I’ve finally entered my second trimester. It felt like a long time coming and that I’d forever be stuck in the loop of never-ending nausea coupled with the anticipation/doom of the impending 12 week scan. Does anyone enjoy the first trimester? I feel like it’s woman-code everywhere to not talk about how tough it really is. Or, the reality is probably actually that, as most people have passed the hell-filled first three months by the time they announce their pregnancy they are just so happy to be feeling better and don’t want to dwell on the past.
It’s hard though. It’s tough to be feeling so tired, so sick, unable to eat anything and to not be able to talk about it. Deep down we are all little children and when we feel ill we just want to be able to say it out loud and have someone understand what we are going through. Having instead to go to work and try to act as if everything is normal, even if you’re hiding your belches in meetings, or surreptitiously mainlining crisps before a catch up with your team as they are the only thing that make you feel better (for five minutes) is not easy. At one point I broke down in a meeting with my boss on a morning where I’d had to run from the train station to the office as I thought I was going to be sick and didn’t want to do it on the road as all my colleagues trotted past, and just ended up crying ‘but how do women do this?!’. I know I’m not the first working woman to be pregnant but I couldn’t understand how this is what working women are actually going through but no one talks about it. I felt like I must be some kind of failure as surely other women don’t struggle like this. I’d certainly not heard of any who did.
Luckily I have a very supportive boss who gently explained to me that women cope by occasionally taking sick days, and then suggested I go home. He was basically telling me to give myself a break, and at that moment that permission was everything I needed. It also helped me enormously to know that other women did struggle and that he knew personally of women who have had to take time off in the first trimester. I just wish women spoke about this more.
Another thing I wish I had realised was ok was not seeing friends. When I found out I was pregnant one of my early thoughts was ‘Ok so I have to find a reason for not drinking when I’m out’ which I found an easy answer to: I’m on a health kick (the old antibiotics story is like waving a huge womb-shaped flag that reads I’M PREGNANT). I did not, however, anticipate that the mere thought of doing anything after work – and I really do mean anything – would be so abhorrent to me that I would never need this excuse. As I trundled through my first trimester I kept trying to keep plans, even making plans too, but eventually, one by one, I cancelled every single one. Every single one. For two and a half months I did not do a single thing other than work and sleep, aside from one brief breakfast with a friend and one work dinner that I had to attend where I made an excuse to run off at 8pm.
Again, I assumed I could do it all still as I assumed that’s what all pregnant women did. I now am in major doubt of that. If you are a pregnant woman in your first trimester who is still managing to make your pre-pregnancy trifecta of work/gym/social life work then, frankly, I’m in awe of you. But I suspect most of you are not. But that’s ok! Let’s just tell each other.
So here I am: IT’S OK TO FEEL SO ILL YOU CANNOT GO TO WORK. I did. IT’S OK TO FEEL SO EXHAUSTED YOU HAVE TO LEAVE EARLY. I did. IT’S OK TO MANAGE YOUR TIME SO SOMETIMES YOU CAN MISS THE RUSH HOUR COMMUTE. I did. IT’S OK TO CANCEL ALL PLANS GO TO BED AT 8.30PM EVERY NIGHT. I did. IT’S OK IF SOMETIMES YOU CAN ONLY EAT BREAD AND POT NOODLES. I did. You will eventually be able to face salad again.
So let’s start being honest. And there’s one last thing I want to be honest about. It gets better. I’m in week 14 now and all nausea has pretty much completely gone. I’m not so tired and am back to actually having engaging conversations with people. I’m sleeping better on the whole. My boobs definitely don’t hurt as much. I’ve told much of my friendship group and family so I don’t have to lie anymore. And, best of all, I have a cute little bump to remind me that it’s not all been in my head this whole time…