The completely unexpected way my life changed when I got pregnant

I was expecting tears, weight gain and unsolicited advice, not this

By Emma Chong Johnston | Published: 12 May 2017

Pregnancy changed me
Photo: ELLE Malaysia

The biggest thing I did not expect when I became pregnant was my sudden, pressing need to buy... nothing.

If you know me even a little bit, you know that I delight in buying things. I buy clothes and shoes with more regularity and enthusiasm than food; I can generally be relied upon to maintain a bank balance of just below RM200, from one day after pay day until the next. When I became pregnant at the beginning of the year, my first thought was: all the new clothes I needed to buy. The few friends I told early on immediately said, "Man, you're gonna buy a lot of shit." Maternity clothes, baby clothes, baby toys, organic skincare, handwoven baby blankets: there's a world of things to buy out there if you're as dedicated a shopper as I am.

But two things happened in quick succession after I peed on a stick and discovered the news. First thing: I hit a lifetime energy low. I woke up tired, trudged through the day tired, and retired to my bed by 8pm feeling like I'd been dragged backwards through a hedge by a schizophrenic horse. It was unpleasant. The exhaustion lasted a week, and then faded into a low-level fatigue that dogged me persistently through the day so that every decision took that much more effort. Deciding where to go for lunch? That was a crucial decision. New clothes that I neither needed nor had any anticipation of enjoying? Not worth thinking about.

So that was the second thing: pregnancy killed my desire to shop. I walked into Zara after work one day and felt nothing, except a burning desire to get out of the crowd and back to my lovely sofa. And when I did feel a twinge of shopping instinct, it was flooded out by the reminder of other, more pressing financial needs: daycare, school fees, university fund. Nappy fund. Renovation to turn my dressing room into a baby room (I cry).

In my pre-pregnancy years, this was the phenomenon that most puzzled me. When pressed at Chinese New Year (or any family gathering, really) for when my husband and I were planning to have children, my most common response was: "When we have money!" And every single person said back to me, in some variation or other: "Aiyah when you have children, the money will come lah."

This made zero sense to me. Surely the opposite would occur; the more children, the more you spend. But when I prodded further, an older cousin of mine explained it thus: "It's not that you'll have more money. You'll just stop spending on unnecessary things. Like... that," waving at the limited-edition Sereni & Shentel hairband sitting atop my head. I nodded, unconvinced, filed it away in my mind under 'Things to return to', and went back to my dinner.

But she was right. My mother was right. All my aunties were right. Now that I have someone other than myself to think about, a lot of my daily decisions ("Discount code? MUST UTILISE IMMEDIATELY") seem slightly nonsensical. I still love clothes, and now that my first trimester exhaustion seems to be gone, I can even go into a Zara without wanting curl into the foetal position and stay there until everyone has left. But it's helpful to be literally carrying a reminder with me that shopping is not always the answer, and that contrary to what the retail industry wants you to think, you can live another day without a new pair of ballet flats. Besides, I'm waiting until I've given birth and my shoe size has stabilised before I buy another pair of shoes. #sensiblemumdecision


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