I first announced my pregnancy to “the world” around 13 weeks (I’ve just cracked the 17 week mark as I type), and it’s been fascinating to reflect upon the lessons and learnings from this initial chapter of my first pregnancy – to learn more about human behaviour and psychology in the process.
What I do know is that overall my pregnancy journey so far has been easy, compared to many. There are so many women that go through incredible sickness, stress, and heartache behind close doors. I appreciate why it is often said that the first trimester can be the hardest of all because so few people know what a “secretly” pregnant woman is going through. Every day we must hold our head up high, so to speak, keep smiling, and get on with life. This in itself I found very depleting at times.
Reflecting back, if I could describe the first trimester in short it’d be using the words: insane fatigue, beyond anything I’ve ever felt in my life. I literally had a nap every single day for the first nine (or so) weeks, on top of sleeping in each day to about 8am. Anybody that knows me well knows that I’m an early riser – early to bed early to rise. Always. The concept of sleeping long hours I’ve forever found tremendously boring, a waste of life. Yet, for the first time ever, I have found a deep appreciation for rest. A deep desire for sleep.
On top of the fatigue, I was hit with 9 – 10 weeks of intense nausea. Think continual waves of car sickness or a 24-hour hangover ongoing for 9 to 10 weeks (but thankfully no vomiting). For somebody who no longer drinks, let alone gets drunk, this feeling was very overwhelming and knocked me out into continuous lethargy and a compelling desire to switch off from the world – to retreat underneath my sheets. I found it challenging to follow through on my daily schedule. Many things fell to the side. I had to let go of commitments. And, for the first time in my life, I gave myself permission to surrender any extra workload, my inbox, social interactions, or topping up my yoga teaching schedule.
THE ALTITUDE OF ANOTHER’S ATTITUDE
Fascinatingly, a great observation for me has been that it seemed like almost every person I spoke with had a strong opinion on pregnancy – and that their opinions are rooted in their own (pain) story. I recall some distinct responses from various woman upon them finding out I was pregnant and very clearly being able to see through their communication into their own stories, into their own trauma, into their own pain.
Is sharing my own pregnancy an open invitation for others to freely download about their own (pain) story?
I saw this unconscious behaviour from others as a means to making themselves feel more comfortable with any challenges or disappointments that they faced in their pregnancy journey. Rather than be able to be fully present with the joy of hearing of somebody else’s special news. This certainly does not make somebody a “bad” person. This is just the reality of human nature. I can certainly relate to behaving that way myself, in other contexts. Yet my truth is that I almost let it suck the joy out of such a sacred and special time.
One stand out for me was taking out a book loan at my local library (the one and only book I read in my first trimester – Ina May’s Guide To Childbirth). At this time less than a handful of people knew that I was pregnant. Now, I could have wanted this book perhaps if I’d been studying to become a midwife, for example. However the librarian straight out assumed I was pregnant and started talking (loudly) to me about her pregnancy. Everybody in the library would have easily heard every word she said. I felt shocked and disheartened because she didn’t even know for a fact I was pregnant. Plus, there were more important people in my world that should know before her. I didn’t imply I was pregnant, until she started judging my desire to research natural birth. The book was highly recommended to me as a great resource for understanding and empowering women around natural birthing (and it is). The librarian proceeded to shut me down and say how she “had the plan have a natural birth” and “don’t have such high expectations, for the chances are slim it’ll all go to plan, so perhaps look into other more common outcomes”. And so on, and so on, and so on, of for about 20 to 25 minutes.
She did not stop to think that perhaps this was not the only thing I was researching.
A woman pregnant with her first child is potentially vulnerable and needs to be empowered through people she trusts, exploring resources she trusts, and to feel comfortable whilst receiving information and advice.
Everything that this woman told me was all about her (story) and nothing about me. When I had this realisation – that it was all about her and nothing about me – I birthed a mantra from that day on:
Someone else’s story is not my story.
Someone else’s story is not my story.
Therefore I pave, carve, and walk my own path. This realisation was tremendously empowering in moments of doubt. Ina May’s book was the only book I needed to read during the first trimester – informative, empowering, and me made me feel very relaxed about the whole process. It left me with feelings of trust (in nature’s strategic plan) and a sense of willingness to surrender to all outcomes. I asked my husband to also read the book – which he did – leaving us both on the same level of understanding. This was really important to me.
HEALTH & HERBS
Due to the immense fatigue and nausea experienced during the first 10 or so weeks my physical activity and practice was reduced to almost nil. I attended a couple of restorative classes, attended some higher-intensity movement classes, and went for a few long long walks. I felt like I always needed a nap before or after any exercise! I felt real sense of surrender for the first time in my life to doing less and sleeping more. But it was a little disheartening to feel less connected to my personal practice. This fatigue pulled me away a lot from other elements of my yoga path and spiritual practice too. I just had to let go and focus on getting through one day at a time.
When I felt hungry I was awfully nauseous. After eating I felt awfully nauseous. I remember a couple of days dropping to my knees, breaking down, and crying in frustration of feeling so off. I didn’t know what to do – and what drove me nuts was being told to eat ginger (like had never thought of that before?). I eat ginger so often in my daily life, so once I fell pregnant the thought of eating more ginger did not seem appetising in the slightest!
For the most part my food cravings have been healthy. The first was about four weeks of wanting to continuously eat (cooked) mushrooms – in pasta sauce, in lasagna, on toast, sautéed with greens, etc. I was craving mushrooms intensely before I even knew I was pregnant. The second craving was rice and dahl, nothing but dahl and rice. The third craving was mandarins. I could not stop thinking about mandarins. I think this is a direct reflection of a sense of dehydration. I remember feeling insane anxiety like I was going to pass out from dehydration (Mama’s please drink more water, LOTS more). I called out to my husband whilst having a shower at times, so desperate for him to bring me a large glass of water that I could guzzle. It makes me feel stressed even writing about it. I think it’s the mandarins that got me through this extreme period of thirst. My cravings then shifted to white chocolate. I sought out the best white chocolate I could find. After three healthy meals per day, I always needed some! Finally, I had strong urges (during the night) to drink cold, bubbly drinks – which is so unlike me. I’m a very big advocate for warm, easy to digest, liquids. Bubbly, gassy, cold drinks and I do not work well together, nor do I ever have a desire for them. Until being pregnant and waking in the middle of the night with an overwhelming desire of course. Now I know why they say:
You should not deny a pregnant woman’s cravings!
Around 7 to 8 weeks that my digestive processes were changing. My bowel movements slowed down (to be expected) and I was feeling more bloated. I think this is why around the 8 week mark, when I was going for my dating scan, I had three people tell me they thought I was expecting twins – based on how my bump appeared! Looking back I think it was a combination of my body shape and the fact that I was probably very bloated. My stomach settled around the 10 to 11 week mark. (And no, I am not having twins!)
Around 10-11 weeks I was waking with raging hunger at between 2-3:30am. The hunger left me feeling immense anxiety and restlessness – a type of hunger I’ve never really experienced before. I now manage this by eating more (there are worse things, no?) each day – just a little. At the baby’s rate of growth in this early stage it really makes sense that I needed to nourish myself slowly with a little increase in nutrients and energy via food.
A note on herbal supplements – upon doing some research, I stopped taking all (Ayurvedic) herbal supplements during the first trimester. As this is the ‘riskiest’ stage of a pregnancy, I decided I did not want to intervene with what was deemed a healthy, low-risk pregnancy. Instead, I trusted nature to run it’s course and amped up my nutrition. (There were 3 days I took Shatavari for a couple of reasons, and it was of huge benefit. However, I am happy to have otherwise surrendered all herbal intervention to let my body do was it innately knows to do.)
MY GREATEST DUTY
I publicly announced my pregnancy online by social media to an overwhelming outpour of love, congratulations, and support – above and beyond anything I ever thought possible. (Although the subtly-delivered yet strong opinions I have experienced from a few often left me a little dismayed.) I can certainly confirm that there is an immense amount of love and support from other mothers around the world that makes me feel like life has just stepped up to a whole new level. I’ve already gained so much deeper respect and appreciation for Mums. I feel an appreciation for the time I currently have in a day, the freedom to travel, the freedom to own my own schedule completely. I’ve already had to make sacrifices about my future – all bittersweet sacrifices – and I know that this will never end. It makes me feel like I’m truly stepping up in the world, helping me evolve in becoming a greater human. It feels like my Maha Dharma in this life to be a Mother. I predict it is going to be the one main catalyst for me becoming the greatest person I can be, all whilst experiencing such extreme amounts of love – beyond anything I have allowed myself to experience before.
HITTING MY UPPER LIMIT
It’s important to share with you all a significant experience for me in my own psychology and behaviour. A couple of interesting occurrences happened very, very early on in the pregnancy, which were the catalysts for my husband and I to seek out a pregnancy test. I did three tests – all which came back positive. Yet I denied my pregnancy. It couldn’t be so easy, I told myself. I bought three more pregnancy tests – of a different brand. All three came back positive. Standing in the bathroom and this huge surge of intense joy (to a level that I have never, ever experienced before in my life) washed over me. It exploded inside of my chest, inside of my gut. I heard my husband approaching. It snapped me back into reality, and I immediately put strong pressure and tension into my body to suppress the joy. I said no to myself, you’re not allowed to feel these feelings.
I look back and see that denying myself that immense level of joy was a reflection of my level of worthiness.
(The following day I went to my doctor to have a blood test, and all was confirmed – of course.)
Reflecting upon my own behaviour, it reminded me of the concepts behind one of my favourite and most life-changing books I’ve read – The Big Leap. The view is that we all have an “upper limit” resistance problem. When things become too good in our life, we feel too much happiness, too much joy, too much peace, too much balance, we sabotage this. We allow a situation to upset us. Or we create a scenario which pulls those positive feelings down. The book essentially helps us to see those barriers so that we can make many big leaps to stretch out of our comfort zones and allow more happiness and joy in!
I look back at this time at the intensity of joy and love that felt. It was foreign to me, so I shut it down. I prevented myself from feeling. It was almost too scary, like the liberation of skydiving out of an aeroplane. I had to go back to reality. I had to be sensible, to be logical, to be realistic. I said to my husband, I may be pregnant but you know miscarriages are so common that we simply cannot allow ourselves to be happy about this right now. And only when I move out of the first trimester can we be happy. This was a fascinating psychological game I played with myself (and a little bit sad).
Fortunately, it didn’t take me all this time to figure out my self-sabotage. But I still kept on my cautious hat until the 12 week mark. I really believe that it was sharing the pregnancy with the world, and the flooding of love received back, that freed me in my mind, body, and spirit, to see this as really real. Now, a sense of calm has washed over, like it’s the most natural, expected thing – Mother Nature has strategically designed something important to happen, and I all I need to do is surrender to the process. It has certainly brought my husband and I even closer together, which has been a tremendous blessing.
A NOTE ON PRECONCEPTION
Looking back upon the sub-conscious preparation for this pregnancy, I feel the most beneficial components of my fertility were:
- Getting off the contraceptive pill 4-5 years prior. In fact, staying off all medication for this time, and being in continual good health.
- Spending one month prior to conception eating exceptionally clean – almost no dairy or gluten or refined sugar.
- Taking a long-term course of Ayurvedic herbs (Manjishta, Triphala, Shatavari were the main ones). Note – it’s very essential to discuss herbs with a qualified practitioner directly to know what is best for you.
- Creating more routine and regularity in my life (despite all the travel).
- Spending some deeply heart-filling time doing spiritual and auspicious “work” in India a couple of months prior.
RESOURCES (many more gems coming in the 2nd trimester post!)
- BOOK – Ina May: Guide To Childbirth (An empowering read on natural birth and overcoming obstacles during labour)
- BOOK – Margo Shapiro Bachman – Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby (Yoga & Ayurveda basics in the context of pregnancy)
- BLOG – Newborn Mothers (A blog covering a variety of topics for all stages of pregnancy and post-natal life)
As I write this now, early on in my second trimester, there’s already so much more to share. However, I wanted to lay out this first trimester as an open “diary” for me to reflect upon in later months to come, and also to welcome you into my journey a little more intimately – perhaps helping other mothers-to-be in a small way too.
Please leave a comment below if you have any insights to share. If you know someone who is also on their pregnancy path, I’d love you to share this post with them!