I am just one giant second pregnancy cliche these days.
Here I am nearing the end of this thing and realizing I haven’t written much about it at all.
With my first, it was weekly bump photos in front of a chalkboard displaying the number of weeks, several posts on this blog for each trimester of pregnancy and then every month for the first year of my son’s life. I kept a small pregnancy journal with thoughts, fears and dreams. I’m not even sure where that journal is now. I meticulously planned out every pregnancy to-do, right down to the very day it would happen and stocked the freezer full of meals.
This time around has been a lot more like they say second time moms are. Less concern for the small things that ultimately don’t matter. Less adherence to the “rules” of pregnancy — there really aren’t any foods I’ve completely avoided for example. We’ve already selected a hospital and pediatrician, so those tasks don’t apply this time around. We’ve also just been so very busy. Lots of travel in 2018, lots of time spent with family, and of course chasing around a toddler, all leave little time to ruminate on pregnancy.
But there’s a degree of this that has also been very intentional on my part — a desire to look at the bigger picture and not get so wrapped up in the fanfare of pregnancy. I’ve devoted my time and attention to other things — read several books for fun, spent a lot of time with friends and focused on my writing career. There were times that I truly did lose track of how far along I was. It just hasn’t been front and center in my mind the way my first pregnancy was. A lot of this is due to less nerves having already done this before, but a lot of it has been an intentional turn inward and a desire to avoid the performative aspects of pregnancy and parenting in today’s digital age, and focus on real life.
But because I would like to have something to look back on and remember some details about this experience, I’ve decided to dump several thoughts here. 🙂
This pregnancy has been a lot harder on me than my first. As I said, I’m a total cliche this time — tough first trimester, great second trimester, tough third trimester.
I spent most of my first trimester on the couch and calling in sick to work. I didn’t vomit much (fun detail to include huh?), but I felt nauseated constantly. It was like I was clenching my teeth all day. No food sounded good. I was miserable and ended up asking the doc for anti-nausea meds. They helped a lot.
I was feeling much better by about 16 weeks, just in time for my favorite time of year — autumn. My second trimester was great. I was able to be really active — lifted weights twice a week, walked 4-6 miles three days a week, and enjoyed family bike rides on the weekends. The weather was great, I spent a lot of time outside and had more energy to interact with my toddler. Right around Thanksgiving though, just as my bump was growing quite large, my back and feet started to ache. The glory days of the second trimester were over!
My third trimester has been tough. I’ve had all the typical late pregnancy symptoms — aches and pains, Braxton Hicks, heartbuuuuurn, fatigue and shortness of breath.
But what has been the most frustrating is intense and severe pelvic pain. I experienced nothing like this with my first. It first flared up around Christmas and felt like really intense menstrual cramps with the occasional sharp jabs if I moved too quickly. The only thing that helped was staying still with a heating pad on my back. My midwife chalked it up to being too active, and after a few days of rest, the pain subsided. But then this week I went on a nesting frenzy cleaning and organizing the house and woke up the next day in some of the worst pain of my life. It had me in tears, so I went to the doctor where they monitored me for an hour checking on baby’s heart rate and any possible contractions. I didn’t want to have the baby this week, but I was almost hoping it was labor so I could get an epidural and make the pain stop. The doctor ruled out some of the more severe pregnancy complications — baby’s heart rate was fine, no signs of placental abruption and I was definitely not in labor. She had no explanation for the pain, but sent me home with painkillers and told me to rest. I slept the rest of the day and have been feeling better since, but I’m definitely moving slowly and am still experiencing moderate levels of pain throughout the day. I don’t know what is going on, but it’s rather debilitating. I feel like all I do is tell my three-year-old no — no, I can’t chase you, no I can’t play on the floor, no I can’t lay down with you in your bed. It sucks, but it’s temporary……and almost over.
This pregnancy has also been tougher on my mental health. Looking back I recognize signs in my first pregnancy and even at other points in my life that anxiety was likely an issue, but I didn’t have the knowledge and resources then to seek help. I can’t be sure if my anxiety is truly heightened this time around or if I am just more aware of it.
If you know me personally or are familiar with my writing (which I assume is most anyone who finds themselves here, heh), then you know I struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety after my son was born. I got help, got better, have cultivated coping mechanisms and built up my support system in the years since. Still, having a history of PPD/PPA, I was at a high risk of developing it again during pregnancy and an even higher risk of experiencing it again postpartum.
I hoped that wouldn’t be the case. Don’t we all? I even found myself seeking out stories of women who had one depressive episode after one child and then never again in an attempt to assure myself that it wouldn’t come back. But it did.
The last couple months of 2018 were really tough for me. I won’t bore you with all the details, but essentially a lot of stressors at once, both at home and at work, and it caused my depression and anxiety to come roaring back. This time though I recognized the signs, and when my therapist suggested I go back on my antidepressant medication, I didn’t argue.
It feels strange to say this to the Internet, but y’all know how much I dig openness and honesty around mental health. Talking about it openly also helps me process and heal, and I think it’s especially important to fight back against the stigma of mental health medication, particularly for pregnant women. When it comes to pregnancy, mental health should always be a part of the conversation in the same way physical health is discussed, monitored and treated.
I’ve been doing a lot better lately, and I’m glad to have antidepressants on board heading into labor and delivery. I know I’m particularly susceptible to the harms of sleep deprivation, and I know my other triggers. I have a lot more knowledge and resources than I did the first time around and whatever happens, I’ll deal with it.
Well, you know, I’ve felt it all.
I was scared at first. I knew I wanted another baby, but I wasn’t sure I was really ready to have my world turned upside down by a newborn again. It took us a while to find our rhythm as a family of three and now that we have, it’s been really really great. I kind of love our unit right now. For three years it’s been the three of us, and I feel like it’s taken me this long to really embrace my identity as a parent. After Camden was born I mourned my old life. Hard. And for a long time. I was not anticipating that at all; no one talks about missing their old life. But I did, and I know I’ll miss this life too, when it was the three of us.
But I also know we’ll find our new normal, a new rhythm. And I know it might take a while and be hard at times. I’m hoping to embrace that shift a bit more this time instead of push against it. I don’t do well with change. I like consistency, routines and systems and if there’s anything babies certainly do, it’s interrupt all of the things. The comfortable pace we’ve found with a toddler will continually be thrown off. Especially as someone who works primarily from home, losing my sense of structure is a hard thing to accept. This time though, I have no fantasies about putting baby on a “schedule,” or maintaining my same level of productivity. I know baby will be running the show. We’re just along for the ride.
While I am anxious about adding another family member, I also feel a sense of peace that I didn’t have the first time around. I know that babies actually aren’t all that breakable. I know that kids are resilient. I know I’ve kept one alive for three years (and counting!), and that’s something. I know that I am capable, and that if I really listen to and trust myself I can actually be good at this. I’m not afraid to ask for help and in fact if you are a friend or family member reading this, expect that I will.
But most importantly I know whatever happens, we’ll be alright. I will be alright. However much or little this baby cries, however difficult the tantrums or rough the adjustment, however long the nights or mundane the days, I know we will all be alright. And knowing that, believing that, has allowed me to experience a level of excitement and joy I wasn’t able to the first time.
It won’t be easy, becoming four. It might even be regretful at times. It will be tears two minutes after laughter and indescribable love laced with frustration….but we’ll make it. We’re all going to be okay. Camden taught me that.