Early Pregnancy Anxiety: One Mom-to-Be's First 20 Days
Days 1, 2 & 3
I find out. It doesn't feel quite real. I worry it's not real. I despair that it might cease to be real. I hold my breath. I call my doctor. I make an appointment. I'm confused about will happen at that appointment, if I've made the right appointment. I remember and regret the beers and wine and hot toddies of the previous couple of weekends. I look it up on the Internet: Half the posts make me feel better; half the posts make me feel worse. I make sure I can still have one cup of coffee a day. I postpone dying my hair. I look up if I can eat the mahi mahi my husband just bought. I cook steak and worry it's undercooked, Google exactly what undercooked means. I make a note to buy a meat thermometer so I'll know for sure next time. I begin picking up after myself a bit more -- snap up that random bit of paper towel that's in the hallway, wipe away the stray hairs and dust that have collected on my dresser, replace the mildewy shower liners -- because that's what a mother would do. I worry about the spotting and cramps. My sister had the same thing her first trimester, so I try not to worry too much. Again, I look it up on the Internet, and it's split between reassurance (implantation bleeding: believed to occur when the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus) and fear (chemical pregnancy: a miscarriage that happens shortly after implantation; many go unnoticed because bleeding coincides with the time of the expected period). I begin reading the Bhagavad Gita. I try to let go of desire. I hold my breath.
I resent the early pregnancy test. I hope against false hope. I tell myself and my husband, "There's a 50-50 chance -- brace yourself." The test is faint today, Wednesday, but on Sunday it was bright. Why didn't I know about chemical pregnancies before? I would have liked to avoid this. Ignorance is bliss. Midwife gives me the crossing-her-fingers signal. Best-case scenario: implantation bleeding. Blood is drawn to check hormone levels. It'll be drawn again in two days for comparison. There's no more spotting but faint cramps. No news, good or bad, until Monday: day nine. I hold my breath.
Every slight stomach pain makes me pause, crinkle my nose, furrow my brow, worry. I try to breathe normally. "Anxiety doesn't help," I tell myself. "Be calm for baby," I tell myself. The possibility of baby is enough to be good, to be strong, like a mom. And today I find out. Deep inhale. Slow exhale.
Day 9, later
Midwife says my numbers are excellent! HCG levels more than doubled in two days. She says I'm four to six weeks along, to make an appointment for my first sonogram. I can barely believe it. I'm cautiously optimistic. Husband buys me flowers. I look up pregnancy workouts. I wait for early pregnancy symptoms to kick in, secretly hoping to feel nauseous. That will make it seem real. That will assure me all's working as it should. I wish it were May 1 -- the 12-week mark. Husband says he can feel a bump, but it's only the chicken I just ate.
I'm honored to be carrying this baby, and hope I'll be lucky enough to carry it till November. I breathe easier, but not easy.
I research if it's safe to have sex in the first trimester. I'm horny but also worried. What if the spotting starts again? What if it somehow causes damage, even though all the sites say it's perfectly fine, complicated pregnancies and certain sexual behaviors ("tell your partner no blowing into your vagina...") aside. I remind myself that I can't let fear have such a tight grip on me. Parenting is going to be scary; I need to get used to that. So we do it. And it feels great. For me. For him. With the intimacy comes a sense of power, like I can actually control something that's going on with my body.
Around 7:30 p.m., another woman standing on the subway yawns. I wonder if she's pregnant, and as exhausted as I am.
I've read to avoid deli meats. They could be carrying listeria, a bacteria that's particularly bad news for pregnant women. But when heated, the meats are OK -- which is how I learn that if you microwave bresaola, it turns into bacon. Basically.
I dry heave in the morning. It makes me feel better, physically and mentally. I tell my husband. "Ah, the ole boot and rally," he says. I laugh. I look up how big baby is now. I'm about seven weeks along, and he or she is the size of a blueberry... Cute.
A bit loopy? Sure. A lot paranoid? Perhaps. But those were my thoughts the first 20 days after finding out I was pregnant -- not at all the fluttery, lighthearted, walking-on-clouds euphoria I'd expected. Instead, there was anxiety and doubt, which when they surprised me, swelled. And while the baby books will tell you as much, chances are that during the first 20 days, you're too nervous to pick one up. I was. I didn't want to jinx it. But now, 100-plus days in, I wish I'd been more clued in to what I'd be feeling -- and fearing -- at the very start.
Also, the happiness will arrive. It may not be instant, but it is fierce.
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