morning to eat the stuff. All of it. In the same bowl. To be followed by mincemeat in tomato ketchup. See what I mean? So I decided now that I am nearing my goal (as the Bishop famously said to the actress) to throw some light on what the real deal is with pregnancy. So here goes -- practical advice from one totally fed-up mother-to-be to others who got themselves in the same mess:

1. Cultivate a smooth but vacuous smile: you will be using this a lot when people are giving you totally inane and at times embarrassing advice. It will also help if you can train yourself to shut off your ears, while continuing to make appropriate "listening" sounds with your mouth. For instance, people could be nattering away at you about what colour and consistency your feaces should be. Instead of actually listening to the drivel, you could simply get away with judicious and well placed interjections of "Hmm" and "Really".

2. Prepare some comebacks for the idiots who will stare at your belly for an embarrassingly lengthy period of time and then ask, "Oh, are you pregnant?" These can be: "No, I stuff a cushion up my kameez; it makes for an interesting conversation opener." Or, "No, I was born this way. What's your excuse?"

3. Be prepared for women you don't know coming straight at you and touching your expanding belly as if it were a sacred talisman. Once your belly starts growing, as far as you are concerned, the concept of "personal space" will soon become a myth.

4. Be prepared for blood and gore stories. For some reason, the sight of a pregnant woman encourages people (especially women) to tell you the most obnoxious, horrible, ghastly pregnancy stories they can think of. My worst was two unknown women at the doctor's office asking me how many months I was (five at the time), who then went on to tell me in graphic and gory detail about their five-month pregnant cousin who ruptured her uterus, dislodged her baby (which miraculously survived) and could never ever have another baby again.

5. Going to the loo takes on a whole new perspective. Make sure that there are toilets wherever you go, whenever you go. Also make sure there are enough things to hold on to while sitting down or getting up. Be prepared for a 6 ounce glass of water to result in six ½-gallon visits to the toilet within a span of 2 hours.

6. Doors are important. Especially from the second trimester onwards. Always remember that your tummy ends way ahead of where it used to. Leave ample room between the said belly and the said door. If you don't, collisions will occur frequently and unpleasantly. Same goes for chairs, book cases and colleagues. Trust me, this is serious.

7. Avoid any articles, TV shows, emails, letters, conversations that include the words "gestational diabetes", "placenta", "edema", "fluid retention", "meconium". You are going to be going out of your skull anyway with stress, fatigue and a steady but inevitable diminishing of the "gross factor" (things that used to make you go "yeccch…bleh" will no longer have the same effect on your sensibilities) no use compounding this condition.

8. Be prepared for a major sea-change in your conception of how the world works. You will realise that being able to lie on your back or your stomach is a privilege; not a right. Also turning from left to right or vice versa while lying in bed is an activity that requires the physical dexterity of a top-notch gymnast and the logistical support of a small construction firm. (Currently I require four pillows, two cushions, the headboard of my bed and one husband while attempting this highly dangerous maneuver.)

9. During the last trimester, be prepared for people looking at you and saying, "Are you still carrying that baby around? How much longer do you want to keep it inside there?" These people are in the same category as the morons mentioned in No. 2 of this list. They do not realise that you are fed up to your teeth carrying around your "precious burden" and would very much like to dump it somewhere, anywhere. Preferably right here, right now.

10. Stop worrying about your clothes. You are going to look and move like Donald Duck no matter what you wear. Stop looking at your thighs and your bottom in the mirror. They're huge. There's nothing you can do about it. At least this time you have a good excuse.

There is more I guess, but packing the mind boggling wisdom I have gained in the past eight months into a couple of pages is well nigh impossible. From what I've been hearing on the motherhood grapevine…this is just the beginning. The worst is yet to come, they tell me--long nights awake, endless changes of soiled diapers, hours spent in trying to make food imitate bazookas and airplanes…the list goes on and on. Among many other things, I have been advised to bid farewell to watching complete movies, adda, late evening phuchka trips to Dhanmondi Lake. Which leads me to the inevitable question: Is there life after birth?

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