Six Things No One Told Me about the First Trimester of Pregnancy and How I Survived Them

Surviving 1st Trimester Madison Moms Blog1. You will be more than just “tired.”

“Feeling tired” is at the top of every list of early pregnancy symptoms, and it is definitely is a complaint of mine in early pregnancy. But I’ve found “feeling tired” to be a wild understatement. A more apt description would be “feeling like I’ve been shot with an elephant tranquilizer.”

For me, there are a few things that really do help to combat (though not completely eliminate) this fatigue. The best help–sleep–is such an obvious remedy, yet it can be so hard to attain. It’s no easy feat to find time to squeeze in extra ZZZZZZs, especially if you have other kids. Going to sleep early and sleeping late (when I can) and squeezing in a nap or two on a weekend really make a difference. Even resting my eyes with the toddler in front of Daniel Tiger helps a little.

And while exercise is the last thing on my mind in the first trimester, even a walk around the block helps wake me up a bit. Whenever I can muster it, a yoga class, walk or even just a hearty cleaning session around the house really does help chip away at the numbing tiredness.

Lastly, there’s coffee . . . blessed, blessed coffee. Okay, JUDGEMENT FREE ZONE here. Pregnant mamas get to make up their own minds on this one. I realize some women choose to avoid caffeine during pregnancy and that’s totally cool. Be sure to check with your doctor and look at the research, but many studies show that a small or moderate amount of caffeine is unlikely to have a negative impact on a pregnancy. And to that I say THANK FREAKIN’ GOODNESS! My morning cup of joe totally saves me, especially during the slog of early pregnancy. And sometimes, a touch more in the afternoon gets me through until bedtime (glorious, glorious bedtime).

2. It might be lonely.

The first trimester can get pretty lonely. Pregnancy hits hard–morning sickness and exhaustion and all the other fun perks of all those hormones–and there’s no baby bump yet to give me away. At first, no one knows I’m pregnant. No one at work understands why I’m so groggy or had to run to the bathroom suddenly during a meeting. When only a few people know I’m pregnant, it’s easy to feel like I am going through it all alone.

Traditionally, it’s pretty common to wait until the second trimester to announce a pregnancy to friends and family, but I’ve found it’s worth considering sharing the news earlier. First of all, it’s such an exciting time! (Ahhhh! I’m having a baby!) I’ve found it’s really fun to share the news and people seem to feel really honored that you’ve told them so “early.”

But most importantly, by letting people know, I find that I open myself up for support during an exciting and challenging time. As I tell people, I start to feel less alone. And if something bad should happen–severe pregnancy complications or loss–I have a support network already in the wings. I don’t necessarily broadcast my early pregnancy to the world via Twitter or anything, but I’ve found it’s helpful to share my pregnancy news openly with trusted people, even fairly early on.

3. Morning sickness isn’t just for mornings.

Ah, morning sickness, my old, disgusting, evil friend. First, let me say that “morning sickness” is a misnomer. The technical name for morning sickness is “Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy,” and while it’s cumbersome to say, it’s much more accurate (and sounds way less cute) than “Morning Sickness,” which for me is often all-day sickness.

And sadly, morning sickness doesn’t always disappear at the 12-week mark. When I was pregnant with my son, I had morning sickness the entire pregnancy. Though it lasted for-freaking-ever, my case was probably mild to moderate, so I guess I was lucky. But I always felt slightly seasick and kind of hungover, like that green emoji with pursed lips and worried eyebrows. 🤢

The good news is I have found ways to feel better! I came across (and tried!) lots of ideas from accupressure to ginger candy to eating lots of small meals. And while the non-medical suggestions are definitely worth a try, only one thing really worked for me: drugs. Working with my medical provider, I have been able to use over the counter medications and vitamins to control my nausea. (There are also prescription drugs, approved for use in pregnancy, that can help, too.)

While I don’t love slamming so many pills while pregnant, I remind myself of the big picture. Feeling better helps me eat more nutritiously and be way more likely to exercise. So for me, it’s important to kick the nausea to the curb so I can more easily make healthy choices for myself (and my little one).

4. You might feel like a different person.

I don’t always like (or even recognize) first trimester me. Hormones hit like a falling piano and I feel physically sick and emotionally distant. I retreat inward. I don’t feel as connected to my loved ones as I usually do. My patience is shot. I’m tired and cranky. My body doesn’t feel like my own anymore.

I don’t even want to know how my husband would describe my personality during the first trimester. I am guessing the words “evil” and “zombie” might pop into his mind. I am not going to ask him.

How did I survive this part of the first trimester? Ugh. I don’t know that I did, honestly. I mean, my husband and I are still married. I still have most of my friends. My family still talks to me. So, somehow I got through it. Well, maybe it’s more accurate to say everyone else around me got through it.

5. It can be scary.

For me, the first trimester is the scariest part of pregnancy. Frightening and unknown things loom all around; this was especially true during my first pregnancy. Miscarriages are common. Worry runs high. And there are so many tests! From initial pregnancy tests to genetic testing to first trimester ultrasounds to the tons of blood work, my nerves can run high waiting for results. It’s a weird time with lots of unknowns.

It’s scary, yes, but I try to take things one thing at a time: one day, one test, one appointment. If something comes up, I tell myself I will deal with it, like I’ve dealt with other challenges before. I try not to worry (too much) about unknown outcomes or let myself imagine worst case scenarios. I try to send a little love to that brussel-sprout-sized baby and think positively.

I think the act of admitting the scariness of the first trimester is helpful to me. It’s okay that I feel nervous and scared and unsure. Admitting these feelings helps me relax a little bit (naming something makes it less daunting somehow). With the bad feelings named, I can let myself get a little excited about the pregnancy. With so much worry, sometimes it’s hard to remember that at the end of this journey is likely a new life: a little baby who will come home to our house, changing our family forever. It’s okay, I need to remind myself, to make room for some happiness.

6. It doesn’t last forever!

It may seem like it, but the first trimester doesn’t last forever. I knew this beforehand, of course, but I could have used a reminder during what felt like a long trimester.

Now that it’s behind me, I feel a sense of relief. I’m feeling better physically, too. Morning sickness is in check and the exhaustion is subsiding. I’m eating healthier (even some vegetables!) and exercising, which helps me feel better all around. I’m ready for my chubby tummy to round into a baby bump. I’m ready and excited for what’s next. So, bring on 2nd trimester!

Amelia Cook Fontella is a writer, teacher, designer, and entrepreneur. She lives in a cozy little house on Madison’s east side with her husband Rob, kiddos Frankie and Luisa, and a puggle named Starla. Amelia has an MFA in creative writing and regularly teaches in the Madison area, including her own Get Inspired Workshop classes. Amelia and Rob own Green Table Media where they help small businesses and community organizations tell their stories. Amelia adores traveling the world, exploring things in her own backyard, going swimming, and just about anything to do with creativity, writing, and the arts. She’s good at finding other people’s lost things and makes a mean brandy slush.

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