First Trimester is Lonely

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I told myself I would wait until I missed my period to take a test. I had purchased a box of ovulating and pregnancy sticks off Amazon.com for $23, and I couldn’t resist the temptation. Afterall, 15 pregnancy test sticks were just sitting there waiting to be used with their amazing claim to work five days earlier than your missed period. What’s a wanna-be-pregnant girl to do?  I took the test seven days early on our anniversary because announcing the news on our special day would be incredibly perfect timing. But nope. Nothing. 

That night we boarded a flight to Hawaii with our two toddlers and, of course, the box from Amazon.com in my carry on. I waited a whole two days before I took out another test. I wanted to take the test alone with zero pressure. I mean, it was five days early. Although I could feel my heart pounding, I told myself that even if I were pregnant, it probably wouldn’t show up yet. In the bathroom of my brother-in-law’s house in Pukalani, HI,  I peed, put the stick on the counter and waited. Holding it up, I was convinced I saw a faint pink line. The pounding in my chest increased. I blinked a couple of times, trying to determine if there really was a line or if my desire for “a line” was tricking me. I took a deep breath and looked again.  My husband was out with his brother, the kids were playing outside and I was internally freaking out with excitement. There was only one adult home, my sister-in-law. Slowly and calmly, I walked over to where she was throwing water balloons with my daughter. In slow motion I showed her the stick. “Any chance you see a pink line?” With a shocked smile, she whispered, “Yesssss…”  I was officially pregnant. 

I couldn’t think about anything else. A baby. Growing inside me. A brother or sister for Cooper and Clark. All of a sudden, my awareness of what I was eating and doing increased. As I mentioned, we were on vacation in Hawaii, so no more Ahi poke from Foodland or hot tubs at the resort hotel. At that point, thinking of a creative way to tell my husband and close family members consumed my thoughts. After breaking the joyous news to him and my immediate family, my racing mind continued. Would we need a new car with three kids? When should I move Clark into Cooper’s room?   

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The second after finding out you’re pregnant, your whole world changes. However, unlike other important life events, there is sometimes a hesitation to share the life-altering news. And for that reason, the first trimester can became one of the loneliest times in a soon-to-be mother’s life. This pregnancy I assessed my hesitation. My emotions jumped all over the place within those first days of learning the news. I felt an overwhelming excitement to add another baby to our family, mixed with a desire to organize my life, sprinkled with fears that maybe I wasn’t actually pregnant or what if I am and miscarry, stirred up with intense hormones, remixed with general feelings of anxiety and nervousness, but always infused with love. 

Why women hesitate to tell:

First, perhaps women hesitate to tell because the news feels so special and sacred. A piece of me wanted only my husband and me to share this big secret before telling others. It was similar to when we got engaged, alone in the mountain town of Crestline, CA. It was at least 10 hours before I even told my family. For those 10 hours, it was only ours to know.  

Second, women might hesitate to tell because they don’t want to get their hopes up and later have something bad happen. At first, it is difficult to believe you are pregnant, especially before seeing a doctor. Then after your first appointment, you are nervous something might happen during the first trimester. You feel too vulnerable to fully embrace the excitement of having a baby when you know the possibility of disappointment. I felt this especially after I experienced a miscarriage before Cooper was born. Naively, I had allowed myself to love the unborn baby completely, without any hesitation. Then, at the ten week ultrasound, my perfect, happily-ever-after world collided with the world of harsh reality --no heartbeat detected.   

Third, I think women hesitate to tell others because if they do miscarry, they don’t want to discuss it with everyone, especially if they are not a verbal processor or if they value their privacy. Discussing the loss could be extremely painful. In my case, however, I needed to process the grief and found myself doing this with people who didn’t even know I was pregnant to begin with. 

All of these reasons are valid and have merit, which is why I, a verbal processing and far from private person, even find myself holding back from big formal announcements during the first trimester. But there is one problem: it is incredibly lonely. To me, it felt like I was hiding a huge, wonderful secret, one that I wanted to announce with joy from the rooftops!  Instead, I forced myself to celebrate within. And sadly, for many women this feeling of loneliness only exponentially becomes worse as the hours, days and weeks continue through the first trimester, depending on how horrible they feel. 

Luckily for me, my impossible-to-keep secret was discovered early on because of my morning sickness.

Around 5 ½ weeks I started getting really nauseous, and I had to tell my close friends because I relied on them for support. But faking it to the rest of the world still felt isolating. There were weeks I prayed daily for even a five-minute respite from the nausea. Dropping off Cooper at summer camp, I pretended to feel fine even though I had just thrown up in a 7-Eleven cup while driving only four minutes down the street. When people asked how our summer was going, I’d answer, “Great, busy…how are you guys?” when what I needed was a listening ear to vent to or someone to watch the kids while I slept all day. One day I couldn’t handle the sickness anymore. I didn’t even feel I could get myself up from the couch. In desperation, I asked my mom to fly down from Oregon to give me some temporary relief. When you are that sick, it’s hard to fake functional. Work was piling up, my communication with friends was limited and my functionality to be ME had disappeared. Yet, I still didn’t announce my pregnancy publicly to even some friends and family..

I am not sure I have a solution. Women have a right to choose when to share their news and when to keep it to themselves. More than anything, I am writing this piece to share my experience and highlight the real and rarely discussed isolation that many (perhaps most) women feel while they suffer alone at home with the emotional and physical changes happening internally that first trimester. Many times, I felt “wimpy” being barely pregnant yet struggling so much. Yes, first trimester is challenging, but as difficult as it is, it feels almost inappropriate to complain. I remind myself how great a blessing it is to be pregnant when many women struggle to become so. I remind myself how great a blessing this pregnancy is to my husband and me since the choice to become pregnant again was almost taken from us when I nearly died from hemorrhaging after giving birth to Cooper. Yes, I am incredibly grateful to be pregnant.  But first trimester still sucks.