7 Totally Not Surprising Things I Learned in the First Trimester of My First Pregnancy
No matter how "ready" you think you are to have children, experiencing pregnancy for the first time can be overwhelming. Those early days are tough. Even if you've seen friends or family go through it, the experience is so different for each mom-to-be. No amount of quizzing your pals, studying up on baby books, or scanning online forums can truly prepare you for the reality of your own particular brand of morning sickness, the reactions of your nearest and dearest, or the absolute panic of having to wait 12 freaking weeks to hear the heartbeat.
Having recently experienced all this for the first time myself, I was surprised at some of the things that happened — and those that didn't — during the first trimester. So I'm breaking down those first 13-14 weeks with a few of my personal experiences and the advice I'd give to anyone in the same situation. If you've just got that positive test result and you're wondering what's in store, keep on reading. And if you've been there, done that, got the t-shirt (or, ahem, the baby), read on to see how many of these feel familiar.
Whoever Called It Morning Sickness Has Clearly Never Been Pregnant
If your only experience of pregnancy is what you see in TV and films, you'd be forgiven for thinking pregnant women suffering from morning sickness get it for a few days, during which time they get up, throw up, swill some mouthwash, and go about their day. The truth is far more complicated and seems to be different for every mom-to-be. Mine lasted until about 14 weeks, but I never actually threw up. Instead I suffered from almost constant nausea that only went away when I ate stodgy white carbs. As a result, I ate like a teenage boy throughout my first trimester. I consumed so many fries that, for a while, I was convinced I would eventually give birth to a potato.
Plus that whole "morning" thing? Nope. It was actually worst for me between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. I became incapable of telling the difference between feeling hungry, feeling stuffed, and feeling sick. It was not fun, but it was manageable, and it did lift as the second trimester began. This is not the case for everyone, sadly.
Not Being Able to Drink Is the Easiest Thing in the World
Before I saw that faint pink line on the pregnancy test, I was pretty grumpy about the idea of having to give up alcohol while I was pregnant. I love a glass of wine, I get invited to a lot of social events through work, and I am usually the first person to say yes when someone suggests grabbing a drink on the weekend. Two days after finding out I was pregnant, I hosted a bachelorette party. Then came the wedding, immediately followed by a vacation at an all-inclusive hotel where the booze was
free already paid for. But thanks to that "morning" sickness, at no point during that time did I want a drink. Just the idea of it made the nausea worse.
Once I'd given up booze for a month or so, it became second nature, even when the nausea stopped. I've given up alcohol a few times before, but the big difference this time was that it wasn't a choice, it was necessity.
Maternity Clothes Are Truly Horrible
Apparently, all pregnant women should wear nothing but cheap-looking floral prints or horizontal stripes. Though retailers like ASOS and Boohoo are trying to make more stylish options, I can't shake the fact many maternity versions of straight-size garments just look weird (especially when so many of them are modeled by tall, slim models wearing fake baby bumps). So far, though I have embraced maternity jeans with all the enthusiasm of a 6-year-old at a McDonald's birthday party, the rest of the time I am trying to make my regular clothes last as long as possible. Given that my prepregnancy personal style tended toward "does this hide my stomach?" territory anyway, this hasn't been too hard.
There Are So Many Symptoms They Don't Tell You About
Though I'll be willing to admit I approached pregnancy with a bit of an "I'll deal with it when it happens" nonchalance, I thought I was fairly clued-up on what to expect in the early days, given how many friends had shared their experiences. But there are so many weird pregnancy symptoms I didn't know about. I honestly think you just forget them by the time you give birth because they're so random. Yes, there's the nausea, the fatigue, the bloating. It's pretty commonly known that your hair gets thicker and you develop the sense of smell of a bloodhound. I knew I might get melasma on my face. But what about the excess saliva? I wake up in puddles of my own drool. How about the random nosebleeds? Twice now I have been on the train to work and suddenly realized I'm channeling Eleven from Stranger Things. Oh, and then there's the hair that grows on your stomach — one wiry black hair poking out an inch below my belly button was actually my first sign of pregnancy, made all the more distressing by the fact I'm a blonde. There is no end to the weird stuff your body throws at you. Most of it is totally normal, but if you're even the slightest bit concerned, call your doctor or midwife. That's literally what they're there for.
Nobody Cares About Your Pregnancy as Much as You Do . . . Except Your Parents
I knew (or at least hoped) my parents would be happy I was pregnant, but I wasn't prepared for quite how excited they were, perfectly illustrated with how antsy my dad got when I neglected to tell them my 12-week scan wasn't until 6 p.m, meaning he spent all day worrying. "We've been like cats on hot bricks waiting to hear!" he exclaimed.
If you're privileged enough to have parents or in-laws who are in your lives and thrilled to be grandparents, make the most of them. Your friends, your colleagues, your hairdresser . . . they might tolerate your baby chat, but honestly, they'd really rather not hear about your extensive research into car seat safety. Your mom, however, will listen intently, offer her own advice, and she'll probably also start knitting. A lot.
Everyone Wants Your Money Now
Pregnancy and babies are expensive, and there are plenty of companies out there desperate to get their hands on your cash while you're feeling hormonal, excited, and probably a bit vulnerable. There is no end to the amount of stuff you can buy for yourself and your baby. I originally had a rule that I wouldn't buy a thing until after I reached the halfway point, but I clearly misjudged how quickly I would need to swap to maternity jeans (12 weeks, and I'm never going back). Also, how tempting the baby section of Target is.
I enjoy shopping and I don't regret buying a Harry Potter sleepsuit at 15 weeks because I was tired and emotional and it had Hedwig on it. But I do think the commercialization of pregnancy is a problem. Our moms and their moms didn't have half the plastic junk we're "supposed" to buy to see us through pregnancy and the first six months with a newborn. Luckily, those first trimester lay-on-the-sofa-feeling-like-sh*t moments are the perfect time to do some research and narrow it down to the items that you truly need.
I still don't think my husband believes me that a nasal aspirator is one of those things, but I have five months to work on that one.
Waiting to "See" Your Baby For the First Time Can Make You Feel Anxious
In the UK, the first scan for most moms-to-be is at 12 weeks, and even though most people don't find out they're pregnant until they're about five or six weeks along, the weeks leading up to that scan go by painfully slowly. It's the first time you see your baby and hear the heartbeat, and for many parents, it's when the whole thing becomes "real." I found myself falling into a spiral of statistics and risk factors as we inched towards week 12. I got massively impatient, and there were definitely moments when I wished I'd splurged on a private "reassurance" scan at an earlier date, just to ease the panic.
Stress isn't great for baby, so fellow UK moms, if you are anxious or concerned and you are lucky enough to have the means to pay for an early scan, by all means go for it. Don't feel guilty, or like you're being frivolous or impatient. When it comes to things worth spending money on, I think your baby and your mental health should be high on the list. However, do bear in mind that many of the places that offer these early scans do not give medical advice: you're seeing an ultrasound technician, not a doctor or midwife. I didn't have a reassurance scan, but I did have a private gender scan, and though the staff were great, the place was definitely set up more like a baby gift shop than a medical establishment. If your scan doesn't go according to plan, you could find yourself in a pretty horrible situation.