I would like to start this piece with a word of warning as I didn’t enjoy stumbling across a pregnancy-related article that entailed negative accounts unless I went looking for it. From my years of working in women’s health, I’m also well aware that fertility and pregnancy can be tender topics. So if this is not the kind of account you’re looking for right now, you may like to skip on it.
What I intend to share with you is my experience so far. I have found these personal accounts immensely comforting to read and feel a sense of solidarity with other folks going through the same. And I would really love to give back. So this is my story, which has some crunchy bits, but also lots of lovely bits too. So if you’re up for that, please continue on!
At the beginning of winter, my husband and I found ourselves at an interlude. We were all set and ready to move interstate to Melbourne, most of our boxes packed, but the lockdown cast a freeze on all company transfers (my husband is a frontline mental health worker), and we had to pivot back and wait for it all to thaw. We had to give up the sweet little house we had found to lease. I’d be lying if I didn’t say this was stressful. I had packed up my practice and business, with a carefully constructed transition plan, which had to get thrown into the bin.
Once we had made the move, we planned that this would be the perfect time to start trying for a family. So everything was up in the air, and uncertain how it would fall back into place.
Toward the end of winter, we decided to take a two-week holiday break – O’s aunt and uncle generously offered us their home by the river for a week. We then planned a road trip up to northern New South Wales to camp in my favourite spot in Bunjalung National Park – to sleep, swim, read, relax and thaw out from the mad year. It’s a very healing and calm place that I would often go to with my uni friends at the end of semester exams to recover from late-night study marathons. It felt very fitting!
That time away from the pulse of the city cast some needed clarity on how we could play with the cards dealt. It was a lovely realisation that we need didn’t need to wait until the move went through to at least start trying for a baby.
As a fertility awareness educator, I have a very intimate understanding of my body and knew that if we tried on this trip, we were in with a strong running chance. Knowing that this was the year we wanted to start bringing tiny humans into the world, we’d both been preparing.
A week after getting back as I was waiting for the kettle to boil to make my morning green tea, I felt the sensation of a toothpick nicking the inside of my groin and a tiny sense of warmth. I smiled…and whispered welcome.
I patiently waited another 10 days before taking a test. In the fertility awareness method, we know that if you don’t get your period 17 days after ovulation, you’re more than likely pregnant. So I gathered a urine sample jar from my packed away clinical tools, filled it and took myself off to the pharmacy to collect a pregnancy test.
I came home via my favourite little park with fig trees that are very easy to climb up into. In the summer, I often perch myself in their shady embrace with a novel and iced tea. It felt like a fitting place. I had a 5-minute meditation lined up to do while the test did its thing, but I didn’t have a chance to do it. As soon as I pulled the stick out, the positive “+” immediately appeared. I skipped home and simply placed it in front of Orlando while he was drying the dishes from lunch. He looked confused and hopeful by what the symbol meant – I let him know that ‘+’ = baby is a comin’. And I wish I could share a gif of his face…it was a very joyous moment.
Three weeks went by, and I felt like I was walking on cloud nine. I had felt like I accessed some sort of magical, blissy energy. It felt almost illegal how good I was feeling. I’ve supported so many folks through pregnancy and I know how trying the first weeks and months can be.
But by 6 weeks, things changed rather quickly. Slight nausea that would start in the afternoon if I’d skipped on afternoon tea steadily started amping itself up, expanding to an all-consuming all-day affair. By 7 weeks I was also vomiting (which was, in fact, a relief – at least there was a release and relief to the nausea). The pattern I noticed was that every 3–4 days or so, it felt like I hit a new hormone growth curve. I would feel wretched for 2 days, and then it felt like my body adapted to the new level of hormones, and it was manageable for a day or two, before amping up again.
This continued on from weeks 9 – 18. I felt like I had slipped into an alternative universe. Luckily, when I was teaching, I had a glorious 3-hour window a day where I could drop into my teaching space and forget about my nausea temporarily – a lovely benefit of loving what I do. But after that 3-hour threshold, I became rather useless.
All-day nausea and regularly being sick is extraordinarily fatiguing. It’s very like having a hangover that doesn’t seem to ever end. The very motto of my work is “listen to your body and honour its needs”, and it felt like a tremendous opportunity to live this philosophy in a whole new way.
While I had a responsibility to my students, I also had a duty to myself and my baby to be a mama bear and be protective of my boundaries. I’ve never had to say “no” more in my life, remind people that deadlines are there for a reason, and generally become a disappointment merchant to all the requests I receive online. And it wasn’t as terrible as I’ve always feared it would be. I feel this is the beginning of my matrescence. Now that I’m carrying and caring for another life, I can no longer be a sacrificial giver. I need to become a sustainable one. I’ve written more on this in a November blog post.
I’m so grateful for my assistant Julia and all the systems that I’ve been putting in place so my business can function smoothly without me needing to be at the steering wheel at all times. Only being able to work 3-4 hours a day has been a very fast test of that! I’m also so grateful that I work for myself and that I’ve been able to design my days to work with my body and create a schedule that have allowed me to continue to serve my amazing students, clients and community.
What has helped…
If morning sickness and pregnancy have taught me one thing so far, it’s that different things work for different bodies…and they can change within the same pregnancy quickly. So instead of including a laundry list of morning sickness remedies, I would love to share what has helped me. Because I’ve had a particularly severe case of morning sickness, there was no one solution that “cured me”, but they were undoubtedly things that helped.
- Eat small regular meals and work out if your body likes foods hot or cold. For me, my body enjoys cooling foods, so that’s what has worked. Set a timer to remind yourself to eat something every 3 hours. Make sure you’re getting a nice balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats. Conventional advice usually focuses on carbohydrate-rich foods – crackers, fruits, dry toast etc. – but you need to stabilise that blood sugar. When your blood sugar is up and down, nausea gets much worse!
- Rest and relax – symptoms become much worse when stressed or tired.
- Peppermint and Lemon Balm tea – cooled and sipped throughout the day. Ginger, unfortunately for me, had the opposite effect and made my nausea worse and also gave me heartburn. But I know it useful it can be for others. I’ve also been using a combination of wild yam, dandelion root and yellow dock root to help regulate my appetite and ease intestinal discomfort, for which it’s been marvellous.
- My sensitivity to my environment has enormously increased…which may seem like a bad thing (and yes, when surrounded by chaos, loud noises and bright lights, it’s extra unpleasant) BUT music, art, nature, poetry, meditation, writing, they all feel like that impress more profoundly upon me. So when I create a cocooned environment, I’m in bliss.
- Limit time on online. While I adore my online community, showing up online and holding space can take a lot of energy. To keep my work days short, sweet and efficient, it had to go. I even invested in a new minimal phone that I’m so very in love with. It’s only got 60 contacts in there, it’s paperwhite and keeps me connected to the essentials. My smartphone is only for work hours.
- Mindfulness – I’ve been loving using the Expectful App. A preconception, pregnancy and post-partum focused meditation app – and it’s become a regular part of my day. They have morning sickness specific meditations which I found immensely helpful at easing the emotionally taxing side of nausea.
- Medication – On the days when it was particularly severe, and I wasn’t able to keep anything down – medication was a saving grace. I worked closely with my doctor to find the right treatment, which took some trial and error, but we did end up landing on a medication that would bring me relief. You absolutely don’t need to be a vomiting, au natural martyr – explore all your options!
I’m now writing to you from 19 weeks, well into my second trimester, and I’m so happy to say I’m feeling so much better and am even beginning to feel little kicks before I fall asleep at night. My energy is mostly back, I only have morning sickness in the actual mornings, and it’s very mild, and I can eat so many of my favourite foods again. I’ve been going wild with salads and proteins other than boiled eggs!
The Next Chapter…
The next chapter is about to be one of significant change, not only due to this sweet little soul growing within, but Orlando and I bought a home in country Victoria and set to move in early January. So I’ll have many new tales to share with you in the coming weeks and months.
Please don’t hesitate to share your experience of your first trimester in the comments below.