Now that I’m heading into the home stretch of this pregnancy, I finally feel like I’m getting used to being preggo. Or at least getting used to the fact that my body feels different literally every single day!
One of my favorite parts of being so open about my journey is being able to connect with other women at a similar season of life, whether they are navigating miscarriage, trying to conceive, newly pregnant and haven’t even told friends and family yet (perks of being a stranger on the internet!), it’s such a gift to remind each other that we aren’t alone.
I love getting messages like this:
“I'm 7 weeks pregnant and having horrible morning sickness and food aversions! Pregnancy has been such a roller coaster of emotions! I feel like I'm losing myself because I haven't been able to eat or exercise or do the things I want due to feeling poorly! For instance my body craves carbs and salt right now so I eat what help me get food in my stomach but i'd love to be eating healthy but when I try some days it'll make me gag! Also lots of nights in so exhausted there's no way exercising or walking is an option and this makes me feel worse about myself! And all this stuff no one tells u! They act like as soon as you get positive test you will love baby and be excited and fit and beautiful 24-7 n reality is it just feels like I'm getting over a cold and a leach is inside me sucking all of my strength energy and motivation and I don’t see it feel it or hear it so I don’t have major connections to it yet. And pregnancy for me hasn’t been beautiful and charming its been bloat and hormonal acne and and clothes not fitting lol.
This is an exciting stage in my life how do I embrace it and make the best of it?”
Ohhhh girl. This sums up first trimester so perfectly, doesn’t it?
It’s freaking hard to go from feeling on top of your life, career, workouts, social life… to literally overnight feeling like there is a parasitic alien possessing your body and turning you into an exhausted, moody, bloated, nauseous blob. Not to mention the expectations and internal pressure to be the radiant glowing joyful goddess depicted by society and the media.
When we experience anything less than pure happiness and health, we start to second guess our experiences or feel shame and self judgment for not being more grateful, excited, or energetic.
In doing so, we diminish and discredit the profoundly ENORMOUS transition we’re experiencing physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally as our bodies and entire identities shift into a new role - motherhood.
Any type of growth and change — even if it’s welcomed and positive — is bound to be uncomfortable and overwhelming as we shed old layers of identity and step out into the unknown.
(Also, two words: HORMONE ROLLERCOASTER)
Here are some of my personal tips for surviving the first few rocky months of pregnancy.
Please keep in mind these opinions are coming from my limited experience as a first time mom, so take or leave anything I say with a grain of salt and always consult your doctor first! My personal advice is geared towards first time moms who are in a supportive relationship and are having relatively uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies and not suffering from complications such as hyperemesis gravidarum. Make sure you’re seeking the level of support you need for your unique situation.
1. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO EMBRACE YOUR NEW BLOB STATUS
Your body has been possessed! Give yourself grace and do what you can, but the first trimester is about rest and self care and adjusting, and it does usually get better!
Your body is putting on weight and fat stores now to fuel your baby as it grows, which is tough because while your fetus or embryo is still tiny you just feel bloated and gross... but it all balances out! View the first 12-14 weeks as survival mode. Embrace being lazy but explore gentle movement to see if it helps your nausea and fatigue. One of the only things that helped me feel better was getting outside in the cold winter air for a walk. It never sounded like a good idea, but it always felt good to move my body and get fresh air. My personal mantra was “it TAKES energy to MAKE energy.”
If you’re dealing with nausea, vomiting, feeling constantly motion sick or jet lagged, don’t beat yourself up about not being able to eat healthy foods. Try your best to figure out what you can tolerate, try to eat plenty of protein and healthy fats, and trust your prenatal vitamin will fill the gaps. I discovered that smoothies were tolerable, and used them to sneak in fruit and veggies. My favorite combo is a scoop of Vegan Chocolate Shakeology (full of superfoods, whole food nutrients, and pre/probiotics that helped settle my stomach) with half a frozen banana, almond milk, a handful of spinach, peanut butter, and ice.
One crazy factoid: our blood volume increases 40-50 percent during pregnancy, so that is partly why your heart works overtime and you will feel constantly out of breath. It doesn’t mean you’re suddenly out of shape or lazy, it just means your body has a lot of internal demands.
You will get the fitness back eventually, but in the meantime your body is working overtime on the inside! Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it's not happening.
If you do feel well enough to squeeze in a short workout with your doctor’s approval, it’s totally safe to continue doing what you were doing before pregnancy. I will be sharing my personal tips and favorite resources for prenatal health and fitness in a future post!
Sleep as much as you can, and practice delegating more chores to your partner.
Affirmation: “I’m not lazy, I’m pregnant.”
2. IT’S OK TO NOT FEEL EXCITED AND HAPPY 24/7 (or at all)
I went into pregnancy fully prepared for all the physical discomforts like nausea, fatigue, the random stuff your body does (hello bloody noses, flaky scalp, clogged toilets), but you can’t really prepare for the mental and emotional rollercoaster until you’re in it.
Pregnancy is hard because you are literally losing yourself, or the version of yourself you’ve known up until now. Your entire life as you know it is about to change, in obvious ways like gaining weight, stretch marks, and being responsible for an infant, but you’re also losing a lot of freedom along the way. No more last minute brunch dates with your girlfriends, sleeping in as long as you want, hopping on a plane for a long weekend getaway without any extra preparation, being able to focus on work or your business.
However, you’re also gaining a new version of yourself and your life, and I like to remind myself to focus on what I’m GAINING versus what’s being lost.
But along the way, whatever you are feeling is valid. Even the seemingly selfish feelings of grief for losing your old way of life.
Some typical first trimester emotional triggers:
Navigating the unknown
Overwhelm of adjusting to new reality
Feel like you are strapped on a rollercoaster and can’t get off
Feeling isolated or alone, especially at the beginning before you share the news, or if you don’t have anyone in your inner circle to relate with
If you experienced miscarriage, fertility struggles, or challenges in trying to conceive (or a close friend or family member is going through challenges), you might feel a broad mix of emotions or feel guilty for feeling anything other than gratitude and excitement
It’s ok to feel all the feels. We have the capacity to feel sadness, grief, overwhelm, fear AND love and joy and gratitude all at the same time.
You don’t have to rationalize your emotions. They aren’t supposed to make sense.
There is no one way you "should" feel and no one is happy and excited all day every day. That is completely unrealistic to expect of yourself while pregnant, especially when you’re also dealing with the hormonal hijacking, exhaustion, nausea, and all the other ups and downs of life. You might also be dealing with complicated family relationships, processing anything traumatic you’ve experienced to get to this point, maybe your own mom isn’t around anymore and you’re facing that loss again in a brand new way.
Emotions might be a rollercoaster but you WILL have exciting and joyful moments along the way, like seeing your little gummy bear on an ultrasound for the first time, hearing a heartbeat, watching your partner get excited too.
it definitely gets easier once your bump starts to grow and people know you’re pregnant, and you can get excited about preparing for an actual baby vs. just feeling like shit. But until then, it’s ok to feel like shit.
Fortunately, we have 9 months to feel the feels, come to terms with all the changes, and prepare for becoming a mother, which might not feel like enough but it is a lot of time, so try not to rush through to “get to the other side.” Meet yourself where you’re at even when it is hard.
3. SET BOUNDARIES TO MANAGE OVERWHELM
I almost said “to avoid overwhelm” and then laughed because that’s going to be impossible. You WILL feel overwhelmed. It’s ok. It’s part of the process of expanding into a new identity and role, and being swamped with brand new experiences and changes.
Welcome the overwhelm and understand it’s just part of the growth process.
I’m obsessed with reading and learning everything I can get my hands on, but my doula told me to avoid anything that triggers fear or anxiety, and to get outside for a walk when the weather is nice instead of obsessing about my pregnancy or getting sucked into the baby development/registry/Google vortex. Great advice.
Speaking of advice, you’ll soon discover that everyone and their mother - literally - is chock full of “advice” and opinions when you’re pregnant. Practice the art of the “smile and thank you,” and remember that you get to decide who you listen to, and what advice you take into consideration. It might help to make a mental list of whose input you value (e.g. your doctor, mom, sister, BFF, etc), and then allow everyone else’s input to slide right off, no matter how well intentioned they may be.
Get used to asking for what you need, and receiving help!
4. CHOOSE TO EMBRACE THE JOURNEY
I recently started reading the book What No One Tells You: a guide to your emotions from pregnancy to motherhood, written by two psychiatrists who offer the perspective that pregnancy isn’t just some medical condition, or a means to a baby, but rather a bigger transition or initiatory stage of life called “matrescense,” or becoming a mother.
They compare it to adolescence, which is a culturally recognized phase we’re taught about in school when our hormones go nuts and we grow from a little kid into a pre-young-adult.
Matrescence involves a similarly massive shift in identity, hormones, body changes, and mental and emotional upheaval, yet we don’t ever really acknowledge it.
Our society focuses on the baby but it’s important to focus on the mother, too.
it's a journey for sure! But you will be fine and you WILL do what is best for your body and baby, learning how to trust in your body and your intuition is one of the most amazing parts of these 9 months.
Try not to get caught up in the future or wanting to get to the next phase, and practice mindfulness and being present in the moment, even when you feel crappy.
5. REMEMBER IT’S ALL TEMPORARY!
You probably feel different every single day, which is a reminder that your body is literally constantly changing. The days might feel long, but the weeks and months will fly by, and eventually this too shall pass. I try to remember that this is the only time in my life I’ll experience my first pregnancy, and it helps give me perspective and feel extra grateful and present in the moment.
Enjoy the learning journey, take things day by day, and practice tons of self compassion and grace. The self care you establish now will serve you well in the future once baby is here and life is turned upside down.
But until then, it’s not upside down yet!
Pregnancy has humbled and challenged me in so many ways. I think the first trimester is such a SHOCK to the system because we need to be literally forced into a new reality, as we transition into motherhood.
Everyday is different. Roll with it.
I’m learning how to adjust my expectations, set priorities, and give myself so much grace along the way.
Will I ever feel like myself again?? Or do I just need to suck it up for the next 18 years?
I guess the answer is: I’m still myself. Just changing.