Back in my TTC days, (that’s “trying to conceive,” for those of you who may not frequent fertility message boards) I was acutely tuned into my signs of fertility, my menstrual cycle, and particularly any potential early signs of pregnancy. I’m sure I’m not the only person who experienced this heightened level of awareness brought on by a desire to become pregnant, but I always envied those Type B conceivers- you know, those people who said things like, “We’re not trying to get pregnant, but we’re not not trying!” Those laid-back, well-adjusted bastards.
Anyway. I am no longer trying to conceive, but it seems that old habits die hard. Even though I am relatively certain that every 28 days, good old Aunt Flo will be arriving on my doorstep with her shitty mood and suitcase full of junk food, I still manage to convince myself that I simply must be pregnant.
Have you ever noticed how similar the early signs of pregnancy are to garden variety PMS? What a joke, especially for those optimistic fertility enthusiasts! Sore breasts? You’re definitely pregnant! Or, you’re about to get your period. You know- one of the two. Back in my days of daily temperature monitoring, I could never tell if my tender boobs were from an actual pregnancy or from me squeezing them every 45 seconds in an effort to determine if they were sore. The old “chicken-or-the-egg” conundrum: pregnancy symptom edition. (Do I keep fondling my boobs because they are sore, or are they sore because I keep touching them?)
It is hard not to fall victim to the pregnancy symptom mirage when you are the type of person who has been religiously monitoring her fertility signs, as I had been doing with each of my pregnancies. I could read my cervix like a psychic reads tea leaves. How could I not notice all these subtle changes happening within my body? Or was it wishful thinking? At any rate, I was certain that when I was no longer trying to get pregnant, I would stop being so preoccupied with potential “early symptoms”. I was wrong.
Here are some of the most vexing “symptoms” that I become aware of on a monthly basis:
1. Nausea. As it turns out, I am vaguely nauseous and slightly hungry a majority of the time. I have forced myself to pay more attention to this condition, and it seems to happen regularly with no rhyme or reason, and during times at which it is physically impossible for me to be pregnant. Maybe I need to have a good colon cleanse or something. Or go gluten-free. Or (shudder) lay off the coffee.
2. Fatigue. Hello? I have two kids, both of whom have the irritating tendency to wake up at dawn. Of course I’m tired. Next!
3. Food/Smell Aversions. I have decided I can attribute this “symptom” to my bothersome and irrational paranoia of food spoilage. Sure, I’ve had food poisoning a few times, but there really is no logical explanation for why I am so vigilant about expiration dates, produce that is disturbingly “flaccid,” and dairy products that smell a bit “off.”
4. Food Cravings. I’m certain that the cause of this condition is my unconscious desire to continue to indulge my thrice weekly post-bedtime cookie ritual.
5. Mood Swings. Let’s get real- I am always looking for a reasonable explanation for my emotional reactivity, irritability, and weepiness. Pregnancy is just a convenient excuse. (I must be pregnant, or why would I be crying about this horse wearing a jacket? Because you have PMS, idiot.)
Does anyone else suffer from this monthly lapse of judgment? Surely I am not the only woman who manufactures pregnancy symptoms even when she is trying not to get pregnant! Perhaps I am doomed until I hit menopause, at which point I will finally stop experiencing these phantom signs of pregnancy. But I fear that even years after my uterus gives up its monthly foray into crying-over-commercials hell, I will still convince myself that those hunger pangs are really morning sickness.