Pregnancy is an interesting beast. I’m currently halfway through my first pregnancy and am eagerly awaiting arrival of baby this June. Pregnancy has always fascinated me, even before I was in “family planning” mode. I was a Registered Massage Therapist for six years and pregnancy massage was my favourite type of treatment to learn about and provide.
I thought very seriously about becoming a midwife for a while, and just generally read about pregnancy whenever I come across an interesting article or research paper. Actually being pregnant though? That is different by far, and it starts (hopefully) long before you get that BFP – Big Fat Positive.
There are lots of micro decisions to make along the way – what time in your life is best, balancing it against work and education and having a robust social life, and determining if it is the right thing for you as an individual and in your partnership. Having children is not a journey to take lightly or to just do – it’s big, maybe the biggest thing you’ll do, or not do.
If you’re thinking of starting a family, there are plenty of resources available. Check out the Help! online directory of Parenting Classes in Toronto.
One of the first things that took me by surprise when my partner and I started getting serious about starting a family is that getting pregnant isn’t necessarily quick, or always easy. As it turns out biology isn’t really that efficient!
You go from your teenage years and the impression that even looking at semen could land you in the maternity ward, to learning it is normal for it to take up to a year to get pregnant. You can have a lot of sex before you pee on a stick and get that BFP.
Sex for procreation is a different breed of intimacy. It has a specific purpose and suddenly, if you are anything like me, the pressure can feel intense and can be a bit of a libido killer. You have to work out with your partner how to take some of the pressure off.
Trying to conceive is filled with a surprising amount of waiting. It’s a cycle of waiting about two weeks until you ovulate, and then another two weeks to find out it you’re pregnant. Rinse and repeat.
For me, all the waiting made it difficult to concentrate on other things – at every abdominal twinge I’d wonder “Was that ovulation? Implantation?” I had to actively remind myself to talk about non-conception related things when out and about with friends. When you do get the BFP though, another new world opens up.
To help stay healthy during and after pregnancy, visit the Help! online directory of Health and Wellness Centres in Toronto, or if you need to talk with somebody try the online directory of Family Counselling and Support in Toronto.
So you’ve gotten your positive result, maybe weeks after you started trying, maybe many months. You’re excited and joyful; you want to sing from the mountain tops… except now your newfound wonder is tempered by fear of losing the pregnancy.
Miscarriage is common; 10–25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. It isn’t a part of pregnancy you always want to think about, but it is a normal natural part of reproduction. Despite how common miscarriage is, it is unfortunately not a topic that is usually openly discussed.
I think this is a problem; it imbues miscarriage with a sense of entirely unfounded shame. There is nothing to be ashamed of, and it shouldn’t take having a miscarriage to realize there are people close to you who have gone through it themselves. Hopefully society catches up soon and women are no long expected to face the simultaneous wonder and fear of early pregnancy alone.
Then there are those pesky early pregnancy symptoms… you can thank progesterone and other pregnancy hormones. For me, I had to pee constantly, I never realized I could have so much bloating, and naps became my best friend. My breasts were also tender for about twleve weeks and underwent rapid expansion, necessitating a shopping trip to update my bra collection.
*Note to pregnant ladies out there – nursing bras are fantastic – as least for my substantial chest. I was lucky to avoid the nausea and vomiting that is common to the first trimester, and with frequent naps my life proceeded as normal.
Late First Trimester/Early Second
Pregnancy itself is also filled with it’s own type of waiting. The weeks tick by and so do the milestones: hearing the heartbeat, seeing it wiggle around on the ultrasound, feeling those flutters that you think but can’t quite tell are the baby moving, and then that first ‘thunk’ that was definitely a limb wailing around.
As time goes by, the risk of losing the pregnancy declines. I hit the fourteen-week mark, heard the heartbeat again and felt a sense a relief. At this point the chances of miscarriage are very low… but the quiet nagging concern has never left me. It has taken up residence in the back of my mind and it rests there, making sure to temper excitement with a pinch of “what if.”
In some ways the concern grows stronger because I am increasingly attached to this tiny developing human. As my midwife tells me, there will always be a risk, but it is very low. I am learning to acknowledge it and let it go, because that small risk changes nothing about how you live your pregnant days.
Lessons Learned So Far
When it comes to pregnancy, especially a first pregnancy, or if you tend to be someone who generally assumes worst-case scenario mode, here are some lessons I have learned and tips I try to adhere to:
1. Your doctor or midwife is your best resource if you have questions or concerns. Also Motherisk hotlines are a good resource, they offer evidence-based information to expectant women.
2. Google, however, is not going to be your friend. Avoid, as much as you can, googling symptoms and try to stay away from message boards when you have questions about symptoms or concerns you are experiencing.
3. Call your doctor or midwife (or check out Motherisk) – part of their job is to answer your questions. If you do end up on the message boards, which I end up doing anyways too, remember to take any advice with a grain (nay, a barrel) of salt – and then call your health care provider if you are still concerned.
There is a tendency to treat pregnant woman as delicate and fragile and the state of pregnancy as terrifying and abnormal and that everything you do could be bad for the fetus. This stems, I think, for a long history of treating pregnancy as pathology to be managed medically.
I try to remember and internalize that pregnancy is normal and that human women have been doing this for hundreds of thousands of years! Our bodies, generally speaking, are built to do this, so I try to trust that it will take care of business. I look forward to seeing where this pregnancy takes me over the next twenty weeks or so, and what new wonders and paranoia I’ll have the pleasure experiencing.
If this is your first, second, or even fifth baby, Help! has plenty of services available to you, including Breastfeeding Consultants and Support in Toronto, Baby Accessories, Diaper Services and Stores, Gifts for Babies, Parenting Classes, and Helplines and Hotlines.
Jen Vander Vecht is a writer and soon to be full-time mom. When not crafting four different knitting projects at once, she can be found dumping ingredients into her slow-cooker, walking the dog, watching Doctor Who, or researching cloth diapers.
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