My Geriatric, Vegan Pregnancy
After the shock of being pregnant wore off (frankly, it never really did), I started mentally preparing myself for comments and inquiries from friends and family about whether I'd still be vegan during pregnancy. The answer, which was non-negotiable, was an emphatic "YES!" I mean, there was no question. To my surprise, I wasn't questioned AT ALL (other than my husband's 90-year-old grandmother innocently asking me if it's OK that I wasn't drinking milk, but, honestly, who could be mad at her for asking?). It's possible I wasn't questioned because my belly was growing at a nice clip, so people assumed I wasn't hiding a tiny baby in there. Of course, there is nothing wrong with having a small baby; we vegans just know that anything we do or don't do is extra scrutinized. People who don’t have a full understanding are under the impression that we don’t get enough protein and other nutrients because we don’t eat animal products, so they assume vegans can’t have healthy babies.
Before I continue, I'll explain what a geriatric pregnancy is for those who have never heard the term. A geriatric pregnancy is one where the woman is over 35 years old. They don't use the term "geriatric" as much anymore because it obviously doesn't sound so pretty. Now it's more that I was of "advanced maternal age." Sounds nicer, right? In any case, a pregnancy where the woman is over the age of 35 is considered high risk so there is a lot more monitoring that takes place, as I'll explain below.
Very early on in my pregnancy, I felt GREAT. Around 7 weeks, however, the nausea hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt AWFUL, pretty literally around the clock. All I wanted to do was wear stretchy pants, eat hangover food, and lie down. All the time. I never actually got sick, but I was nauseated constantly. Which is arguably worse than feeling the relief, however temporary, after vomiting. I also developed food aversions to random things, like certain mushrooms. (More on cravings and aversions in my next post.) The nausea lasted, I would say, until I was 14 weeks, and then it just kind of stopped. I'm sure others out there can relate to this: losing the nausea made me nervous. Like something was wrong. It was a weird sensation to grow attached to and comforted by an awful physical feeling. When you're that early into your pregnancy, those symptoms are usually all you have to cling to! And I sure did cling. Part of why I was so nervous about my pregnancy was my age. I was halfway through my 39th year, and I had done enough Googling to know that geriatric pregnancies come with risks, like the increased chance of miscarriage. I was healthy in every other way, but I couldn't do anything about my age. So every little thing made me nervous, which is why I was so grateful for any terrible symptom. The nausea and the desperate need for sleep made me feel pregnant and reminded me everything was OK and going as it was supposed to . And I truly welcomed all of it.
The first ultrasound, which I had at 7 weeks 5 days, was surreal. There was a tiny, centimeter-long bean growing inside me and its heart was pumping super strong! What a relief! In addition to the nausea and the tiredness, I looked forward to every ultrasound. Again, it's all I really had confirming I was still pregnant, at least until I started feeling movement. I was in the thick of feeling terrible, but I was still really happy and excited about it all.
During my 11th week, they did a blood test to determine whether there were any chromosomal abnormalities, and they were able to determine the sex of the baby. The nurse mailed me a really cute scratch-off card that had the sex hidden on it. I gave the card to a friend and asked her to scratch off the card and order a powder-filled hockey puck with either pink or blue powder. My husband is a huge hockey fan, and we thought it would be a fun way to do the reveal. On a cold day in January, my husband slapped the puck on our driveway and we found out we were having a girl!!! So much excitement! I wouldn't have cared either way, honestly, but I got really hopeful for a girl right before he slapped the puck. :) We were excited to find out our baby's sex and that she had no detectable abnormalities. I also confirmed with my doctor that we could start telling people. We decided to tell a few close friends and family, but we were going to hold off on telling everyone else until 20 weeks. It was starting to get real!
Oddly enough, during my 14th week, my nausea just ended. I was nervous, as I said, but it couldn't have ended at a better time because my busy season at work was about to start. I would not have made it if I would have had to pull late nights with the terrible nausea and exhaustion. During that second trimester, we also had our 20-week ultrasound, where they do all these measurements to see how she's growing. That was SURREAL. She was starting to look like a little human! Around 20 weeks is also when I started to feel real movement, not just the flutters. I loved and longed for every single movement my girl made. I loved the kicks, but she was more of a tumbler. It felt like she was doing gymnastics in my belly. Yet again, I had another thing to be grateful for--something else that reminded me on a daily basis that I was still pregnant. Through her movements, we were able to determine that she loves music! Every time we went to a concert or I played classical music through headphones around my belly, she would move. To this day, music still excites her.
High risk pregnancies come in different forms. When you have a high risk pregnancy, they have you do ultrasounds every week in the third trimester. I'm sure many people would decline those for many reasons, but I didn't mind them. I got to see my baby every week! They also had me doing these non stress tests every week, where I'd sit in a recliner for a while and they'd monitor her heart rate/movements and my uterus (in case I was having contractions). I didn't mind it at all. It made me feel good to know my girl was doing well.
All in all, I had an amazing pregnancy, and my experience was pretty typical of any other pregnancy. With the exception of a lot of grilled (vegan) cheese sandwiches in the early going, I ate really well and kept myself really active. I realize I'm fortunate and it doesn't go so easily for all women. I loved being pregnant the entire time, even though I was moving like a slug by the end.
By the way, if you're curious which prenatal vitamins I took, I took these for most of my pregnancy and still take them. I took these for a while when Amazon ran out of the Deva ones. But I took an iron supplement in addition to the MyKind Organics ones because they don't contain iron.
Read my next post to find out what kind of cravings and aversions I had. Let me tell you: my cravings were mild but aversions are REAL. Things you once loved can become revolting. Those darn hormones!