Lessons Learned & Life Loved Through Pregnancy: First Trimester

Featured images photo credit: EAM Photography

Make sure you’ve read part one of the story here before reading on.

Before you read any further, know these things:

  1. This is MY experience. I’m not here to compare myself to anyone else or weigh my hard against yours. I have a new understanding for difficult, high risk pregnancies and loss during pregnancy, but know that my difficult and my loss might not be the same as someone else’s. That doesn’t negate anyone’s experience!
  2. I don’t necessarily endorse every single tip or belief in the resources I’ve linked, but I still think they’re really great resources worth sharing.
  3. TRIGGER WARNING: COVID
  4. I’m still learning! I might get some things wrong entirely here, or what worked for me might be wrong for you. Please give me grace and know I’m not writing to claim I know anything about babies or parenting. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned through my own pregnancy journey — I named my blog “Lessons Learned & Life Loved” for a reason. As I’ve already mentioned, every pregnancy is different, and one of the biggest things I’ve learned is there’s no such thing as a “normal” pregnancy.
  5. Expressing my honest dislike for and difficulties with pregnancy in NO way relates to my love for my daughter. More women SHOULD feel empowered to talk about the less-than-beautiful, downright awful parts of pregnancy. As always, I feel called to write about this, and if something I write in this specific post helps just one person, then it’s all worth it. If this post isn’t for you, move on. 

Month 1 & 2: COVID, fatigue, nausea

On Friday the morning after I found out I was pregnant, one of my brothers happened to be subbing in my building. I didn’t really plan on it, but I just needed someone at work to know what I knew, so in my classroom before anyone else had arrived, I told him he was going to be an uncle. I had also opened up to him in the weeks prior about not NOT trying and what happened last month, so he knew it was a possibility. That helped me get through the day, but my anxiety was skyrocketing. I was worrying about our family’s support, how I could be a mom AND a teacher, how our dogs would get along with a baby, getting an appointment scheduled with a new OBGYN because mine no longer delivered babies… So many things.

I really wanted to tell our families for Christmas, but my husband was adamant on waiting. It seems the “right” thing to do is wait to announce your pregnancy until you’re through the first trimester. I get that because the risk for miscarrying significantly drops at that point, but I was literally crying to my husband that I needed people in our circle to know so I could stop worrying so much. Even waiting for our first appointment on January 11 to confirm that I was really pregnant and the baby was healthy felt like a lifetime away.

We did keep our secret through family gatherings for Christmas, and luckily I was feeling like myself until December 26. My nausea and fatigue became unbearable, and I literally laid on the couch the whole week after Christmas thinking that was just what pregnancy was going to be like for me. I was a little congested too, but I mustered up the strength to do a spin class on Wednesday, December 29, and I felt slightly better, but still not great. Again, though, I was pregnant, and I’d heard the first trimester could be brutal. On December 30 and 31, we finally told our parents and siblings, and I think they were shocked because for so long, my husband pretended any news we had for them was that I’m pregnant when I wasn’t, and for so long I’d been adamant that I had no interest having kids right now.

On New Year’s Day, my husband woke up in a cold sweat and got sick. We did have Korean BBQ the night before with his family, but the rest of us, including the pregnant lady, felt fine. We had a few at-home COVID tests stashed away, but we had just tested negative the Wednesday before Christmas after being exposed at a Christmas party on December 17. We both took one, fully expecting them to be negative, but low and behold, we both tested positive for COVID! We did go to two churches on Christmas, but we had tested negative literally the week before. No one else in our families got it even though they were right there with us at church.

I was already feeling so much better by January 1, and I couldn’t help but wonder what symptoms from the week before were pregnancy-related and what symptoms were COVID-related. My husband also started feeling better later that day, but his mom still came over to bring us some essentials, which was the start of us recognizing just how much help and support she was going to be for us through this pregnancy.

On Monday, we were supposed to report back to work and couldn’t because of quarantining rules at that time. Communicating with my principal was hard because I wasn’t announcing that I was pregnant yet, so when he asked about my symptoms and when they started, I really didn’t know what to say. I obtained a negative COVID test from a testing center down the street by January 3, but my husband could not test negative for DAYS. In fact, when my January 11 baby appointment rolled around, he was unable to come. I left that appointment feeling so overwhelmed and alone.

Days later, I got a call with my blood and urine sample results. Turns out, I had hypothyroidism (I’ve learned a lot about it from Katie Dunlop with Love Sweat Fitness) and a UTI. I’ve gotten routine wellness checks for the past five years, and never once did hypo show up. My doctor said sometimes women develop it in pregnancy, and sometimes it goes away after while other times it doesn’t. I’m praying it goes away when I’m not pregnant! This completely explained the extreme fatigue I was feeling the week after Christmas as well as why I was losing a lot of hair in the shower or always feeling cold.

During this time, I also really felt in my heart that I would ask to go part time at work, and if that wasn’t an option, I would quit and trust that God had something better for me. I couldn’t keep my pregnancy from my work family for very long after I returned from having COVID. They were obviously worried about me and wondered why I hadn’t come back on January 3 after Christmas break, so I just told them in the hall before fourth hour one day. Their joy and excitement for me might be my favorite reaction to the news; many of them are former teachers who watched me grow up, and now they get to see me become a mom. I didn’t know how I was going to be a mom and continue at the job I love so much two months into my pregnancy, but I did know God had a plan.

Month 3: blessing, togetherness, challenging

On January 20, my principal announced his unexpected retirement, and on January 21, I was asked to serve on the hiring team for the new principal. This seemed like an answered prayer. I thought God had put it on my heart to go part time or quit, but with this opportunity, I felt Him telling me that I was right where He wanted me to be. Little did I know at the time, the day of the interviews would be the absolute hardest, most devastating day of my entire pregnancy (read about it here).

Around this time, my grandma and my dad each volunteered a day in their week where they could watch our baby when I go back to work after maternity leave. My husband and I always hoped that his mom, a former early childhood educator, would want and be able to help us take care of our future child(ren) while we worked. A couple of years prior, she felt led to quit her current job, and on the same day in separate phone conversations with each of us, she confirmed that she would love to watch our baby three days a week when I return to work. This was another ginormous answered prayer in our lives; in fact, this was one of the biggest worries we both always had when we talked about having kids. On two public school teacher salaries, we couldn’t afford childcare but we also couldn’t afford for one of us to stay home.

Despite this, though, people in our lives still assumed I would be quitting my job to be a stay at home mom. If we could financially do that, I’m sure I would love it, but it’s also very presumptuous for people to assume that because I’m the mother, I’m going to give up my career and just be a mother. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with women who feel called and led to be stay at home moms, but that’s not me in this current season, and I am blessed with family members available to watch our baby so that I can continue my career.

With one worry alleviated, a new one took root this month: I started to worry about if/how we would include our baby on social media. Aside from what I do for work and this blog, social media is not something I use personally. I realize I am extremely vulnerable on this blog, which is the point, but I also realize that my baby is going to be her own person, and I don’t want to exploit her online, especially when she doesn’t have a say. We also have some estranged people in our lives that don’t and won’t know about her, so that’s a challenging road to navigate with the internet, even with our best intentions of setting boundaries and posting “privately.” As we figure this out in the coming months, I’d like do an entire blog post dedicated to how we’ve decided to include our baby on social media.

At our early appointments, we learned about NIPT testing, which can tell our doctor lots of genetic things about the baby, including gender. Many of my friends at work did it and were able to find out gender as early as 12 weeks instead of waiting for the 20-week anatomy scan. This sounded like a good idea to us, and we could afford it with insurance, so we decided to go for it in week 10.

Working out was hard for me at the beginning of my pregnancy, but I still managed to do a workout for 43 days of the first trimester, something I’m incredibly proud of myself for committing to. I had to give up hot yoga, and although I ran a few times, I just didn’t want to risk hurting the baby or myself, so I mostly walked, took spin classes, and took barre classes. Although I never actually threw up in the first trimester, I often felt nauseous, and I realized that chicken and coffee were no longer appetizing to me. This is also when the gassiness set it (and really hasn’t gone away since).

The morning the first trimester ended, I excitedly told my husband I had made it through one third of pregnancy, and he kindly reminded me that technically the first trimester ends a little bit after week 12 since months aren’t a perfect four weeks. Don’t worry — he has since become much more encouraging and supportive, realizing he has a hormonal pregnant wife who will take all the small pregnancy wins she can get.

Read the next part of the story here.

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