I am now almost into my third trimester of my pregnancy, but I thought I would write a bit about what the first was like for me. The experience can vary so much from woman to woman, and speaking to friends who have recently given birth I know that I got off very lightly with my symptoms, but it was still a pretty scary time for me.
Warning: this post contains a very honest account of pregnancy, and Dad, I think I’d prefer you stopped reading here!
The Pregnancy Tests
I discovered I was pregnant very soon after we had conceived. I knew my period was due but two days late, which was not hugely unusual for me, but I hadn’t had any of the breast pain I usually experience in the run up, and I just felt different somehow. I had anticipated getting pregnant to take a long time at my age (35), and so when, within moments, two very bold lines showed up on the test neither of us could really believe it! We didn’t stop smiling for days (haven’t really the entire time!).
Sore and Growing Breasts
A few days later the first symptoms of pregnancy arrived – my breasts became more sore than they have ever been, to the point that I couldn’t go to bed without a bra on so had to invest in some soft cup ones (so hard to find decent ones in my size). Even the cat brushing against them was enough for me to be in agony. They also started growing rapidly, and I went up two cup sizes in weeks. Finding comfortable bras in my new very large size has been one of the most annoying things about pregnancy, M&S did me for a while, but now I am out of their largest size, and hoping to goodness they don’t grow any more.
Mild Morning Sickness
Added to that, I began to feel very queasy in the mornings if I didn’t eat straight away. Our routine used to be a coffee in bed, followed by walking the dogs, and then Ste would head off to work and about 10am I would have breakfast at my desk while working. I couldn’t manage the dog walks without feeling incredibly sick until I started to eat breakfast immediately upon waking (literally – I kept oat bars on my bedside table) which kept the queasiness at bay. I found I was constantly starving, but once I started eating I was full immediately. Very frustrating if we ate out – I took to ordering child portions! If I didn’t eat straight away when I became hungry, the queasiness would get much worse, so I was constantly grazing. I was never actually sick though, so I think I had a lucky escape from the dreaded morning sickness.
What I found less easy to cope with was the sudden exhaustion. I thought I had been tired before – that feeling getting into bed at the end of a long day of hard physical labour such as digging or strenuous DIY – but even those extremes were not as full on as pregnancy exhaustion. I would need a sit down after walking up the stairs. Loading the dishwasher meant I needed a half hour on the sofa to recover. And it wasn’t just physical, my brain seemed to be working at half capacity too, everything was more of an effort than usual. I started having a nap after lunch just because if I didn’t I would fall asleep at my desk, or suddenly realise I had been staring at nothing for half an hour, totally out of it! And even with an afternoon nap, by 7pm I would be falling asleep on the sofa again.
I had fully intended to carry on going to bootcamp three times a week to keep healthy during pregnancy, but even morning dog walks were getting the better of me – from being the one up ahead waiting for Ste, I became the one miles behind struggling up the hills and needing to stop at the top of each one to catch my breath and recover. Getting home from that and heading straight out for a 30 minute highly intense workout was unthinkable! I felt like life totally stalled during these three months, because I couldn’t do anything in the evenings after work, and even at weekends I was too exhausted to do DIY. Poor Ste was left trying to finish off the bathroom all on his own, my only contribution being cups of tea occasionally (decaf for me), or turning taps on and off to check plumbing! I wasn’t capable of anything else.
Apart from the physical effects, pregnancy took a toll on me mentally as well. I suffer from anxiety anyway, but I became extremely anxious that something would go wrong or I would somehow harm the baby. I went from confidently striding around the hills not worrying about roots and stones or caring if I tripped to stepping cautiously along, making Ste declare I had already developed a pregnancy waddle! I was so nervous that if I slipped over the baby would be hurt, or if I stood up too quick, or lifted anything heavy, or did anything at all really that I would normally do without thinking twice. I dreamt sinister things nearly every night, and woke up paranoid.
I stupidly also started reading Mumsnet, specifically the board for 1st trimester women, and on a daily basis I would read about people going for scans to be told there was no baby there, or that they had already lost it, or were developing an ectopic pregnancy. I became convinced that something similar would happen to me, and I could not stop myself worrying. Typically, Christmas fell exactly at my 12 weeks, so my NHS scan was scheduled for two weeks later, when I was actually 14 weeks. I knew I couldn’t tell family and friends the joyous news over Christmas unless I had seen for myself that there was indeed joyous news, and heard that little heartbeat for the first time.
So we booked in for a private scan the week before Christmas. It cost £45, but it was worth the reassurance. I worried constantly up to that date that I wasn’t actually pregnant, or that something had gone wrong. When we finally saw our little pipsqueak, and heard a strong heartbeat, it was a huge relief.
This put my mind at rest considerably, and so we duly told everyone at Christmas, to much celebration from both families. I decided to hold off telling friends until after the official scan, which would give us more of an idea about the health of the baby (which I was still very worried about, given my age and the fact I am overweight), but on Christmas Eve I reached the magical 12 weeks where the risk of miscarriage significantly decreases, and I was able to relax and really enjoy Christmas with the family. In fact, I think it was my best one in years!
All in all, I think I got off lightly compared to some women in the 1st trimester, but it had its own challenges for me, mainly the mental element of coping with the anxiety – not knowing from day to day whether the baby was okay, what the various aches and pains meant, it all added up to quite a lot of stress. I know myself well, and I realised at this point that the anxiety would only continue to grow the further into the pregnancy I went, and the closer to the birth it got (labour terrifies me right now).
Having heard a lot of good things about hypnobirthing, I signed up to Natal Hypnotherapy , to help me deal with my anxiety during the pregnancy and also during the birth. Prior to beginning the course I was a little sceptical, but so many friends had so many positive things to say about it, I had to give it a go. I was really delighted to be asked to review the course by its founder, Maggie Howell, so I will be sharing with you my thoughts on the course and on how it helped me, during the rest of my pregnancy, and after the birth (if indeed, it did help!).