As I’m leaving the first trimester behind, I find myself reflecting on how I’ve felt over the past couple of months. This post describes my experiences with food, exercise, and feelings in the first half of the first trimester, that is weeks 4-8.
These weeks were mainly about pregnancy tests, and I’ve described them in detail over here. During week 4, we told our parents about the embryo, and I made my first appointment with the midwives who I’ll be going to see throughout the pregnancy. I knew before I got pregnant that I wanted to aim for a natural birth with minimal interventions if at all possible, so I was looking for a care provider that would make that possible. I like the idea of midwives. It’s a familiar concept to me, because pretty much every pregnant lady in Denmark is seen by midwives. It’s much less common here in the US. But you’re statistically more likely not to have interventions like an emergency c-section if your labor is attended by a midwife rather than an OB-GYN. Another reason I chose the practice that I did is that they have a birth center. It’s in a hospital, but it’s on a separate floor from the regular labor and delivery department. The hospital was built just last year, and it happens to be really close to us, in walking distance in fact, which I find reassuring.
At this point, I didn’t experience any pregnancy symptoms, except that my breasts were quite sore. This was particularly noticeable every time I would give someone a hug. Although the discomfort of it made me wince on the inside, it was also a sweet and funny reminder of the secret I was keeping.
I also experienced some insomnia, but I don’t know if this was due to anxiety or pregnancy. Many of the symptoms that I had expected to experience, like fatigue and having to pee more, were conspicuously absent, and occasional abdominal twinges and aches never failed to make me worry that something was wrong. In such moments, I found comfort in poking my breasts to check that they were still sore. Yeah…
Since I was feeling good, I figured I should start stacking up on nutritious food for the embryo while I still could. Consequently, I dragged Paulus all across town on an extended grocery hunt that ended with a kilo of frozen chicken livers, a big bag of chia seeds, enough dark leafy greens to feed a village, and all the ginger-related items I could lay my hands on.
During the weekend in week 5, we took an overnight camping trip to the desert. Apart from my sore breasts, I still wasn’t feeling any different from before, and we decided to take advantage of this fact and get out of town. On Saturday morning, we drove to Julian, a small town about 1,5 hours from San Diego. Julian is mostly known for its apple pies, but we like it because the landscape is so different from what we see every day. It’s hilly and lusciously green, so we had decided we would go for a hike there after breakfast somewhere local. It was a beautiful day, and we got to enjoy an amazing view and some sunshine.
After the hike, we continued to the campground in the desert, that was our destination. We spent the afternoon bathing in their hot spring baths, and the evening cooking and relaxing in front of the camp fire. Sunday morning, we returned home again after a much needed dose of nature and disconnectedness from internet and social media.
Towards the end of week 5 and into week 6, I started experiencing some nausea. Not much, but enough to reassure me a little. To combat this, I started eating a little something as soon as I got up in the morning. It never cured the nausea, but it made it more manageable, I think. This was also the week that Paulus sent me the baby king’s robe. Both of these things help make the pregnancy more real for me, and I even dared think ahead a little. I subscribed to pregnancy podcasts and watched movies about fetal development and birth. If you haven’t yet, I highly recommend watching ‘The business of being born‘, it’s so good, if also quite scary and concerning.
As the week progressed, the nausea stopped being intermittent and instead became more or less constant. I still managed to get up most mornings to take a walk, and the nausea wasn’t really bad most of the time, it was just there, except when I was eating. Abruptly, my normal desire to cook nutritious stuff was replaced with a need for pizza, chicken nuggets and fried noodles. I have to say that chia seeds and kale become rather hard to choke down when all you can think about is a cheese burger.
I was still at work as usual, but I was now carrying an arsenal of snacks with me to help quell the nausea, and I started filling my water bottle with cold ginger tea to sip during the day. Usually, I’m not a snacker, so I was certain that this out-of-character behavior was an instant give-away for my friends and colleagues. Luckily, they – if they suspected – were gracious enough not to mention anything until we were ready to announce it ourselves.
As the nausea grew stronger, I gave up any pretensions about cooking. I put my sorely neglected sourdough starter in the fridge, never to be seen again for the rest of the first trimester. I also began experiencing aversions to certain foods. I stopped eating sweets, and I went off coffee completely. Perhaps most notably, there was the chicken incident. In an effort to provide the now blueberry-sized embryo with nutrients that may be scarce in my system, I had purchased a box from Blue Apron, containing a meal with salmon (going near the fish isle at the grocery store was not to be attempted). I ended up not being able to stand the idea of cooking the salmon, so I made Paulus do it, while I hid in the bedroom with the door closed. It tasted alright, though.
But back to the chicken. One of the other meals in the box was centered around a chicken-breast. Although I would have been happy to consume fried chicken for every meal at this point, that raw chicken breast in the fridge was just not appealing. And for every day that I didn’t cook it, the more unappealing it got. After about a week, it came to the point where I had to hold my breath, fish the chicken out of the fridge without looking at it, throw it in the thrash, put the trash bag outside the door, and then run to an open window before I dared breathe again. That thing was just sitting in the fridge, being chicken, and I couldn’t stand it. My only regret is that I didn’t stick it out for a few more hours and get Paulus to do it.
In addition to the cravings and aversions, my appetite also increased, weirdly, and would strike out of nowhere. This unfortunate combination resulted in more than a few second lunches of fried noodles on the way home from work. Meanwhile, the frozen chicken livers and refrigerated leafy greens were wasting away, unattended, in our kitchen. Me not cooking was pretty disruptive to our normal routine, and our food-waste sky-rocketed during this period.
In terms of emotions, week 7 was rather rough. Despite my increasing symptoms, I couldn’t help but think that I should be feeling the baby, somehow. And since I wasn’t, that probably was a bad sign. At the end of the week, I was counting the hours until our first prenatal appointment, where I would have an ultrasound to confirm and date the pregnancy. I alternately longed for and dreaded what we would learn. I suppose it also didn’t help that we took a tour of the birth center where I was hoping to have the baby, and I was the only woman on the tour who didn’t have a giant belly. Let me tell you, impostor syndrome isn’t just for academia. Besides this, I really liked the birth center and their philosophy about birth and babies, and the tour solidified my decision about where to give birth.
The nausea continued this week, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I started feeling extremely tired. It just never manifested as sleepiness, but rather as a dislike for doing anything except watching Netflix in bed. Hence, morning walks, activities and dinners with friends were all abandoned in favor of re-watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. At some point Paulus suggested that we abandon counting the embryo’s gestational age in weeks as is the norm and instead opt for counting it in seasons of Grey’s.
The beginning of week 8 was when we had our first ultrasound. In response to the midwife’s inquiry about how I was feeling, I blurted out that I was nervous, and she helpfully suggested that we do the ultrasound before all the talking. So we did, and it can’t have been more a minute from then until we got to see the little baby blob. It didn’t look anything like a baby at this point, but it did have a heartbeat, which was a great relief. The baby measured one day ahead of schedule, but apparently the measure can be off by up to 5 days, so the midwife stuck with the original due date of December 21, based on my last period. After the visit, I was a little bit in love with our midwife, who was absolutely amazing – calm, reassuring, woman-centered (if that is a thing), and totally no-nonsense. After the appointment, we spent the weekend telling close friends and family members about the little blob, and for several days I was able to enjoy not feeling worried.
I’ve previously described in detail how the main thing I’ve felt in this pregnancy so far has been worry. I’m usually a calm and relatively easy-going person (or at least I think so myself), so this experience has been new for me. My friends who are moms laughed when I told them this and basically told me to get used to the feeling, since it’s pretty much par for the course when you’re a mom. So, in sum, I really thought I would enjoy being pregnant, and I’ve been disappointed to find that this has not been the case so far. Fortunately, my favorite pregnancy podcast tells me that this is perfectly normal. Otherwise, I would have had yet another thing to worry about…