- The Extreme Fatigue
During your first trimester, extreme fatigue hits you hard, especially in weeks 7-12. This is partly due to the hormonal changes, especially the rise in progesterone.
I was dead tired everyday as if after running a full marathon. My energy levels were low and I barely had energy to do anything. I would wake up just to eat breakfast and feel a splitting headache which wouldn’t go away until I slept more. All I wanted to do was to sleep, sleep and sleep!
- You Have Grown – DUH?!
Along the way, people may say things like “Oh, you have grown”, or a nicer version “You have pregnancy glow” when in reality, every woman looked better pre-pregnancy. A woman’s body undergoes many transformations during pregnancy, including visible physical changes like weight gain, an exploding itchy belly towards the final weeks.. I couldn’t resist scratching my belly and the broken skin never went away. To all other first time mums-to-be, DO NOT SCRATCH that belly no matter what!
What people don’t see or talk about much are things like darkening of nipples, dark patches on your face, stretch marks, swollen feet and a dark line on your stomach (linea nigra). Some of these changes such as stretch marks and may not disappear post-pregnancy but it’s ok, there are options such as applying creams or applying concealer. Every pregnancy is different and everyone experience various degrees of body changes.
- Uncomfortable Symptoms
Other than the body changes, there are many other uncomfortable symptoms other than morning sickness. Heartburn, constipation, breathlessness, frequent peeing day and night, leg cramps, swollen feet, Braxton Hicks. Strange times. Eat smaller meals, eat more fruits, wear bigger shoes, embrace the changes and take things slow. Remind yourself that you’re pregnant. These are all normal symptoms as part of pregnancy and it’s all going to be over before you know it!
- The Wait For The Pop
Nothing can prepare you to be a mother. Many asked “Are you excited?” For me, the fear of the unknown made me more scared and anxious than excited. When is baby coming? What if I’m home alone and I pass out in labour pain? What if baby is too large and I can’t deliver baby naturally? What if I have no milk supply for baby? Will I be a good parent?
The final weeks are a waiting game. You really won’t know when baby is coming, unless you fix a date for caesarean delivery. Towards the end, the realisation that my life will never be about me anymore, and there will be a human being fully dependent on me hits home. I am going to be someone’s mother.
- Emotional Support From Your Spouse
While your body changes drastically, nothing changes for your spouse. Life goes as per normal for him. Sometimes I feel almost jealous that I can’t do the usual things I like to do anymore (no more HIIT workouts, no jumping, no more yoga inversions, etc). I had set myself a resolution to become fitter and master the handstand but obviously, these plans went out of the window. Throughout the pregnancy, my emotions went through a rollercoaster ride – most days I was my usual happy self but some days I was just get upset and cry for no reason. It all sounds a little crazy, but sometimes I just needed a hug from my husband, for him to be more present, and to spend time with me.
One day after we saw that faint double line on that pregnancy test kit at around week 5, I had bleeding. I was at work and discovered that fresh red blood had soaked up my whole panty liner. Even though I had no pain, I panicked. I called my husband and cried throughout the thirty-minutes drive from office to KKH and got a speeding ticket. KKH did a vaginal ultrasound scan for me, prescribed progesterone and told me to go home and wait for 2 weeks. Nothing else could be done. I cried every single day for 2 weeks. I googled “bleeding in pregnancy” and tried to find something that said that bleeding is ok, but 9 out of 10 articles I read said otherwise. While google can be provide a great source of information, try not to google in times like these! Try to take what your read with a pinch of salt (if it’s negative), don’t scare yourself unnecessarily, and check with your gynae if in doubt. My husband tried to comfort me, hugged me while I cried and told me he’s quietly confident that things will be ok. I hung on to every bit of what he gave me.
There really wasn’t anyone else to share and talk about this with. There was nothing anyone could say or do that would make things better. The only thing I wanted was for the doctor to confirm that my baby will be well. We decided to tell our parents as well but I got “scolded” as I was actively exercising. That didn’t help. Every single woman who had a miscarriage or any form of bleeding already think that it’s their fault, even if it is not. There are so many other factors that can contribute to bleeding – often unexplained. So try not to blame yourself (it’s hard/almost impossible). Fortunately, we saw baby’s heartbeat at week 7 – things were going to be okay.
Society at large thinks that pregnancy and having the baby is the happiest period of a woman’s life but every woman experiences a whole spectrum of emotions during this time. Make sure your spouse is on the same team as you, share with him how you feel and get the support you need through the whole pregnancy and beyond.
- Managing Work Expectations
When and how do you let your bosses know that you’re expecting? How would they react to the news? Announcing your pregnancy may unfortunately and unfairly raise concerns from your colleagues and bosses. Some bosses may feel that your productivity will drop, with the need to go for gynae checkups, and going away for 4 months maternity leave. Some may try to assign you more workload, or pass you up for promotion and salary reviews since you are going to be away. While there are laws in place for maternity leave, there are no laws for how bosses should treat a pregnant woman. To this, my advice is to let your boss know as soon as you can, perhaps at the start of second trimester when things are more stable. Make sure you already have solutions for how your workload can be managed in your absence and establish good communication channels to assure your boss that you will still be responsible for what needs to be done. Don’t be afraid to ask for adjustments in work scope or work-from-home arrangements towards the end, if required. After all, baby is still more important!
- Unsolicited Advice from One and All
Your mother, the random coffeeshop auntie, the cousin twice removed have all been pregnant before. Pregnancy is a time when you get unsolicited advice even from loved ones like parents or in laws, and no one prepares you for how these comments can make you feel during this sensitive period. Some common examples:
- Don’t eat dark sauce – if not your baby will come out dark-skinned
- Don’t exercise, just stay home and don’t move.
- When ordering tea, coffeeshop auntie tells you not to order tea
- Don’t apply makeup as there are chemicals that may affect baby
- Don’t drink cold water – if not your baby will get asthma
- Don’t do house renovation/drill holes
Am not so sure if these are true but I did avoid what I could if it doesn’t make me too miserable, because what if what they say it’s true? Don’t overthink things if you did any of the above and make yourself miserable! Always check with your gynae if you have any concerns.
That being said, there are some pieces of information which do make sense and these people all mean well. Everyone looks at things through the filter of their own experiences. Be selective on what to listen and what to filter out!
As of time of writing this article, I haven't popped yet, but for some crazy reason, I will probably do it again in a heartbeat!
(From a First Time Mum's Perspective)