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?