I discovered I was pregnant during Week Four, which is quite early by normal standards. I tested via Easy@Home pregnancy test strips after my period was approximately two days late. I absolutely expected a positive result because I had already been having vague-but-undeniable symptoms. The most pronounced symptom was a massive increase in highly visual and intense dreams. I'm likely understating the "highly visual and intense" part. In one dream, a zombie was on top of me and within inches of devouring my head until I placed my hands in its mouth and broke apart its jaw. Remembering detailed dreams is not a particularly unique experience for me, but having four straight nights of dreams that would take a massive special effects crew to recreate is: by the end of this week, I was positive I was pregnant, even before my missed period. I had also noticed a consistent, extremely mild sensation of nausea throughout the day. I only experience nausea in relation to terrible flus (rare) or migraines (rare), so this was another somewhat unmistakable symptom for me. I also seemed to have what could best be described as a "congested" feeling in my lower abdomen (likely a sensation of increased blood flow and slowed digestion.) None of my pants seemed to be fitting in a particularly flattering way and I couldn't quite figure out why.
By this point, I had taken three Easy@Home pregnancy test strips, all of which were positive. The latter two tests were extremely dark pink lines, the first a bit paler. This signified a promising increase in levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Since the first line had been a bit pale, the additional tests assured me that the first positive had not indicated a chemical pregnancy (i.e. pregnancy that ends very soon after conception, but still leaves a detectable amount of hCG in the bloodstream for a little while). By Week Five, I was floored by a couple of symptoms: (1) weight gain - holy smokes! I was already up several pounds, attributable largely to water retention and digestive troubles; (2) almost daily appearance of mild nauseous spells, especially after consuming a large or rich meal (this was the week of Christmas, so well...yeah); (3) unregulated digestion, which is a polite way of saying that food was either moving much too slowly or quickly through my body, neither of which seemed very pleasant; (4) breast sensitivity; and (5) dizziness after going a couple of hours without food or water. I also became aware of a subtle "marled" appearance to the skin on my torso. My skin is really pale, so I suspect that this was the effect of slightly increased blood flow in the capillaries in and beneath my dermis.
Just shy of Week Six, I finally scheduled appointments with my OB/GYN, who is one of my favorite humans on the planet. He is proficient and has a sense of humor drier than the Sonoran desert. The first appointment will take place in about two weeks and will involve only the intake nurse and a likely confirmation of my pregnancy tests via urine or blood sample. The second appointment will take place approximately four weeks from now and involve a visit with my OB/GYM himself. Honestly, I'm in no rush to involve medical professionals, because it generally opens the gate to a plethora of uncomfortable poking and prodding. However, because of my "advanced maternal age," there may be recommendations that I want to obtain earlier rather than later, such as progesterone supplementation or extra vitamins. In addition, I'm holding off on telling everyone except my partner until I have my first doctor's visit and confirmed heartbeat, so I'm eager for that confirmation.
Aside from scheduling doctor's appointments, I also picked up a couple of very simple and cheap pieces of clothing to help "hide" everything until we feel comfortable making an announcement. Although I have a flat tummy when I wake up, the water retention has made many of my trousers and jeans uncomfortable, especially by the end of the day. See this LINK for a few items that are useful if you are hiding the bump during the First Trimester of pregnancy.
This is actually a challenging period of time in the first trimester, for the following reasons: (1) We don't feel comfortable informing anyone else about the pregnancy until we have a confirmed heartbeat, so there is the constant presence of a Very Big Secret; and (2) My weight gain fluctuates up to 10lb right now, based solely on water retention and digestive sluggishness - just yesterday, when I woke up my weight was 131 lb (let's say a solid 5-10lb heavier than usual) and 136lb at the end of the day. Then, today, I woke up to a flat stomach and a weight of 129 lb. I've already been sleeping in sports bras and they feel much more "filled out" than usual. If my brain wants to keep everything a secret, my body is not cooperating. I've already put away my skinny work pants and jeans (possibly forever! haha!) and replaced them with a pair of petite tummy-control leggings and oversized sweaters. I haven't bought any classic maternity clothing yet, but it took exactly one day for me to replace my normal work wear with the office equivalent of pajamas. I'm also experiencing chills, mild nausea, and mild fatigue. I had a dream that I was eating paper. Pica is a symptom of iron deficiency anemia, so I took it as a reminder to watch my iron intake.
The other thing that makes this period somewhat challenging is the emotional landscape. I am a little nervous about this pregnancy, although I have no reason to be anything but optimistic. I would say that this is due 10% to legitimate concern over age-related risks and 90% to the fact that we really, really wanted this baby and knowingly tried to get pregnant. Our first pregnancy was a complete and total surprise - we were not actively trying to get pregnant (at thirty-five, we simply assumed things would probably take a while, so pregnancy was far from our minds even though I hadn't taken birth control medication since I was in my twenties.)
This pregnancy is different: We actually got exactly what we prayed and hoped for, without any difficulty - could it be taken away as easily? I'm dealing with those feelings by choosing not to dwell on them or empower them, instead celebrating every single day as it comes and not getting too far ahead of myself. I think I will feel these fears dissipate after we confirm heartbeat and receive our first medical intervention at about eight weeks.
Moreover, the twenty-five year old girl who works the front desk at the office gym just had the most adorable baby girl about three months ago. The simple fact is that this twenty-five year old girl could be my daughter by now, had I been a little careless with a prom date. There is no word in my vocabulary for how this fact makes me feel sometimes. I definitely appreciated every silly article about "celebrity pregnancy over 40" this last week.
I also find myself reminiscing about my last experience with maternity leave: I was off twelve weeks. My boss, who happened to be in the UK, became pregnant the following year and was able to have protected leave for one year. Five years after the fact, the maternity and parental leave policies in this country are still firmly entrenched in an era where the Earth was still cooling. My vocabulary has PLENTY of words for how I feel about this fact. I really adore my job and my boss and have already started to give consideration to how best to manage preparing for and taking maternity leave.
For now, I'm continuing to workout 30 minutes per day, with two days off per week.
A typical week looks like this:
Monday: Tone It Up Prenatal Total Body Workout (weight bearing)
Tuesday: 30 minutes on the stationary bike
Wednesday: Prenatal Barre Workout (weight baring) and Prenatal Arms Workout
Thursday: 30 minutes on the elliptical or Denise Austin Prenatal Cardio Routine (the "OG")
Friday: Rest day/30 minutes of walking
Saturday: Tone it Up Prenatal Total Body Workout (weight baring)
Sunday: Rest day/housecleaning and meal prep
After completing a kettlebell workout (12lb) I found that I had a lot of pelvic and abdominal discomfort, so I'm retiring the Kettlebell of Doom for the rest of the pregnancy. I did a lot of deep squats during that particular workout. While squats are generally safe for pregnancy, you have to listen to your body. I am taking a break from squats for a few days, and then plan to revisit without weights. I've definitely had an increase in morning sickness this week and it had disrupted my sleep. No one feels like working out when they've been up since 4:00 AM. On those days, I just try to eat healthy and walk a little bit more throughout my day.
The Pregnancy Dreams are still in full effect. It probably sounds overly dramatic to say that this is one of the most challenging "symptoms" so far, but it is! In the last two weeks, I've dreamed about zombie attacks, witchcraft, abandoned orphanages, ancient Feudal conflicts over land, ambush attacks on foggy inlets, sea monsters and at least half of my most disappointing and embarrassing moments from high school. It's actually really difficult to wake up and go about your day after such distressing or intense dreams. It feels like someone is excavating the deepest recesses of my subconscious.
This week, I've commenced my prenatal fitness and nutrition program in earnest. For my size, that means consuming approximately 1800 calories per day of healthy, Tone it Up-approved foods that pass the "morning sickness" test and at least five days of exercise per week. I'm a little nervous about not gaining too much weight in the first trimester.
This is a complete 180 from my first pregnancy. When I was pregnant with my son, I was so scared of missing vital nutrients in my diet that I actually overate a lot of healthy foods. In addition, my workout routine the first go-around was based solely on walking and yoga. While those activities will keep you feeling relaxed and healthy, they won't necessarily shave off any pounds. Last time, I weighed approximately 156 lb when I delivered my son, and frankly, it was a difficult amount of weight to hold on a frame that can be healthy at 105 lb. It was even harder to shed! I feel like I spent an entire year in plank pose just to fit back into my pre-pregnancy size(s).
It is a challenge to fit in the workouts now because I'm experiencing some of that First Trimester fatigue, nausea and frequent urination, the last of which likes to appear at two in the morning. Still, if I can keep the total weight gain a bit lower this time, I think that I'll feel better and recovery more quickly. Please don't feel bad for the baby! He/she celebrated the kickoff of this fitness program by downing an entire bag of veggie sticks over a single "girls' night in." Gleefully. And with abandon.
I have my first prenatal doctor's visit this Friday. My biggest concerns right now are about cervical insufficiency and prenatal screening panels for chromosomal or other abnormalities. Of course, I'm also really looking forward to confirming the heartbeat! Once we have that confirmation and the first set of ultrasound pictures, we'll share our news more broadly.
I'm actually really looking forward to being able to openly participate in this year's Tone it Up Love Your Body Challenge as a pregnant women. It can be hard to maintain relationships with female friends when you are a busy working mom, and morning sickness does not help that cause. It's nice to have the extra support and companionship of women who are going through similar experiences.