Like so many things about pregnancy, the ‘first trimester’ is not as simple as it sounds. I always thought it’s just the first twelve weeks, simples. But some sources say it’s the first 13 weeks, and others say the first 14. Today marks 14 weeks of pregnancy, which means it’s the end of the first trimester by *anyone’s* definition. Hip hooray!
Seriously though, this is psychologically very significant for me, for a few reasons:
1. Like so many women (and men, I’m sure), the first trimester was full of anxiety about miscarriage. I remember the day I found out I was pregnant, I thought it was probably the happiest I had ever been. By the next day, I was more scared than I had ever been. The statistics about miscarriage are pretty frightening, and even though I had everything in my favour – being young, healthy, regular cycles, etc. – I knew that I was not immune to this possibility, by any means. I felt crushed by the weight of the knowledge that I could lose the most precious thing I’d ever had, and I had almost no control over it.
On that note, a friendly piece of advice: if someone tells you they’re pregnant before 12 weeks, please don’t say anything along the lines of “wow, it’s risky to tell people this soon!” or “I know someone who miscarried at X weeks” or whatever. A number of people said things like this to me, and I know that none of them meant any harm at all, but it was really hurtful and upsetting. After one such incident, I went home and broke down in tears. I shared the news with some people early because I was so happy, and I wanted them to share in my joy. But in those delicate first weeks, I needed people to build me up, not ‘warn’ me of the risks. I was VERY aware of them, as I’m sure most pregnant women are. Dwelling on the risks would not avert them. I like to think that if the worst had happened, people would have loved and supported me, and not said “well, you *did* tell people too early.”
2. Between weeks 6 and 12, I was pretty sick. Luckily, I have a good friend who is a few months ahead of me in her pregnancy, and after suffering badly from pregnancy sickness herself, advised me not to wait to see a doctor about getting medication. These were wise words, and I would wholly recommend the same to others! After a couple of weeks of vomiting up to 6 times per day and being more or less bedridden, I saw a doctor and got prescribed some heavy duty anti-nausea meds. Although these didn’t solve the problem 100%, I was able to function more like a normal person and vomited a lot less.
This dimension of the first trimester was much harder than I expected. Not only was it physically exhausting and horrible, it was emotionally tough too. Spending weeks stuck indoors will drive you into a dark hole, and even more so when you can’t do even simple things that you normally enjoy – eating, watching TV (screens made the nausea worse), studying (reading or writing for longer than 15 mins made me sick), even sitting in the same room as Gilchrist while he ate (the sight/smell of his food was nauseating). On some days I felt like I was entering a depression, and I felt especially hopeless because I had no idea how long it would last – for some people, pregnancy sickness only lasts a couple of weeks, and for others, it doesn’t stop until the baby is born. Thankfully, the worst of it seems to be over now.
3. This kind of goes with the above, but a tough thing about the first trimester is that you feel like total crap (or at least, I did), but you don’t look pregnant, and you’re not ready to shout it from the rooftops. That meant that if I started retching on the street (which I often did if there was any kind of strong smell – food, cigarette smoke, strong perfume) then it felt like people just thought I drank too much last night. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to deal with these issues in the workplace as I’m still finishing my Masters, but that would be a whole other realm of unpleasantness.
So to sum up: if you know someone in their first trimester, be nice to them! It’s physically and emotionally harder than I ever would have imagined, and I was (am) so so appreciative of the friends and family who checked up on me, showed me sympathy and made me feel like I was not alone.
So, happy 14 weeks birthday to The Chip In My Tummy (my mum and I started calling the baby ‘Chip’ after I read that it was the size of a chocolate chip at around 7 weeks. Now baby is the size of a peach!). I know I am really lucky to have made it here, and at last I feel like I can relax into being pregnant and enjoy it. It’s amazing how strongly you can love this little thing inside you, even when it’s only the size of a poppyseed (when I found out I was pregnant at 4 weeks). With every day that passes, I love the growing baby in my tummy more and more, and get teary every time I think about looking into those sweet, sleepy, newborn eyes for the first time.