The First Trimester: What I Didn’t Expect

After witnessing the pregnancies of my friends, sisters-in-law, cousins, and clients, I assumed I had an idea of what I was getting into. In reality, I had no idea.

I guess that no one really, truly, knows what to expect when you are expecting until you actually go through it. But, it continues to amaze me how much other women don’t actually tell you until you are going through it. I’m sure part of that has to do with not wanting to overwhelm every casual conversation with the detailed minutia of their pregnancy… I know how that feels. I could talk about my pregnancy all day long, but the truth is, most people get tried of listening. I mean, I’m pretty sure they really don’t care about what colors I’m picking for the nursery and how only my fat-day jeans fit (with a hair tie) at this point, but they just smile and nod as a courtesy.  On the other hand, maybe women don’t share the nitty-gritty with their non-prego friends because they don’t want to scare you off. True story: pregnancy is not always easy. And if it’s your first time around, you will probably learn new things every day. Here’s what I’ve learned from the first tri – and what has surprised me the most – about my experience.

1)     Tired doesn’t begin to explain it.

Yeah that’s right. You are tired. I mean exhausted. ALL THE TIME. And that still feels like an understatement. The best way I could think of to describe it was to imagine the worst hangover you’ve ever had, minus another night or two of sleep.  It’s the kind of tired that made me want to cry, for no reason. Add that to your raging hormones and sometimes you actually do cry, for no reason.

I’m the kind of girl who can’t stop moving. I hate sitting still, unless I am getting my hair done or enjoying a good dinner. Even when I watch TV I’m multi-tasking, getting other things done. As a dancer, athlete, and fitness instructor, movement is my lifeline. But in the first trimester, I would get winded climbing a flight of stairs. I would have moments of feeling like I couldn’t physically move to get off the couch and go to bed. I would feel like my muscles wanted to give out after 10 minutes of working out, moderately.

In all fairness, this level of exhaustion might be attributed to the fact that I didn’t slow down as much as I could have or should have. I’ll never forget one asshole’s unsolicited commentary at a concert one night…I had rested all day in preparation for our date night, and saved my one cup of coffee for just before. Tickets had been bought long before we knew I would be pregnant, and I wasn’t going to miss this show. My lovely husband was so understanding of how hard it was for me to actually get myself out that late at night (considering I had been collapsing in a heap on the couch at the end of every work day), and his encouragement and support gave me a much needed boost of energy. About midway through the night, I went to the bathroom, feeling so proud of myself and grateful I was actually out and about. Even still my exhaustion must have been written across my forehead. At that moment some jerk, who was clearly out of his mind, pushes past me, eyes me, and says out loud, mockingly, “Wow why don’t you try having a little fun?” Oh what I wouldn’t give to go back in time to that moment. I would say something like “Why don’t YOU try building a nervous system, you jackass.” Sadly, my shock and exhaustion prevented me from saying much of anything before he stumbled off.

It’s true. Tired doesn’t begin to explain it.

2)     I’ll take my tired with a side of guilt, please.

Oh, the guilt I felt. About so many things. First, about being tired. Yeah, I know, ridiculous. But here’s the thing. I have always, always wanted to be a mom. And I am blessed enough to say that we are in a pretty perfect place in our life to become parents. And, it turns out we didn’t have to try that hard to make it happen. We pulled the goalie, and sure enough, the game-winning goal was scored right away. So many of my friends and family have not been that lucky. I thought I would feel nothing but joy and elation upon reading that positive pregnancy test. Not so. When you are so tired that you feel like 10% of yourself, and you want to vomit to boot, it’s hard to feel elated about anything. Rationally, I was happy. But emotionally and physically, I was drained, and as I mentioned, just wanted to cry. Try to explain that to a good friend who’s been trying to get pregnant for 2 years. It’s awful. Feeling so yucky you have a hard time being thrilled: 1st guilty charge.

And then there was the guilt about slowing down. I live in Colorado, where it’s not uncommon to see pregnant triathletes running miles at a time, or women with a bump skiing moguls.  And, I work in an industry surrounded by uber-motivators who, by job description, are required to get you off your ass. Yet there I was, unable to get out of bed for my morning workouts. I was stressing. I mean, really.  I felt so guilty that I couldn’t continue the same level and frequency of my workouts. I was fit and strong, and my doctor said I could continue almost everything I’d been doing, just decrease the intensity. So I tried. And I tried really hard – one day I forced myself to do and hour + of intervals including functional strength, jump roping at high speeds, and core work – a normal pre-prego workout for me. Sure enough the next day my body let me have it. I started bleeding… and, I freaked out. My body had been telling me to slow down.  Clearly I wasn’t listening, and a wake up call was needed. While the guilt still sneaks its way into my mind, I have now realized – I’m not just being a lazy slacker. My body is legitimately telling me to chill.

3)     My first MOM characteristic – major worry

The first trimester is a funny thing. You take a test, find out you are pregnant, and if you are like me, you wanted to tell everyone right away. I was so excited, I couldn’t keep it a secret – it was only my husband’s reluctance that kept me from telling everyone from our grandparents to the mailman and next door neighbors. Then at about 9-10 weeks, after the first doctor’s appointment, when the excitement wasn’t as fresh, worry started to seep into the crevices of my mind. I couldn’t yet feel the baby, and I didn’t look pregnant, so my mind started playing tricks on me. I would find myself wondering if the baby was still in there, if that heartbeat was still beating. There’s nothing that gave me any reason to believe otherwise, other than the spotting I had once in awhile; I mean, I was still bloated, I was still tired, I was still nauseous. But it didn’t make a difference. I was worried. And the worry was a constant nagging in the back of my head until my next doctor’s appointment, when that little heartbeat would yet again put my mind at ease. Then, again, two weeks after the appointment the worry would creep in again….. the cycle continued throughout the entire first trimester.

4)     Nothing says pregnancy like a crazy trip to dreamland.

Almost immediately, my dreams took a turn towards crazy land, and never came back. They became so vivid, so memorable, so LONG, and so detailed that often times the only thing that would bring me back down to reality was my raging urge to get up and pee. Most of the time, the dreams were silly and entertaining. In one episode, Tom and I received a yacht as a baby shower gift (yes, please!). A few times I wondered if they were prophetic – very early on I dreamt that we had a son, and named him Keane… which wasn’t even a name I had heard before.  Sometimes, the dreams were completely absurd: for instance, a dream in which I discovered my husband had slept with 150 prostitutes during his college days. Other times they were downright terrifying. There was one instance where I woke up panicked after dreaming there was a strange, drunk, bruised and bleeding man banging on our back door. There was another nightmare involving someone I love, which I will still never speak about; it was so scary, and so real, I will not mention out loud for fear that it would come true. And, I even dreamed about beer a few times… (I guess you always want what you can’t have!). They say that our dreams are the safe zone where our subconscious is able to unload our deep-rooted fears, hopes, anxieties and emotions, in order to find resolution. They are often more pronounced in pregnancy because of our changing hormones, roller coaster mood swings, and the anticipation of what will surely be a life-changing event. That very well might be the case, but I prefer to think of it as cheap, mind-altering entertainment that comes without a hangover.

And then, just as I was getting used to all of these first trimester ups and downs, the 13th week came, ushering in a whole new set of second trimester experiences…

What shocked you most about your first trimester?

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21 thoughts on “The First Trimester: What I Didn’t Expect

  1. Thanks for this post. At almost 8 weeks along, I am struggling with all those things you mentioned above. I’m fatigued, but more than anything I feel a complete lack of motivation. All I want to do is rest and watch movies, but feel so guilty about all the things I’m not accomplishing! Yesterday I worked harder than normal, to show myself I could do it, but then last night I had a terrible migraine. Guess I’m just going to have to learn to be ok with moving slower. Thank you for showing me that I’m not alone! The first trimester is lonely because most people don’t know about the pregnancy yet, so I’m glad to find blogs like yours that remind me that lots of people out there understand the craziness I’m going through.

    • Hang in there, it gets better! Seriously even the sleep deprivation after giving birth was easier for me than the first trimester. Here’s to hoping second trimester is way better for you! Thanks for your post!

    • Yes – lonely is a good way to describe it! I also feel guilt that I’m not super excited. You hear all these stories of women finding out and just beaming and hugging their partner crying tears of joy. I think we are still a little in shock. We were, as I call it, “not not trying” and had decided that whatever happens is fine. Well, it happened. Quickly. I feel bad that I’m not as happy as I would think someone should be. I’m certainly not sad, but the shock and stress is taking over all other emotions. Always glad to hear other women share their stories and know that what I’m feeling isn’t totally crazy!

      • I am so happy I have created this forum where people like you can air their feelings, and we realize there are others that feel the same way. The thing is, some parts of pregnancy are great – mostly the part about having a baby. But some parts of pregnancy really stink, and it doesn’t mean you are a bad person or will be a bad mom because you feel that way! Now, being on the other side, I can tell you – this too shall pass. And soon, you’ll be blissfully in love with your little one. AND, even if you AREN’T blissfully in love from moment one, that’s ok too. Cut yourself some slack. You are doing just fine. 🙂

  2. I am an avid cross fitter and runner. It’s been a week since I went to CF and two weeks since my last jog. I have managed to get in 3 or 4 long walks but am literally exhausted after my work day. Life you I feel so guilty for not working out. Although I’m not nauseous I am light headed which doesn’t go we’ll with kettle bell lifts over my head 🙂 help! So at what week does it easy up?

    • Hi and thanks for reading! I wish I could give you a definite answer- I know the levels of despair first trimester exhaustion can induce ;-). But it really is different for everyone. For me, it was like I magically felt my energy return around 13-14 weeks. I am hoping you feel the same!!

  3. I love this post. Everything you listed here is what I’m feeling! I didn’t realize I’d feel SO tired and SO winded all the time. I also have the worry so it’s good to read this and know that I’m not alone in feeling that way. Ohhh and the dreams. The dreams are insane!!!

  4. Wow thanks for posting this up. I just had the most ridiculous crying fit over nothing (I tried to have a quick nap after work and put my contacts in an 8hour solution by mistake and cant wear them now and am too tired for swimming ?!) and took to the Internet to find others that were in the same situation and cried about nothing. Like you I’m always active…I even took all my gear down to go surfing today and only had enough energy to walk to the view point! This tiredness is so strange. Your dreams made me laugh out loud so thank you for the cheer up. They are bizarre, my latest had me belly dancing with my boobs out on a beach while everyone walked by! Also agree with you that It’s weird how other mothers never prepare you for becoming a mum, at only 10 weeks in and pregnant from the first day trying it’s been a total roller coaster experience. Unbelievably fascinating what we can produce and overwhelming at the same time.

  5. Thanks so much for writing this post…it’s so nice to hear it from someone else that’s honest about the first trimester. I’m up to my 10th week and am usually active but can barely get through a nauseas days work at the moment let alone do more than walk for exercise. I went to go surfing today and only made it to the viewing station! But it’s hard to have a little moan /cry without feeling guilty, I too got pregnant on the firstt day trying so always watch my mouth for seeming ungrateful. It truly is the most bizarre and incredible thing that our bodies do to create new life as well as being quite overwhelming! My husband, the dreams at the moment are my saviour, and my boobs….! Although i cant wait to get rid of the crying and sicky feeling. Hopefully if I get to round 2 ill look forward to reading your next blog post.

  6. Oh my,
    Thank you for this SO needed post!!! I am 7 weeks and I have just spent the last hour Balling my face off over an abused puppy pic I saw on fb. Like really, irrational, my eyes-are -going-to -be-puffy-tomorrow crying.
    I usually run almost every day, do yoga several times a week and am ALWAYS on the go. I literally haven’t been able to function for a month!! I can’t even walk up and down my steep driveway to get the mail without having to stop and take a break. I tried a light “jog” yesterday(at a pace I would have made fun of before) and my breasts felt like they were excruciatingly being twisted off!(also, apparently I’m going bra shopping because none of them fit anymore) I sleep 13 hours a night and STILL need naps during the day. It’s literally torture trying to work! I sure as hell hope the second tri is better! 🙂

  7. Very please to have found this blog/article! Dealing with the GUILTS has been difficult. Feeling guilty about not working out these past few weeks was so much easier after reading this. Having gained around 11 lbs after a m/c and slighty relaxed period of diet and excerise in my life I was feeling the utter guilts about not working out daily at 7/8 weeks pregnant. I just didn’t feel like it. I’m not particularly nauseous, so there went that excuse! I am just TIRED, TIRED, TIRED and quite frankly cannot summon the energy! My gym clothes are all too tight and my boobs hurt! I thought I was just being lazy and using the PG excuse not to excerise but my body is just totally drained. I am concerned with gaining too much weight during pregnancy and had been slightly obsessive amount making sure I worked out, all the time, to ensure I didn’t gain too much. I just need to realise that I can relax (without eating too much) from the gym until I have more energy, and only go as and when I feel like it and not beat myself up about missing today’s BP class after a very disturbed nights sleep last night! I was also glad to read the comments to know I am not the only one feeling guilty for not being overly excited all of the time. Yes I was delighted to discover I was pregnant again, esp after a m/c but I also feel lonely. I miss my glasses of red wine, sushi for lunch and soft cheese! Sometimes like to spend a little moment wallowing the fact I cannot have them. YES it is only 9 months everyone tells me, but still I miss them. Maybe it is just the first trimester blues, and once I feel and look a bit more pregnant things will perk up. But right now I feel like a tired, bloated emotional wreck who is about to become visible from space! To make it worse most people don’t know why you’ve turned into this crazy person either. Roll on second trimester and THANK YOU for making me very normal in how I was feeling. It’s very tiring having to pretend everything is wonderful just because you are in a situation lots long to be and feel guilty for having a little moan about missing your old life.

  8. I cannot thank you enough for this post. Two weeks before we conceived I ran a sub-four hour marathon. For the past 12 weeks I have barely been getting out of bed unless it is to throw up.

    And for someone who is usually very self-assured, the guilt factor has been quite the surprise as well. I go back and forth between feeling bad that this was an unplanned pregnancy and we have friends who are trying and others who can’t have kids, to feeling guilty that the soup that I was finally able to keep down came out of a can that was probably lined with BPA (and, like everything else in the universe, is apparently designed to kill my unborn child.)

    Thank you for your honest and refreshing account of your own pregnancy experience. I have apparently been blessed with friends and family members who loved every minute of their pregnancies and for as sweet as they are, really don’t know what to do with me losing ten pounds when they had the complete opposite problem. Your post helps me feel a little bit less insane, a little bit less alone, and for that I am truly grateful.

  9. I know I am about a year late on this post but i just came across it.. i typed in..”not working out in first trimester” LOL i feel SO GUILTY! i am the quintessential gym girl.. i am used to going everyday, love my cardio etc. and now i get winded walking up a flight of stairs.. I’m almost 13 weeks and am starting to see the light, not enough to want to run to the gym yet though 🙂 Thanks for posting, it eases the questions I have.. 🙂

  10. Thank you for your honesty. Most forums for pregnant women are all cutesy and sweet, calling you momma and mommy and addressing your child as, “beautiful little angel.” It is nice to hear a REAL account of a REAL person having a moment that isn’t cute. I am 8 weeks and have been so tired I can barely function. My husband and I were trying are are, of course, grateful to be pregnant. However, I am not going to lie. I miss going to happy hour with my girlfriends, eating sushi and just all around living a normal adult life with little restriction.

    I think, after the initial excitement and sock wore off, I am getting discouraged because I am not as thrilled as I thought I would be with the whole being pregnant part. I have several friends who have been trying to conceive for years with no luck. I am excited to HAVE a baby… but the pregnancy thing, I could do without! We normally eat pretty much Paleo, so no grains or dairy. Unfortunately, my baby does not want to cooperate. All that sounds good and doesn’t make me want to vomit is bread, crackers, pasta, etc. The other day I cried, as in ‘ugly cried,’ because I wanted to so badly to remain diligent to my Paleo ways and workouts, as not to gain weight and because my baby would be healthier, but have not been able to. I literally just can’t! I feel guilty, which is a perfect way to put it. It is nice to know that there are others that are feeling this way.

    Like someone said earlier, it is still to early to tell my friends, so I am feeling a little isolated. I want to be so excited about every moment but instead I find myself, feeling like a different person in my own skin. Here’s to hoping that the next 7 months fly by so I can feel like myself again! Thanks again for your honesty!

  11. Thank god for this forum! I’ve been feeling the guilt of being 7 weeks pregnant after IVF and having my life force sucked out of me. I feel like a wet noodle, whose ass is growing every hour longer I spend here in bed.
    And the bloat! I thought I would be a blissful active pregnant lady. I’m feel like beached whale after gaining 6 lbs in 2 weeks from being always starving for carbs!
    Bless you, blogger.

    • My best advice is try not to worry about the pounds or the numbers- just do what your body needs and go off how you feel. It is possible to lose the weight after-
      And this too shall pass! You got it mama.

  12. I feel better now. Everything you wrote hit home for me. Even though this is my 4th baby, (12 weeks), it’s been 7 years since my last (yes surprise!!) This pregnancy has been totally different to my first 3. I’m soooooooo much more exhausted, I’m totally crying/emotional and moody which I never had before and nauseous a lot more than before. *sigh* I am sick of feeling sick and exhausted really! I hope it passes in the next week or 2.

  13. Ah, this was so good to read. I am at 15 weeks now, a personal trainer and avid exerciser outside work. It was so distressing – before I even knew I was pregnant – to suddenly start to struggle so much with workouts I had found very manageable only a week before. (Although it all clicked when I saw those two lines on the stick!!) The first 10-11 weeks I think I had the energy to hit the gym maybe 5 or 6 times and felt so bad about it. Not helped by the fact I was somehow eating EVERYTHING in sight. Aaaagh, the guilt! I really did not enjoy that part of pregnancy at all.
    Then, at about 12 weeks the exhaustion started to subside and I managed to get to the gym a couple of times.
    Now I am feeling so much better. My stamina is coming back – I am not lifting as heavy as I did, mainly through choice but partly because I don’t feel as strong, and am running and cycling far more slowly than I was pre-pregnancy – and with that my state of mind is improving.

    One very interesting thing was the different attitudes to fitness and exercise of the three midwives I have seen so far. The first was not particularly happy with me exercising at any intensity more than a 30 minute walk each day, the second said to just take it steadier than I would normally and the third basically said I would know my body far better than she did and to do what felt right, don’t get too ridiculously out of breath, use my common sense and try to avoid lifting free weights over my bump. Obviously I am going with midwife #3 for my advice. 🙂

    Best of luck to all of you that have found yourself here and to SaraLyn for posting in the first place.

  14. Thanks for this, I’m an EMT and do medical coverage for marathons where there are always pregnant woman running. It’s good to know that my breathlessness at 7 weeks is normal (go figer…I know what to do with a postpartum hemorrhage but not what to expect at 7 weeks)

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