Before I start gushing about how amazing it is to feel my baby move around in my belly and about how we are loving our midwifery care, I really wanted to reflect on my first trimester. I think sometimes it’s easy gloss over the struggles when you have such happy news to share, but to honour my full experience it’s only fair to write about the darker times too. Unfortunately, I’ve had to do this more often than I would like, but I know I am far from alone in this journey.
The first trimester was such a strange time for me. Arguably, it is the most dynamic time in your body (though I may change my mind once I reach my third trimester…) with hormones constantly on the rise, no fully developed placenta to carry the load of growing your little one (shout out to placentas everywhere!), morning sickness, fatigue and on top of that you don’t even look remotely pregnant. At a time when you really could use some help with your groceries, a door held open or for someone to kindly ask how you are feeling, no one really does. There are no outward signs of the intense and complex processes occurring inside of you. It feels kind of lonely.
I found myself feeling like an impostor a lot of the time. Like I was lying about feeling so terrible, because on the outside I looked totally normal. I imagine it is perhaps similar to what people with a “hidden” chronic illness feel like on a regular basis; ignored, passed over and assumed to be just peachy, when really their bodies are wreaking total havoc on them. I felt so guilty for not making dinner for my wife (and I normally love cooking) and for basically being a giant lump. The fatigue just kind of crept up on me. All of a sudden I was sleeping until noon, even when I was going to bed at 9:00 or 10:00 pm. It was a struggle to even have a shower some days. For someone who is always doing a million things, it’s hard to admit that you are tired without feeling incredibly lazy and full of excuses. I didn’t even believe I was “that” tired until I started to feel like my normal self again in the second trimester.
In general, my second first trimester was a lot like my first first trimester. All day morning sickness, hating all food, and all of the fatigue. The picture above was a very familiar view, as it is for a lot of mama’s in those early days. I lost a few pounds simply because I just couldn’t eat. Perhaps some of you have had an experience when you indulge in that one certain type of liquor (we’ve all been there, right?) that even a whiff of it sends your stomach reeling back to that god forsaken time you swore off drinking forever? Yeah, that’s how I felt. About. All. Food. Nothing appealed to me. Occasionally I could stomach some raisin toast, maybe a popsicle. Apple juice was really good, for like a week, then I hated it. I would wander the grocery store (which has so many smells, that I couldn’t spend too long there) unaccompanied by my usual well-thought out list for my meal plan that week, and just bought whatever I thought I could stomach. I happened to also be unemployed after our recent move to Winnipeg, so most of my days were spent watching Netflix, trying to write cover letters and thinking of something I could eat that wouldn’t make me vomit everywhere.
It was a fun time, let me tell you.
I started doing acupuncture every couple of weeks to help with my nausea and to hopefully prevent another miscarriage. The World Health Organization does list both morning sickness and female infertility as conditions that can be treated with acupuncture. There appears to be some evidence of the benefits of acupuncture for women undergoing fertility treatments (they are looking especially at the potentially benefits for IVF treatment), but it seems much more research is necessary before that’s conclusive. Even though I knew I had very little control over the situation (which was beyond frustrating for my type A personality), I still wanted to do everything I could to hang on to my little one this time. Following the acupuncture treatments I only threw up a couple of times and found that it was very relaxing and soothed my nausea for a couple of weeks. In addition to the treatments, my acupuncture doctor also left some very small “tacks” in place, under a small bandaid for a week at a time. I had one on the left and right inside ankle, and one on either side of my chest. They were freaky at first, but it really seemed to take the edge off of my nausea. It was also comforting to have the acupuncture doctor (who was also a medical doctor) take my pulse and reassure me that it was strong and indicative of a healthy pregnancy.
Wait, did she just say her acupuncturist could tell she was pregnant by her pulse?! Yes I did! Here’s one study I found that verified the theory in Chinese medicine that an expectant woman’s pulse is noticeably different (to a skilled practitioner’s hand) and also changes with each stage of pregnancy. My acupuncturist not only told me I was pregnant before I confirmed with a blood test, he also accurately predicted the gender based on my pulse!
Despite everything I was doing, I was so worried about losing my baby again. Pregnancy after loss, especially in those early days is so bittersweet. Nothing seems worth getting excited about because you know it could all change in a heartbeat. You are happy, but careful not to be too happy. I was lucky enough to have a great circle of close friends who I told in the early days, but I didn’t tell too many people, just in case. Instead of feeling like we had a big announcement like we had last time, we refrained from telling our extended family for a while. It just seemed unfair to get everyone’s hopes up. It was unfair to get our own hopes up.
I had such a conditional love for my body. I constantly felt like I was bargaining for the future. After losing our first baby, bleeding out twice, emergency room visits and taking months to recover from the miscarriage, the trust I had in my body was shaky to say the least. I tried my best to meditate, stay as positive as possible and to take care of myself, but it felt like it didn’t even matter. I did my best last time and it wasn’t enough, so what difference could I make this time?
As the end of my first trimester approached, I did feel more at ease with myself and my body. Slowly, I started to believe that I was truly pregnant and that maybe we would have a little one by the summer time. I gradually allowed myself to be more positive in conversations about our future, started contemplating maternity leave and began moving some of our previously collected baby things out of storage. Everyday I was letting myself believe that things would be okay.
It was a difficult time, as it is for many mamas who are experiencing pregnancy after loss. Having a support system of friends and family was probably what helped me the most. Just having someone to confide my worries in and share how I was feeling that day, whether it be good or bad, helped me process what was going on. I don’t know if I could have kept all my fears to myself for all of those weeks, and I’m glad that I didn’t have to. Even though I was nervous to announce too early on my blog and social media (I was even nervous to announce after my first trimester was over), I didn’t hesitate to tell my close friends and family from day one. Don’t get me wrong, it was still uncomfortable to be open about the pregnancy early on, knowing full well it may not have a happy ending. And I totally understand wanting to keep it a secret from everyone because I debated keeping it a secret from everyone until we knew for sure everything was alright. Of course, it’s a very personal choice and I fully understand both approaches. In the end, I knew that if my worst fears came true, I would want all of the amazing support that I had during my first miscarriage.
Despite my struggles over this past year, I feel so much gratitude for having a loving spouse and wonderful friends and family. Thank you. I feel so lucky.