Wednesday, September 23, 2009

First Trimester

I am pregnant. This is all that has been on my mind lately. I haven’t wanted to make this fact public until now, except to those who are closest to me—and so the long silence from me on this blog. Soon enough now, the extended family will know, as will my Facebook friends, and all of you—whoever you are.

I’ve made it through my first trimester. I’ve had a couple months to process, research, visit midwives, cry, sleep, journal, feel sick, tired and moody, and otherwise obsess about all the decisions we have to make in the months ahead. Now, I feel myself coming out of the intensely private early stage of comprehending, “I am pregnant,” and more willing to let this secret into the open. It has felt like a secret. Like a slowly evolving mysterious new reality to hold, feel, and nurture within silence and solitude. To celebrate—and to mourn—the end of one phase of my life and the beginning of another. I’ve wanted this, I’ve fantasized about it, felt ready for it, and yet “it” could only remain abstract until I started to feel the changes in my body and to embrace the changes in lifestyle-- feeling the tenderness of my breasts, cutting out alcohol and a host of other things, and letting this new reality sink in day by day: my life is changing, and will continue to, in a huge way, for the rest of my life.

My belly has been growing (I guess I am what you call “showing early”), my appetite has been finicky (enjoying a spaghetti dinner one night and feeling repulsed by the leftovers the next day), and I’ve been nauseous (although I haven’t actually thrown up, and I’m happy to report the nausea is going away). For weeks I had to eat something every couple hours to stave it off, and only certain foods appealed (I’ve eaten huge amounts of cereal, toast, and nectarines). My mom’s leftover Chinese food almost always tastes good, but a similar stir-fry that I made myself made me want to hurl. Meat can completely disgust me, or else I can wolf down a Dick’s cheeseburger and fries in minutes. Like any woman who’s spent much of her life watching her weight, I don’t want to inflate beyond the necessary baby weight gain-- but when you must eat to not feel sick, you eat whatever you can.

My cat was the first one I told. I was home by myself with a pregnancy kit and my husband was out of town traveling. “I’m pregnant, Miles,” I said, just so I could say the words aloud, the words I have heard so many times in movies, the words I have imagined saying to my husband, imagined what it would feel like inside. I laughed and shook my head, then called Matthew. I wanted to whoop and cry, but he was in the middle of dinner with another couple and I felt his reaction stifled which stifled mine in turn. “I knew it,” he said. He had thought I was based on my growing, rounding breasts, and his suspicion had helped to trigger my own. “I’ll call you later,” he said and left me to sit on the couch and spin with the news by myself.

It happened so much faster than we’d expected—I’d only gone off the pill a couple weeks before the night I believe we conceived. Matthew had predicted it would happen quickly, but I’d figured it would take a little while-- at least a number of months-- and I was braced for much more. So even though the “ideal” time to get pregnant (by my calculations) would have been a couple months later (so that I could take on a job that lasted the school year, then give birth in the summer), we decided that we might as well start trying, however passively, now. I was eager to start charting my cycles, figure out when I ovulated, let my blood flow in its natural rhythm again after years of being on a pill-regulated cycle. But I didn’t even get to have a period. Before I had a chance to engage in any welcoming rituals or time the perfect night to conceive, I was launched into the reality of my new-found status. No more wine, herb, or that rare, but deliciously indulgent, cigarette. No more sushi or tuna fish or turkey sandwiches (yes, lunch meats are banned due to a bacteria called listeria). One cup of coffee a day was okay, but it was better to cut it out if possible. What am I forgetting?

For the most part, these changes have not been a big deal. It’s not hard to go without wine when you have such a strong motivation not to drink it. (Although I admit, entering month four, I am now looking at my husband’s IPAs and Cabernets with increasing envy). And coffee hasn’t tasted good to me, so I’m drinking just a cup of black tea a day, which I don’t think I would’ve been able to do otherwise. If anything, the hardest thing to give up was my goal of becoming a Writer in the Schools this year. I’d so wanted this, or some other part-time job that was challenging, fulfilling, and could supplement my teaching, editing, and writing work. But now, applying for jobs that I wouldn’t feel guilty quitting in six months or so is out. Now, I have a chunk of time ahead of me which is both long and short, where I would like to be making some money and filling in the growing gap in my resume, but the prospects on craigslist are dismal. As everyone always says though, there is no ideal time to get pregnant. You just have to take the plunge, and make it work.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to sleep as much as I need to. I can’t imagine being as tired and nauseous as I have been and having to go into an office each day. I also am grateful I’ve had time to sit, write, read, and process. To research and consider what kind of birth I want-- do I want to be at home or in a hospital, how important is it to me to feel like I know the person delivering our baby, will I feel uncomfortable in the hospital environment, or will the knowledge that back-up assistance is there in case of an emergency make me feel more assured? How much money are we willing or able to spend to get extra care, like a doula? I’ve read illuminating books like Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth and watched documentaries like The Business of Being Born that have made me wary of hospitals, and opened my mind to the ways in which home birth experiences can be more desirable for many (decreased C-section rate, the comfort of your own environment, increased knowledge of natural birthing methods by the midwives versus a hospital culture with high intervention rates, many of which could be prevented, etc.). And I’ve been introduced to ideas that resonate with me intuitively—for example, the basic premise that birth is a spiritual experience, perhaps even the most spiritual experiences we humans go through, and that the pain of childbirth can be experienced as empowering, transformative, or even orgasmic by some, as opposed to something to be feared or numbed.

There is so much we can choose and influence about our own birthing experiences—at the same time that there is so much that is out of our hands and that we won’t know until we are in it. There is also so much information out there, so many strong opinions on all sides, so many personal preferences and choices. It’s a lot to take in. Especially when your prenatal care should begin immediately, but you haven’t even decided who you want it to be with. And when on your first visit they give you all kinds of brochures and facts and statistics about genetic testing, blood tests and ultrasounds, rates of complications, rates of having a baby with Down Syndrome or other defects when you are 35 or older, and suddenly, you are faced with choices you hadn’t even anticipated, and huge ethical questions about what would you do if you knew your baby would be born with a defect. You want to talk to people about their choices but then you realize you are skirting sensitive territory—for example, somebody might not want to tell you that they had decided they would terminate the pregnancy (a common choice, in fact, though no one talks about it) if they found out the baby was likely to have a defect. Or, conversely, I might not want to talk to someone who would absolutely not terminate under any circumstance, because I wouldn’t want to feel judged if I’d even consider that possibility. You want unbiased information but soon you realize that everyone has a bias and that ultimately you can only rely on your own interior moral compass.

This is just a taste of what’s been on my mind. That and trying to calculate how long I’ll be able to go without buying an entire new wardrobe. That and trying to figure out how to give birth to my other baby—my book—before the rollicking wave of contractions and labor and non-stop care and awe and newness hits me in ways that will make being pregnant feel like… a long introspective retreat with bouts of tears, reckoning, fatigue, fear, joyful anticipation, and ice cream.

Even though I know I’ll continue to discover new questions and ranges of emotion as my belly continues to grow, I feel calmer now, a bit more informed and confident, less anxious. I feel like I am sinking into a new phase-- and coming out of the shaky-is this real-holy shit-first few months. I want to focus on my health and spiritual awareness, and send my growing baby (currently the size of a two-inch lime, or some prefer the fig analogy) good energy and love. I want to enjoy the extra time I do have right now to write, read, and learn how to be a good mama, instead of feeling disappointed that I’m still underemployed and can’t push ahead with my so-called career in ways that I have otherwise wanted to. It’s not an end to that momentum, but a pause, and a pause that so many mothers and friends have gone through before me. They are my role models. And I know I too can learn to find my own balance between work, writing, marriage, and motherhood.

That said, I also know I haven’t a clue what’s ahead of me. A little seed, embryo, fetus, alien, human being—an evolving soul not my own—in my belly.

I’ve known where babies come from for years, and yet, this knowledge is only now beginning to sink in. A human being is growing in there? And will come out of there? Amazing.


  1. hey, congrats! despite what you write about feeling overwhelmed, confused, etc., you sound like a woman who has considered this from many angles. you'll be ready for it when it happens.

    that said, I feel like our culture puts way too much emphasis on the birth experience and not enough on the incredibly grueling first few months that happen afterwards.

    for example, I wish I'd known to prep for the underemphasized but still very common physical difficulties post-partum (such as weeks and weeks of difficult breastfeeding) and to keep an eye out for the more unusual physical difficulties resulting from pregnancy (gallbladder problems, gum-disease flareups). and that's not even getting into the complete psychological changeup that takes over your life.

    wait, your life? forget it. now you are part of a symbiotic organism known as You and Baby.

    but you'll look back and think about that old life as if it belonged to somebody else, and it'll be just fine.

  2. Anne, you will do fine. One important book I read when I was pregnant with my oldest son is "Growing Up Free". I think it is still around. I had six wonderful births. You are blessed and I will keep you and Matthew in my thoughts. Thanks for sharing and keep writing about it. Your child will love to have your writings some day.

  3. Two things you said brought back memories and also made me so excited for you: 1) that birth is a spiritual experience. I can't wait to read the way that you process the experience of delivery, because I love the way in which you approach life. I know that you will have some wonderful insights about the whole process that will deepen even my own experience.

    2) The ethical questions that revolve around pregnancy. Yes, yes, you have said so beautifully what I felt when I was pregnant sitting in the OBGYN's office looking at pamphlets. It's almost surreal, the way in which they talk about these ethical choices. They are so matter-of-fact, and rightly so, but still, sometimes I felt like I was drowning in decisions that I had never thought about before.

    Thank you for sharing. I can't wait to read more!

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