Pregnancy is framed as a beautiful and magical time in a woman’s life where you eat happily and live in anticipation of that beautiful baby. You hear about the beautiful glow of the expectant mother and that cute baby bump that everyone wants a picture of, but it’s not often you hear about the ugly side of pregnancy. I have had three pregnancies and each one was different. Buckle up, this is going to be a long and bumpy ride.
First Pregnancy 2017
Shortly after the initial excitement and happiness of that positive pregnancy test came the misery of nausea, dizziness and exhaustion. It was otherworldly! I used to wonder if pregnancy would be the death of me because that’s how crappy I felt. I'm not kidding, I remember googling "can you die from pregnancy symptoms." I used to say to myself, “don’t complain, this is what you wanted. Do you know how many women wish they had this problem right now? You were one of them not too long ago!” Looking back, that negative self talk was so wrong and didn’t help at all. What I should have said instead was, “you’re doing your best and that’s all you can do. This is hard and it really sucks. You’re growing a baby and you’re working 24/7 so if you can’t do anything else, it’s ok!” However, pregnancy symptoms or not, I still had bills to pay so off to work I went.
I spent a lot of time in the bathroom or in my cubicle with my face buried in my hands. I could smell ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING, even things that were not in my line of sight or on the complete opposite side of the building. Lunch time was always the worst. Once everyone started going to heat up their food in the break room, I knew it was REALLY going to get to me. If that was any indication of what a dog's sense of smell is like, I could never be a dog! There were times that I would try to go out for a walk to get away from all of the blending odors but it didn't always work out for me because sometimes I would be too dizzy to even take a walk around the block. I am about to tell you something so ridiculous that you might not believe me... Wind made me extremely nauseated. Yes, wind! I'm talking about odorless, fresh air blowing through the trees. Wind made me so sick, dizzy and nauseated that my husband had to force me out of the house in the evenings and hold on to me while we took a walk so I could handle it. It sounds ridiculous right? I sure thought it was and I couldn't believe the extreme effects all of this had on me. I didn't get morning sickness, I got ALL DAY sickness! I lost about 10lbs in my first trimester. The weirdest thing is that I never actually threw up (maybe once). It was just this constant nausea that kept me on the brink of it and kept me from eating. In one 24 hour period, I probably pieced together what a normal adult would consider a single, complete meal. I used to get food cravings and go through the trouble of ordering and picking up my food but once I sat down to eat it, my appetite was suddenly spoiled by my extreme nausea. I was also that paranoid pregnant lady that checked every "Do's and Don't Do's" list of pregnancy. Stuff like what to eat and what not to eat, what medicine to avoid, what products are unsafe, etc. So on top of all that nausea and misery, I still restricted myself to what I read was good vs bad. I never even took a Tums for heartburn because there was a slight risk of whatever it was that I read at the time. It was torture, but everyone told me it would get better in the second trimester. Before the first trimester was over, I started bleeding. At first the doctor didn't think it was anything to be concerned about and said it was probably just implantation bleeding. I kept bleeding and had some cramping so it persisted. After getting checked out, the doctor put me on pelvic rest and labeled me "high risk." I had a fibroid which they were afraid might be taking blood and resources from the baby so I just ended up staying home a lot, especially in the mornings. The nausea and exhaustion were so bad that I hardly moved even when the doctor took me off of pelvic rest. I promise you, I am not lazy and I LOVE to workout but there was no way that I could ever have the strength to workout during this pregnancy.
It did not get better in the second trimester. Another three months of misery came and went. It got a little better in the third trimester but still never completely went away. Luckily, in the fight of baby vs fibroid, my baby was the clear winner. The anatomy scan showed that she was growing at the right rate and the fibroid's growth had been stunted by my little champ. I saw a nutritionist a couple of times and she helped me figure out ways to consume more calories and not have to eat enormous amounts of food. Things like nuts and avocado became my best friends. Then, everything started giving me heartburn. I had never had heartburn. If you're familiar with heartburn, you know that it can actually cause dizziness and nausea. So guess what happened when I got heartburn? OMG I WAS SO SICK OF IT!!! I was in a loop of misery day in and day out. The worst of it was the summer time. That relentless misery decided to add a whole new, fun option: swollen ankles, fingers and sometimes even my face. Those swollen ankles were no joke and added a nice little touch to the already "awesome" list of things going on with my body. At the end of my pregnancy, I had gained about 16lbs but don't forget that the pregnancy itself had made me drop about 10lbs so I had a net gain of about six pounds. I used to tell people, I'd rather gain weight and deal with the weight gain afterwards but it wasn't up to me. I got all the way to 40 weeks and my baby did not budge. I got a whole extra week of pregnancy, lucky me! When I delivered my baby and all the pregnancy contents/fluids came out, all 16lbs went away. At least I got that win, I guess.
You can read my birth story (gory details and all) here if you're interested: https://www.mamacitafitness.com/post/my-birth-story
Second Pregnancy 2019
My husband and I wanted our children to be close in age so we started trying soon after our daughter turned two. I told myself I'd be more hands off and just let it happen. No charting, tracking, planning or obsessing about it! Ok I'm lying, I was still tracking my periods, ovulation and fertility days LOL. That's kind of important! This time around we didn't have much trouble getting that positive pregnancy test. It was pretty quick, we were expecting just a few months later. It was February 28, 2019 when I tested positive (I found the picture I took of my positive pregnancy test). Of course I kept my previous experience in mind and knew that it would probably be similar... IT WAS WORSE!!! Holy shit was it worse! It was a raging, swelling, unimaginable level of misery. I don't even know how to explain it to you. I was cancelling sessions on my clients often. I was sick day in and day out. I went to Urgent Care because I just couldn't handle it. During one of my visits, I was so dehydrated that they put me on an IV for a few hours. While I was there, I could smell every single Glade plug-in on that floor. The nurses were so sweet and disconnected every one of them to keep me from throwing up. I remember getting temporary relief that day and then it was back to misery the next. I was 10 weeks pregnant on April 10, 2019. We had an ultrasound appointment and found out our baby's heart stopped beating two weeks prior. It was heartbreaking and I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone. I lost a client that day and she gave me a bad review, talk about a kick you while you're down moment... I won't go into details about the miscarriage because I already wrote about it before. If you'd like to read about my miscarriage experience, you can click on the link here: https://www.mamacitafitness.com/post/miscarriage
After the miscarriage, my husband and I took some time to grieve and recollect ourselves. We still wanted to grow our family but realized we needed some time. Eventually, we got back to it when we felt we had given ourselves time to heal. This is not to say that we were over it and just went about our lives as if it didn't happen. To this day, we still wonder what would've been and we are still saddened by the loss. Grief comes in waves and you always remember the dates, the feelings, the interrupted plans and the broken dreams.
Third Pregnancy 2019-2020
It was my birthday and I felt a little funny. I remember thinking, I should take a test just in case I decided to have a drink or two to celebrate my birthday. So I took the test and got a positive. It was the best birthday gift I could've asked for. I was super excited and surprised my husband with the news that night! Soon after the excitement, came this paralyzing anxiety. "I lost the last one. What if I lose this one too?" The thought of it was frightening and I couldn't deal with it. All of the normal pregnancy symptoms started happening and I felt my chest and stomach tightening when we approached the 10th week of pregnancy. We went to our appointment and saw our growing baby and the little heartbeat flicker. Heartbeat: LOUD AND CLEAR. Hearing that sound let me breathe and I felt so much relief. However, every day after that was full of anxiety. I couldn't stand it and I decided to seek help. I started seeing a therapist to help me handle the anxiety as I navigated through this pregnancy. Through my therapy, I revisited my postpartum depression, my miscarriage and the anxiety that I was feeling soon became more and more manageable. I stayed in therapy for the duration of my pregnancy and beyond (more on that later in this blog series).
My second trimester was a gift from God. It was like a magic door opened up one day and I was welcomed into a semi-enjoyable pregnancy experience. The nausea subsided, I had energy, I was functioning like a pretty normal human being some days and I was actually able to enjoy this pregnancy for a bit. I started working out! I'll say it again so that you know this is a big deal for me, I STARTED WORKING OUT!!! I couldn't believe that I was able to work out. I was training clients and doing my own workouts. I still had bad days but it wasn't every day like it was with the last two pregnancies. I continued to work with clients until the first week of March. There was starting to be a lot of talk about this thing called Coronavirus or COVID-19...
Just as I had started feeling better, here comes a whole new thing to worry about. Within a week, things started getting real. People were fighting over toilet paper and leaving entire grocery store shelves empty. After the shutdowns happened, I couldn't even buy diapers for my two year old so my anxiety brain took over and I thought, "OMG this baby is gonna grow up naked if I don't buy some stuff now." I went to Ross and bought a few outfits from newborn to nine months old. I also bought some cloth diapers in case I still couldn't find any when the baby arrived. I almost cried when I stopped to think about what I was doing. I was working from home and so was my husband. At that time, I was too protective and anxious to let anyone come into our home or let anyone from our home come in contact with anyone outside the home. We pulled my daughter from daycare and started potty training her due to the lack of diapers more than anything. So my husband and I were both working from home with a toddler in potty training for the first few months of the pandemic. It was hectic, but luckily, she was a fast learner and happened to be ready for the transition. I always thought potty training would test my patience more than anything but I was pleasantly surprised. Looking back, that was the easiest part of my pandemic pregnancy. I continued to work out throughout my pregnancy and even filmed a lot of it because I decided I wanted to create a pregnancy program so I could help women keep active during pregnancy. (Side note: this is something that has yet to come to fruition because, to be honest, pandemic life with a toddler and a baby has been wild and much more than I can handle.) Just like in my first pregnancy, there was a baby vs fibroid situation. I was labeled "high risk" again and this time I was also a "geriatric pregnancy" (a pregnancy at age 35 or older). It was a lot to handle at the time, so my OB ended up putting me on maternity leave early. In the end though, my new little champ kicked the fibroid's ass and eventually dried it out! (It later made a comeback when I changed my birth control months after the pregnancy, bummer.) Still, I remember feeling depressed, anxious and angry about the whole situation. I couldn't be with my friends and family, I couldn't do normal things, I couldn't even buy diapers. The worst part was that I knew that even after I was free from pregnancy, I wouldn't be free from the pandemic. I was trapped and I just felt myself falling into depression. Luckily, I was still doing therapy so that was super helpful. At the end of May, my coworkers threw me a surprise drive-by baby shower. I was sitting in my daughter's room, no bra and no pants when suddenly I hear a bunch of honking and loud knocking at my door. When I realized what was happening, I ran to my room to change and went out to say hi from the front door. I was so touched, I was happy and sad and wanted to hug every one of them. I cried happy and sad tears that day.
My due date was getting closer, and anxiety was through the roof. Covid started to hit friends, family and acquaintances. Some made it through and some didn't. At that time, women were laboring and delivering with hospital staff only. You were not allowed to bring your partner/parent/doula or anyone with you to the hospital. I couldn't imagine myself getting through the delivery without my husband or my mom being there. It was one of my greatest worries. Luckily for me, the week before my due date, they began to allow just one person to be in the delivery room but they had to be there the entire time and were not allowed to leave and come back. I was so relieved! At the same time, we realized that we were going to have to open up our bubble to somebody when I went into labor because we needed somebody to watch our daughter. Finally, we decided to open up to our immediate families. If I remember correctly, it was just a week before my due date. We went to my parents' house and it was the most apprehensive reunion but at the same time I was so happy to see them in person again. That weekend, my baby made her appearance and my anxiety ridden pregnancy was over.
I did not have the greatest pregnancies and nothing could have prepared me for these experiences. Not even the worst hangover I had during my hard party days could compare to the level of misery I went through. The biggest disappointments in life were no match for the feelings evoked by the loss of that second pregnancy. The anxiety of college years, landing a job after graduation and even wedding planning were nothing compared to the anxiety of my pandemic pregnancy after loss. Does it sound like I'm complaining? Well, maybe I am... but also, I want to put this out there so that somebody reads it and says, "Oh wow, it's not all rainbows and sunshine like they make it seem." Quite frankly, I suck at being pregnant and, while my last pregnancy was a bit more enjoyable (physically), it was under some pretty crappy circumstances. Of course pregnancy came with some good parts like baby kicks, ultrasound watch parties and getting a baby as your prize at the end of the game. However, to be very honest with you, I would probably cry if I were to get pregnant again. I would love that child as fiercely as I love my daughters but I would cry at the thought of having to go through any of that again. My husband and I both decided that we are now out of the baby making game. I will now leave that to the brave women who come after me. I hope my stories will help to see what you might have to endure or, so that if you're currently experiencing it, you know that you're not alone.