Food, glorious food: life as a pregnant VMIFie

IMG_7808.jpgI would say that I am Very Much Into Food. I don’t like the term Foodie as to me it conjures up someone very pretentious making a jus or a glass or a foam. That’s definitely not me; I have no interest in it and I’m pretty sure I would fail miserably if I tried to make a foam of anything (even my husband makes my bubble baths for me as I’m too impatient so instead I have to loiter round the flat, occasionally dipping my head into the bathroom: ‘is it ready yet?’ only to be shushed out to wait until I get the go-ahead. It’s v sweet though). But I am Very Much Into Food so I’ll call myself a VMIFie instead. Less catchy but it has connotations with MILF which will be my next role in life anyway…

Like most couples my husband and I have a clear separation of household jobs (him: baths, me: food) and man am I glad I married a man who has little interest in cooking. Now, I’ve definitely heard younger single women throwing around the ‘oh, I love a man who cooks’ but, ladies, if you get one who doesn’t then you get to CONTROL ALL THE FOOD IN THE HOUSE. There’s nothing better. The food planning, shopping and cooking is all my domain. If I want to eat super healthy after a bad week, we do and he will smile and say it’s delicious. If I want am craving comfort food like fish fingers and chips, or in contrast if I decide to cook vegan for a week, I do and he will smile and thank me for cooking. He won’t even notice the difference. And if, in a gastronomically inspired moment, I plan intricate dishes over a weekend and spend double the usual at Ocado, NO-ONE WILL SAY ANYTHING. I love the control and I love love cooking.

For the last few years I’ve had a weekly organic vegetable delivery from Abel and Cole which I top up with extra bits from Ocado or Sainsbury’s. Getting our Thursday box of vegetables has been a surprising highlight (seriously, that may make me sound like a loser, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it) but one of my tragedies of trimester one of pregnancy is that I lost the ability to eat anything with any remote nutrient-rich content, and had to knock my poor little box of organic veg on the head for a few months. Quite how my baby grew on a diet of crisps and bread I’m really not sure. I tried to make up for it with gallons and gallons of orange juice and the odd yoghurt but I know I wasn’t really doing the right thing for my body. I tried and tried to eat a healthy diet (my pre-pregnancy dinners usually consisted of fish and steamed veg; for the last few months the best it has got has been beans on toast) but I was just buying food that I could not force my body to eat.

Like most mums-to-be I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time online reading pregnancy websites and diving into oh so many pregnancy forums. You can google literally the most bizarre pregnancy symptom and will find hundreds of women who have been discussing it online in the last few years. In one low moment when probably googling something very hormonal and pregnant like ‘am I hurting my baby by only eating beige food’ I read a comment from someone that was exactly what I was looking for. It said (and I paraphrase):

‘You have plenty of time later on in your pregnancy to eat well. Your baby is getting what it needs, just eat what you feel like for now’

I could have kissed the screen. This was what I needed to hear. I realised that fingers crossed there are six whole months during pregnancy where I can face ‘normal’ food so why don’t I just go for it if all I want for the time being is Bombay mix and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s? So I did. I ate and ate and ate and felt no shame.

A month or two on, I’m now at the point where I can stand to look at, and even eat, most foods again now. My husband has, with visible relief, exited the kitchen where he had gallantly stepped in for a few months (often with me slumped in a kitchen chair giving him step by step instructions) and I’ve tentatively re-taken my rightful place as the VMIFie of the house. The Abel and Cole delivery came again for the first time this week. Hooray! My only minor problem now is that I’ve conditioned my body into expecting beige food and going on autopilot to the pastries aisle or to my office tuck shop. Sometimes I don’t even realise it’s happened until I’m two pain-aux-raisins in. So I’m in ret-raining this week. This afternoon I’m going to be going through my poor neglected recipe books and finding some nice dishes just to remind my mind and body how much we do actually love to do this.

Watch out little baby – some vitamins are on their way!

Let’s be honest…

IMG_7791I’ve finally entered my second trimester. It felt like a long time coming and that I’d forever be stuck in the loop of never-ending nausea coupled with the anticipation/doom of the impending 12 week scan. Does anyone enjoy the first trimester? I feel like it’s woman-code everywhere to not talk about how tough it really is. Or, the reality is probably actually that, as most people have passed the hell-filled first three months by the time they announce their pregnancy they are just so happy to be feeling better and don’t want to dwell on the past.

It’s hard though. It’s tough to be feeling so tired, so sick, unable to eat anything and to not be able to talk about it. Deep down we are all little children and when we feel ill we just want to be able to say it out loud and have someone understand what we are going through. Having instead to go to work and try to act as if everything is normal, even if you’re hiding your belches in meetings, or surreptitiously mainlining crisps before a catch up with your team as they are the only thing that make you feel better (for five minutes) is not easy. At one point I broke down in a meeting with my boss on a morning where I’d had to run from the train station to the office as I thought I was going to be sick and didn’t want to do it on the road as all my colleagues trotted past, and just ended up crying ‘but how do women do this?!’. I know I’m not the first working woman to be pregnant but I couldn’t understand how this is what working women are actually going through but no one talks about it. I felt like I must be some kind of failure as surely other women don’t struggle like this. I’d certainly not heard of any who did.

Luckily I have a very supportive boss who gently explained to me that women cope by occasionally taking sick days, and then suggested I go home. He was basically telling me to give myself a break, and at that moment that permission was everything I needed. It also helped me enormously to know that other women did struggle and that he knew personally of women who have had to take time off in the first trimester. I just wish women spoke about this more.

Another thing I wish I had realised was ok was not seeing friends. When I found out I was pregnant one of my early thoughts was ‘Ok so I have to find a reason for not drinking when I’m out’ which I found an easy answer to: I’m on a health kick (the old antibiotics story is like waving a huge womb-shaped flag that reads I’M PREGNANT). I did not, however, anticipate that the mere thought of doing anything after work – and I really do mean anything – would be so abhorrent to me that I would never need this excuse. As I trundled through my first trimester I kept trying to keep plans, even making plans too, but eventually, one by one, I cancelled every single one. Every single one. For two and a half months I did not do a single thing other than work and sleep, aside from one brief breakfast with a friend and one work dinner that I had to attend where I made an excuse to run off at 8pm.

Again, I assumed I could do it all still as I assumed that’s what all pregnant women did. I now am in major doubt of that. If you are a pregnant woman in your first trimester who is still managing to make your pre-pregnancy trifecta of work/gym/social life work then, frankly, I’m in awe of you. But I suspect most of you are not. But that’s ok! Let’s just tell each other.

So here I am: IT’S OK TO FEEL SO ILL YOU CANNOT GO TO WORK. I did. IT’S OK TO FEEL SO EXHAUSTED YOU HAVE TO LEAVE EARLY. I did. IT’S OK TO MANAGE YOUR TIME SO SOMETIMES YOU CAN MISS THE RUSH HOUR COMMUTE. I did. IT’S OK TO CANCEL ALL PLANS GO TO BED AT 8.30PM EVERY NIGHT. I did. IT’S OK IF SOMETIMES YOU CAN ONLY EAT BREAD AND POT NOODLES. I did. You will eventually be able to face salad again.

So let’s start being honest. And there’s one last thing I want to be honest about. It gets better. I’m in week 14 now and all nausea has pretty much completely gone. I’m not so tired and am back to actually having engaging conversations with people. I’m sleeping better on the whole. My boobs definitely don’t hurt as much. I’ve told much of my friendship group and family so I don’t have to lie anymore. And, best of all, I have a cute little bump to remind me that it’s not all been in my head this whole time…