Now that I’m over the halfway mark in my pregnancy and things are going a bit better than they were in the beginning, I thought it might be a good time to write a “wrap-up” of sorts about my early pregnancy experience this time around.
(Again, I feel the need to add the disclaimer that I promise pregnancy posts won’t totally take over my blog. Feel free to skip this post if it’s not your bag. I will be sure to mix up my post topics often!)
I think it’s ironic that most women are either expected, or expect themselves, to keep their pregnancies a secret the entire first three months, when the first trimester is easily the scariest, most symptomatic, and most eventful trimester of all. I think this expectation is going away to some degree – and probably a lot of the credit is due to social media and our culture’s general shift toward openness. I opted to go with tradition and keep the news to myself where the general public was concerned, but tell the people who are actually in my life right away. This is how I approached things when I was pregnant with Baby I, too, and it was definitely the right decision for me. While the general public was oblivious to what was going on inside, here are some of the things I was thinking and feeling during my first trimester or so:
Anxiety just comes with the territory for almost everyone I talk to who is in her first trimester. Early pregnancy is very delicate. Thanks to more advanced home pregnancy tests and sensitive blood tests at the doctor’s office, most women find out about being pregnant much, much earlier than our mothers found out they were pregnant with us. This is a good thing because it allows us to start prenatal care early, but it’s a bad thing because as many as 1/3 of pregnancies end in miscarriage – most often in the first couple of months, when just a couple of decades ago, many women might not have been aware they were pregnant, or at least would have yet to confirm a pregnancy with a doctor. Those odds aren’t great, so the fear that you’ll be one of the unlucky 1/3 can be overwhelming at times. Add to that general moodiness and the fact that, for many women, no one around them knows what they’re going through, and you’ve got a recipe for misery.
For me, since I was also experiencing bleeding and spotting during this time, the anxiety was completely unbearable. I was so sure, so many times, that I had lost the baby. And the thing is, when you’re very early on, there’s not a thing doctors can do to stop that from happening – they can only try to make you as comfortable as possible if it does happen to you. I had to take my anxiety day by day for a few months, and it wasn’t easy at all.
Nausea is the most common first trimester pregnancy symptom (and I’m calling it nausea as opposed to “morning sickness,” which is a total misnomer. I know a lot of women who’ve been pregnant, and none of them were sick in the morning and fine in the afternoon reliably). It happened to me both times, and both times I would describe it as “moderate.” Everyone experiences this particular symptom differently, but I have some friends who just felt sick to their stomachs and never threw up, and others who threw up all day, every day for months (this is called hyperemisis gravidarum, and it’s a really serious condition). I was somewhere in between.
When I was sick with Baby I, it was the middle of the summer, and I genuinely think this is probably the worst time of the year to be sick like that. I had major food aversions – I couldn’t eat, look at, or even think about meat, beans or green veggies. I felt nauseated all day, every day, and there was one afternoon where I just began throwing up – and then I proceeded to continue throwing up all through the evening and most of the night. I always wondered if maybe that was an episode of food poisoning until my experience with this baby produced a similar puke-a-thon.
So with this baby, I was sick during the winter. Cold weather can actually help nausea, so there were a couple of times, especially at work, when I would feel really sick, but then step outside and actually get some relief. I also didn’t experience many food aversions this time, like I did with Baby I. However, I puked on various occasions other than my one day puke-a-thon, which is apparently just something that my pregnant body does. I even puked in a trash can at work! It was pretty miserable. The general feeling of a nasty/sour stomach also stuck around longer this time than it did with Baby I.
Oh, the pregnancy fatigue. It’s difficult to explain, but I’ve heard other women describe their experience in their first trimester as similar to having a three-month-long hangover. You feel sick, don’t want to eat, probably have a headache, and you’d just rather be in bed…all the time…for months. I guess that’s what it was like for me.
However, let me tell you – experiencing this symptom with a small child at home is 1,000% worse than experiencing it with only yourself to take care of. When I was pregnant with Baby I, I remember being tired at work, and then coming home, grabbing a quick sandwich or whatever I could stomach for dinner (and letting A do the same), and crashing on the couch for an hour or two every evening. It wasn’t easy, but it was definitely manageable.
Fast forward 4-ish years, and this pregnancy has been an entirely different story. Oh, I’d still get really tied at work (napping in the back of my SUV at lunchtime-level tired), but then at the end of the day, I had to pick up Baby I, commute home, and take care of her needs until A got home to relieve me. Sometimes I got in an evening nap, but not usually. It’s difficult to nap when an imaginative kiddo who really wants your attention is around. I also really want to spend time with her in the evenings, even when I’m not feeling entirely up to it, because I don’t get a lot of time with her during the week. Oh, yeah, and I also parent solo on Saturdays when A works, so no naps there, either. I was almost always in bed by 8:30, and consistently slept through my 6am alarm.
Everything you read about pregnancy encourages moms to keep exercising throughout. I think most moms have good intentions, but it is so, so difficult to keep an exercise program up when you’re tired and sick. Truly, with both pregnancies, I just didn’t feel like doing anything those first few months. This time, I was also instructed to keep activity to a minimum for awhile due to complications. While if you’re feeling up to it, good for you, most moms should take heart: the second trimester is coming, and so is more energy. There will be time for exercise later. I firmly believe moms in their first trimester should just take care of themselves as best they can, and if that means not exercising, well, then so be it.
So, I realize I’ve made the first trimester sound awful. Well, it kind of is. So there. But there is always the happy little fact that a baby is growing inside of you during this time. Can you believe that at the end of a woman’s first three months of pregnancy, all of the parts that make a fetus a human baby have developed and are in place? It’s true! The second and third trimesters are solely for baby to get big enough to come out. I think it’s so cool that our bodies can do this, even if the process is less than fun.
If you’ve had a baby before, how was your first trimester? Did you think it was the worst, or are you one of those mythical women who breezed through it?