I promised myself mid-pregnancy that I would not turn into a mommy blogger and I intend to keep that promise. But the 'net seems to be filled with shockingly negative posts about pregnancy and labor. I was more likely to find scary posts about the "15 Things You Didn't Know About..." rather than an article that shared the good and bad of pregnancy or labor with transparency. My pregnancy, labor, and now motherhood, has changed me. But I also know that my life is not "over" now that I'm a mommy and my past 9-ish months have been an overwhelmingly positive experience and I think that deserves to be celebrated and shared, even if it isn't filled with "shocking truths".
First Trimester Because I was using NFP (Naturally Family Planning), I noticed early on that something was off with my temperature. This led to a positive pregnancy test at about four weeks. I think it important to share here that although my son is absolute blessing, he was a (wonderful) surprise. We were not trying to get pregnant, which means that there was definitely a period of shock and confusion. My first month had minimal symptoms other than super-smelling powers and some emotional upheaval as I began to process that come June I was going to be a mom.
Josh and I decided to keep the pregnancy between us and our immediate families until we had safely made into the second trimester. Our parents knew, as well as a close friend here, but that was it. There was a lot of prayer on my part as I tried to embrace this big change in our lives. I felt betrayed by my body, who had previously been declared "unlikely to ever get pregnant". I was losing weight, not gaining and had terrible, freshman-year-of-high-school-esque acne. I've always been very sensitive to hormone changes, so I was feeling things on very personal, sensitive level. This was by far my worse symptom throughout the pregnancy because I couldn't manage it with face wash or the occasional Tylenol. Josh was a true champion, offering a shoulder to cry on and seemingly endless patience. Other than that, I was just tired. Even 12+ hours of sleep weren't doing it for me. My midwife explained it best though, my body was essentially going through a growth spurt, just like when I was kiddo: sleeping and eating were key.
As law school finals closed in, I was still anxious and slowly working through my new reality. I wasn't showing yet, which somehow made it harder for me to really grasp that there was a baby growing in there. I was plagued with excruciating back pain that would wake me up two or three times a night and require a round of downward facing dogs and child poses to loosen it back up. The midwife attributed this to a back-tilted uterus that was expanding and putting pressure on my lower back. She assured me that it would lessen as the baby grew and my uterus would actually find a more "normal" position. Around Thanksgiving, Josh and I publicly announced our pregnancy and the "secret" was out.
All in all, I was pretty lucky. I had minimal morning sickness that was prevented by taking in lots of fluids and eating regularly. My worse symptom was the hormone shifts which were exasperated by the stress of law school and the back pain that interfered with sleep and sitting through classes. I allowed my body to sleep almost as much as it wanted, even if that meant catnaps in the law school and outrageously early bedtimes during the week. Although I felt silly for slowing down, I admitted to myself that my body knew best when it came to this sort of thing.
Second Trimester Second trimester started about the time the semester finished and Josh and I left for Colorado for our honeymoon. I love my son but he owes us a second honeymoon so that mommy can ski like she had wanted to. We found out our baby's sex the day before leaving, and knowing that he was a he was the tangibility I needed; I really felt on board with my body and the the path God had created for us. We celebrated Christmas, our best friends' wedding, and rang in 2017. I made the decision to leave law school after finally admitting to myself and Josh that it was not what I had hoped it would be. I had minimal symptoms aside from some real weight gain and cravings like Swiss cheese, saltines, and tomatoes for a snack almost daily.
I felt Baby move at week 18. There was no mistaking it: that was a little person swishing and poking around in there. I'm not sure how else to describe it other than a very clear pop in my lower abdomen. I immediately called for my sister (I was at my parents' home for the night) and she felt it too. That was definitely Baby moving inside of me. If I wasn't in love with Baby before then, that night definitely changed everything. I began to feel him moving constantly and the phrase "What are you doing in there?" was exclaimed at least once a week from then on out.
I don't believe that the second trimester "glow" is a thing, but I will say if I had minimal symptoms during my first, I essentially had none during my second. I just made sure I was not overeating and tried to feed my cravings with healthier options, like a fruit and yogurt smoothie over a Sonic milkshake. As Baby got bigger, my stomach seemed to get smaller. I was eating smaller meals with more frequency, until it was basically five smaller meals a day and copious amounts of water. I had a higher energy level and continued to yoga until I just felt silly adjusting all of the poses to make room for my admittedly small bump. Then I switched to intense house cleaning and belly dancing (haha!) at the suggestion of my midwife.
Third Trimester We started off our third trimester with a low intervention birth class. Word to the wise, low intervention pain management techniques means yoga. Wear workout clothes. I had to do cat-cow in jeans and felt like a fool. After taking the class, I did more research and prepared our birth plan. The highlights included: minimal intervention for pain management (no epidural, no narcotics), immediate skin-to-skin contact, and delayed cord clamping.
Movies and TV love to show dramatic Braxton-Hicks contractions, which as essentially your body practicing for labor, that make a woman think she is in labor and flies off to the hospital. I didn't realize I was having Braxton-Hicks until the midwife actually pointed them out to me during an appointment. I felt so silly for not recognizing them, but the reality is, my perspective of pregnancy was so skewed by the media. My only other new symptom was that I began to leak colostrum (your pre-milk-milk) around 32 weeks. I had no idea that your body could start producing it so soon and leak it!
I had multiple people offer to take "belly pictures" of me and despite a pretty belly overall and minimal stretch marks, I did not want pictures of my stomach. As much as I love what being pregnant meant, I was never in love with my pregnant body. I appreciated what it was doing, I understood it was necessary for my son to grow and be healthy, but that did not mean I had to pose and fake being comfortable with that volleyball sticking out of me!
The worst symptom of my third trimester was the anxiety and impatience for labor to come. All of the new, all of the bright and shiny of being pregnant had worn off and I was ready to meet my son. I had reoccurring nightmares about my infant son catching the measles because of an unvaccinated child or about his heart having a hole in it (I watch too much Grey's Anatomy). Research assured me that the anxiety and sleep deprivation was normal, my mom jokingly pointed out that this was just good preparation for the sleep patterns of newborn. She wasn't wrong. I had this overwhelming sensation that Baby would be coming early, shortly after our anniversary and Memorial Day Weekend and I was right, he would arrive about two weeks early.
Post-Partum Being pregnant was one of the strangest things I've ever been through. Watching your body change without your say-so or even influence is humbling and scary. But having done it, I have more awe and appreciation for what my body can do. Even my menstrual cycle holds a different magic now that I understand what it was all working towards. The hardest part for me was that this wasn't according to my plan for life. The nightmare symptoms aren't something that everyone experiences; not every pregnancy results in 100+ pounds of weight gain, 2 am peanut butter and pickle cravings, and irrational mood swings. I think most pregnancies are more like this, with little symptoms and changes that eventually lead to a healthy baby.
Maybe I was just blessed with a magical, unicorn pregnancy that led to a standard, healthy labor. But I'm pretty certain that real problem is all we hear about are the bad pregnancies. As intense and life-altering as having a baby can be, pregnancy isn't nightmare and those two little lines are not a death sentence. You can still exercise, go on your honeymoon, and drink coffee. You just need to allow yourself to listen to your body and let it do its job too. Be patient and understanding with your body; it is working so hard to make something pretty spectacular. And it is perfectly okay to love parts of being pregnant and dislike others! This isn't a rainbows and butterflies experience all the time, some days will be worse than others. The best thing anyone can do for themselves while pregnant is be realistic and admit the good and the bad, rather than forcing themselves to feel one way or the other. Love the bump or hate it, the ending is what you were working towards anyways: a baby, not a Instagramable journey of motherhood.