I want to preface this post by acknowledging how many women are struggling with infertility and road blocks in their pregnancy journeys. Getting pregnant was not something I felt would be easy for me, considering my history of aggressive endometriosis and multiple surgeries under my belt. My intention this entire year was to truly enjoy the process with the hopes my body would be able to get naturally pregnant, knowing we’d have the next year to figure out a course of action should there be any challenges. We are beyond fortunate and grateful to be pregnant, I honestly tear up every day because of it. That being said, I feel the utmost amount of guilt for not having to face a journey so many of you are currently on, who also suffer from reproductive challenges. Please know I think of all of you often and have so much faith the family you’re hoping to grow will find you.
JUNE + HOW WE FOUND OUT
Found out on June 7th at 11pm at night. Impulse decision to take a test, considering I had no idea it was the actual day I was supposed to get my period lol. I’ve been so out of the game with normal cycles since having my IUD put in ~3 years ago and only just having it removed on April 20. The first day of my last period was May 14th and I technically ovulated around the 23rd – according to the Flo app, which I didn’t have downloaded until recently haha. I’ve just been keeping a note on my phone tracking the days we ~got busy~ and when I had my period/thought to be ovulating (us ladies know, let’s be honest.) Anyway – apparently I was supposed to have my period on the 7th but didn’t realize it, thinking I had a full 30 days to find out (aka June 14th.) But all that day, I felt different. Not bad, not unwell, not weird, just different. Hard to put into words but I just felt a sense of something was going on internally. Also, that entire day I smelled things I’ve NEVER smelt so strongly before. I truly thought having COVID 3 times robbed me of my sense of smell, at least in its strength to smell anything from afar without sticking my nose into it.
Both Thomas and I were working late that night, and I felt the need to just pee on one of the Early Detection First Response sticks as we were getting ready to go to bed.. Romantic, truly. At first, I only saw one thick red line which indicates No but then sure enough a very faint second line started to appear a bit before it. Thinking I was exhausted and delusional, I didn’t completely consider it was for real but I did show Thomas my questionable finding on the stick. We kind of smiled and laughed, out of excitement/fear/WTF reasons, and then attempted to go to bed. Then, I woke up promptly around 4:30AM and felt like taking a more legit test – one that spells it out for you, Clear Blue style. Plus, I learned at some point the best time to take a pregnancy test is first thing in the morning. So it was truly the correct time to see if it was for real. And it was – one minute later and the words “PREGNANT” appeared. That’s when I had my Holy Shit moment.
It wasn’t that we weren’t trying, but we really didn’t think it would happen this quickly. I only got my IUD removed in April, had one period, and that’s it. Plus, with having Endometriosis and 3 ovarian cyst surgeries in the past, I really didn’t think any of it would be that quick turnaround since “removing the bouncer” aka my IUD only 1 month prior AND the fact that I’ve been on some sort of birth control for 15 years consecutively. At no point was I actively tracking my ovulation, nor was I being careful or preparing myself for potential child bearing. In fact, it was quite the opposite and felt I was acting ~wild~ by having hard kombucha almost every evening instead of my usual wine haha. With all the weddings we have this summer, I wasn’t intending on bringing a 3rd wheel to any of them. Especially my sister’s wedding, which was happening in less than a week since finding out. LOL IF THAT DOESN’T SCREAM ‘CLEARLY WASN’T PLANNED!’
Keeping it a secret from our families, especially mine, was beyond difficult but there was absolutely no way I was going to announce before my sister’s wedding. Coincidentally, Father’s Day was the following Sunday after the wedding so I figured I’d let the family know around dinnertime, after all the partygoers had left and things were turning down. Some would think that’s way too soon of an announcement but considering how close I live to our parents and how often we see them, there was only a matter of time they’d realize I wasn’t actually drinking the wine I was pretending to be guzzling. Besides, my Grandmother would be there for me to tell her in person, which I felt to be very important to be able to do rather than a Facetime Call.
Another reason I wanted our families to know is God forbid something happened and we lost the baby. I felt comfort in knowing our families would be aware and be able to provide emotional support in the event it wasn’t meant to be. I know that’s not optimistic thinking but after telling them, I truly felt more at ease. In fact, I’ve felt eerily calm since finding out up to this point because I allowed myself to realize that nothing I could do, other than being smart with the knowledge I have, would stop nature from doing/not doing what was meant to happen. Controlling my every move out of fear would send my body into the stress-induced tizzy that would probably decide its fate – NOPE NOT GOOD, UNSAFE FOR BABY, DELETE BYE BYE. I can only control what I can control, and let the rest figure itself out. That mentality has really helped me feel good about it all, despite still catching myself realizing I’m going to be a MOTHER to an actual HUMAN.
7-8 Week Symptoms: Mood Swings & took a toll on my mental health, felt discouraged and slightly depressive, overwhelmed with responsibility and grateful dread (if that makes sense.) The exhaustion hit at an all time intensity – being unproductive really took its toll. Weirdly felt alone and isolated despite the support of friends, family & Thomas. Uterus kept stretching and felt like short stabs, borderline period cramp pain but would come and go. Easily winded from lifting anything remotely heavy (laundry basket) or going up the stairs. Hormonal and easily sensitive to any sort of criticism, as I was constantly criticizing myself internally – hit me harder when it came from outside sources.
Premonitions: Another strange thing I started feeling (& noticing) is that I was beginning to show a mini bump by the end of 7 weeks. At first I figured it was purely bloat, seeing that I felt enormous and gassy by the end of each day. But when I would wake up first thing in the morning, feeling skinny every place else (IYKYK), I still saw/felt something more solid below the belly button. A few days before our first sonogram, I just kept getting this weird feeling that there might be more than one in there…
Important Side Note: I consider myself somewhat spiritual & very aware of “signs” despite how some people find it taboo to reveal haha. But there has to be a reason I’ve been seeing the time of 11:11 EVERY.SINGLE.DAY since February of this year – no exaggeration, I have screenshots, lots of screenshots, to prove it. Just something to keep in mind as you continue reading…
First sonogram: We had it at 10am on Monday July 11th, about 8 weeks and 2 days at this point. I’m so lucky to have the same doctor who did all 3 of my ovarian cyst and endometriosis surgeries, as well as my IUD removal in April, still practicing and available. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted him to be our OB and help guide us in this process, considering how well he knows my medical history. After a few quick chats and asking a lot of preliminary questions, regarding my emotional/mental state, it was time for the transvaginal ultra sound (woohoo!) And lo & behold, there’s not one but TWO separate sacs in there… confirming my premonitions were correct – we’re having TWINS!
On July 11th, after seeing 11:11 every day for 5 months straight, we learned we’ll be parents of twins by February 2023 – one year since the start of seeing the numbers. I should also mention July 11th is my late cousin’s birthday, and in March he came forward to me in a Medium reading I participated in with a couple friends. I never talked about it or mentioned it because it was for my personal reassurance and knowledge, but since then I’ve felt his presence near me ever since. It has to be him sending those 11:11 numbers and honestly, I feel like I’ve been given the gift of twins from him in a way. Considering how scared I was to begin this journey, to let alone get SO LUCKY to become pregnant right away at all, I seriously cannot begin to express the gratitude I have to be pregnant with two healthy babies. I haven’t stopped crying tears of joy since finding out – it’s truly the biggest miracle and blessing I could have ever hoped for.
Hormonal Depression: The entire month of July, I went through an extremely rough 4.5 weeks where getting out of bed felt like a miracle. And it wasn’t because I was physically ill or too tired (maybe a little, but not the main reason.) I was so incredibly sad and unhappy despite how excited I felt deep down inside. For the first time in my life, I truly experienced what so many people unfortunately experience every day of their lives. It absolutely rocked & terrified me. That being said, I told my doctor RIGHT AWAY that something was off. He told me it was very common of a symptom and that certain anti-depressants can help alleviate the pain being felt, should I feel that I needed it. I never ended up taking anything but knowing there was a possible solution was enough for me to get through this very dark moment. I felt understood, heard and supported; which is ultimately what a lot of pregnant women need to hear and feel on a much more consistent level during this transition. Looking back, there’s nothing I’m more grateful for than the upswing in my mental health and being able to recognize something wasn’t right at the time. There’s a sense that a woman, especially one who’s child-bearing abilities were in question prior to getting pregnant, should be thankful for being at this point at all; like we need to suck it up and just be ok with everything despite how much it hurts us emotionally and mentally. THAT’S NOT OK! Every pregnant mother has every reason under the sun to feel any way they are, no matter how much the pregnancy was wanted. A happy mother = a happy baby and happy pregnancy, which is all we should be focused on at the end of the day.
Dealing with Nausea: I’ve had plenty hangovers that were worse so I consider myself to have been EXTREMELY lucky in this classic morning sickness department. I do feel a bit of it is hereditary, as both my mom and mother-in-law had little to no nausea during all their pregnancies (my mom had 3 girls, MIL had 3 boys and 1 girl.) But there were times when the nausea would be a bit relentless for me. It felt like being carsick, but you were weirdly hungry yet could easily vomit if you merely thought of a food that didn’t appease you. I did find that eating something bland, even if you’re on the verge of upchuck, was the best course of action to keep it at bay – weird, but pregnancy is hella weird in general.
Here are the top things that truly helped me relieve or stop nausea in its tracks:
- Reliefband: I had this in my possession way before I was pregnant because my hangovers were AWFUL. I rarely got drunk because I couldn’t deal with the aftermath of the morning post-heavy beverage consumption lol. I learned about Reliefband on a podcast ad and immediately ordered one knowing I’d use it for hangovers, occasional motion sickness and for a potential future pregnancy – the latter happening sooner than anticipated lol. This miracle of an anti-nausea band sends gentle electro-current waves from the wrist to the brain literally telling it to not vomit. No lie, it’s proven to work for me EVERY SINGLE TIME. I carry it with me everywhere, because you never know when it’ll strike and you need instant relief. Way more effective than those acupuncture bands. The only thing I found “annoying” was that the gel it comes with to apply were in way too small of tubes in supply and I had to order a larger, generic version that made my wrists break out in a rash :/ But believe me, a small rash on my wrists is a tiny price to pay to avoid living on the bathroom floor.
- Eating small snacks throughout the day to keep my stomach from being empty, as nausea often hits worse when you haven’t eaten. I always kept crackers/saltines on my nightstand and if I woke up to pee in the middle of the night, I’d eat a cracker as well as right in the morning before any potential nausea set in. Worked every single time for me.
- Protein: There was a solid week where I ate pieces of grilled chicken for breakfast. Legit stopped nausea in its tracks.
- Nausea Tea: I had this nightly, even if I wasn’t nauseous, as a precaution before bed but also because it worked so well the two times I was feeling so crummy before sipping it. Plus, it’s delicious!
- Gummy Pre-Natal Vitamins: Of course, always ask your doctor if you have questions about a specific brand. But I like these over the solid vitamins that often make it tougher to deal with on your stomach, especially if you’re having terrible morning sickness. On that note, I suggest taking them later in the day and not right in the am. I took these before conception (as advised by my doctor once the IUD was removed) and for a few of the early weeks before switching to a new brand which I’ll share in a later post – still vetting the product line. But these gummies never made me feel nauseous and I didn’t have to eat anything with them to avoid a sour stomach. Some people swear by Vitamin B6; I never had to try it alone but can’t hurt if you’re desperate.
Cravings: Salads with grilled chicken, vegetables of all sorts, chicken salad, Skinny Pop, Gummy Bears, Shirley Temples, NA Beer, Cold Brew
Aversions: Chocolate for the most part, Oreos (former favorite), desserts in general (just like Thomas..) — now I’m completely fine with chocolate, but was not about it for the month of June.
Things I learned that I didn’t know: Uterus stretching/growing feels like non-stop period cramps without the actual menstruation, bloating that starts at the bellybutton and rarely disappears, Pregnancy-safe skincare & beauty, most small business brick & mortar stores offering soft serve ice cream is safe for pregnant women (ask to confirm they clean every night) but definitely avoid food trucks, Tums help tons, and the animals definitely know something is up.
Tricks to Fool Others: If you just found out you’re pregnant but not ready to tell anyone yet (ahem, me before my sister’s wedding) here’s how I pretended to be “socially drinking” around those who know my drinking habits well (my family) without them suspecting a thing. Pour Non Alcoholic Beer into light beer can (i.e. Miller Lite), Pack your own cooler and have partner assist in refilling your beverage, pour NA beers/wines into glasses or use Koozies (sometimes more of a tell though.) I also played around with Shirley Temples or Sprite/Water with a slice of lime (NOT LEMON – if it’s a lemon, people will be sus.)
Biggest Takeaways for New Moms: Clearly I’m no expert but I know myself very well (despite what the Supreme Court thinks, but that’s a conversation for another post…) So I knew being open about my pregnancy with my closest circle would be the best course of action early on. Because this same group of people would be the one to give me the emotional support I would need to the nth degree God forbid something happened and we lost the baby. In being open about it, I allowed myself to feel a huge amount of potential stress to be lifted early on – for I wouldn’t have to explain to any of them why I’m out of sorts or pretend I’m ok when I’m emotionally wrecked should the worse case scenario happen.
Plus – it’s time we NORMALIZE & OPENLY TALK ABOUT THE REALISTIC NATURE OF MISCARRIAGE. There’s absolutely NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF, as it happens so often and is the body’s way of self-preservation when it comes to an unviable embryo. I’m starting to see more women share their miscarriage struggles publicly on their platforms and I applaud their bravery for doing so, as I can’t imagine how much of an emotional toll it took to endure physically, let alone to be so vulnerable by letting other people access to such personal trauma. However I knew that if it were to happen to me, I too would be open in sharing such horrific experience & grief because in recognizing it happened aloud would allow the healing to better begin.
But that doesn’t mean I didn’t actively protect myself emotionally for the first 12-14 weeks. Honestly, I didn’t become “attached” to the idea of actually being pregnant with our child until the first ultrasound at 8 weeks. And even after that, I kept with the mentality of “it’ll either stick around or I’d be emotionally sparred from later devastation.” As I mentioned above in the June recap portion, I lived my life relatively the same, with the exception of drinking and eating soft cheeses/deli meats; as I knew if I inhibited myself as a means of being careful, it would stress my body out even more with the constant limitations. Of course I felt pregnant and was reminded often when symptoms came into focus on some days more than others, but I wasn’t changing any near or future plans to accommodate my morning sickness or our hypothetical due date. I worked out when I could, slept when I was tired, hung out with friends, went to parties, etc. The entire time I was just so grateful to have gotten pregnant and celebrated that aspect. Understanding how difficult it is for so many people trying to grow their family, there’s nothing I’m more thankful for than knowing everything worked to get to this point. And for anyone struggling with infertility, I see you and I hold you in my heart. You WILL have the family you’ve always dreamed of, one way or another.
The entire course of pregnancy, especially the first trimester and a few weeks into the second, is a season of hopeful optimism sprinkled with realistic concerns, aspirational expectations and intrusive thoughts. Every new mom, or mom-to-be for the x time, has a different journey ahead that will entail a different course of action than the other. What’s most important is to do what is best for YOU, the Mother, before anything else – including your growing zygote/embryo/fetus. Because a happy, healthy mama more often results in a happy, healthy baby. Please do not forget to take care of YOU, from the beginning and especially once baby arrives Earth side.
Photos by Elise Casey