As soon as you realize there's a baby brewing in your belly, you can ride a roller coaster of emotions: excitement, fear, delight, worry. Add to that the exhaustion and nausea prevalent in the first trimester, plus a massive surge of hormones, and your moods can swing faster than an Olympic gymnast on the high bar. "Estrogen and progesterone are skyrocketing at the beginning of your pregnancy," says Lucy Puryear, MD, psychiatrist and author of Understanding Your Moods When You're Expecting. "The changes have big effects on your mood. You can be tearful one minute and happy the next." Kathleen, a mom of one in New York City, remembers those days well: "I would have what I called 'the 10-minute meltdown,'" she recalls. "All the stress in my life would merge, and I'd sob hysterically for 10 minutes. Then it was over, and I'd happily go on with my day."
While the crying jags can be set off by legitimate worries -- can I afford this baby? Will I ever be able to sleep late again? -- the silliest things can also trigger them (ahem, my cheese breakdown). Moms report bursting into tears over TV commercials, pictures of babies in clothing ads, an old song on the radio: outbursts that can make you question your own sanity. "You're wearing your emotions on your fingertips, so you're much more reactive to everything," says Jennifer L. Hartstein, PhD, a family therapist in New York City. "After your meltdown, you can get freaked out, thinking, What is wrong with me? This will get you upset all over again. Just remember that it's normal, and try to laugh it off and move on."
The early stages of pregnancy also bring another puzzling symptom, known to moms simply as "baby brain." Progesterone, at sky-high levels during this phase, is a calming hormone, Dr. Puryear explains, but it can also cause fogginess and forgetfulness. "When I was pregnant with Parker, I once put my older son Peter's Legos in the refrigerator, and then I tried to serve him a cup of keys to drink!" says Caroline, a mom of two who lives in Oklahoma City.