By Yvonne Kerr
A column exploring the trials and tribulations of a pregnant expat navigating her first pregnancy in the desert; mood swings, sweaty boobs, hormones…
Being pregnant at 40 as an expat
I am bone-achingly tired. I am also miserably clammy and not just because I’m an Irish fish in a desert pond but because powerful hormone surges are pushing my body temperature up by almost one degree to 37.8 – that’s officially a fever. Dizziness and light-headedness plagues me while the mere act of walking upstairs leaves me gasping because my oxygen stores have been depleted.
I am in the throes of my first trimester.
They say every pregnancy is different. I know that now. My first was a breeze but this one, being particularly grim so far, dashed any foolish notions I harbored about myself being one of those lucky, superhuman women. I’ve been feeling so grisly that I was certain there must be twins in there, conspiring against me.
As it turns out, there’s only one…
How I feel being an expat 40 year-old pregnant mother of a toddler
Just to set the record straight, I’m delighted to be pregnant. At 40, I’m lucky to be expanding my brood. I gave birth to my son Gabriel at 38 so my childbearing years have been propelled to their remotest galaxy. I wonder if, after forty laps of the sun, my weary body is wreaking its revenge because I have long since passed the optimum age for carrying babies. Or, having moved to the UAE only six months ago from Ireland, where the temperature rarely pushes the mercury above 30 degrees Celsius (yes, even in summer), my pasty white frame is still struggling to adjust to its desiccated, desert surroundings.
How It’s Like to be pregnant at 40
Like a fish out of water, I have been flapping back and forth and up and down my air-conditioned apartment, shunning the midday sun like a vampire, gulping back buckets of water and peering up at the skies wondering where the rain has gone. I am only too aware that my first UAE summer is beckoning my blossoming belly and I, willing us to stay the distance.
My body is no longer my own regardless because my brain is releasing stupidly high levels of hormones to keep the wee bean growing. These coming months will be my personal army combat training camp, desert and baby as drill sergeants, testing the parameters of my endurance.
The set-up would be all less trying if we didn’t also have a two-year-old who forbids me to ever have a rest during the day or a morning lie-in. My efforts to explain to Gabriel that there is a “babby” (his word not mine) inside me have been in vain. As I point to my tummy, he lifts up my t-shirt and with a quizzical face asks; “Where is it?” as he raises both palms to the sky, suggesting he needs more proof. Then to confirm his skepticism, he glances down at his own belly.
The mood swings are in the same realm as PMT, but 10 times worse. Like a mini tornado, without warning, a fury possesses every fiber of your being so that decent decorum is relinquished. My husband didn’t ask me how I was feeling one day (because I’m pretty sure he already knew and was too scared to ask) and that set me off… I sulked. I cried into my pillow. I shouted at my toddler. I threw things. I slammed doors. For the record, I am not usually this volatile (well maybe, once a month…). This part of it is not fun for anyone.
The benefit of hindsight from my first pregnancy is that I have a modicum of awareness when it comes to the daft behaviour triggered by explosive preggo hormones – oestrogen and progesterone I’m looking at you – and so I do try to temper my outbursts this time around. Well, I say that but my husband would probably disagree.
Other joyous side effects of the first trimester are sweaty boobs, all the time, bloating and gas (again sorry husband) and waking up to a throbbing headache that complements my tiredness and morning sickness (the ‘morning’ sickness that lasts all day). Even with the pumping temples and nausea, I crave fatty, salty carbs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is basically a hangover. The irony!
See? None of this makes rational sense. Try to explain what’s going on inside your head and body to an innocent bystander and you will sound threatening and deranged. “Look, I want to throw up but I’m also angry and hungry and I need vanilla ice-cream with crispy fries in my face right now, ok?”
As I edge into my second trimester, the arrival of a visible bump lends me a slab of evidence that I can at least thrust about by way of a silent excuse for my emotional misdemeanours. Happily, the hormone surges are leveling off too so I am less psychotic and more resemble the sane woman my husband married, not that long ago. Here’s hoping we three make it through to welcome our number four.
Read more local real mom stories sharing their experiences and know that your not alone in whatever you’re going through