First Trimester: Why Is It So Quiet?
I'm 16 weeks pregnant with my second child and have all sorts of mixed feelings about pregnancy, round two, and adding a fourth member to our family. In a way, I feel guilty for not being as excited as the first time, but it's not because I don't feel completely blessed to be pregnant again, it's because I've already walked this path once before. I wish I was one of those people who absolutely loved being pregnant, but I'm not. This, of course, adds to my guilt because I don't want my personal feelings about pregnancy to discount all of the women out there who aren't as fortunate as me and would give anything just to conceive. I certainly don't take this privilege for granted, but I can admit that I don't enjoy it as much as other women seem to.
I don’t know if I have less tolerance this time around for the uncomfortable symptoms and changes that come with pregnancy, or if I’m just being wimpy, but I’ve found myself wallowing in self-pity on the days when every food I see makes me want to throw up, my toothbrush makes me gag uncontrollably, and my belly is as bloated as an overinflated beach ball. They say “you forget,” and you do, a lot about your first pregnancy. I could have sworn that I felt much worse than I do this time around, but I was just so excited with glee for the unknown ahead that I don’t remember it bothering me this much. The first time around you really don’t have any set expectations of how it’s going to go and just have to ride the wave, but your second time around you're just waiting for what's "supposed" to happen, and I'm impatient.
My first trimester is behind me, and I am feeling a lot better. Evening nausea has been replaced by burping and acid reflux, which is just as fun, but Tums have been my best friend. I can finally drink a lot more water now too (it doesn’t make me feel like throwing up), and food isn’t so disgusting anymore. I’m actually back in my kitchen cooking, just in time for all the yummy fall foods! Cooking is one of my favorite pastimes, but my poor family has had to live on takeout almost every night over the last three months because I could hardly stand to look at food. I was still able to eat, but I certainly wasn’t going to cook!
Experiencing pregnancy for the second time, the thing that has bothered me the most about the first trimester, besides all the icky symptoms, is this expectation of silence. There's an unspoken stigma around announcing you're pregnant before you're through the first trimester and quiet judgment when you do. I know this is because many women don't make it through the first trimester without suffering from a miscarriage or complication, but why are they supposed to suffer in silence!?
Shouldn’t the first trimester be a time when your family and friends come around you with love and support for the new life you’re so excited about and then if something goes wrong, they’re all there to help you get through it, encourage you, lift you up, and share their own similar stories? Instead, it seems like women are supposed to celebrate that first positive pregnancy test in silence, sharing only with their partner and maybe mom or a best friend. It’s one of the most exciting feelings in the world, seeing those two pink lines appear on the stick, and for a second you wonder if it’s actually true. In that instant, your whole life changes, no matter how many times you’ve been through it.
Some people may think I don't have a right to speak about the silence because I have been fortunate enough to conceive twice, and so far so good, but I have far too many friends who have had to experience loss on their own, without a village to support them. For people who have never been pregnant, it's hard to realize that within the first three months a baby grows from a cell the size of spec to a breathing being with a beating heart, fingers, and toes. A loss is a loss, no matter how early on in a pregnancy, which is one of the reasons we chose to announce our pregnancy publicly at 10 weeks, but at 6 weeks to our closest family and friends. I felt confident in my healthy pregnancy, especially having successfully had a baby before, but decided that in the unlikely event of a miscarriage, I'd rather share in that loss with community than suffer alone.
I also realize that not everyone processes grief, loss, and pain the same and that not all pregnancies are planned. Some may prefer to be alone in those times or only share their emotions intimately with their partner or with those in their innermost circle, and I sympathize with that perspective too. More than anything, I just hope for the judgment of decisions pregnant women make to stop – whether it's for announcing their pregnancy early on, drinking coffee, or any other debatable topic!
The worst part of keeping quiet for me was suffering from all of the awful symptoms without anyone around me knowing. There were days when I'd throw up before going into the studio, be sucking on an anti-nausea lozenge while in class, and be huffing and puffing out of breath while demonstrating a basic dance step. I felt like everyone around me was probably wondering what my deal was, why I suddenly lacked the energy to put makeup on, why I was wearing baggy sweats in the middle of summer to accommodate my bloated tummy, and why I had to keep sitting down in a chair while I was teaching. That part of it sucked because I yearned for the sympathy and grace from the world around me, but I was still stuck in the "silent weeks" of my early pregnancy. Besides the physical largeness of the third trimester, the first trimester is really when women need the most support, help, and understanding, but society says we're supposed to suck it up and go it alone.
What are your thoughts on “First Trimester Silence?” If you’ve been pregnant, when did you decide to tell people and why? Comment below!