Exciting news! We’re having a baby! Okay, so this is old news since I’m now at 24 weeks and I already made the pregnancy announcement months ago, but I’ve been keeping notes all along and I wanted to formalize my experience so far in a blog post, because I know I’m going to want to have this documented to look back on later. I also wanted to share what I’ve learned so far as a first-time mom-to-be in order to help others along in their pregnancy journey. So here are my reflections on getting pregnant and on the first trimester.
I could tell that I was pregnant before even taking the home pregnancy test (HPT). I detected the early pregnancy signs like increased urination, tender breasts, leg cramps, sensitivity to certain smells, and a few others. Since we were intentionally trying to conceive, I sometimes wondered if I was just hopefully imagining these symptoms, but some of them appeared even before I knew they were a sign of pregnancy (thanks to Dr. Google, lol). Taylor went out and excitedly bought the most expensive HPT he could find, but we had to wait about 2 weeks before we could take it, as they’re only accurate within 4 days of your expected period date, and let me tell you, those were the longest two weeks ever!! Even though I was pretty certain that I was pregnant, it still took me by surprise when I saw the positive test result and I was all full of emotion from disbelief to pure joy. Taylor and I were both so happy and over the moon.
The first three months were filled with happiness, but they weren’t without anxiety — we were so afraid that I would have a miscarriage, not only because the risk of miscarriage is higher in the first 12 weeks (and more common than you might expect), but also because I’m 37 years old with a history of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). Each ultrasound and doctor’s appointment brought new reassurance that the baby was developing normally and was here to stay. Even though we announced our pregnancy at the customary 12 week milestone, it wasn’t really until the 20 week mark that I began to feel confident that I would carry this baby to term. There exists a sense of unreality about being pregnant that is apparently not uncommon, and I felt that in spades. I also felt what’s known as ‘round ligament pain’ caused by the ligaments stretching as the uterus grows to make room for baby, and for me, this felt like a sharp, stabbing pain in the area of my right ovary, identical to the pain I used to feel whenever I had a ruptured ovarian cyst, so naturally this caused me a bit of worry, but my doctor and my trusted resources (including pregnant & mom friends and of course “The Bible” — What To Expect When You’re Expecting) assured me it was a normal pregnancy growing pain.
Morning sickness is one of the most common and telltale symptoms of pregnancy, and I have friends who have experienced the worst of it, so I don’t take it for granted that I got off easy and can count only a couple handful of times that this symptom affected me, and fortunately only once while outside of the comfort of my house. But when it did hit me, it hit hard and fast and without warning. I quickly learned what my triggers were and for a while I couldn’t eat eggs, spinach or yogurt (I’m back on eggs and yogurt but my body is still rejecting spinach). I also learned not to take my prenatal vitamins, specifically the Omega-3 pill, on an empty stomach.
Where I sailed smoothly through morning sickness (which, by the way, is the WORST term for this symptom because it can strike at any time of the day), I suffered my way through migraine after migraine. I had been taking a daily migraine-prevention medication for the last two years and it was very effective, I only had a few migraines during that entire time, but those meds hadn’t been studied in pregnant women and not known if they were safe so I had to stop taking them, and exactly one week after going off them I got the first of about a dozen migraines within a 10 week period. I suffer from complex migraines, which means I experience stroke-like symptoms (aura, weakness, loss of vision, aphasia/difficulty speaking, and headache), so getting a migraine wasn’t just an inconvenience, it was downright dangerous, especially the time it happened while I was driving (fortunately I was with Taylor and he took over at the wheel, otherwise I would have been forced to pull over and wait it out). Thankfully, the last two months have been migraine-free, but I can probably expect to experience another bout of them in the fall (my migraines are seasonal and the changes in temperature and pressure are what triggers them).
The symptom that surprised me the most was the extreme exhaustion I felt. I thought I was prepared for it after reading about it, but I underestimated just how real that exhaustion would be. I mean, I work from home and most of that time is spent on my laptop writing articles and on my phone managing various social media accounts, and yet I felt like I had run a marathon every day, usually succumbing to my exhaustion in the early afternoon, often requiring a nap (and I have never before been capable of taking naps!). My mind had a hard time reconciling with how my body felt. I also started getting really tired in the early evenings and had to start declining invites to events and making excuses to push meeting up with friends after work to some vague future date. My energy started to return once I entered the second trimester, so now I can get through the day without napping, but I still go to bed routinely early.
Speaking of going to bed early, that means I’m getting more sleep, and with extra sleep I guess that means more time for dreaming, and OMG are pregnancy dreams ever vivid! They’re like never-ending mini movies! And for the first time in my life, I can wake up from a dream, fall back to sleep, and continue dreaming where the “movie” left off! Oh, and speaking of waking up? Yeah, I get up to pee ALL THE TIME. It was so frustrating at first but now it’s just a fact of life. I consider it a win if I only get up three times in the night.
A common symptom of pregnancy that I haven’t experienced is mood swings. I find that very odd. Certainly not complaining, though! (And neither is Taylor, for that matter!) I attribute this to eating well and getting lots of exercise.
Food, Nutrition and Cravings:
I’m a girl who loves her wine so I thought it would be hard to give that up, but it was surprisingly easy, my body just sort of made that decision for me. I’m not opposed to pregnant women who have the occasional glass here and there and I fully anticipated enjoying a glass of wine with dinner about once a week, but I just don’t want it. I’ve had wine on special occasions, like at a wedding or to celebrate a holiday, but even then I found myself only getting through half the glass, and it took me a few hours to get through that small amount. Coffee, on the other hand, was where I suffered! While it’s safe to consume up to 200mg (about the size of a 12oz or “Tall” Starbucks coffee) per day, it’s better to avoid it, and let’s face it, decaf coffee just tastes TERRIBLE. Coffee isn’t just something I used to drink in the morning to get me going — it’s an entire ritual that I used to savour, from the pleasant aroma while it brewed, to the warmth I felt holding my mug, to taking taking long, slow sips of my strong black coffee. None of that is the same with decaf. (Right here is where most of you are probably going to suggest that I drink tea instead, but I’m not much of a tea person.) I eventually gave up experimenting with decafs of various coffee brands and got used to my new, coffee-free mornings on weekdays, and I treat myself to caffeinated coffee on weekends.
I’ve always been a healthy eater and I do a lot of my own cooking, avoiding foods with unpronounceable ingredients and limiting my sugar intake, but after finding out that I was pregnant I kicked my nutrition into high gear and became more focused on what I was (and wasn’t) putting in my body. I even made myself a checklist to ensure I was eating enough daily servings of the nutrients I needed (by keeping track, I quickly learned that I needed to ramp up my veggie intake). It’s not about eating more quantity, it’s about eating more quality. I allow myself my indulgences and I don’t feel guilty one bit because 90% of the time I’m on a regular healthy eating regime. I’m disappointed that I haven’t had any weird food cravings (pickles and peanut butter, anyone?), but I’ve had an increased desire for poutine, green grapes, ice cream, and sweets in general. I had an aversion to meat for a while but that doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore.
I’d been going to the gym somewhat regularly before getting pregnant and have been maintaining a steady routine ever since. Not only is it healthy for both me and the baby, but staying physically fit during pregnancy has many other benefits, like lowering the risk of developing gestational diabetes, building up stamina for an easier labour with reduced complications/need for interventions, your body bounces back faster after delivery, and exercising helps to keep mood swings at bay, among so many other benefits. Once baby arrives, I’m excited to take him with me to classes specifically designed for new moms — in particular, the “Baby and Me” classes at Barreworks!
Adjusting To My Changing Body:
I’m just gonna say it — I love my new boobs! That was the first physical change I noticed in the beginning, and though they were extremely tender and sore, it was totally worth it. I’ve had to start wearing bras again, but I finally found a brand I love (and I’ll be sharing more on that in a future post). As for my belly, it didn’t start to look like a proper pregnant belly (and less of a burrito belly) until the 12th week, which was perfect timing to start to show since that’s when I was ready to share the news with everyone. But though I didn’t start to show in an obvious way that others would take notice of, my pants sure did let me know I was growing! Thankfully, my neighbour gave me a bag full of her old maternity clothes (she had just given birth in March), and they were a lifesaver since I was quickly outgrowing my jeans. I went out shopping for maternity clothes and put together a small capsule wardrobe that will get me through the summer and early fall. (I’ll write a future post just on maternity clothing shopping because I have lots to share on that topic — you don’t need to exclusively buy maternity clothes, there are ways to shop your favourite stores for clothes that will fit your changing body, and it can be done on a tight budget. More to come on that!) As much as possible, I’ve since been wearing clothes that show off my belly because I’m so proud of and amazed by the changes my body is going through in order to create life.
Pregnancy has been an exciting journey so far and I’m so appreciative of the advice I’ve received from the women and friends who’ve gone through it already — I intend to pay that forward by sharing as much as I’ve learned from others and from my own experience and have lots of content to come!
** A note on the felt board I used in the pregnancy announcement: I had a hard time finding one that I liked that wasn’t super expensive and finally selected this one from Amazon — it’s 10”x10” with a nice, solid wood oak frame, the letters stay on well, and it’s reasonably priced. I plan on using it once baby is born for his monthly photo updates! **
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