I’ve been putting off writing this blog post, and now with 2-3 weeks until this baby’s arrival (more on that in my next post), I figure it’s now or never. First of all, I want to start by saying that I know how lucky I am to have had an easy time getting pregnant and a relatively smooth pregnancy. I do not take any of this for granted, but I also feel entitled to share my personal experience honestly.
This might seem self-indulgent to think anyone else would care about what my pregnancy has been like, but after going through ups and downs in the last nine months, I can tell you with 100% certainty that in the moments when I needed reassurance or a little boost the most, it was the honesty of pregnant ladies or moms that have been through this that helped me rebalance. So if one person reads this and feels comforted or like they are not alone in the weird and wacky physical and emotional journey that is pregnancy, then it’s worth it. I’ve had so many wonderful conversations with other women and always would encourage you to reach out to me on Instagram or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk.
Okay. Part 1 of my second & third trimester story. Here we go…
To kick it off on a positive note, my second trimester relieved me of my heartburn, indigestion, and nausea that had kicked in about a week after I found out I was pregnant. While I didn’t have traditional ‘morning sickness’ (I never vomited), it still wasn’t fun to feel shitty 90% of the time or to experience serious food aversions (I couldn’t look at chicken or smell coffee for weeks, to name a few), so having my stomach balance out was a big one. With that rebalance came a new and unstoppable love of food, primarily of the sweet variety. I’ve never enjoyed eating so much and while I tried to stick to a balanced diet, I definitely went HAM on desserts. I’m talking a few cookies after lunch and a slice of cake after dinner virtually. every. day. While I’ve always been a dessert fiend, this was like I had taken steroids and the only thing I wanted was more, more, more frosting!
With all that eating and with the natural progression of pregnancy, my body changed in super fun ways (sarcasm)! I’ve been virtually the same weight for ten years, regardless of diet or exercise, so to see my body take on a new look so drastically was an adjustment, to say the least. To be totally honest, some days I loved it and some days I felt like I was trapped in the depths of my worst PMS, where all I could see were flaws. On my good days, I loved that my figure was more feminine, since I’ve basically never had boobs or curves. On my bad days, I would cry getting dressed when the only thing I could fit into were sweatpants. The funny part of this is that I look back at photos from my first trimester (see below) and can barely tell that I was pregnant in comparison to how I look now. Moral of the story, savor the early stages and know that it’s all in your head. Everyone else sees you as a glowing pregnant person, so enjoy it!
During the second trimester, there are a few tests that are virtually mandatory, and a few that are elective. One of the mandatory ones (at least if you’re giving birth in a hospital) is the gestational diabetes test, which takes place between weeks 24-28 of pregnancy. Gestational diabetes causes high blood sugar that can effect your pregnancy and baby’s health. I was nervous to take this test based on my dessert consumption and the fact that I hate anything medical. The test includes fasting overnight and then heading into the doctor’s office to drink a syrup-like beverage that contains about 100 grams of sugar (nearly 3 cans of Coca-Cola) in under 5 minutes, then waiting an hour and having your blood drawn. There are a few different ways to do this screening, and being needle-phobic, I opted for a test that if I had failed, would’ve required me to take the standard one, which requires 2-3 blood tests. Thankfully I passed!
The other test that I opted to take was a genetic screening. While this is not mandatory, my genetic background made me incentivized to go for it. This process caused my first full-on anxiety breakdown, but it was ultimately for the best. Long story short, I met with a genetic counselor who walked me through a few of the different genetic issues that I might be more susceptible to be a carrier for, and then explained to me that I could take a test that checked for 40 genetic disorders, 200 genetic disorders, or 400 genetic disorders. The realization that there could be over 400 things wrong with me/my baby was an overwhelming thought, and that doing everything ‘right’ in my pregnancy gave me no control over the health of this baby now or in the future, was the first time it hit me that even though we create and carry these little creatures, we can only protect them from so much.
I ultimately decided to test for 200 different disorders, and waited for my results. About two weeks later, I got a call from the genetic counselor informing me that while 99% of the screening looked great, I was a carrier for Familial Dysautonomia, which is found primarily in the Jewish community. Familial Dysautonomia is a nervous system disorder that essentially causes muscle weakness and degeneration, and has no treatment. About 60% of people with the disease survive to age 20; scary, to say the least. Up until this point, baby & I had passed every single test with flying colors, so getting this news knocked the wind out of me. My husband Tommy and the rest of my family and friends were supportive and calmed me down, telling me not to freak out about it until Tommy got tested. FD is a recessive gene, so both Tommy and I would have to be carriers for there to be a chance that our baby would have it, and because Tommy isn’t Jewish, it would be extremely unlikely. Still, my mind went into overdrive thinking through all the worst-case scenarios. Thankfully, two weeks after Tommy’s test we found out he was not a carrier, and I felt an instant wave of relief.
Regardless of the positive outcome, the few weeks of not knowing what might happen, having to think about what we would do in the case that the baby had the disorder or any serious health issue, and realizing that I’m not in control of this process, was a lot to work through.
Beyond tests, genetics, and body image, the other huge change for me was the way that my body reacted to growing this human and what it did to me on a physical level. Towards the end of my second trimester, I began experiencing sciatica symptoms, including hip and lower back pain, and that horrible feeling of having no circulation in one or both of my legs. Luckily I was working from home on consulting projects and could rest as needed. These symptoms would come and go, but were pretty consistent towards the end of my second trimester. I tried stretches, elevating my legs, etc. and while some of these efforts helped temporarily, ultimately the only thing that fully relieved my discomfort was the baby eventually shifting and relieving the pressure on my nerves.
Oh, I forgot to mention my coolest new trick! I have never in my life experienced a food allergy, so when my lips got swollen, chapped, and itchy a few months in, I figured it was just a strange hormonal reaction or a new issue with my chapstick. After a month of suffering and looking way less than cute, I found out that I was allergic to tree nuts. Super fun, considering almonds made up 75% of my diet at that stage. Pregnancy is just the most mystical journey, huh?
Looking back, I now see my second trimester as an interesting and emotional transitional stage that in some ways, helped me prep for what I’m going through in my third trimester (I’ll be sharing more about this in my next post). I had read a lot about women struggling in their first trimester, feeling great in their second, and slowing down again in their third. This certainly wasn’t my experience, as my second trimester was by far my most physically challenging, which goes to show how different being pregnant is for each and every woman.
While my third trimester relieved the vast majority of my physical symptoms, the emotional ups and downs were just beginning…