The First Trimester is the Worst Trimester (and other reasons I’m telling you I’m pregnant)

My left eye won’t stop twitching.

I sleep nine hours a night, take hours long naps, and I’m still exhausted.

I feel like if I grit my teeth really hard, I might not retch, but then again, I might, and I have a splitting headache from all this teeth gritting, or possibly from not drinking enough water because it makes my stomach all wobbly or also possibly from the aforementioned eye twitching.

And I’m growing a baby!

I mean, it’s not a baby yet. It’s a fetus, about the size of an olive, and it had a tail until a few days ago.  The sentence structure up there sort of implies I’m actively doing something here, which I’m not— mostly just the teeth gritting and the deep breathing and the toddler parenting and the prayers of “whoa, thanks for this!” followed by prayers of “are you nuts?!”.

Most people wait until 12 weeks, or even more, to start telling people about a pregnancy.  There are a million and one reasons for doing so, and people who want to wait to talk about it should absolutely be respected for doing so.  But then there are those of us who do like to talk about it earlier than that, and not just out of sheer inability to delay gratification.  (Fun fact: as a kid I was OBSESSED with the Stanford marshmallow experiment [I have literally no idea how I knew this was a thing], and so I would constantly try delay my own gratification, by meting out Halloween candy across months, drinking my Hi-C realllllly slowllllly, or [gag] eating all of the gross Lucky Charms cereal pieces before the vastly superior marshmallow pieces.  I have since changed my ways.)  

It’s no secret that I miscarried with my first pregnancy.  Mike and I found out we were pregnant at the end of February, told everyone we knew in March, honeymooned in April, and found out that I miscarried in May.  It was without symptom, without warning.  We knew it could happen, but that didn’t change the outcome.

With Winnie, I worried for nine months, because that was all I could do.  We still told everyone early on, because our openness borne out of naiveté in the first pregnancy was a blessing— we were surrounded by a support system, and we had been able to inform our loved ones (and even just our well-liked ones!) of our pregnancy with joy in our voices instead of tears in our eyes.

We met with some resistance, for sure.  People would raise an eyebrow when I answered how far along I was with a “six weeks” or “eight weeks”.  Someone told me that while she didn’t consider it so, didn’t I know it was considered rude to tell people before twelve weeks?

But beyond the logistics of I-can’t-stay-awake-or-keep-down-my-lunch, and beyond the building up a supportive nest on which to fall should healthy pregnancies go awry, there are other reasons that we choose to tell people earlier rather than later that we’re expecting.

We tell others because we want to share our joy. By no small miracle, joy is joy is joy is joy is joy.  There’s little better.  And hiding that under a bushel 1) doesn’t work and 2) doesn’t change a darned thing.  I don’t expect everyone to find as much joy in my bringing life into the world as I do, of course, but I’m not going to cloak happiness in secrecy under the auspices of protecting myself or others.

On the other side of that coin— fear is fear is fear, and it’s not ever going away, not out of logic, anyway. The first time I rode the subway without Winnie, I felt the intensity of separation more strongly than I thought possible.  I recalled how many train rides we had taken with her strapped snugly to my chest, and how many (many many) rides before that we had taken together with her nestled inside of me, with all of ME to protect her.  The very act of having a child is, as a friend put it to me, like tying your heart to the outside of your body.  Or like leaving a vital organ at daycare, I guess.  The possibilities are enough to keep anyone awake at night, even if the truly scary bits never happen to most people.  But that trust is an act of joy in and of itself— every moment that your babe grows into her own, above and beyond your input, is like a one-two in the solar plexus, sure, but in the moments you can move around and through the scary stuff, it’s glee.  It’s glee when she walks, when she says your name, when she has a friend.  It’s glee, so much glee, when she learns— and it’s fear every time she inches outside of those carefully set parameters.  Even though it is statistically more likely for a pregnancy to end in the first trimester than it is in the second or third, and certainly more likely than something happening after your child is born— we can’t build a life around that fear.  I can’t even build a few measly weeks around it!

So that’s why I’m here, in this space, telling you that I’m pregnant, and that Mike and I are expecting a babe sometime around Winnie’s second birthday.  Because I want you to share in our delight, if you’d like, and I want you there if we stumble.

PS: Other voices in the same vein:

“I’m Pregnant. So Why Can’t I Tell You?”| Abigail Rasminsky | Medium.com (This one is so, so good.  Read it.)

Why We’ve Never Waited Twelve Weeks to Tell People We’re Pregnant” | Kris Buse | Offbeat Families

+ Duchess of Cambridge, x2

+ Every online pregnancy discussion board, x1,000,000

Loss

It’s been impossible letting friends and family know about our loss- the utter opposite of sharing the first news of our pregnancy.  I debated sharing deeper detail of the loss at first, but I’ve always felt that talk about miscarriage is sometimes strangely shepherded away, and I want to be as open and honest about our experience as possible.  I wrote the following three days after we found out we had lost the pregnancy, hours after I had undergone a procedure called a D&C.  It goes without saying, but exceptionally adult situations and equally colorful language follow.

After weeks of a complete inability to keep my eyes open even one moment past 10:30 p.m. (after which ten delicious hours of sleep would follow), I suddenly sit awake, past 2 a.m., for the third night in a row.  It’s really the only side effect of the pregnancy that’s gone away, cruel because it’s also the only one that could help me now.  The others—intermittent nausea, breast pain, the always inopportune but occasionally comical burps over which I exercise no control— serve no other purpose save to remind me of the excellence with which my body prepared for this pregnancy and its utter failure to alert me for weeks on end that anything, everything, had gone wrong.

The doctor today said these would all begin to subside gradually, without the hormonal crash that accompanies labor.  Because what happened wasn’t labor.  It wasn’t cathartic and beautiful and orchestrated perfectly by my body.  It was, though, born of love, the incredible abiding love my husband and I have for one another, and there is no way that I would have survived the last few days, that I would have any hope to survive the next few, without that love and that person by my side.

I worked from home the day we found out we were pregnant.  I was only two days late at that point, and had taken a pregnancy test the night before with ambiguous results.  Don’t ask, just trust that were there a way to design a pregnancy test to be a hologram that appeared negative at one angle and positive at another, EPT would be all over it.   In the interest of returning to work the following day with actual, documented progress on my projects, I asked Mike to pick up three more pregnancy tests on his way home, so that I could put my mind at ease—and also so that I could finally, finally have some physical relief, as I hadn’t so much glanced at our bathroom all day.  Forty-five seconds after Mike walked in the door, we started to become parents.

We took a long walk, talked about logistics, gripped hands and matched breathing while silently screaming “Hooray!” and “Oh, shit!” simultaneously.  We bought two of the four books I would later read before my seventh week in a small bookstore, while the star of a 90s sitcom narrated her former addiction to a sizeable crowd in front of a wall of Taschen imprints.  We called Michael’s sister, and I almost immediately confessed that I couldn’t shake the realistic worry that I would fall into the 30% of women who miscarried. I also couldn’t shake the joy I felt at knowing I was pregnant, and I wanted to share it with everyone I saw.  I decided that the joy of sharing my pregnancy mitigated any pain I would feel with sharing my miscarriage, and that, should something terrible happen, I wanted to be open and honest about it, to acknowledge that this happens to many women, to out myself in the hopes that it would help someone else heal.

This isn’t algebra.  There isn’t an emotional scale where joy can balance pain.  They exist without knowledge of the other, and on this day, on the day a team of incredible medical professionals removed the embryo whose heart stopped beating weeks ago from my uterus, I have felt the most intense emotional pain of my life, and I have felt the most authentic gratitude of my life.  Today, I felt warm with the comfort of being in the hands of caring and talented professionals, I felt loved with a love that did not exist before my husband and I gripped each other through loss, I felt betrayed, I felt alone, I felt optimism like I never had before, and I felt an incredible guilt for each moment of that optimism.

It isn’t fair- at least I hope it isn’t.  I hope none of this hinges on any sort of tit for tat, karmic scale where tragedies are consequences rather than aberrations.   There is no silver lining to all of this, no bright side.  There are, though, ways forward and through this mess, ways made all the more clear in the past few days,  becoming clearer through the comfort I have found in my faith, my friends, my family, and in my marriage.   The good and the bad will never outweigh one another—the deepest pain won’t rock the love I feel for my husband and our friends and family, and all of the love in the world won’t ever make these last few days go away.

We had no control over any of this, a statement I must keep repeating to myself when illogical and dangerous thoughts crop up in a series of  ‘what-ifs’.  We do maintain some control over how we proceed, over how we build this narrative into our lives, to honor this experience and give it a place in our family story.  It seems right to nestle this struggle in the greater narrative of building our family, a journey we intend to continue, with a stronger bond between us.

We started to become parents 45 seconds after Mike walked in the door on March 14th, and we have no intention of changing that course.  We will be parents, when the time is right, and until then and beyond then we will grow together.