Getting over the first trimester hump
Well, the evolution of pregnancy is a thing to behold!
I spent the first trimester feeling completely dizzy with nausea and all over, top-to-toe, YAK. If you’d told me I had a terminal illness, I definitely would have believed you, I possibly would have felt relieved. Every cell in my body felt as though it had been invaded with grottiness….and I was just waiting, and hoping, for that bit where I’m supposed to start feel gorgeous & glowing?
Well, it’s here, finally. It’s called the second trimester, and apparently it’s pretty standard to start getting some of your « va va voom » back around the 4th/5th month, as your hormone levels simmer down a bit and everything starts to feel a bit more smooth cruising.
When I was working in antenatal clinic as a student Midwife I remember there was this stock phrase we gave in attempt to reassure newly preggos that « things get better in the 2nd trimester » and these common symptoms of early pregnancy do subside, « eat dry crackers, little and often, yadda yadda… » but by lord was that an understatement !!
I had this illusionary number of 16 weeks, the magical 16 weeks, nested in my head as the moment when I would finally clamber back to a state of normality and start to look and feel something like Natalie Portman does in those nudey preggo photos that came out recently.
But 16 weeks came and went, and my « va va voom » did not appear to be remarkably altered, and so I began to despair that I was going to spend the whole of my pregnancy feeling completely grot.
Low and behold, at exactly 19 weeks and 3 days, something shifted and I felt like the woman I once was, as though I had awoken from some sort of deep and deranged coma.
The second trimester : things can only get better
As a wise man named D:Rream (definitely his real name) once said at the height of 90’s pop music « Things…can ONLY get better. » I’m not sure he was referring to the evolution of the trimesters of pregnancy, or the steady decline of HCG levels, but back there in the first trimester I definitely couldn’t see the wood for the trees. It was DARK.
We attribute a wild array of our womanly follies and frolics to our little friends « the hormones », but I reckon that part of feeling SO much more jolly in the second trimester is quite simply due to the sheer relief and gratitude that you no longer feel constantly crap. And the elation that ‘normal’ daily tasks - such as being able to stand up vertical for more than 5 minutes without feeling nauseous - may once again be within reach.
Now at 22 weeks, I don’t just feel better, I feel better than better. If I had to put my finger on it I’d say it feels a bit like that Oestrogeny-high part of your menstrual cycle where you feel all light, sexy and full of energy & zing.
Added to that, I’ve now started to properly feel this little hamster grooving around in my tum, it’s all started to feel much more good and holy. Sort of what I expected it ‘should’ feel like when I got pregnant.
The overriding feeling now is absolute awe and wonder at the fact that my body can manufacture an entire human baby, and that he’s just chilling out in there - all the time! Or as one of the mums who recently did hypnobirthing and prenatal yoga classes with me put it « It’s like I’m never alone any more…she’s always there, like we’re constantly hanging out, just me and my home girl! » (Heads up to her btw, Paris-based, American-born comedian Sarah Donnelly, who is WILD funny and you can catch her on the english-speaking comedy circuit around Paris).
It’s a bloody miracle when you think about it. And if I’m entirely honest with you, there’s also just a little, added element of smugness that comes from that feeling of ‘I’m all woman…and I can grow a whole baby…what can you do boys ??? » It almost makes the last 10 years of menstrual bleeding, mood swings & overall womanly traumas feel like they may have been worth it ! « Dear womb, thank you, I knew you’d come good for something, one day. »
The changing seasons…what’s next ?
As I am all too aware from these many years of menstrual cycling - however- it is exactly just that, a cycle, and I am starting to fully appreciate that pregnancy too has its own natural rythms and ‘seasons’. Spring, alas, cannot last forever and if there is one thing for sure : winter will come again…
What I am experiencing now must undoubtedly be pregnancy Spring (if there is a Summer too then I am like SO up for that) but no doubt pregnancy Autumn will be another thing entirely, with its own colours, textures and moods.
I’m in the rather privileged position of being constantly surrounded by other pregnant women, which helps me to gain a bit of overall perpective on these seasons…and so I’ve noticed that there is an equally tangible shift in the third trimester (around 28 weeks -ish) where women tend to dwindle again in their energy levels, and begin an important nesting, homing phase, which if you don’t manage to ground and flow with may lead to the anxiety of grappling to hold on to summer…
The only thing that’s inevitable is change, OR « don’t get used to anything »
Earlier this month I went back to the UK for my annual Midwife Mandatory training, and my Labour Ward manager asked me « how it was all going so far ? » I told her it had been tougher than I’d expected thus far, and that it was a daily learning curve !!!!
« Don’t get used to anything in pregnancy, because it will only change again» she told me, and I think this has probably been the most sensical thing that anyone has said to me in my pregnancy journey thus far. It resonated perfectly at the time, and I’ve been repeating it to my prenatal yoga 'students’ ever since …
Old Heraclitus of Ephesus figured this out back in 500 BC when he said “the only constant is change,” but somehow we still seem to be grappling with this idea in the Y2K's.
If anything, the modern world perpetuates our illusion that we are able to control everything and anything. And it’s always seemed to me that this causes huge obstacles when it comes to pregnancy - and especially birth - because they are both entirely unknowable and uncontrollable.
I’ve therefore come to the conclusion that getting used to this fact that we cannot really control or predict anything - that a constant state of flux is inevitable - is probably a useful and necessary stage in preparing and re-setting our modern, control-freak, mindsets for labour, birth and early parenthood.
Every woman is different : it's the law!!!
As one of the browny guide laws of Midwifery school goes : every woman is unique and different, every pregnancy is different, and every little cookie that she grows inside her baby-box will bring it’s own unique journey.
I realise that I have made some wild and sweeping generalisations here about the changing moods and modes within trimesters, however a season is exactly what it suggests : Seasonal. Just as you can have transient heat waves in Spring and freak Indian summers, there will always be wobbly days and weeks within each trimester…but personally, I feel it’s useful to remember that these ebbs and flows of nature are mirrored in our bodies and minds, and they are, well – normal and natural.
As I’ve now personally now felt the full extent of that overwhelming anxiety that comes from the feeling that Winter will never end, I’ll be taking every opportunity I can to remind and reassure any « first Trimies » that cross my path, that Spring indeed will come again. And of course, pumping out a bit of D:Ream on the stereo….