I’m a meticulous planner by nature and when it came to conceiving, things were no different.
My husband and I were very careful to not start actively ‘trying’ until we felt financially secure, emotionally mature and otherwise as ready as possible to be parents. But then we got pregnant very quickly. Like, immediately.
Given that many, many couples spend years attempting to make a baby (and sometimes never get there at all), I was well aware that this made us extremely fortunate. But in that moment when I wandered back into the bedroom to tell my husband that the test – the very first one we’d ever taken together – was positive, there was no jumping up and down in celebration. Frankly, I felt shell-shocked. Because, despite the fact that I’d been as organised as possible about proceedings, this definitely wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.
To be honest, those first 24 hours of conflicting emotions set the precedent for the following three months.
During my first trimester, I didn’t feel joyful; I felt weird and anxious, my body and my emotions totally out of my control. I couldn’t allow myself to believe that we were going to get safely past the 12 week ‘danger zone’, and at the same time was totally overwhelmed by the actual reality of bringing a child into the world and then having to take responsibility for it FOREVER MORE.
I’m now just over six months’ pregnant and am pleased to report that things have got much, much better. I’m sure that there are lots of women who have a much more pleasant initial introduction to pregnancy, but, while the memories of my difficult first three months are still fresh in my mind, I wanted to share some of the things I learned whilst traversing that tricky first trimester.
Hopefully it’ll help some other struggling expectant mums. I certainly wish I’d known more of this stuff to start with…
1) One of the oddest things about your first trimester is that, on the surface, everyday life has to pretty much go on as normal, while inside you everything’s changing. And, while you might expect to feeling blooming marvellous – it actually feels pretty crap. In my early pregnancy, a trip to the supermarket was enough to do me in for the whole day, any attempts to stay out past 9pm ended prematurely (and often with tears), and the only thing I felt capable of after a day at work and a busy commute was crawling into bed. But, on the flip side, if I allowed myself to stop – spend the whole of Sunday on the sofa, for example – it only set me back. Go easy on yourself and slash your commitments in half, but don’t give in entirely either.
2) There’s lots of talk about the huge risk of miscarriage in the first three months and this being a (very valid) reason to keep news of your pregnancy to yourself. But don’t feel like you have to keep it an absolute secret. Think of the family and friends you’d want to have be your side if the worst did happen, and then just tell those people. Being able to share your news and get a little extra support from your closest loved ones can go a long way to making your first trimester more bearable.
3) Public transport is, frankly, a pain when you feel nauseous and exhausted, but it’s a necessary evil for many mums-to-be. When you’re visibly pregnant later on, you’ll find that people will tend to be more considerate towards you. But if you want a seat on the bus/tube at this stage, you’re just going to have to ask for it. Never feel guilty about doing this, or too shy to bother people. At the end of the day, no one wants a fainting pregnant woman on their hands.
4) When it comes to dressing, you won’t need maternity clothes for a while… but layers are important. Your body temperature will yo-yo wildly (delightful), and you’ll want to be able to easily strip off when light-headedness kicks in. Don’t worry too much about concealing your belly area at work or at social occasions; I guarantee that you’re burgeoning bump isn’t as noticeable as you think.
5) The ‘no drinking’ thing is a dead giveaway that you’re pregnant, and people – even those you don’t know all that well – seem to have no qualms about pointing it out, either. Have a think about how you’re going to respond in advance so you don’t end up tongue-tied when this happens (which it inevitably will).
6) Work can be tricky if you’re plagued with morning sickness and ready to fall asleep at your desk. My tip is to tell someone senior what’s going on, so you have them in your confidence. It can feel reassuring to have someone at work on your side, and hopefully they’ll be able to shoulder some of the burden for you.
7) Expect body weirdness. I’ll spare you the details of my own particular experience in this area, but, outside of the morning sickness and sore boobs symptoms that we all know about, there’ll be icky things going on that you never, ever would have predicted…
8) Your first visit to the midwife will probably feel surreal. They’ll ply you with pamphlets and talk about a load of decisions you’ll need to make around stuff that did feel way, way in the future but now seems suddenly urgent. You don’t need to sort out everything right now, and there’ll be time enough to start properly preparing for the baby’s arrival when you’re feeling less dreadful in yourself.
9) Avoid birth material. There’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to start reading up on pregnancy and what to expect if you want to, but don’t feel tempted to get ahead of yourself. Stay WELL away from any info on the actual birth at this stage – you’ll only scare yourself silly.
10) It’s OK if, like me, you don’t immediately snap into ‘mother mode’. I didn’t feel bonded with the baby until it started moving around the 19-week mark.
Give it time and it’ll come – and those emotional, strange first three months will, all of a sudden, feel totally worth it. The second trimester, by comparison, feels fantastic.
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