As I head into the last third of my first pregnancy I thought I would write about what my journey to motherhood has been like thus far. I love hearing other women’s experiences and often during these last 6 months turned to blog posts, Reddit, or my sisters and best friend, to know that what I was going through was normal. All those little ups and downs. Those moments of “oh, pregnancy isn’t all roses and sunshine?” It is just nice to hear of other women who have been there before you and shared these same experiences.
Finding out I was pregnant was the most welcomed news. My husband and I were trying, so it wasn’t a shock, but it sure was a surprise. I had zero signs or symptoms of a newly forming pregnancy other than a curiously strong need to hydrate. I had put on my usual 2 kg of PMS weight and had my usual set of PMS cramps and twinges. So I was actually quite convinced this month was not our month. But impatient as ever I tested as early as I could and sure enough…”PREGNANT 1-2 weeks”
We enjoyed our little morning of just us knowing and then decided we couldn’t wait to spill the beans. (I’d already told my sisters and best friend on penalty of death if they told a soul!) As we had just gotten underway with the remodel, we knew we had the perfect way to tell my in-laws. We headed over with a nice bottle of champagne (discretely hidden in my over-sized purse) and invited ourselves in for an evening chat, like we so often do.
“We have some good news and bad news” my husband said to his parents. “The bad news is we now only have 9 months to finish the extension…The good news is Kirsten is pregnant!”
The next step for me was securing my place at the local Birthing Centre. I think I am the only person they’ve had ring up at only 4 1/2 weeks along. But hey, I didn’t want to miss out on what I knew was the right place for us because I waited even just a day too long. We started booking appointments. Scheduled the first ultra sound and blood tests. And began telling the rest of our family the good news.
Other than a small fainting episode at my first antenatal blood draw at 8 weeks and a very minor bout of morning sickness (without any vomiting, thank goodness) between weeks 9 and 12, pregnancy was going amazingly well. I was making sure to eat well. I was able to go for walk/runs keeping my heart rate below 140 bpm as recommended and fitting in plenty of gym sessions with my husband.
I headed into the second trimester feeling fantastic. Needing to slow down a bit more and finding I fatigued easily, but all-in-all still feeling great. Then pregnancy hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t know where the second trimester got the reputation for being the “best” part of pregnancy. For me it was by far the hardest.
Part way through week 18 I woke up in quite a bit of unusual back pain. I went to get into the car and felt a sharp hot pain that let me know I could not move so freely anymore. As the weeks progressed, so did the pain and my inability to move normally. I had heard back pain happens in pregnancy, but no one told me how or why or what it is called or how bad it can really get. It can get really, really, bad. The morning my ever patient husband had to help me out of bed as I cried from three days without good sleep, I called a physio. I found out it is called “Pelvic Girdle Pain” and is caused by the hormone Relaxin. She gave me tips to prevent aggravating it, especially in my sleep, and told me that with luck it would ease around 24 weeks as the first Relaxin surge ended.
I kept my eyes on that date and soothed the pain with almost daily trips to the local pool. I started adding daily turmeric to my diet for a mild and safe anti-inflammatory. Last, I focused on eating fewer refined carbs like bread, pasta, and white rice–shifting to more fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. The “Daily Dozen” by Dr. Greger really helped me refocus my diet to make sure I was fuelling my body with the absolute best stuff for myself and bub. Feeling baby move for the first time at around 19 weeks certainly helped me get through the painful days. My 24th week of pregnancy came without much change in the pain. Then, as if by magic, I woke at 24+4 and the pain had all but gone. As I type I am at 27+4, I can feel bub moving and am pain free and loving being pregnant again.
Another pregnancy issue I am currently facing is low iron. Being plant-based I am very aware of the potential absorption issues and all the ways to maximise plant based iron absorption. [Some great information here] I have citrus (or some food form of vitamin C) with every iron heavy meal. I eat plenty of beans and a good amount of dark veggies (though this is something I continue to need to work on being more consistent at). I avoid consuming calcium rich foods with my iron rich foods and keep coffee and tea drinking (decaf for me!) to at least an hour before or after meal times. Before my prenatal I typically get 20-40 mg of Iron daily from my diet alone. Not to mention, leading into pregnancy my iron levels were great. All this and my iron stores still plummeted!
They weren’t so low as to class me as anaemic, but it was a dramatic dip and not where my midwife wanted them heading into my last trimester and most critically the birth of baby. So, at her advice, I am taking a daily iron supplement. She was happy with my diet but I am keeping a sharper eye on it. I’ve also decided to add in mussels a few times a week for the whopping 12 mg of iron an 85g serving provides. Although I am pretty sure they are causing me heartburn, so I might have to just suffer through more cooked spinach! Maybe a tofu spinach scramble for breakfasts when our kitchen is back in service…yummm…
The last little annoyance is the sudden edema I am getting at the end of the days. Can anyone say cankles! At least I am no stranger to this effect as my husband will attest to the lovely state of my ankles and feet after the 24+ hour long journeys to visit my family in the US. I’ve donned my super sexy support hose and this seems to be doing the trick to keep the swelling at bay and keep me a bit more comfortable.
As I head into the last trimester of my first pregnancy I can truly say I love being pregnant. If you had asked me 5 weeks ago as I cried into my marco polo app to my sisters– suddenly overcome by emotion and sleep deprivation– that “I just didn’t know pregnancy would be this hard,” I might have told you different. If I had known with certainty that pain would end maybe it would have been easier to get through. But now, with the pain and sleepless nights behind me, feeling bub move more and more each day has got to be the single greatest feeling in the world. We just cannot wait to meet this little one.