I’m 14 weeks pregnant. Depending on which source you follow, I’m either newly entering the second trimester or I’ve been there for a couple weeks. In any case, I’ve learned a lot about pregnancy and about myself over the past 3-ish months.
1. Every Body is Different
I’ll be honest, I’ve spent hours scouring Pinterest for pictures each week–pictures of pregnant bodies during the same week I’m in at the time. Being pregnant is probably one of the most natural things a body can experience, but as you’re going through it, you may feel just the opposite. I know my body has always been something I viewed as a way through which I could express my lifestyle and my personality. I love to be fit and healthy, and I love how what I do lifestyle-wise has always had such a direct (or even indirect) connection to how I feel and how I look. Once you’re pregnant, all body bets are off. I’ve read books and opinions about how women can be in control of their bodies while they’re pregnant. They suggest we should set rules and standards and then eat a certain way and exercise a certain amount no matter what.
I don’t know about you, but I have not exercised in five weeks. I suppose I had the choice to muscle through the fatigue and gross feelings, but I didn’t push myself. Sure, I fully plan to be more active now that I’m feeling better and I’m less tired, but rather than tell my body what it’s going to do, I’m going to interpret its needs from how I feel and go with that. You all know I’m a fan of Working Out Smarter, Not Harder anyway. If all I do is take walks and do some yoga from now until forever, I’m completely happy with that.
Also, admittedly, I have not eaten many vegetables in the past few weeks. They tasted awful. I did take supplements to ensure I was getting adequate nutrients, and I realize it’s better to get the nutrients from food. There were days when the only thing that made me feel semi-human was toast. So I ate toast. I did have a plan at the beginning, but I improvised when I needed to. I feel good about that too. And if you were able to chow down on greens during the first trimester, then I’m sincerely happy for you. I just couldn’t do it.
There is no absolute right way or wrong way to act while you’re pregnant. There’s no right amount of weight to gain. No cookie cutter approach that every single woman should follow to yield the best results. Realizing this relieves a lot of pressure, especially for those of us who believe our lifestyles are the greatest inputs on our babies’ development.
2. No One is Special
It sounds harsh, I know. But honestly, we’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done before a gazillion times. Most people live through the icky parts of pregnancy. You and I will too. I’ve found that people are generally sympathetic towards pregnant women, and that’s nice (I’ve definitely played the pregnant card a few times to get out of doing social things when I had no good reason except a case of the blahs).
You know how bad your rot gut and headaches have been? Someone else’s have been worse. Whether you were the person who exercised everyday, ate your veggies, and felt like a million bucks, or the person who spent three months on the couch watching all 12o episodes of Lost, it’s not a new phenomenon. This may sound like a “Get Over Yourself” speech, but it’s not. When I contemplated the bazillion other people who felt like I did (or better or worse than I did), it made me feel less alone on my couch. I crave hearing people’s pregnancy stories. I love it when people send me emails and tell me about their own experiences. Their experiences are both different and similar to mine, and I’ve gained a lot of perspective through them.
The most important part to consider regarding this concept of non-specialness is that there are some fundamental truths about what makes a baby grow in a healthy way. It’s our responsibility as future mothers to research what we should be eating, doing, and how we should manage our stress. These things affect our babies greatly, and even if we skip a few weeks of veggies and exercise, we should know we’re doing it, find things like supplements to help us out, and get on track when we can.
3. Listen to Your Body and Honor Your Cravings
I have a pregnancy journal that includes a bunch of writing prompts and fill-in-the-blanks to help me document my experience with pregnancy. Some of them I find helpful, others are just dumb (or really cliche). In each section, there’s a spot to choose how I feel about Cravings. The choices are: (1) Mind over matter and (2) Give the body what it wants. During every week, I check both.
It just seems like an issue of balance, like most things in life.
I’ve been mostly grain free for a couple years, after I did elimination diets and experimented on myself over and over again to relieve certain symptoms. For the last couple years, I have really been in a great food groove. As soon as my pregnancy hormones really started to kick in and my rot gut surfaced, I realized the only way I wouldn’t be doubled over on the couch all day crying was to eat bread and way more carbs than I was used to. So I did.
Then, during week 11, when I felt a bit better, I stopped eating so much of it when other healthier foods made me feel good too. I’ve eaten all kinds of things I don’t normally eat, not based on ravenous hunger, but on what makes me feel good and as energized as possible. I’ve learned that too much sugar makes me feel shaky and gives me a headache, and fruit makes my rot gut return unless I pair it with fat (apple and nut butter).
I’ve contemplated this a lot—do I feel guilty? No. Do I feel a little nervous? Yes—I usually feel sick when I eat grains and now they’re making me feel good. I’ve eaten all kinds of sandwiches, pasta, and pizza that really would not have made me feel good before I was pregnant. The world has turned upside down. It’s a bit confusing. But I’m going with the flow, and I hope you are too. I hope you’re not beating yourself up about eating some less than healthy foods.
I think the best thing you can do is just stay really present so you can notice at any given time what foods make you feel better and worse. If you’re craving something, have it. Then take note of how you felt after. If it’s really unhealthy, try a healthier option first. Take note of how you feel. If it didn’t satisfy the craving or if you felt icky afterward, then adjust—eat the donut if you need to.
4. Eat the Damn Vegetables
I mentioned earlier that veggies sound pretty gross to me at the moment. They do (but it’s not quite as bad this week). However, I have been able to sneak some veggies into my diet and I’ve found that I can also stand to eat some of them. A couple weeks ago, I made cauliflower pizza crust. I also made cauliflower cheesy rice (cauli is easy to sneak into things). I ate some raw carrots dipped in greek yogurt, and I had a salad drowned in my aunt’s amazing vinaigrette. Oh, and I ate lots of fries! I compromised by mostly buying frozen fries and baking them instead of having deep fried fries. I dipped them in lots of ketchup, and the baked fries were sufficient most of the time.
My point? Find ways to eat veggies even when they’re gross. Count fries as a veggie if it makes you feel better. Then take a prenatal vitamin and shed any potential guilt you have about lacking nutrients. You have plenty of time to eat more veggies when you’re feeling better.
5. Ask for Help and Support
I’m really lucky that my family is amazing. I’m also unlucky that most of them live 3000 miles away. I know I could have done a better job at eating vegetables if my Mom was close by (she’d have made them for me). I know I could have gone on occasional walks if any of my walking buddies were near me. But I do have an amazing husband—we subscribe to the Happy Wife, Happy Life theory, and he is at the top of his game while I’m pregnant (just kidding about the theory… kind of). He made sure to check with me everyday before he came home from work so he could stop and get anything I needed on his way, he made me dinner, washed dishes, cleaned the apartment, and rubbed my back (or got the heck away from me) when I needed it.
The thing is, I had to ask for a lot of things from him. I know he loves me and wanted to help, and he did a lot without me asking (because it was obvious the dishes needed to be done, etc.). But he loved it when I told him what I needed—he didn’t have to read my mind, and then he knew that what he was doing for me really was making a difference. So ask the people in your life to help you. Then fully plan to pay that kindness forward later on.
Women, especially those who have been through pregnancy already, are generally willing to help and to answer your questions. Take advantage of this!
6. Ignore the Annoying or Judge-y Opinions
Everyone will want to tell you that they had it Worse, or Better, or More, or Less than you have it. They’ll constantly tell you to get sleep now because once the baby arrives you’ll never sleep again! You’ll hear about what you need and don’t need, how you should feel and not feel, when you should do x, y, z… and on and on and on. Like I said before, the insights can be invaluable, but when stories and advice are delivered to you negatively or in a judging way, it’s best to ignore them.
Remember, Everybody is Different and No One is Special!
Find the Pollyannas and stick with them!
7. Make Lists of Everything You’re Going to Need/Want to Do Before the Baby Arrives
When you feel icky and tired, you can often still make lists. This helps you feel productive, brings the overwhelm down a notch or two, and takes your mind off the rot gut for a few minutes. You’ll feel more organized and you can use this list to help you set a timeline too (When should you take the birthing class? How soon do you need to create a baby registry? When is it too early to BUY STUFF?!).
Make lots of lists! Work Lists! Play Lists! Shower Invite Lists!
8. Realize You have Many, Many more weeks (and you’ll have more energy soon!)
Don’t feel like you have to do everything (or anything) on your lists during the first trimester (well, except scheduling the gender reveal ultrasound for week 15 or 16!).
You’ll likely be too tired to do anything on your lists anyway, especially if you’re working and/or have other kids. File your lists neatly away, and then go back to surviving.
9. You Will Survive
Like I said before, most of us do. When you’re in the depths of the First Trimester Blahs, you may not see the light at the end of the tunnel, and you may question why anyone does this more than once knowing what it’s like. It may really feel like it’s Not Worth It. You might cry about it too.
Then, one day, you’ll wake up and feel good again. You’ll jump for joy and dance a jig… and then the next day you might feel like crap again. But that first Good Day gives you hope that there will be more Good Days.
And there will be. They’ll start to run over into each other, and you’ll just go back to feeling great. Only now, since you know what it feels like to feel so awful for weeks on end, you’re happier than you used to be and you appreciate Feeling Good more that you did before too. You will also start to see a baby bump soon if you don’t already, and this reminds you that you’re actually growing a human being.
No matter how many women have gone through this before, it’s still an amazing experience and accomplishment.
What are your tips for surviving the First Trimester?