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.