RPGaDay is over for another year, which means back to normal for this blog. I've got a few thoughts on things I read that I want to write about, particularly the idea that players should be fans of each other's characters (a piece of advice I'm very in favour of and shall endeavour to bring into practice moving forward). Inspired by this and Mark Knight's story about another player's character in one of his games, I also want to get back to writing about the other characters in games I'm in, or maybe will try to encourage my friends to write something for me - or both!
During August, I read an OSR piece because I don't know the difference between OSR and not-OSR and was hoping to learn, and what I learnt was that the biggest difference is that in OSR there's a subset of people who don't care that about sexism/racism/homophobia etc in gaming because it doesn't affect them, and who don't think that it matters that they don't care because gamers are nearly all middle-aged white men like they are - and who will be rude and shout down anyone who disagrees with them or even just tries raising a banner to say "I exist". Sigh. Not something I wanted to write about at the time because I wanted to focus on the positive side of gaming, but it is an issue that does need to be addressed.
Of course, the biggest thing on my mind is my pregnancy (it's one of the reasons why I feel the above issue is important.) It's going well - we're at 25 weeks, which means the foetus is considered viable and were I to go into labour they'd attempt to save the baby, which is reassuring. Foetal anomoly scan at 20 weeks revealed nothing of concern, so I'm still on course for a homebirth. Yay!
Something I've been meaning to do for a while is write about pregnancy in a bit more detail, either as a reference for GM's/players who want a pregnant character in their game, or for another pregnant person to stumble across to go "I'm not alone!" I'll have a go at the former another time, maybe, though I'm sure there's stuff here that might be interesting.
So, disclaimers first:
- Every pregnancy is different. This is my experience of this pregnancy and may not reflect your experience at all, and that's ok!
- I am not a medical professional, practioner or trainee. If you have any concerns, speak to a midwife, nurse or GP. One thing I have experienced is that, in my local area at least, they really do want to hear from you if you have any issues, or even are just having a bad day
You hear stories about people who don't know they're pregnant until they give birth. If I didn't know people who'd had fairly symptomless pregnancies, or who didn't find out they were pregnant until late (7 months, in one case), I'd have joined the chorus of surprise and disbelief, but it looks as though this is actually more common than one might think. I had the opposite experience, with sufficient symptoms to suspect before implantation!
Things I Wish I'd Known
There's a lot of symptoms and side effects of pregnancy that suck, and I wish I'd been warned of a few beforehand:
- constipation and diarrhea
- insomnia despite being very, very tired (like being a teenager again!)
- pain in abdomen is normal, even early on - but get it checked out if you're at all worried
- people will judge you if you tell people early in the pregnancy (I did because I know miscarriage is very common and figured it would be easier to explain why I was in whatever state that would put me into should it happen to me if the people I was explaining to already knew I was pregnant - but people were very judgemental, especially older women and men of all ages. Not everyone, of course, but enough I stopped sharing and felt miserable about it)
- babies move less when it's hot (but if you're concerned, phone a midwife)
- baby movements are creepy and gross. I was thrilled when I started feeling them, but they quickly became creepy, gross and uncomfortable. After a slow down thanks to the heatwave, I find them reassuring and enjoy them again, but I really wasn't for a while
- you're still tired in the second trimester. The pregnancy apps in particular will tell you all about how there's a sudden boost in energy when the second trimester starts, making it sound like more energy than you had pre-pregnancy. That may be the case for some people, but for me and everyone I've spoken to about it, it's been more like being slightly less exhausted than the adjacent trimesters
- body temperature rises. Until my body learnt how to regulate the new temperature, I felt I was trapped next to a furnace!
- headaches. Just constant headaches
- the first trimester is kinda like a 3 month long hangover
Things I'm Glad I Was Warned About
- first symptom: an outward pressure in the abdomen, which I'd have dismissed as IBS if I hadn't had a friend mention it
- super realistic dreams and nightmares associated with the pregnancy, birth and parenthood are normal. This would have really freaked me out if I hadn't known. The nastiest dream so far involved giving birth to a baby missing its skull and the bones in its right leg; the most amusing that I actually had triplets and one of them had travelled out of the womb and settled in my thigh - and no one was worried; the most recent was a normal labour and a healthy baby boy. I'm not having them frequently (yet) and not everyone has them, but it is common and doesn't mean anything is wrong with you or the baby
- round ligament pain. When this started, I was pretty sure I knew what was wrong but if I hadn't heard of it I'd have been terrified - and as it was, Husbit was concerned. Basically, terrible pain whenever I got out of bed. Checked with the midwife and she confirmed what it was, and the pain hasn't felt as bad since: a little reassurance can go a long way
- pelvic girdle pain. One of my circus friends had a baby last year, and like me is hypermobile. She had PGP and warned me: 1 in 5 women will experience this, and it's more common in hypermobile people. The Flying Through Pregnancy book from Spin City that talks about how to do aerial safely while pregnant also warns of this. I'd had hip problems since early in the pregnancy, as I'd started sleeping on my side early to get used to it and found my upper hip trying to dislocate and the muscle around my lower hip becoming very sore (careful squats have helped with both issues, and a pregnancy pillow has made a huge difference to the subluxating feeling), but in the past week I've started to get pain in my perineal area and the front of my pelvis when I transition between sitting and standing, or when I roll over in bed, or if I turn awkwardly when walking. It varies from a mild thrum to very painful. Midwife has given me a form to refer myself for physio, so hoping that will help
- patches of darker skin. The linea negra is a line that can appear from belly button to pubic area and dark patches can appear on your face (a "mask of pregnancy"). I've not had these, but have developed freckles and dark patches on my breasts, which are unpleasant to look at and made me worry about breast cancer until I remembered my work colleague's face. A quick internet search later, and I felt fine (favourite comment from someone else with the same: "It's like my nipple is trying to grow as much areola as possible"). Will almost certainly go away after pregnancy
- baby movements become visible. I really enjoy this - when I heard about it happening to other people, I thought it sounded cool, but around when the movements were creeping me out I got worried that this would be even creepier. My mood was really low the day I first saw movement, which may be why I haven't found it creepy at any point: it cheered me up and I've enjoyed it ever since, but I suspect if I hadn't known it was a thing I'd have freaked out
- bump size and shape is really variable (that said, a neat bump is a sign of strong abdominal muscles, which will lead to an easier labour)
- pelvic floor exercises are important! I've not had any associated issues as yet, but if I do I'll be ok because I know it's normal
- perineum massage reduces tearing. I'm very glad to have known this before I received the information sheet explaining how to do perineum massage, because even forewarned it's freaked me out a little!
Things That Weren't The Way I Expected
- I knew morning sickness wasn't just the morning, but (like 50% of pregnant people) I found it was predominantly nausea with only very occasional vomiting - and the nausea was more disruptive than the vomiting. Also, my nausea started and ended earlier than average, and I didn't know that it was normal to still occasionally vomit in the second trimester
- hypersensitivity to smell was much more powerful than I expected: Husbit finally appreciated how sensitive I'd become when I walked into the kitchen saying "ooh, tarragon, yummy", smelling the herb as strongly as if he was holding it under my nose, when less than a teaspoon had gone into the dinner and he couldn't smell it at all, even knowing it was there
- I didn't go off spicy food in the first trimester - in fact, I wanted more of it! Now, I have a preference for sharp foods, like lemon sorbet and sour sweets. This is apparently more normal than the spicy food thing
- I've been much, much calmer than I expected
- sex drive skyrocketed in the first few weeks, then plummetted. I knew both of these things were possible, but the height was so much higher than I expected, and when it dropped I found I still enjoyed sex, I just didn't want to start it
- breast changes - they grew much faster than I expected, and that was very painful. They were also crazy sensitive and tingled all over
- hair growth is not limited to head hair. Not sure why I didn't think this through, but it's kinda obvious... Armpit hair, leg hair, random hairs on random body parts...
- no food cravings. I've changed the times of day I'm hungry and the types of food I want to eat, but not had any strong or strange cravings. I have had whole days where I haven't wanted to eat; my little sister had the same first time round
- the first scan was as magical as I'd been told, making it more magical than I expected. The second wasn't: maybe my expectations were higher, or maybe my head was just in a different place. It was cool, but didn't impact me the same way
- Braxton Hicks contractions start way earlier than I thought! Week 6, though I didn't feel any until a couple of weeks ago, and have only had them maybe twice
- thirsty all the time
- not allowed more than 200mg of caffeine per day - was expecting it to be hard, but went off the taste and even the smell of coffee during the first trimester. That lifted with the start of the second trimester and now I am finding it harder, some days, but still not as bad as I thought
- I need to ask for help with things I used to find easy because I tire out quickly
- I can still do aerial, fairly comfortably. I'm obviously taking it very gently and not doing anything that feels risky, and reading up as much as I can on what's safe, but I'm still feeling good to teach and practice. One midwife was very excited about this as a hobby, too, which I didn't expect
- used to be, when I was out and about and saw pregnant people or people with young children, I'd feel painful envy. Now, I get given a little secret smile as though I've been initiated into a private, hidden club
Things People Have Said That Are Annoying
- "Think you're tired now? That's the next 18 years!" - I have a history of insomnia and fatigue, so this is already something I worry about if I let myself. Being reminded of it is not helpful - and kinda patronising, because I already know and it ignores my experience
- "Don't google anything; it'll just scare you" - my experience with internet searches and pregnancy symptoms has been very reassuring. I often tag "NHS" to the end of a search to get factsheets, but even places like Mum's Net are reassuring rather than fearmongering. Even when you have symptoms that need checking out, the advice to do so is given calmly and in a supportive manner
- "Is it pink or blue?" - it's a person, not a colour
- (I know other people have found comments on their bump size annoying, but they don't bother me so much. Ditto pregnancy/labour horror stories: I have always found these weirdly reassuring)
Things People Have Said That Are Helpful
- "It's ok to hate pregnancy" - I couldn't imagine it at the time I was told this, but a week later I was very grateful
- "There's so many weird pregnancy symptoms, it would be even weirder if you didn't have anything weird" - from my sister (a trained nurse and then pregnant with her second child) in response to my worry about rib pain very early on
- "Relaxed parents have relaxed babies" - might not help another, but for me it helps me stay in control whenever I start to worry
- "Listen to your body"/"Trust your instincts" - for pregnancy and child-raising
- "If you're worried, talk to a midwife" - having phoned once for reduced movement, I understand that they really would rather you bother them over nothing than sit and stew. Talking about emotional issues at my last check up, my midwife informed me I should phone in if I'm feeling down again, because they'd much rather talk to me than not know
- "It's ok to want one gender more than the other" - I want a daughter, really, but have been afraid to admit it for fear of judgement (and because I've heard that transgender people are quizzed on whether their parents had a gender preference so I've worried if I have a son who turns out to be a daughter and it's known I wanted a daughter, they could end up being denied the ability to transition because it's assumed I've pressured them into it). Being told it was ok to have a preference enabled me to face up to it and accept it, and now I don't mind (most of the time)
- "Your partner might not feel any connection to/interest in the baby until after the first/second scan/it's arrived" - his almost indifference to the child (although he's taking care of me) would be upsetting if other friends of mine hadn't recently had children and gone through the same, with the other parent now being as involved with the baby as the mother
Things That Are Great
- IBS, fibromyalgia, asthma and eczema symptoms went away completely for the first trimester and are still muted now (which means less pain, less fatigue, and ability to eat loads of things I couldn't before)
- wriggly baby! Responds to cold drinks, sugary/caffeinated drinks, Hanson and Green Day, and sometimes will poke back if I poke an area
- can ask for a glass of water in shops or other places when I'm out and about. The fact I have a prominent bump makes it hard for people to deny me!
- mum voice is starting to develop. Finding it a lot easier to stand my ground and tell people off...
There's loads more, I've no doubt, but this is already long and it'll do for now. Sorry if there's any repeats or anything obvious missed - I've written and re-written and haven't proofread because it's taken longer than I intended and I'm about to go out.