One of the most beautiful times of many women’s lives has turned out to be the most isolating time in mine.
The first trimester of pregnancy.
Pregnancy is supposed to be lovely and glowing and all things good, and it is lovely and glowing and all things good…but just not at first. At least not for me.
On TV women always seem to be ecstatic when they see those little pink lines on their home pregnancy test. Running out to share their news with their partner. Jumping and celebrating with special meals of baby carrots and baby themed everything.
I, on the other hand, am instantly faced with shock. Tip-toeing-to-my-husband-in-the-other-room kind of shock. Walking with the weight of a thousand previous tears, coupled with the hope of a million future smiles. Knowing our lives are forever changed in one way or another from this moment on. Carrying that little stick feels like either holding an Olympic torch through our hallway or a pillar of doom that I’m about to place upon my family. Will this pregnancy result in joy? Or will it end in yet more grief?
What will he say? Think? Feel?
The isolation sets in. I’m carrying the weight of fear on my own already. I am scared.
A small hole is poked in that isolation when he knows. Our joys and fears are mutual, and that creates a quiet little place of strength. A bit of light shines in. Our little secret is sweet, and right now it’s only ours. This helps.
Then illness sets in. Nausea for days and nights. Nausea at work, nausea in the car, nausea in the company of others. Others who can’t know. Our secret is still just ours. But the look of sickness on my face is for everyone to see.
Isolation creeps back in. I am carrying the weight of sickness all on my own. I feel miserable.
It’s worth it, I whisper to myself. The sickness is a good sign.
But, in the evenings my husband and I share our secret and I feel at home with my nausea and comforted by his care. Until the fatigue sets in…
Until I start to go to sleep with our six-year old at 7:30pm, arm flopped over his resting little body because that’s the only way I can muster up affection these days. Every single night. Snoring sets in on my side of the bed. I only see my husband for a couple short hours over dinner and children’s homework time. Then I drift off mid-book reading to our little one in the early hours of the evening. It feels safer when I sleep. Crazy pregnancy dreams are far more entertaining than the fact that I feel sick and can’t keep my eyelids open during the day.
I wake up early and go through the drill again. Wake. Work. Sleep. I’m even feeling distant from my other best friend: food. Somewhere in there I nibble on the strange things I’m able to stomach, despite the fact that all food is truly disgusting these days.
I can’t even find solace in sparkling water. Or coffee because both are repulsive to me. It’s a lonely world for me without those two things.
Isolation sets in for both my husband and me now. I’m tired and overworked. He’s alone and overworked. Preparing lunches for his family in the evening, making dinner because it’s too stinky to be around for me, getting the little one ready for bed…as mom collapses on the bed prematurely each night and offers nothing more than a mumbled “good night,” as he tucks himself in.
It’s worth it, my husband whispers to me. Fatigue is a good thing.
My pregnancy is affecting our entire family, yet only my husband and I know about this sweet little secret we hold together. Or I suppose are holding apart these days, seeing as we never really see each other. Gone are the days of him finding me on the couch, glass of wine in hand, Netflix ready to go after some time of connecting over our days. Lately, we’re making it through it alone it seems.
But it’s worth it. Right?
It’s too difficult to share the news with our son yet because his grief was very real when we lost our last pregnancy, so we decide to wait despite the fact that mommy’s lack of energy is dragging him down too.
The little guy feels the isolation, too. Everyone’s too tired for game nights, and mealtime is increasingly less planned and weird, and story time shortens with each passing day. Wake, school, homework, eat, sleep. He knows the drill and the drill isn’t much fun anymore. I don’t even know what he’s been eating for lunch these days.
It’s worth it, little buddy, just like all those days when I was pregnant with you. I got you in the end.
Then it happens. We are forced to face a social outing. I’m tired, of course, and not looking my best. At all. I’m carrying the extra weight of bloated belly and try to hide it behind a baggy shirt, desperate for sweater season to arrive. Everyone knows, I whisper to my husband. I hardly ever turn down a glass of wine.
The feeling of isolation sticks with us, as we try to maneuver our way out of staying too long, because, well, I’m tired and the smell of alcohol makes me want to punch everyone who breathes on me in the face. Including my husband.
It’s worth it, I remind myself. A heightened sense of smell is a wonderful sign. No one is harmed and we sneak out early. Surely noticed.
Our isolation is real and hard and feels like a million days. No one knows about this little secret that is on my mind one hundred percent of the time. Then one day we see our midwife. I don’t go to the midwife alone anymore because of the time I went and things didn’t go so well, so appointments are anything but isolating when there are three in the room who know the news.
Three. It’s a magic number because it means it’s not just me anymore. And it’s not just my husband and me. We aren’t alone anymore. For the first time in this pregnancy I cry to someone other than my wonderfully patient husband. Our midwife’s presence poked a little hole in the wall of isolation. A little more light shines in.
Just as it did with every healthy baby heartbeat and every perfectly sized limb and crown to rump sizing from that day on. Just as it did with each baby wiggle within me.
And then it began. We found the courage to share our news, little by little. First with our son and eventually with our family. Little pokes of light in the wall of isolation suddenly burst with so much light we weren’t alone anymore.
This is all worth it, my husband and I sigh to each other. With a little smile on our faces and sunshine in our eyes.
It’s all worth it.
For many women, the first trimester feels very isolating. In my case, I slept my way through the first three months, so it was difficult to even try to break out of that. I intentionally stay away from online forums, yet for others they’re a lifeline. What have you done to feel connected to others during your first trimester? Or do you fall asleep like me and just wake up three months later relieved to have made it through?