The Real Talk: Pregnancy
Being pregnant is so exciting...
Whether your pregnancy was planned, or your little one was a pleasant surprise, the first few weeks after peeing on the stick are filled with celebration; if you’re anything like me, you start to google the crap out of ‘signs you’re pregnant’ and ‘early pregnancy symptoms’ just to reaffirm the double line lying on the counter before you.
Then come the questions like,
How do I tell my husband?
How do I tell my family?
Will they be excited?
Can we afford to have a baby right now?
If you’re newly pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or just want to know what it’s like to be pregnant, here’s the rundown as recollected by me:
Stage 1: Week 4-9
I found out I was pregnant as early as I possibly could have. Most over the counter pregnancy tests are 99% accurate approximately one week after a missed period; at this point you are usually 4 weeks pregnant.
After taking multiple OTC pregnancy tests from Kroger, I related the news to my husband and we sobbed tears of joy.
About three days later, I started to feel very nauseous; this symptom is most commonly referred to as morning sickness. I strongly feel this should be renamed whatever time of the day you get sick sickness, because my nausea ALWAYS got way worse after 5 p.m.
My other symptoms at this point included fatigue, headaches, and a loss of appetite. Nonetheless, I was still overjoyed to be expecting.
Stage 2: Week 9-14
After finding out about my pregnancy, I chose my obstetrician on the recommendation of a trusted friend, the proximity to my home in case of an emergency, and the fact that I could always choose to go somewhere else if I didn’t feel comfortable during my initial visit.
I was extremely nervous at my first appointment.
I’m probably their youngest patient.
What if I ask a dumb question?
What if I’m not really pregnant...
With anxiety and doubt riddling my thoughts, I sat in the extremely awkward and uncomfortable stirrup chair, waiting for a doctor whose name I did not know, while holding a thin paper sheet around my waist to keep from showing the entire office my lady business.
Eventually, a very nice woman came into the exam room, explained what was about to happen, and bada bing, bada boom...
There it was.
Our little peanut—8 weeks and 6 days into existence.
I couldn’t wrap my head around it.
Is that little blob really a tiny person?
And if it weren’t for that sonogram, none of what happened after we walked out of that office would’ve seemed like it was worth it. If I’m being honest, in the tough moments—
It didn’t always seem worth it.
Stage 3: Week 14-20
In my opinion, the end of the first trimester is the hardest.
I was sick to my stomach every day, all day. Nothing sounded good except for donuts, I had no energy, I frequently fell asleep at work, and had many migraines.
Week 17 was my favorite in the entire pregnancy—up until this point, the baby had been making some movements and flutters, but nothing noticeable. Week 17 was when I first felt our little human kick.
It felt odd, but wonderful.
At Week 18, we found out we were having a little baby girl. We could finally put a name to the little peanut affectionately known as Baby Howard. While this helped, I still didn’t feel super connected to the little human growing in my uterus, and it was upsetting.
I wanted this to feel more real, I wanted to feel better.
Stage 4: Week 20-28
The halfway point was when it started to turn around.
This might sound cliché, but I woke up on that Saturday morning—twenty weeks pregnant—and I felt like a new woman. I didn’t feel groggy, my head felt better, and all I wanted to do was get outside and run.
Many women experience the 2nd trimester “honeymoon phase” of pregnancy; your body is finally getting used to all of the hormones, you don’t feel quite so awful, but you’re not quite big enough to be uncomfortable either. It’s the preggers sweet spot.
Not all women experience this, as some women have nausea and sickness throughout their entire pregnancy. I was lucky enough to have an eight week span of pregnancy bliss, in which I started to feel like myself again.
Week 25 was the dreaded glucose drink; the way your doctor tests for geststational diabetes. I think they actually are using these tests to find contestants for a flat-punch drinking contest, because they make you drink a small Gatorade size bottle of the sweetest, most disgusting drink ever known to man in five minutes or less. They then draw your blood exactly one hour later.
During Week 26 I turned 21 years old and celebrated by driving to the Secretary of State to get my license renewed (for those of you who aren’t Michiganders, there’s no DMV in MI) and then went to IHOP to eat a free Grand Slam all by myself.
On the Saturday marking 28 weeks of pregnancy, I ran a 5k alongside my dad, who ran a half-marathon, on Belle Isle. It was grueling, but the weather was perfect and I only had to walk once. Finishing in 35 minutes, I felt great.
Izzy, my active little wiggle worm, seemed to really enjoy the sensation of running as well; she kicked and punched the whole 3.12 miles.
Hey, this isn’t so bad after all!
Stage 5: Week 28-34
For me, this was the point in my pregnancy where my belly seemed to grow day by day.
And so did my anxiety.
The day after my 5k I felt horrible. The running had taken its toll, and my body was done. I tried to run again two days later and found my body hurting more than feeling well, thus ending my cardio for the pregnancy and my anxiety outlet.
Week 30–I felt uncomfortable in my own skin. Stretch marks were beginning to make their appearance oh so slowly. I was too big to fit into my clothes comfortably, but I didn’t like how I looked in my maternity clothes either.
My skin was dry, my hair annoyed me. I was just done.
Izzy was growing quite strong at this point, and kicked very hard, very often. I didn’t really appreciate being kicked in the ribs and pelvis. It also seemed like she had her favorite spots and positions; I became so sore in the same areas of my abdomen I was convinced she was wearing a hole in my uterine lining to make her escape.
At 34 weeks we had our first baby shower, on Labor Day (ironic, isn’t it?). It was warm and windy with a chance of rain. I was stressed. Friends and family gathered to eat amazing food all cooked by my husband, and sit in an awkward circle as I uncomfortably opened gifts with people staring at me.
It was what many would consider a successful shower.
Stage 6: Week 34-39
At this point I was seeing my doctor weekly. Undressing at every appointment, waiting for progress.
I was also struggling immensely with anxiety, compulsively making to do lists, thinking about cleaning and organizing every second of the day. I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking about everything that needed to be done. Then when I had time to do it, I would become overwhelmed and crippled by the anxiety of it all and not do anything.
It was maddening.
The worst symptoms at this point were insomnia and severe heartburn/acid reflux. Zantac became my best friend, but melatonin and Unisom had no effect on the amount of sleep I got. As a result, my Starbucks coffee each morning gradually grew larger.
I was having a few early labor symptoms, such as cramping, some irregular contractions, and some very loose bowel movements (yepp, that’s a symptom). But still no dilation or active labor.
I went in for another routine weekly checkup on Friday, October 6. That morning the doctor told me I was dilated 2 centimeters, but my cervix wasn’t ready yet.
I spent the afternoon at Bed Bath & Beyond, picking up some Dove baby lotion, a Schick Intuition razor for my hospital bag, and a supplement to help kick start labor. I then purchased some raspberry leaf tea from Kroger to help induce contractions.
I was determined to get this baby out.
And I did.
I’m not sure if it was the three cups of raspberry leaf tea, or prayer and pleading, but Izabella came approximately 36 hours later.
I share this condensed account of my pregnancy to let those of you newly expecting, in the midst of pregnancy, or mommas who have had kids already, to find a “me too” moment; to realize you aren’t alone in the struggle of pregnancy, and you were not the only one who felt like an oversized OCD Oompa Loompa desperate to push a watermelon out of your lady parts.
To my newly pregnant friends, I’ll tell you this; your experience will be vastly different than mine. Every pregnancy is different, because every baby is different—while all pregnancies follow the same basic timeline, I believe God creates every woman’s pregnancy experience to be unique, just as each tiny human being knit together and formed in the womb is uniquely His.
For it was You who created my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise You because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, and I know this very well. Psalms 139:13-14
To those of you in the thick of it, slowly blowing up each day and wondering when the madness will end, hang in there. It may seem like it will never end, but I promise the reward is vastly greater than the pain you endure. It is so hard to see it now, but just breathe and trust. You got this!
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. Romans 8:18
After 39 weeks of expecting, I finally received my expectation, and she was so much more than a I could’ve ever expected.
35 weeks pregnant at our second baby shower in Greenville, Illinois with husband Michael.