Pregnant at 40: The very honest diary of a UAE mum-to-be

Yvonne Kerr explores the trials and tribulations of an expat navigating her first pregnancy in the UAE, complete with mood swings, morning sickness and muddled hormones

Irish expat Yvonne Kerr, who is pregnant with her second child, with her husband and son 
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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°C – that's officially a fever. Dizziness and lightheadedness plague me, while the mere act of walking up stairs 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, having so far been particularly grim, dashed any foolish notions I harboured about 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 is only one baby.

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 40 laps of the sun, my weary body is wreaking its revenge because I have long since passed the optimum age for carrying children. Or, having moved to the UAE only six months ago from Ireland, where the temperature is currently hovering between 3°C and 8°C, my pasty white frame is still struggling to adjust to its desiccated desert surroundings.

Like a fish out of water, I have been flapping back and forth, and up and down in 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 me, 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, with desert and baby doubling as drill sergeants.

The set-up would be less trying if we didn't also have a two-year-old who forbids me from ever having 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?" He raises both palms to the sky, ­suggesting he needs more proof and then, as if to confirm his scepticism, 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 fibre 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 knew already 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.

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 – I’m looking at you oestrogen and progesterone – and so I do try to temper my outbursts this time around. My husband would probably disagree.

Other side effects of the first tri are bloating and gas (again, sorry husband) and waking up to a throbbing headache that complements my tiredness and morning sickness (which lasts all day). Even with the pumping temples and nausea, I crave fatty, salty carbs for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 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 immediately, OK?"

As I edge into my second trimester, the arrival of a visible bump lends me a concrete slab of evidence that I can at least thrust about by way of a silent excuse for the above misdemeanours. Happily, the hormone surges are levelling off too, so I am less psychotic and resemble the sane woman, wife and mother I was not that long ago.

Here’s hoping that we three can make it to August intact to welcome number four.