A Trying First Trimester
Mental health, entrepreneurship & self-compassion
If I am being entirely honest, the last thirteen weeks have been, to put it lightly, tumultuous. In fact, when I told my husband I was writing this piece, his response was: “Well that’s going to be a dark read.” But through the bewildering, sometimes brutal days of the first trimester, there have been glimmers of excitement, gratitude and amazement for the insane job my body is doing.
I have always loved babies. I am lucky to have many friends who have already embarked on motherhood that I’ve looked at with admiration and thought with absolute certainty: I can’t wait to do that myself one day. Fast forward to a random Tuesday in September when I fell to the floor in a puddle of tears after First Response delivered that unmistakable YES, and all of a sudden, I wasn’t so sure.
Nothing about pregnancy has been what I expected. I imagined a movie montage in which both my husband and I cried tears of joy looking in awe at our positive pregnancy test. I saw myself in a white linen dress, rubbing my belly, staring off into the distance dreaming of my future child. Reality has involved a lot more sweatpants, McDonald’s french fries, hormone-fuelled arguments and tears, lots of tears. It’s also involved days where I didn’t get out of bed—a luxury, but also a curse of being an entrepreneur. I learned fairly quickly that without the support of a constant work environment and steady bi-weekly paycheque, this whole first-trimester thing was going to be a lot more, well, trying.
Before I launch into my musings from the notorious first trimester, I want to acknowledge people who are struggling with their fertility right now. Whether you’ve spent your life savings on IVF, just got your period (again) or don’t know when or how your baby will get here, I see you and I feel deeply for you and your experience.
Today I am finally through the first trimester and am sharing with the world (ie. you and a few Instagram followers) that there’s life growing inside of me. I still have no idea what I am doing and am a far cry from an expert, but here are a few things that have floored and enlightened me in the last 90 days.
In the early weeks of pregnancy your hormones skyrocket. A friend told me that in the first trimester, you have the equivalent of something like 100 birth control pills coursing through your veins at all times. So, what did this mean for me? Angry hormonal acne (v. cute), constant bloating, a surge of seemingly uncontrollable emotions and extreme fatigue. I once cried (hard) to my husband because I just could not stand the smell of our towels. I didn’t even know who I was anymore. Not only was I coming to grips with this life-altering change, but I had never felt physically or mentally worse in my life. What the movies don’t prepare you for is that first trimester symptoms can truly be a recipe for mental health disaster. You’re sleeping constantly, you’re eating weird foods, you’re holding onto a massive secret while attempting to soldier on with normal life. The entire situation is totally overwhelming and completely isolating.
Ok, that was a bit of a dark start, but don’t worry—I got wise and gave into the hormones as the weeks wore on. This physiological shift shone a blinding spotlight on all my control issues, my people-pleasing tendencies and cut-throat type A-ness. I no longer could keep my body-image issues in check by working out daily because I was utterly exhausted. I had to surrender to my growing body that only wanted carbohydrates. I said no to plans and made like a hermit all fall long (if I bailed on you, now you know why). I struggled to keep up with my work as a freelance writer and feared my clients would think I was dropping the ball. What I learned, between many naps and old episodes of Sex and the City, was that my only option during this time was to practice extreme self-compassion. There was no sense in fighting my body, it had other plans for me. This complete surrender and grace are things I want to carry with me far beyond this pregnancy. We all could use a little more of them.
There Are No Rules
Convention tells you that your pregnancy should remain a secret until you are past the twelve-week mark. What I want to share is that this decision is entirely personal. I found the secret-keeping element of this whole thing to be unbearable. In my very early days of pregnancy I told a cab driver, just because I needed to talk to someone about it (he was very happy for me, by the way). While I totally understand the fear of complications or a desire to keep things close, I largely ignored the “12 week rule” and told all of my nearest and dearest so they could support me through this wild time, and I’m so glad I did. I also told some of my clients which helped put my mind at ease during this tumultuous time. It wasn’t an excuse to slack off, but rather an act of vulnerable transparency to let them know where I was at.
I’m Still Me
One of the first things that popped into my head when I found out I was pregnant was that I “hadn’t achieved enough yet.” I feared that the journey to motherhood would mean a death of my old self and an end to my personal and professional successes. When divulging this to my therapist, she shared how after her first child, she got her masters in counselling and started her own practice. Her wisdom to me was that after you have children, you have a new kind of energy, a more focused passion that leaves all kinds of room for new ventures, challenges and professional progress. I’ve taken this with me and marvelled every time I continued to make someone laugh, or created work a client was happy with, or got my butt to a pilates class in the throes of first-trimester awfulness. Even as I write this sentence I am reminded that in and amongst this astronomical change, I’m still me.
My intent with this honest account of my first trimester is not to scare you off. There have been absolutely been beautiful moments in all of this chaos. I will always remember laughing after seeing our tiny eight-week-old baby appear on the ultrasound screen—I just couldn’t believe it! Or when my husband and I got emotional over this tiny little pair of Vans. The entire experience has been thoroughly human—imperfect, unnerving, but incredible. Now, I’m heading into my second trimester where I’m told my skin will glow, my hair will shine, I will be frisky, and all my first trimester troubles will be miles away. Will it happen? Stay tuned...