Jun 17, 2014

Pregnancy in Retrospect: The First Trimester

I know there is an ABUNDANCE of information on the internet about pregnancy and babies and parenting and pretty much everything else, but I also know that during this pregnancy I have gobbled it all up.  You just can't do much else for a while.  You're excited about the baby and looking forward to it, so much so that you think about it a lot, but you have to wait 8 MONTHS to meet it.  Combine that with nausea and/or fatigue, and surfing the web for baby related stuff becomes so second nature you can spend a half an hour on Pinterest looking at identical "newborn essentials" lists without even realizing you've done it.  It can be an unhealthy rabbit hole to go down if you're not careful, but occasionally it can be helpful.

Now that I'm past the first trimester (and the second- I meant to finish this sooner) I'd like to contribute my 2 cents.  I'd wait until the pregnancy was over and do it all at once, but I'm pretty sure my brain will be mush by then and I will have forgotten everything I'd wanted to say.  Everyone's experience is different, but these are some of the things that I dealt with in the first trimester, and some of the things that helped me.  

1. Anxiety: Remember that rabbit hole I mentioned a minute ago?  Well there's enough scary information out there to give you a panic attack if you're not careful.  There are things that can go wrong during pregnancy, and there's a lot of conflicting advice on what you should or should not do.  I'm all for talking to your doctor about any questions or concerns you might have, but I also recommend reading this book: Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom is Wrong- and What You Really Need to Know.

Emily Oster is an economist who got pregnant and was frustrated by the conflicting information she found about how to take care of herself.  She approached the problem like any economist would, and looked at the numbers.  She dug through study after study after study and analyzed them for reliability and for their results.  The book title might sound extreme, but the book really isn't.  She just talks about some of the common concerns women have while pregnant and what the research suggests.  She doesn't actually tell you to do anything (other than not to smoke- don't smoke while pregnant!) but she lays out the research so you can make your own informed decisions based on the risks and rewards for you.  It was clear, calm, and non-alarmist, and I found it very comforting.

Real quick while we're on the subject, if you are doing your own research, please keep in mind that people can say whatever they want- especially on the internet, but also in books.  So before you get too stressed out, you might do yourself a favor and give yourself permission to throw out anything without any evidence backing it up.  When they do cite evidence, check it against these criteria.  Pregnancy is scary enough as it is- if you believe every terrifying thing anyone out there has to say, you'll likely find yourself curled up under the covers in bed all day completely immobilized by fear.

2. Nausea: Holy cow, I don't know if there's anything you can really do about this.  For me, I felt nauseated all day, every day, but I never threw up.  Nothing really made me feel good, but some things helped a little.  I found that oatmeal was very settling in the morning.  I also liked pepsi in the afternoon, which isn't exactly healthy but if it helped me eat it was worth it!  Gingerale helped a little, too.  Perhaps more than anything else what helped the most was forcing myself to eat- even if it was just a little- when I really didn't want to eat.  They say morning sickness is worse when you have an empty stomach, and that seemed to be true for me.  

Some of the recommendations I got that didn't work for me, but did work for some women, were eating or sucking on something sour (one woman I talked to sucked on lemons!), preggo pops, eating snacks before bed, and keeping crackers on your nightstand to eat before getting up in the morning.  There are also medications you can take, some of which are quite safe.  I think a lot of people are kind of wary of taking medicines while pregnant, but talk to your doctor.  Good nutrition is important during pregnancy, too, so not eating can be a problem.

In the end the only thing that really made it go away for me was time- I was around 16 or 17 weeks before I felt like I could eat 'normally' again.

In the meantime I tried to distract myself.  If I didn't feel well enough to get up (which was most of the time), I watched a lot of TV and I knitted.  I pretty much finished my baby blanket before I was even done being sick, and I'm glad I did because I know if I began one now I wouldn't be done before the baby was born.

3. Insomnia: Sleep has never come easy to me.  Stress, caffeine, big snacks right before bed and lack of exercise all make it more difficult.  Getting up early, routine and being productive during the day make it easier.  When I got hit with nausea, my sleeping patterns got all messed up.  At its worst, I wasn't falling asleep until at least 4 am and was struggling to get up before 12 or 1 pm.  My normal coping mechanisms weren't especially useful when I didn't feel well all day.  Something that helped a little was a half a dose of Unisom.  It was on my list of safe over the counter medications the doctor gave me, it was discussed in the book mentioned above, and I thought it sounded like a safe choice since it's been around a long time and it's very mild.  Some people prefer something more natural, like Melatonin, but that's never worked for me.  If Chris really can't sleep (which is rare), he just takes Benadryl and it knocks him right out.  Benedryl is also safe during pregnancy, but it doesn't have that affect on me.

The only thing that really got me back on a normal schedule was, after my nausea had begun to fade, I took a trip up to Washington with a couple of my aunts and cousins to visit my mom.  I had to get up to get to the airplane on time, and spent most of the rest of the day traveling.  On only 2 hours of sleep I was exhausted, but I didn't have a choice so I powered through, and by that night I fell asleep early and slept like a rock.  Then I got up relatively early every day because I didn't want everyone to have to wait for me, so by the time I got home I was back on a regular schedule.  I'm not suggesting everybody take a trip to cure their insomnia, I'm just saying that if you can power through a rough day or two you may be able to get yourself back on track.  In my experience, sleeping in always makes me feel worse in the long run.

4. Mood Swings: Oh poor Chris.  Between a pregnant wife and two adolescent daughters, I don't know how he makes it through the day.  Lucky for us he's a mellow guy.  I've spent most of this pregnancy alternating between being unreasonably emotional, demanding and mean, and sincerely apologetic.  For us, as long as I occasionally remind him that I really still like him a lot and appreciate what he does, we're good.  If I feel myself getting upset with strangers I can typically hold it together until the situation is over, and if I really don't feel like I can get along with anybody I just hide in my room (the same advice I give to my kids).  

As for my own sanity, I just enjoy the highs (there's plenty that makes me happy, after all) and during the lows I let myself cry and remind myself that hormones are a thing, I'm growing a human being, and this won't last forever.  For me I don't think the mood swings have really been that bad, and even my kids can understand the sentence "I'm sorry I just feel grumpy right now."  For some it's worse, and sometimes you really need to talk to your doctor and get help.  There are a lot of options out there.

5. Clothes: I'm just going to say it- I suck at clothes.  I've always struggled to find things I like, I get tired of clothes, I stain and tear holes in my clothes, I'm unwilling to sacrifice comfort, and I'm pretty cheap.  The ever changing pregnant body along with the nausea, random aches and pains, and bloating just made it that much harder to get dressed.  I wore a lot of pajamas and sweat pants, but that doesn't do much for my morale.  I may not be very stylish, but I at least like to feel like I got dressed in the morning, and yoga shorts just don't give me that feeling.  

I found that I could wear a lot of my old jeans if I put a hair tie through the button hole instead of trying to zip and button them all the way.  Then I covered it with a long camisole under a looser t-shirt of some kind.  I didn't like most of the maternity tops I looked at, but I got a few large regular tops that might not make it all the way through my pregnancy but will be useful again after I've had the baby but not lost all the weight.  Where I really invested my money was on a  couple of really nice bras.  I got fitted and figured out I'd been wearing the wrong size, and then I got 2 expensive bras and have kicked myself ever since for not doing it years ago.  If you don't think it makes that much of a difference (I didn't) you're wrong.  Go get a nice bra.  I went to Victoria's Secret, but there are probably other decent options out there.  Target did me no favors.

6. Water: I have had this stainless steel Contigo insulated water bottle for about a year, and I use it every single day.  If it ever breaks, I'll buy another.  If they stop making them, I'll weep.  I don't even bother with a glass of water any more because this thing will keep my water ice cold all day long and I don't have to worry about a cat or a kid knocking it over.  Since I bought it I drink way more water than I used to, and if you're pregnant staying hydrated is a must.  We got ours at Costco- 2 for $20.  You can get them on Amazon, too (linked above), but they're slightly more expensive.

7. Exercise (or lack thereof): After this baby is born I think I'm gonna kick myself for how little I've exercised.  Still, even when I was nauseous I tried to get out and go for a walk a couple times a week.  The rest of the time that I did absolutely nothing, I just told myself not to feel guilty about it.  We can only do so much, and laying around feeling bad about myself wasn't going to help anything.

8. Lotion: I really don't want stretch marks.  From the very beginning I bought Burt's Bees Belly Butter and put it on after the shower.  The thing is, I don't know if it actually does anything.  It smells good, my skin is soft, and I don't have stretch marks yet, but it's possible I wouldn't have had stretch marks anyway.  What I've read seems to suggest that stretch marks are more genetic than anything else and you probably can't do much to prevent them.  Either way, the lotion was like 11 bucks and even though I use it every day I'm sure to have at least half a tub left by the time I have this baby- so it's a small investment and it's not hurting anything.  It's also possible that the lotion may be why I don't have itchy dry skin on my abdomen. 

9. Nesting: I was excited and felt the urge to begin surrounding myself with baby things pretty much immediately, but I knew that would be irrational and likely a waste of money (that I didn't have).  Instead, I started knitting a blanket, and I made a baby registry within a month of finding out I was pregnant.  I've updated it a lot since then, but it did me no harm to start way back then.  I'm using babylistregistry.com and I really like it.  It's easy to manage online, and I like being able to pull from several different stores without having several different registries.  Plus they give out these (free) adorable little cards to include with your baby shower invitations.

That was pretty much it for me.  The first trimester is no problem for some women, but for others it can be rough.  Those first few months crawled by for me, but since then time has gone by much faster.  Hopefully, if you need them, some of these things that helped me in the beginning can help you, too.

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