It looks like such a small sentence, but in reality it is not small at all. Pregnancy is a big deal. It changes lives, both during a pregnancy and afterward. Bodies change, relationships change, lives change. It can be exciting and terrifying all at the same time. So I start this with a small statement with big implications.
At Scarleteen, we see many questions about pregnancy. Often they are about a specific pregnancy risk or whether someone is pregnant or not. Sometimes it is about the choices that accompany a pregnancy. Sometimes there are questions about the things that happen during pregnancy.
I'd like to share with you, in this blog, about my pregnancy. It is not my intention to suggest that this is what every pregnancy is like for every woman. I am not arguing that my choices are the "only" or "best" way. I want to talk about my experience and my perspective. I want to share the good parts and the bad parts.
To that end, I feel like it is important to tell you who I am. I’m 31 and this is my second pregnancy. I have a preschool aged child already. I am legally married to my partner. I have health insurance through my partner and my current OB/GYN is the doctor who delivered my first child via caesarian section (c-section). I have a BS and an MA and I currently work full-time. I would consider myself to be reasonably healthy. I do not share these things about myself to indicate that this is the way it “should” be done, but rather because my physical and social context make a difference in my pregnancy experience. Every woman is different and every pregnancy is different.
After much discussion, thought, and preparation, my partner & I had decided that we wanted to try to add another child to our family. It was not a decision we made quickly or lightly. Adding to a family is a big deal. With the current state of the world and in an economy where no job is guaranteed, adding another person to be fed and cared for can be a scary thought. While I do work full-time, my partner is the primary income in our household. What would happen if one of us lost a job? What if something happened to me during pregnancy or delivery? Childcare is expensive, could we manage that and the other expenses? Did we have room in our current home or would we need to move? What did we have to offer a child?
After many months of discussion, we decided we wanted to try to conceive. With our previous child, I used fertility awareness (FAM) to chart my basal temperature (BBT) and cervical mucus (CM) to help determine when ovulation was occurring (and thus to increase our chances of success). I believe we tried for about 3 months before becoming pregnant the first time. This time around, I was not able to chart as regularly as I had before. In order to get the most accurate BBTs, it’s important to chart after at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep and to take the temperature at approximately the same time each morning. With a preschooler who is in a “wake up ALL THE TIME” phase, this was extremely difficult. In fact, for them most part I was unable to take reliable temperatures so I relied mainly on observing my CM to even guess at ovulation (so I was likely not as accurate this time). We tried for 5 months this time before conceiving.
In spite of the fact that we were trying, I was surprised. With my last pregnancy, I knew when I had ovulated and I tested positive on a home pregnancy test at around 8 days past ovulation (which is very early). I tested at what I believed was 12 days past ovulation this time and it was negative, so I fully believed that we had not conceived during that cycle. However, just after Christmas I tested again on a whim and this time it was positive. I was surprised. I was shocked. At first, I stared at the test and couldn’t figure out what to do. “Oh my,” I thought, “What have we done? What am I going to do?” I know that probably sounds strange, given that I was deliberately trying to become pregnant. But pregnancy is a big deal. For me, I think it’s always one thing when it is theoretical and another when it is ‘real life.’ So my reaction to both pregnancies that I’ve had has been happy tempered with some shock.
Once I processed this new information and shared it with my partner, I began the process of getting used to this new state of being for me. (Incidentally, my partner was extremely happy and excited about the revelation.) It took me a few days to really wrap my head around it. For a week, it was just about all I could think about. Every other thought started with, “I’m pregnant.” Slowly, it started to become a more normal thought and I settled into being happy about it.
My positive pregnancy test was at about the time I would have missed my period. I tend to be irregular anyway, so I had not even realized I was late when I tested. I wasn’t experiencing any symptoms, I just tested on a whim. Based on my last menstrual period (LMP), I was 4 weeks pregnant when I tested positive. Health care providers generally date pregnancies based on LMP. Even though the pregnancy itself was only 2 weeks old (based on when I had likely ovulated), I would have been considered to be 4 weeks pregnant. I had already been taking prenatal vitamins, so I continued with that.
I called my OB/GYN’s office and made an appointment to come in for a first prenatal appointment at approximately 6 weeks pregnant. When I arrived for my appointment, I was given another pregnancy test and they also checked my urine to be sure I didn’t have a UTI (standard procedure in this office). After confirming the pregnancy and measuring my height, weight, and blood pressure, I met with one of the office midwives to discuss my care. She asked about my LMP and figured out my estimated due date (EDD), which would be in late August. We also talked about my medical history and my partner’s medical history. Since I’ve been with this office for several years and delivered my first child with them, my medical record is already established there. However, it was very important to go through and update the record since my last appointment there. After that, we discussed my wishes for this pregnancy and went through the usual list of dos & don’ts during pregnancy. In addition to taking prenatal vitamins, we talked about the things I needed to do to care for my health during pregnancy. There are many medications that pregnant women should not take. There are also some foods and activities that should be avoided. Although I had heard these lists before, it was a good reminder since it has been several years since my last pregnancy. The midwife also asked me about any concerns that I had. At 6 weeks, I was not experiencing much in the way of side effects, except for some cramping. I did not have cramping during my last pregnancy, so I wanted to ask about it. She assured me that this was normal and was more common with subsequent pregnancies. As long as I was not experiencing extreme pain or bleeding, it was nothing to worry about. Before leaving the office, I had to read and sign several forms about keeping appointments, the risks of smoking during pregnancy, and prenatal testing that was offered by the office. I also scheduled my next appointment for 4 weeks afterward. They also gave me an order to have some bloodwork done.
Right now, I am about 8 weeks pregnant. For the most part, I don’t feel that much different than I did before I was pregnant. The embryo is only about the size of a kidney bean, so in terms of feeling changes it is still extremely early. Of the traditional “symptoms” you hear about, the only thing I’m experiencing right now is some nausea, increased urination, fatigue and some breast tenderness. I don’t have “morning sickness” in the traditional sense. Instead, I wake up feeling fine, but start feeling nauseated sometime around 3pm. It gets worse as afternoon and evening progresses. For the most part, I don’t vomit, but the nausea can be really distracting at times. (This is not surprising for me since I had the same kind of ‘all day nausea’ with my previous pregnancy as well.) In terms of the increased urination, this is likely related to my increased water intake and growing blood volume. During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces extra blood. This means that there is more fluid for my kidneys to filter and thus more peeing. At this point, it means I’m urinating a couple of extra times each day. I do find that I am more tired during the afternoon, but so far I’m actually less tired than I was with my first pregnancy. I don’t look pregnant. My clothes still fit the way they did before. I’m not consuming massive amounts of pickles and ice cream. If I haven’t told you that I am pregnant, there is no way that someone would know.