Hurray!!!!! It’s finally over!! The first trimester, that is. I can finally let out a sigh of relief (and maybe even a self-congratulatory squeal) now that we have officially made it to the second trimester. In all honesty, while it has been incredibly busy (work has been crazy, we bought a house, etc.) the last 7 weeks have – for me – moved at a bit of a snail’s pace. I think this is because I just wanted to get to the “safe zone” (i.e. post-12 weeks). I tried to enjoy the time and relish in the first months of knowing I was going to be a mom, but at the same time … every day I thought at least once about miscarrying, and also found myself questioning if this could be real. Don’t get me wrong – I was also on cloud 9 and it wasn’t as if I was a ball of anxiety (more like a lump of lazy flesh). I was just looking forward to my 12 week ultrasound, as most women would, I imagine!
Ultimately, the purpose of this blog post is first and foremost to help me remember, years down the road, how everything unfolded, because I have been told by many a wise first-time moms that we are designed to forget all the unpleasant stuff (be it the pregnancy or the labour). And I (think) I kind of want to remember ALL of it (pleasant and unpleasant). Yes, this is probably one of my neurotic tendencies, which – if I psychoanalyze myself – is likely stemming out of fear: I am afraid of forgetting things, of memories fading away into the distance. Time just seems to go by so fast in life, and our minds – as magical as they are – aren’t infinite in their retention. I remember my dad telling me once that he remembers the day he could no longer precisely recall the sound of his mother’s voice after she had passed away; that is immensely difficult. Perhaps that is why he was so diligent about videotape and audiotape recordings of us as children, and photos as we got older. Nowadays we are even more fortunate, we have the luxury of taking videos/photos with ease and at no cost. The ability to blog and journal is similarly useful. So there you have it. Through writing and taking photos, my hope is that all of these important memories don’t fade away into oblivion but rather remain stowed away somewhere, even if it means they are buried in the basement of my brain.
Another reason I wanted to create a post on this topic is because I think it’s helpful for other first timers to see the breadth and variety of preggo symptoms and the trajectories that exist. Hopefully this information will help (or at least mildly entertain) someone, somewhere … and if not, at the very least I hope it will be useful as my personal journal, so I can look back in 30 years when my daughter (or son, if he is interested enough, haha) asks me what can be expected when expecting.
Week 4: In the early hours of May 6th (Tuesday) I had terrible insomnia and probably slept from 1130pm-3am. In that span of time, I got up to pee three times! I should also note that I had nose bleeds the two consecutive nights prior (and I am not a real nose-bleeder – in fact, I’d never had one until moving to Ottawa a few years ago and even then only had them a few times a year. Apparently with the increased blood flow you can experience bleeding from the nose, gums, etc. in early pregnancy. Delightful!) Anyways, in my zombie-like state I decided to have some coffee and do some paper work until 4am and then, something told me to take a HPT (home pregnancy test) – which I had plenty of, thanks to my mother in law, who had given me a bunch of free ones from her work after retiring. Low and behold, there was a faint, faint pink line! Of course, I took two within the hour because I just didn’t believe it (although we had been trying, it has been a long haul involving a few follow-ups and prescriptions). I then somehow managed to wait until 615am when Ryan woke up to share the news. I called the clinic right away and asked if I could come in for blood work, which I did that morning … and the positive (in more ways than one) results were ready that afternoon! It was the longest but most life-changing day I can remember. That weekend Ryan and I went on a pre-planned trip to Boston (and of course we had told my parents by Wednesday night via Skype and his parents on the Friday when we dropped Maggie off for her doggie sleep over). I loved Boston and remember drinking lots of soda and cranberry juice on patios, while Ryan indulged in ice cold wheat beer (grrrr …). I also remember experiencing extreme sensitivity to heat (feeling overheated/headachy), dizziness, shortness of breath – all out of the ordinary. I needed 3-hour siesta naps after the hours of walking (or sitting) in the heat … Which was fine – Ryan likes a good siesta as long as there are some sports highlights on the TV. It was a relaxing and wonderful way to celebrate the news.
Week 5: No major changes – lots of fatigue, felt bloated and that’s about it! I was lucky enough to have an ultrasound at about 5 weeks and things looked good (albeit indiscernible) … I was reassured that everything was “on track.”
Week 6: Same as above. Felt like a sloth, truly, in every sense of the word. It was like all I could do was eat, work, try not to fall asleep during the day (I had cut out caffeine and work was also really busy .. so this was a challenge!). I definitely wasn’t exercising or going for daily walks though I did go to one yoga class. Shortly after the yoga class (I don’t do yoga, so am totally new to this style of movement) I started having severe posterior sacro-iliac joint pain on my left side. It’s hard to describe but it is not lumbar or sciatic pain, it comes and goes and is precipitated by movement at the pelvis or waist (i.e. rolling in bed, getting up/down from couch, in/out of bed, bending forward and coming back up to straight). I would actually grimace in pain and sometimes couldn’t help but to make a whimpering noise because it was so sharp and severe. I don’t know if the onset of this symptom was related to the Relaxin hormone that’s floating around our bodies in pregnancy, which perhaps caused me to over-stretch a ligament (given I am not a yogi, I may have just done something wrong). I read that this pain normally happens later in pregnancy, so I really have no idea. In any case, it luckily only lasted a week and during that time I went to physio anyways (for my chronic ankle sprain and my TMJ issues) and learned some exercises to prevent the SI pain from worsening. I also got a lecture and lesson on kegals … Oh, the joy! I should note that while my jaw range of motion has been limited over the last year and I have sought treatment with not too much improvement, during pregnancy it has improved immensely and my physio told me this was because of the Relaxin hormone allowing more stretching and laxity in the tendons/ligaments … so I took advantage of this to do more traction exercises and push my jaw further. This has been a positive of pregnancy for sure.
Week 7: This was a special week because I had my second ultrasound and Ryan was able to come. We got to see the yolk sac and other goodies (again, though, nothing that was really identifiable to us!) … but to see the heart beat was pretty amazing. Things started to feel a little more real. This is also the week that my “morning sickness” started (i.e. feeling hungover/woozy/out of it at various times throughout the day). I also started to notice increased smell sensitivity, though not too severe, and some aversions. Specifically, I did not feel like eating the Double Chocolate Quest bars I would have normally devoured. I suddenly decided I wasn’t a fan of olives, and strangely enough, veggies/salad were not as enticing as they normally were to me. I was also not particularly in the mood for bbq’d or plain chicken (though it was fine with me in a curry, sandwich, or deep fried!) I would say the strongest aversion of all were the Double Chocolate quest bars (I still have 3 left in the box at 13.5 weeks and I would normally eat up to 2 a day if I had them in the house). All I wanted were starchy and carb-filled foods: Pasta, bread, potatoes, anything deep fried or doughy, and fruit. Seriously. I had to watch to make sure I got enough protein (I tried using greek yogurt in my smoothies, sneaking egg whites snuck into things, etc.) because I had stopped using protein powders given the chemicals in there and label indicating not to use when pregnant. I would honestly say that from Week 7 – 11 I ate more fast food sandwiches (almost daily), pasta (several times per week), pizza (at least one a week) and bread (multiple times a day) than I ever have in a consecutive period. And this is not because I used to refrain from eating carbs – it’s more that I didn’t really crave them to the same extent (ie. for every meal and snack). I used to crave things like chicken wings or avocados and eggs, in addition to carbs. I’ve decided that it can’t be true that our bodies crave what they need … because there is no way my body (or baby) needed to have Kraft Dinner and Oreo icecream or pizza multiple times or Tim Horton’s sandwiches 3 days in a row! I think it’s partially the fatigue at the root of the cravings and of course the hormones too; when I am tired (pregnant or not) I crave carbs. So be ready for that! Plus, when you are feeling a little nauseous the only thing that helps is eating continuously throughout the day (and the easiest things to digest are crackers, toast, simple carbs basically). Later in my first trimester, all I wanted in terms of protein were hamburgers (Ryan’s home-made ones), fried eggs, and pork (e.g. sausages). The chicken and fish were still not high up on my list.
Week 8 – 10: I continued to be lazy, sloth-like, and literally only managed to work/sleep/eat. I did not even take Maggie for walks because Ryan was doing everything as he was off work for 6 weeks in my first trimester (kind of a blessing looking back). In week 9 I started to send my parents weekly updates of my little fluctuating food-baby belly and a written update on construction paper (e.g. baby is the size of a grape, embryo is now a fetus, my symptoms/cravings are ___). It was something I wanted to do so they could feel a part of this, and it was also for me; having your loved ones across the country is really hard during such a special and pivotal time in your life (and theirs, as first time grandparents, uncles/aunts, etc.).
As the weeks progressed into double digits I noticed less frequent night-time peeing … maybe 1-2 times rather than 3 times. I had a few bad nights of insomnia. I was also noticeably bloated and could not fit into any of my pants/shorts so started wearing looser clothing, grumbling at everything in my closet, and caving in to buy consignment maternity clothing. Best decision EVER! It felt amazing – like a marriage of well-worn lulu lemons and the most comfortable pajamas, in the form of a high-waisted pant! Oh lord, sooo good. Non-preggo people would benefit from these for sure, especially after a Christmas dinner or wings and beer.
I remember at one point during this few week period feeling kind of down, and specifically – guilty. Like – what is wrong with me? Why can’t I just get up and do something? Especially after reading blogs or hearing other people talk about how they continued cross-fit or daily yoga throughout their pregnancy, or – heaven forbid – doing this while also managing the care of another child and working full-time. I kept thinking, yah, then there’s me; I feel lucky if I can put my clothes away at the end of the day and take a shower! At some point in the weeks that followed, I stopped beating myself up about having transitioned from functional human to sloth. Ryan also helped with that, by reminding me that I was “making a baby” and that this took energy. The one thing I would have changed in the first 11 weeks would have been to work a bit less than 170+ hours in a month and to go for some 10-15 minute walks … more for mood than anything else. Next time I guess!
Week 11: I was still very fatigued, maybe not quite as bad, and definitely felt less nauseas/woozy. However … the infamous indigestion and major bloating arrived in full force. That being said, I didn’t really do anything to help myself in this regard. If you didn’t already know, putting Frank’s hot sauce on practically everything and eating heavy foods doesn’t help mitigate or relieve indigestion. But it just tastes so damn good. I’ll admit it: I made my bed, and slept in it!
Week 12: This week I had my 12 week ultrasound with blood work and a visit to the OBGYN. Understandably, I felt so much more positive and also began really embracing that I was indeed pregnant. Seeing a little baby-like creature and hearing the heart-beat makes a huge difference; plus, you can tell people and finally provide a valid excuse for having bailed out on fun events! As cliche as it sounds, I have to say I really had no more morning sickness nearing the end of week 12! I was also going pee once a night closer to the morning rather than multiple times. The migraine headaches (near the end of the day, particularly if hot out or if I was tired) continued and nose bleeds also, a few times per week. The fatigue was definitely improving and I suddenly had the motivation to THINK about booking in a pilates class or a walk. This was a huge improvement. I had cancelled my GoodLife Gym membership as soon as I found out we were pregnant in part to save money and in part because I figured I would be doing more outdoor stuff. Hopefully in the next few months that vision will become a reality now that I am progressing back to resembling a somewhat functional human.
Week 13: I am writing this post nearing the end of my 13th week and I am definitely feeling better. I’m still a bit tired here and there, but it’s hard to say if it’s the lack of caffeine and/or Blues Fest music that keeps us up until 11pm (gasp, so late) during the weekdays, or the pregnancy itself. Another change is that I think I finally have a little bump (though it turns into what looks more like fat rolls when I sit down and I would bet that anyone who doesn’t know me would question if it’s just a food baby). I’ve also started to go for 30 minute walks every day and am trying to do 20 or so minutes of prenatal youtube videos or a yoga/pilates class at least a few times per week. I hope this trajectory continues!
A NOTE ON BABY BRAIN: I definitely felt less than sharp, particularly between weeks 4-11. I remember telling Ryan that he could clean our car (we only have one) between 2-3pm when we were at his parents, while I drove to Walmart to get groceries. … How would that work, exactly? And I would only realize the stupidity of what I’d said after a few second delay. Which made me look even more dense. I was also forgetting to put things into my phone (e.g. appointments, reminders), found myself misplacing items, and having major difficulty multitasking. That’s all gotten reasonably better in the start of the second trimester, but I wouldn’t say I’m back to my pre-pregnancy cognitive functioning by any means!
A NOTE ON “PREGNANCY GLOW”: Not going to lie, I didn’t have it (at least not in the first trimester). My hair was not more lustrous (in fact it seemed more dry and brittle), and it continued to fall out/shed at a normal if not more rapid rate (even though I’ve read that pregnancy makes women’s hair thicker because it doesn’t shed as much). I looked really pale (too much time hiding from the heat and the world at large I presume) and had dark under-eye circles most of the time. Also, because I didn’t really have the energy or motivation to do much of anything, let alone deal with the annoyance of finding clothing in my closet that didn’t muffin-top or sausage-case me, I pretty much had my hair up (and was lucky if I washed it every few days) and the same few bag-lady outfits on repeat … OK I am maybe exagerrating a little bit … but only slightly! So if “pregnancy glow” means “on-the-verge of getting sick and super tired” then that’s about right in terms of my experience. I actually had a client of mine, whom I have known since 2011, ask me how I “was doing” and tell me I looked “really tired”- Yikes! Never a good sign, particularly when you are working with people who have experienced significant trauma and years of persistent pain (i.e. they shouldn’t be asking me how I am doing). So while you may be one of the lucky ones who prances around with a heavenly glow and shiny locks, I have to say I just looked tired and bloated. Now that the second trimester has started, I am starting to look a little brighter though I am now facing breakouts on my forehead. Thank you hormones! That said, it could just be the humidity in Ottawa. Who knows. I don’t really care … as long as I eventually birth a healthy boy or girl (preferably one of the two), it’s all good and well worth it.
Looking forward to the next 3 months and I will update once I have successfully journeyed into the third trimester. By that time we will also have moved into our house and I will have visited my family back in Vancouver, so there should be lots to celebrate!