Our First Trimester StoryDec 13, 2022
Disclaimer: Before diving into this journey and story, I want to let readers know that I am by no means a medical professional and if they are experiencing any health related issues to always seek medical attention from their healthcare provider. Also, some of the parts of my story discuss bleeding and miscarriage fear/worry, for those who have been on a miscarriage journey and who may still be struggling with conception, we send you all of the love in the world, and also understand if reading these raw stories may be triggering for you. I am always here for anyone who is ready and open to have open, vulnerable and raw pregnancy and postpartum conversations, as I believe there needs to be more space for these conversations in the world. There are raw and maybe for some "TMI" moments in this post, but I share because reading other women's raw stories have been my survival guide and I want to help be a part of that for other women as well. Now let's begin...
Finding out we were expecting...
What a whirlwind of a couple of months it has been. We got married in August of 2022 and of course got all of the questions of "are you guys going to try to have babies right away?". To be honest, Brett and I were both stress free about "trying". It never did feel right to me to attach that word and energy behind something that can only happen in God's and universal timing.
In addition to our wanting this piece of our journey to be as stress free as possible, I had also spent pretty much my entire life knowing that my mom and many women in my family severely struggled with conceiving. By a very young age I had started trying to accept that I may not be able to conceive, or that we may also struggle. I had gone through the grieving and acceptance years ago, which I think also helped me be a bit more stress free during the conceiving process.
The week before my period normally starts is a BEAST sometimes. PMS symptoms, higher anxiety, cramping, mood swings, fatigue, etc. are usually my normal, but at the beginning of October whenever I would normally be feeling these things, I actually found myself feeling AWESOME. More energy, happy every day, living in the moment and very very mild cramping...I just felt different.
We had the most amazing date ever going to Fright Night at Kennywood the night before I tested. And yes, I rode the rides and even indulged in a pumpkin beer because at this point I was still oblivious to the fact that I was pregnant.
The next day we were going to an Octoberfest party and at this point I was now 3 days late, which has happened before, but coupled with feeling different and heading into a night of drinking, I wanted to double check.
We stopped at the dollar store to grab a few tests. While Brett was still fiddling around in the basement when we got home I went upstairs and immediately took the test (he didn't know I would be so diligent lol). The line showed up very faintly and I even had to google if a faint line still meant you were pregnant. I was in shock, excited, teary eyed and trying to process it all.
Brett came upstairs and me, pant-less, poked my head out of the bathroom with eyes wide open. He said "did you take it?" and I nodded. Then he said, "and it is?!" and I nodded again with happy, surprised tears in my eyes.
He, now also in shock, then made me take an early response one too that I had tucked away from a previous late period. That time the line was a little darker, and we knew that this was actually happening!
That next week I ended up taking 5 (yes 5) more tests. It was difficult for me to accept that this was actually going to stick. After years of convincing myself that we would struggle, it was hard to believe it was real. But after 7 positive tests, it WAS real, and we began our journey!
When happiness and excitement immediately turns to anxiety, fear and worry...
As I mentioned, I had done a lot of emotional processing already on accepting a difficult conception journey, but as with any emotional healing, until you are actually IN IT, that's when the real healing begins.
I WANTED to be excited, I really really did, but part of me wouldn't allow myself. I was terrified that was something bad was going to happen, so as part of an emotional defense I struggled with allowing myself to be happy.
Then on a Thursday night later in October when I thought I was about 7.5 weeks, I thought my fears were coming true. I had passed a few very small pieces of brown tissue and had some very light spotting. Of course the only thing you ever read anywhere online is any type of blood equals a loss and so immediately my heart sank.
The next morning I called the emergency line at the Midwife's Center and was able to get an emergency ultrasound the same day. Brett and I traveled to Magee for the ultrasound and anxiously waited together in the waiting room. It felt like the longest wait of my life.
Seeing that little teeny tiny baby on the screen and its little pulses gave us both the much needed sigh of relief, but even still I struggled to get too excited. The bleeding was coming from a subchorionic hematoma, which the internet will tell you is not very common, but the more conversations with mamas that I have I am finding that they are more common than are led on.
I was also measuring small, so I went in thinking I was 7.5 weeks and now was actually 6.5 weeks. As someone who was really wanting to clear the first trimester and get into a more "safe zone" those two weeks leading into week 8 felt like I was in the Groundhog Day movie.
I continued to lightly brown spot for about a week or two and then it stopped. I barely did any activity other than teaching my classes because even going on a 30-45 minute walk made the discharge pick up again.
With each day without seeing red or brown I felt more confident and excited and started to breath a sigh of relief...then we hit round 2.
We were about to announce our news to the family, and then it started again...but worse...
I was 10 weeks along and it was two days before we were to announce our good news to our family at Thanksgiving, and I saw red. It started as just a few deep red spots and over the next few hours progressed to passing clots and having a gush of blood when going to the restroom.
My midwife didn't seem concerned, as she said it was most likely my subchorionic hematoma, but with it being right before we were announcing, I felt better with having another emergency ultrasound to make sure everything was ok.
Thank goodness I followed my instincts, because the few spots turned into heavier bleeding and the gush of blood while we were in the imaging waiting room, and I was just grateful that we were going to get our answers that day.
I was convinced of the worst. This bleeding was so different than the first bleeding I had. I was also experiencing some cramping, which again when you read about hematomas and early low-lying placenta, they often will say that cramping is not an effect, but for me and others we have experienced different.
Myself, my mom and Brett all sat anxiously, again, for hours in the waiting room. I was expecting the news to be grim when we walked back for the scan. Then, up on the screen, we saw the little heart pulsing away and the baby was very active.
I was honestly shocked, but I don't think a smile left my face that entire scan. Lisa, who was the supervisor, took such care with this scan, I think knowing how scary of a day it had been for us and she took so many pictures of our little one and took time with us to ease my nerves about the bleeding.
As we left she said "some women throw up the whole time, some women bleed the whole time...this is your cross to bear" and she said that it would probably not be the last time I would bleed because it is in fact very common for women to have bleeds throughout pregnancy and does not always mean a loss.
We announced to the family that week with a bit more confidence and sense of calm in our hearts.
Boy or girl?!
I was convinced that we were having a baby girl. My intuition told me girl, I would naturally talk to the baby with female pronouns, multiple other people close to us also thought it was a girl, including my dad who also has a strong intuition usually. We had picked our girl name, what her nursery would be like, etc.
At 11.5 weeks we went to get an elective ultrasound at Peek-A-View where they also do the Sneak Peek Gender Tests. We got to see baby again, had the recording of their heartbeat put inside a little stuffed monkey (which has been a calming tool for me) and we had the blood test done.
We planned a delicious date night out and then awaited our results to come back over the weekend and into the new week.
Tuesday evening we were to receive the results. About an hour before receiving the results, I had another bleed. "Perfect timing" I thought...the joyful moment of finding out if we were having a boy or a girl was now a little clouded by more fear. I encouraged myself to stay calm and to process this time differently. I didn't call the midwife, I didn't freak out, I tried to remain even keel and tell myself that we knew it would probably happen again and to take it easy.
The email and text came through with our gender results, and what I hadn't told anyone the few days prior to the results were that I started to have a feeling that I was completely wrong and that we were having a boy lol. Honestly it was more of a "I want to be right" energy than anything, but also I do admit I was excited for a baby girl.
Blue popped up on the screen and I was both excited and, in all honesty, a little sad. Again, something nobody ever wants to admit or talk about, just like the other stressors of pregnancy. "Gender disappointment" and other thoughts are actually extremely common, and while I knew I would process through it, it took admitting to my feelings and talking to other moms who assured me that they went through the same thing too that helped me release and move forward. I had to let go of the "need for my intuition to be right" and also the vision I had my whole life of also having a baby girl as my first child. Mama's who have and will go through this same feeling, you are not alone.
We shared our boxing themed announcement with the world and with each passing day of shifting from girl pronouns to boy pronouns and picking baby boy's name, I am now SO excited for baby boy's arrival and all of the things that come with being a boy mama!
First trimester overall...
When people ask me what my main symptom has been, I would have to say the emotional journey, fear and worry of a complication arising has been the worst part of this first trimester. The first trimester can feel extremely lonely. The conception journey for many can also feel extremely lonely, because somewhere in time it became "less acceptable" to talk about openly about the emotional aspect of conception, pregnancy, birth and postpartum...and I hope to be a small shift in changing that.
In addition to the emotional journey, my other big symptoms have been exhaustion, periodic mood swings and dizzy spells, the bleeding, mild cramping and of course the urge to pee more often. I lucked out in dodging the throwing up and morning sickness. While I had very very mild nausea for a few weeks early on, I was used to that type of dull nausea from my anxiety and depression journey and honestly compared to that nausea, this was nothing (not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but just what I experienced along my life's path).
Cravings have been salty foods, specifically lots of pickles, pickled jalapenos, buffalo chicken or buffalo sauce, popcorn, etc. Haven't really had any harsh aversions, but I didn't drink any version of coffee for a while because I just didn't have much of a taste for it (which is a shocker for a coffee lover like me!) and sometimes animal protein isn't appealing, but I've still eaten it to keep my protein levels up.
My life lines have been:
- talking to other mom's openly and honestly about my experiences and emotions along the way
- focusing on Pinterest planning for nursery, pregnancy, postpartum, etc. and window shopping for baby things whenever I find myself living in the negative thoughts
- playing mindless phone games when I was in the thick of living in the negative for the majority of the day early on, this was also my habit switch to go to whenever I was finding myself googling 24/7 (everyone says it but just DON'T GOOGLE if you can help it, or at least do it with caution)
- relaxing and enjoying this time of rest, watching tv and movies, decorating for the holidays, spending time with family ,etc. as much as I can
- knowledge! talking with my midwife, doula, other friends who have recently given birth, reading positive birth stories, reading educational books for natural birth, etc.
All in all this journey, like all transitions I've experienced in life so far, has been a learning and growth experience...because I always make the choice to look at them as such. I am always learning, always looking for how to grow and transform, on how to better manage my emotions, to grow my "tool box" for coping strategies, and everything in between.
It has been me trusting that my body knows what it's doing, and to trust in the timing and other pieces of this journey that I cannot control.
This journey can be lonely, but it doesn't have to be. Just like they say raising a child "takes a village", so does pregnancy. I hope to continue to provide that "village" for the women in my community and who I come in contact with along the way. To continue to fill the gaps in support for women's wellness and to hold space for these raw and open conversations because in my opinion, it is needed.
I hope that my story helps other women find some sense of calm, a feeling of "I'm not alone" and provides some support for them on their journey.
For those awaiting those two little lines and a positive test, my heart is always with you. Know that I am always sending out prayers and conceiving energy to all of my friends and community who are on their conception journey and to those who have experienced a loss or who have also had loss "scares".
The journey may not always be "easy", but all those growing pains (physically and emotionally) are always worth it!
Sending lots of love from me, Brett and baby Caleb James! ;)
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