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Hapūtanga: rolling with it

Last year, I wrote an editorial to acknowledge Fertility Awareness Week – and shared some of my own experiences with infertility, which my husband and I were struggling with at the time.

And so, fortunes can change. In August, we will be welcoming our first baby.

I took a pregnancy test on Christmas Eve, determined not to get my hopes up. Two minutes later, two pink lines, growing darker by the second. Hubs dashed out to grab another brand, just in case. Next up, a blue cross. And another, even bolder one the next morning.

I don’t like the word “miracle”. Although, with the odds stacked against us, those tiny pink and blue dashes seemed otherworldly. I guess Christmas is as good a time as any for otherworldly phenomena.

As I write this, I’m almost five months along. So far, hapūtanga [pregnancy] has been … well, not what I expected. Many symptoms have been fairly by-the-numbers. Others more befuddling.

For some women, for example, morning sickness can start later in the piece. I am “some women” – I got through almost the entire first trimester with barely any nausea, then spent all of Waitangi weekend [about 10 weeks along] camped out over the toilet. Twenty weeks in, the bathroom breaks keep coming.

Anything can trigger that queasy feeling – like citrus fruit. Chopping garlic. A sheep truck going past. Kissing my husband after he’s had a kebab. Apologies to himself – several times, he’s taken over dinner duties when the smell of mince cooking gets overpowering. I’m loathe to complain too much … but it’s a special kind of evil.

There have been other, slightly more bearable surprises. Pregnancy makes you feel hot – temperature-wise, due to increased blood flow to the skin. More apologies to hubby, and also to the cat, who were repeatedly booted to the spare room over summer.

Also, they don’t warn you about the eye strain and blurry vision – mainly down to hormonal changes. Screentime doesn’t help. Not conducive to typing this column – or to my identity as a phone-addicted elder millennial.

What I did receive plenty of warning about were the pregnancy emotions. It’s true – cute kittens appear on TV; cue the waterworks. The other day, I was listening to one of my favourite indie folk tunes – and was reduced to a puddle by how damn beautiful it sounded.

I was also warned about the potential flood of unsolicited advice – but I’ve found people are more curious than anything else. I get a lot of questions about cravings. On nausea-free days, someone will mention a particular food, and my body starts screaming for it. My best friend texted about shopping for crumpets – every fibre of my being wanted a crumpet, preferably with marmite and cheese. We went to all three supermarkets in Masterton – no crumpets.

Last week, I walked past my colleague, who had a chocolate muffin on her desk. It took a worryingly large amount of willpower not to snatch it from under her nose. To my co-workers reading this: Guard your snacks with your life.

On a positive note, as tough as pregnancy is on the body, the hormones do wonders for your hair. There’s no “pregnancy glow” on me, but my hair is glossier than a 90s shampoo advert. Move over, Rachel.

There’s been ups and downs. But I’m well aware of how fortunate we are. Given everything we went through to get here, this journey has been, in a word, surreal. To those still battling in the infertility trenches – I hope you get to experience the same confounding, beautiful surreality for yourselves. Hopefully with fewer bathroom breaks.

Time for a chocolate muffin, I think. Baby wants it.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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