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My grim reality of growing a baby

Updated: Apr 6, 2019

It's taken me a long time (12 weeks) to document any of this. Partly due to the fear of sounding ungrateful for the precious gift that we have been given, but mostly due to how incapacitated I have been for over 7 weeks now. Having had previous health complications, I'm only too aware of the privilege it is to fall pregnant, particularly after trying for such a short time. So before reading on, my intention is not to scare monger or moan, simply to offer an account of my extremely unfortunate experience of the first trimester and hopefully offer some support to others who have, had or will experience similar.

 

A bit of background to set the scene… I'm a lecturer in Fitness Health and Exercise as well as a PT and newly qualified Yoga Teacher; all a bit ironic given my current state. I live for exercise and good health. I move daily and love creating healthy homemade foods to suit my coeliac and plant based (mostly) needs. Strangely one of my areas of expertise is in pre and post natal yoga, exercise and nutrition. I'm totally fascinated by the amazing physical and psychological changes associated with pregnancy and have always been curious about experimenting on myself if I was lucky enough to fall pregnant. So despite having had the pleasure of training countless woman throughout their pregnancies and having a pretty good level of knowledge about the trials and tribulations of this journey; I was in no way prepared for starting my pregnancy like this.

 

Oh my word, how quickly mild 'morning sickness' descended into something far darker than I could have imagined! After finding out we were pregnant around week 4, I was over joyed, slightly more tired than normal but otherwise my usual healthy self. Both my sisters and Mum had pretty rough experiences with 'extreme morning sickness' and Hyperemesis Gravidarum but I was naively unaware that I might be affected. Truthfully, I was just excited about planning a super active, healthy and glowing pregnancy. By week 5, I couldn't stomach the sight or smell of anything in my normal diet (don't mention a ginger biscuit to me ever again) and felt a level of nausea that I can only compare to when I have been gripped by a crippling stomach bug or flu. This was from the minute I woke until going to sleep, and sadly those sacred hours of sleep have also been invaded since around week 7. Having meditated, practiced yoga and exercised to high levels for many years, surely I could use one of my many 'tools' to support? No chance! Food wouldn't stay down. Water wouldn't stay down. It took a ridiculous amount of effort to lift my phone, open a book or walk to the toilet. This consumed my every waking thought. After trying and failing to go to work for two days, I was chauffeured to the Doctors by my husband as I could barely walk never mind drive. I broke my heart to the GP who was incredibly supportive and suggested I try some anti sickness medication and potentially a drip to rehydrate. She prescribed Xonvea and bed rest, signing me off work for a few weeks. Cue more tears. The prospect of taking medication and having anything other than a natural wholesome pregnancy horrified me (would it harm the baby, would it harm me, would it actually work?) plus I'm a total control freak when it comes to work. I take great pride in what I do so abandoning ship simply did not seem to be an option. I had no choice. I had such limited energy and ability to move that tears and more sick were induced from something as simple as a phone call. Yoga classes were cancelled and students were let down at college. A heartbreaking experience for me!

 

This was my greatest and hardest lesson in surrender. In yoga, I link this to the inner practice (niyama) of Ishvara pranidhana, which loosely translated is about surrendering to a higher self. Please note that while I wish that I was able to think and feel on the spiritually calming level that I associate with yoga and try to practice everyday, in all honesty this was near impossible during the darkest weeks. For me during this experience, Ishvara pranidhana was not about devoting everything to some higher power but rather about respecting my mind and body and acknowledging when I needed to rest. It was about surrendering my ego and getting over feelings of not being the yogi, PT, lecturer, wife, daughter, sister or friend that I thought I should be during this magical time. I literally had no control and the despair I caused myself trying to influence this became one of the biggest challenges.

 

Returning to the issue of medication, my husband and I chose not to take them because we weren't confident enough in the research supporting it. I know that thousands of expectant mothers have taken various types of anti-sickness medication without any side effects and I truly understand why it would be necessary in many cases. If you're struggling to make a decision like this, my best advice is to do your research using robust non biassed sources. Also talk to your GP about concerns and more than anything, trust your gut instinct! On the topic of sickness, these first few months of pregnancy have left me with multiple muscular strains. I've put this down to a combination of constant wrenching, spewing and coughing as well as the physiological changes associated with a growing uterus and (in my case) a body that has gone from exercising everyday to barely moving at all. So given my circumstances these are relatively normal aches and pains but nonetheless concerning. I feel your physical and psychological pain if you've also experienced this. Hang in there and don't be scared to get it checked! At one point the implantation pain combined with the muscular strain in my lower abdominals led the Early Pregnancy Unit to advise an early scan. This was terrifying but incredibly reassuring. The overwhelming rush of emotions when seeing a healthy heartbeat was a reminder of how worthwhile the end result will be. I have clung desperately to this over the last few weeks.

 

One of the most distressing effects of the 'first trimester sickness black hole' for me has been prenatal depression. Having experienced periods of depression during my life, I'm well aware of the generic red flags but never associated such a joyous time with desperate feelings of sadness. During one of my many 3-4 hour stints on the bathroom floor I sat sobbing reading articles about coping with extreme pregnancy sickness and came across a list of common symptoms of prenatal depression. Yikes, I met everyone of them and realised that I had been linking everything to/blaming hormones and sickness:

  • Constant sadness and crying more than usual

  • Insomnia

  • Feeling overwhelmed by everyday things

  • Irritable and argumentative (the poor hubby)

  • Lack of focus and concentration

  • Fear and anxiety

  • Obsessive thoughts

  • Lack of energy

  • Isolation

Prenatal depression is a recognised condition and can arise for a variety of reasons. For me it has been the combination of surging hormones; the exhaustion and stress from being sick up to 20 times per day (at my worst); being practically housebound; worrying about the baby and my health; being unable to get essential stress relieving endorphins from exercise; body/weight concerns; mineral imbalances due to sickness; irrational financial concerns once we have the baby etc. This is by no means an exhaustive list and may seem trivial to some but the effects are real and debilitating. I found it extremely difficult to accept this reality, feeling immense guilt about being anything other than over the moon during such a happy time. Discussing it with my husband and family wasn't easy but fortunately I have an amazing support network around me. Resources like Pandas Foundation UK, @pregnancysicknesssupport and your local GP should be used for support and advice if you're experiencing any of the symptoms associated with prenatal or postnatal depression. Please remember that this doesn't have any bearing on your ability to be a mother and that sometimes it takes more courage and strength to ask for help. Don't suffer in silence!

 

At 12 weeks, we have just had our first official scan and feel incredibly blessed. What an amazing experience to see a real living human inside you. In our case the baby was super active and moving loads. This wasn't ideal for the sonographer but totally fascinating for us. It was humbling and emotional to see that a baby could survive such a bumpy ride. They truly are little miracles and I now don't underestimate how resilient they are at this stage! Unfortunately for Mum, they thrive while she often suffers.


I’m very gradually throwing up less, keeping down some food during the first half of the day (by no means normal or healthy food might I add) and managing very light exercise. I've been able to reintroduce a little meditation and yoga, inspired greatly by my pre/post natal teacher training tutors from Nurture Yoga. I'm also starting to enjoy our new puppy, Archie, who previously just made me sick due to his smell and constant movement. I've even started looking at my mountain of about 70 hours worth of marking for college and started to plan a few awesome pre and post natal yoga classes ready to launch soon.


Hopefully it lasts but I'm terrified to accept that the sickness may return. For now I will enjoy the good moments and stay as positive, active and happy as possible. If you have experienced or are experiencing something similar, take it hour by hour, even minute by minute. Somehow you will get there! I have wasted far too much energy being angry with my mind and body for performing so poorly... Am I not designed to do this? Yes, we are and it's one of the many miracles of the female body. Put your trust in this, even when things don't go to plan. Everything happens for a reason.


Remember that you are a lot stronger than you think.

 

My First Trimester Survival Strategy

What have I done/used/looked at to help me through this stage?

  • Drank copious amounts of chocolate soya/almond milk (don't ask..I have no idea). Vegetable sushi, melon and pears have also featured

  • Relied heavily on my husband and parents for help with puppy, flat, basically everything

  • Surrendered to not being able to do virtually anything

  • Spoke/moaned to my sisters, mum, dad and incredibly patient husband daily

  • Had a shower and tried to get outside daily (both exceptionally challenging at times)

  • Followed @deliciouslyella pregnancy journey on instagram (when I eat normally, I love her recipes. Lately I've been loving her delightful updates on pregnancy and brilliant natural skincare tips)

  • Followed my extremely knowledgable friend/GP/Mum @thelifestylemedic_mum for health tips when experiencing extreme pregnancy sickness

  • Used Pai skincare pomegranate and pumpkin seed stretch mark system daily

  • Used Insight timer app for pregnancy and sleep meditations

  • Referred to the Babycentre and Ovia pregnancy apps lots

  • Wearing my glorious baby chime necklace gifted to me by my family

  • Accepting (eventually) some much appreciated visits and gifts from friends

  • Started little bits of work for college and planning for yoga to get my brain active again. Look out for some amazing pre and post natal yoga classes launching soon as well as my regular seasonal class starting again soon at Seasonal Yoga

  • Since feeling slightly better, I've had several prenatal/remedial massages from the fabulous @chirene_b (magic hands)

  • Living in all things Lulu Lemon - Align leggings, In the Comfort Zone Pants, Long Line energy sports bra


Move daily, stay healthy and be happy, Sarah x


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2 Comments


rconnick3
rconnick3
Apr 06, 2019

This is Frankie, you can probably imagine what she says.

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rconnick3
rconnick3
Apr 06, 2019


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