Overall, I’d say I’ve had a darn good pregnancy. There have been no complications (except that one time our midwife thought maybe there was a complication, but it turns out there was absolutely nothing wrong). I haven’t gained a ton of weight. I haven’t had to struggle with our midwife over birth decisions, and I actually enjoy our visits with her. Mr. Wetzel and I have grown closer as this 9 month transition has matured us into parents.
Looking back on my pregnancy, however, there is very little that was what I expected it to be. Except it was hard. I expected it to be hard, but it wasn’t hard in the ways that I expected. This post is about the things that I struggled with during the pregnancy, and how I coped with or overcame each obstacle.
First Trimester: Exhaustion
They tell you that you’ll have no energy the first trimester and that you’ll sleep all the time. I didn’t realize how weak this would actually make me. I spent the entire first few months of the pregnancy playing videogames and napping. I didn’t cook. I didn’t clean. Not like I used to, anyways. I don’t even remember what we ate. I know I didn’t eat much, because I had no appetite, except for fresh fruit.
If I didn’t rest enough, I became very nauseous, but it took me awhile to figure this out. Nausea was something I associated with food, not stress or weariness. I was used to being someone who pushed herself hard and got things done. I had to renew my mind and change the way I prioritized, scheduled and rested in order to feel decent enough to get through the day.
“Exhaustion” doesn’t quite explain what I was going through emotionally. I felt a huge loss of control over my ability to be who I was. I couldn’t use my body the way I was used to. I couldn’t find identity or stress relief or fulfillment in the myriad of tasks and activities that used to be so second nature to me. I was so exhausted that all I could do was exist.
Being stripped down like this drove me nuts. I was forced to just be with myself, without distractions, and to just experience my old human shell for what it had always been: a vessel for my spirit. It was now my newly pregnant body: a vessel for my baby. My body was not my own. I thought a lot about personhood and identity, and I prayed a lot. Instead of letting my fears control me, I tried to continually turn them over to God and find my strength and identity in Him. This gave me much peace.
When I was able to root my identity in God, I stopped struggling with my body and how it was changing, and I became better able to take care of it. I rested more. I stressed out less. The nausea didn’t go away, but it was less severe. And I was able to enjoy the first trimester.
The physical weakness I experienced affected me emotionally in the same way as the exhaustion did, but the symptoms were different.
As soon as I got pregnant and the baby started to push around my bone structure, my hips hurt. A lot. I wanted to exercise, but it would just throw my hips out of alignment. I wanted to do prenatal yoga, but the stretching pulled my joints out of whack.
Not only was I in pain, but I was convinced that I was cheating my baby and my body of a healthy pregnancy because the best thing for my hips was for me to sit on my butt all day and relax. I had to get over myself. I was not going to will my body into being anything other than what it was. I had to learn to accept it for its frailties and then take as good of care of my health as I could.
Thank goodness I was already seeing a chiropractor when I got pregnant, because he was able to help adjust my hips all throughout the pregnancy in order to keep them moving well. By the second trimester, I no longer had swelling and pain at the hip joints. By the third trimester, I had gained considerable stability and maneuverability in my hip joints. I can’t even imagine how bad it would have become if I didn’t have chiropractic treatment.
My Bane: Acid Reflux
I had problems with acid reflux before the pregnancy, but never as severe as they have been now. Around week 28, most women experience a hormone shift that aggravates acid reflux problems until about week 30. For me, the acid reflux was painful, constant, and persisted beyond week 30. Even now as I type this, I have mild acid reflux.
For some women, they need to eat more fresh fruit and fiber. For some they need to eat less. For others, they just need to find the right balance. For others, it has nothing to do with food.
I believe my acid reflux was caused by two things: my already existing susceptibility & the fact that I was carrying Baby Wetzel high, so I had added pressure on my belly. Eventually, I stopped taking most of my supplements in order to ease my digestion; I also avoided acidic fruits and tried to eat smaller more frequent meal. All these things helped, but the only thing to really save me was my Costco-sized container of Tums.
In some ways, the acid reflux has been like acid torture: a pain that persists, wanes and waxes, but never quite goes away. I complain about it to Mr. Wetzel when it’s worse, but for the most part I’ve just had to accept it and move on. When you’re pregnant, you will face things like this that you just have to bear. And you learn to deal. If you don’t, they’ll just wear you down, and that’s never a good path to follow.
Sometimes it feels like I have a new physical struggle each week. I remember the week that I itched. I itched so bad on my belly, I couldn’t even wear underwear. I sat on the couch with a blanket over my lap, clenching my teeth and trying to get distracted by tv shows. I itched so bad I’d go to sleep, and wake up scratching my belly, in pain.
After a few days of this torture, I emailed my midwife asking what things I could take to relieve the pain. She immediately responded with some suggestions, and they helped immensely. She told me, though, to not wait so long to ask. She was there to help me, and there was no reason for me not to ask for help.
Asking for help? Ha!
I don’t know what you’re like, but I’m the type of lady who suffers, doesn’t want to burden anyone, and tries to pull through on willpower alone. I really have learned that I need to get over that stupid, self-centered independence and ask for help when I need it. Even if I think it’s a stupid or insignificant need. I still need to ask for help. Pregnancy is not the right time to decide you don’t need anyone.
For the record, this is what helped me with my belly itching: gold bond creme and Benadryl got me through the night so I could sleep. I’d also take very warm showers and apply copious amounts of almond oil to my belly as soon as I got out of the shower, while the skin was still warm. I believe if I had been doing this from an earlier time (i.e. when I started seeing stretch marks), my skin would not have gotten so bad.
After the itching on my belly got better, I got severe itching on my arms for a while, probably due to a hormone shift. When that subsided, I got itchiness on my neck. I had to stop wearing necklaces, and the itching subsided considerably over the weeks, but never disappeared entirely.
Now we are “at the end” of the pregnancy journey. We have arrived at our due date. And we have no clue what awaits beyond. I’ve learned to accept the ambiguity with as much grace as I know how. I’ve had pains, both intense and constant, that I have endured; and I know they will pale in comparison to the pains of labor that are to come. For that matter, I know this little baby will force us to continually grow into better people and face our human frailties and limitations. This is just the beginning of a lifelong marathon.
The body may be weak, but the spirit is rooted in the deep, and therein lie many mysteries of life. I stare the deep dark mystery in the face. “Bring it on,” I whisper, with joy. And a sparkle in my eye.