This Too Shall Pass (Why We Should Be More Honest About The First Trimester)

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It’s a phrase us parents know well, isn’t it? This too shall pass. I remember being the mum of a baby and then a toddler, and muttering it to myself, alternated with “It’s just a phase”. Whether it was my baby only sleeping for 45 minute spells then crying for an hour in between, the inconsolable teething period, being quarantined for days on end thanks to chicken pox or their desire to only eat plain pasta and raisins, but nothing (nothing!) else. This too shall pass.

But it’s only in the last few months that I’ve discovered that this phrase is useful way before you have a baby. Being pregnant for the second time I knew, of course, that the first trimester is a tricky one to navigate.

Everyone’s experience of the first trimester is a bit different, of course. Some people sail through it, feeling fairly normal. For me, it brings a lovely mix of near-constant nausea, the odd throwing up session, extreme exhaustion and (this time around) bad headaches. It also brings a grey, flat feeling that feels like very mild depression. When I’m in it, I don’t want to go out much, or see people, nothing much brings me joy. I lose all motivation to work and my creativity levels plummet to zero. Which is tricky when you’re a self-employed person with a creative job.

With this pregnancy, though, I had the benefit of hindsight and experience. I knew that this too shall pass. I knew that come the 10/11/12 weeks pregnant mark, I’d feel better.

But when you’re deep in the throes of that first trimester, it’s hard.

Yet, so many of us feel like we can’t talk about it. When you’re keen to have a baby, discovering you’re pregnant is one of the happiest moments of your life (needless to say, this isn’t always the case – there are plenty of people who don’t want to be pregnant for a variety of reasons). But for many, whether you’ve been trying to conceive for a long time (Hi! Five years here…) or whether that little blue line comes as a complete surprise, you’re filled with a mix of excitement, shock and wonder.

Telling your family and friends usually brings smiles, hugs, warmth, love. It’s a lovely piece of news to share. There are plans to make, you picture your family growing and you wonder what the new addition (additions plural, in my case…) will be like.

So it can be really difficult to be honest about how tough the first trimester is. You don’t want to appear ungrateful. There are plenty of people out there, after all, who long for a baby but for whom it hasn’t happened yet. Many who suffer multiple miscarriages. Many who just haven’t found the right partner yet. You feel like you’re one of the lucky ones, so it’s best not to moan.

Are we doing ourselves any favours, though, by grinning and bearing it?

If more of us felt we could be honest about how hard the first trimester is, would we receive more support – both from people closest to us, from employers and from strangers on public transport? I’m not suggesting we shout from the rooftops every time we feel like vomiting, but if we talked more about how crappy lots of us feel, it would create better understanding and that helps everyone, right? Whether it’s friends picking up your child from school or nursery or your manager understanding why you’re legging it to the loo, retching as you go, during an important meeting, small gestures of support go a long way.

And of course, many choose to keep their whole pregnancy a secret until their 12 week scan, which means they feel they can’t talk about how awful they’re feeling, even if they wanted to. It’s ironic that at the point when most people tell the wider world, and their bosses, about their pregnancy they often start to feel much better. It’s in the weeks leading up to that, that most of us need a bit of extra support.

But for those of us who choose to tell people about a pregnancy during the first trimester (I told close friends and family as soon as I became pregnant and told everyone else at 6/7 weeks), I say, let’s start being more honest about how tough it can be. It’s possible to admit to feeling rancid, low, knackered and washed out but still be 100% grateful to be pregnant.

 

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11 Comments

  1. Hayley
    June 18, 2018 / 4:26 pm

    Yes! This post couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m currently eight and a half weeks pregnant with my first after IVF, and I feel like I shouldn’t complain about how absolutely rubbish i’m feeling. Today is probably my worst day and all I have done is cry. So thank you! Thank you for being honest and making me feel like less of a crappy person xx

    • Alison Perry
      June 18, 2018 / 6:34 pm

      I think after IVF you feel even more guilty for feeling miserable, don’t you? Cry away. You’re not a crappy person – you’re normal!

    • June 20, 2018 / 11:21 am

      I just wanted to send you love too as another IVF mama, Hayley. How you feel now bears no reflection on what kind of mother you will be, or how grateful you are for this baby. Most of us have been there. And it will pass. Sending love. xx

  2. k
    June 18, 2018 / 6:32 pm

    Just approaching sixteen weeks and finally crawling out of my hole. Lots of people congratulating me at work and it’s hard not to just turn around and say “it’s been awful!” But instead I smile and say “thanks!”. Of course I’m grateful but the first trimester seriously makes me consider future pregnancies. I can’t imagine having something like hyperemisis!

    • Alison Perry
      June 18, 2018 / 6:33 pm

      Oh I Know. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for people who feel terrible all the way through their pregnancy. Hope you feel loads better soon.

  3. June 18, 2018 / 7:49 pm

    Such an honest post Alison! The first trimester is awful, and it’s brutal that you can’t tell anyone. I felt exactly the same as you, and had some really dark days coupled with the grey flat feeling which was pretty tough getting through the Digital Mums course and having to keep our house immaculate for viewings. But you’re right it does pass and I hope it passes quickly fy for you. I’m looking forward to hearing about the rest of your pregnancy. Claire x

  4. Synthia
    June 18, 2018 / 9:20 pm

    Oh wow reading this couldn’t have come at a better time. I’m 7 weeks pregnant and last week (whilst on holiday) was one of the toughest weeks I’ve faced with repeated drops in blood pressure making me feel absolutely awful, far from glowing! Why don’t/can’t we talk about how hard it is? It’s like another woman myth of perfection that we somehow have to fit in to! I’ve found I’ve had to for the sake of my sanity talk to those closest because the shock of how hard it’s been has been a bit of a wake up call! Thanks for posting this it’s an enormous help and support!

  5. Ruth
    June 18, 2018 / 11:16 pm

    I’m just 8 weeks and oh my god! It’s been tough. Constant nausea and acid reflux! I know I should be so happy and of course I am but it’s so hard. I had a miscarriage last year so that adds anxiety. It is crazy that it’s kept hush hush as I constantly make up excuses for my illness. The thing is that I know if anything did go wrong like before I would be telling everyone anyway! I’m hoping in a few more weeks I feel more human and get that glow instead of the grey look I have at the moment

    Great honest post xxx

  6. Naomi
    June 19, 2018 / 3:00 am

    Yes. I relate to all of this. First trimester is hell, but I’ve just hit 13 weeks and like magic I feel like a different person!

  7. June 20, 2018 / 11:22 am

    YES! Effing h, it’s awful, isn’t it – and there’s so much pressure to just be ‘normal’! I am so glad that you wrote this tremendously important post.
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  8. June 20, 2018 / 1:20 pm

    Brilliant post Alison. I found all of pregnancy pretty tough tbh (second trimester for me was daily headaches – acupuncture really helped, not sure if you have tried it for yours?) but I didn’t want to complain too much because of course, I was over the moon to be pregnant and everything would be worth it in the end, but that doesn’t make it easier to stand in a boiling hot tube on your way home from work when you’re not even showing a little but you feel as though you’re about to throw up and nobody will give you a seat. x

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