If you’re anything like me, Google and WebMD score highly on your most searched websites. It seems that whenever a problem pops into mind, I frantically turn to Google for the answer. This rarely solves anything; nine times out of ten I end up with more confusion and anxiety than I began with. When I found out I was pregnant, my Internet searches only increased in frequency and fear.
“Is it normal to look 6 months pregnant at 8 weeks?”
“How do I know if I am depressed while pregnant?”
“Is it normal to gain 10 pounds at 10 weeks pregnant?”
“Why can I sleep 15 hours at night and nap during pregnancy and still feel exhausted?”
You get the gist.
As my therapist likes to remind me – I am prone to worry. My anxious Google searches that routinely led to websites and blogs about healthy eating, exercise and sleeping routines during pregnancy did not help. According to most of what I read, the way I was going about my pregnancy was all wrong.
At 6 weeks pregnant the symptoms of nausea and extreme fatigue hit me hard. Forget ‘morning sickness’, my sickness was all day, everyday. The only thing that seemed to help the persistent nausea was carbs in my stomach at all times, accompanied by cold water, juice or ginger ale. For 6 weeks I lived off of plain crackers, cheese pizza, oatmeal, salt and vinegar chips and bananas. After I ate I had to lie down from expending the energy of walking to the kitchen, opening the fridge and eating which took almost everything out of me. My vision of being a healthy, fit pregnant woman consciously feeding my baby a wholesome, nourishing diet seemed impossible. ‘Mom guilt’ was already in full swing and I felt terrible physically, emotionally and mentally.
During those weeks my life very quickly revolved around only the essentials at work and my bed. I could count on one hand the amount of time I exercised, and walking the dogs would result in dizzy, nauseous and sweating spells. I did not feel refreshed or renewed after I moved my body like the mommy blogs and pregnancy websites told me I would. So, I stopped forcing myself to exercise and let myself completely rest.
Rest included naps when I was finished work and a bedtime around 6 or 7pm. My 12 hour sleeps would be interrupted every few hours by my aching growing breasts, the need to pee, and a necessary pajama change due to being drenched in sweat. When I woke up I felt exhausted, bloated, intolerable and defeated.
The physical effects of the first trimester were extremely difficult for me, and the emotional and mental effects that followed were equally as challenging. The feeling of being nauseous and exhausted all the time left me reminded of how I used to go through life during my drinking days. On top of that was the internal battle of dialogue between my body telling me to throw up and my brain telling me not to.
In week 11 of my pregnancy journal I wrote about the mental drain of old eating disorder thoughts that kept coming up. There were judgments attached to every meal and snack on my all carb diet. The old eating disorder voice screamed at me all day long as I felt the constant lump of food in my throat. My brain worked in overdrive shutting down the loud addictive thoughts and fighting to listen to my quiet recovery ones.
Yet the biggest struggle of all was managing the harsh reality of my pregnancy so far – I didn’t love it. I didn’t even like it. I asked myself in my head multiple times, and then out loud to my husband through tears one night, if I could even do it. The goal and sum of our energies over the last year was miraculously given to us, and I questioned if I could get through it. There were people very close to our hearts that were battling infertility and we were given this beautiful gift, but I was miserable. I felt so guilty and ashamed.
All this time I had focused on getting pregnant. I didn’t stop to think that being pregnant might trigger my addiction, eating disorder or mental health struggles. Luckily living almost four years in recovery taught me to apply my recovery program to all areas of my life.
I finally picked up the phone to start using the solid supports around me. I reached out to women who had gone through pregnancy recently and found out that many of them, too, struggled. I wrote out 5 things I was grateful for every morning and routinely brought myself back to the simple fact of why these changes were happening to my body. I repeated in my head over and over one day at a time and this too shall pass.
13 weeks pregnant marked DJ and my one-year anniversary. I did not have to force my gratitude or joy that day – it flowed freely. Family and friends gathered at my mother and father in laws house and we had a beautiful, fun, love filled celebration. We announced the arrival of our baby in February 2020 and things started to feel very real.
I didn’t feel any nausea that day, the day after, or the day after that. Just like my girlfriend said, “One day you will wake up and feel like a new woman, and realize wait a minute, I’ve hit the second trimester!” She was right. The nausea, fatigue, and mental fog of the first trimester had indeed, passed. I thanked God for getting me through it and opened my arms widely to the beautiful reprieve that lay ahead.