“Every woman, every pregnancy, every birth is different”. How true!
My second pregnancy has felt nothing like the first one. Nothing more so than the first trimester. Anxiety has been at very high levels since the very beginning and bodily sensations were all over the place, resembling more my first third trimester. The world upside down, and then some more.
All websites on pregnancy, what to expect and week-by-week progress, have these very long lists of possible pregnancy symptoms that one may experience. In my first pregnancy, the first trimester was hardly out of the ordinary, aside from some nausea around noon, for a couple of weeks, that I washed away with some Schweppes. This time around, I felt more like the women those websites seem to be addressing.
The very first weeks were incredibly uncomfortable. Itchiness and stinginess all around my intimate area, pelvic and anal were annoying, making me feel very irritable and edgy and probably contributed to an increased anxiety.
I had experienced a very mild episode of vaginal thrush immediately after the birth of my son, but it had all subsided with one or two applications of balm. What I felt now was plainly unbearable. It was itchy to the point it gave me spasms and made me jump up and want to scratch the hell out of it. This happened immediately after implantation, so very early on in pregnancy. My GP prescribed a vaginal cream and it took around a week to completely go away. It came back once more just before the end of the first trimester, but quickly subsided with cream.
I call them “my friends”. During the third trimester of my first pregnancy, I got myself three “friends”: two rather big ones and a tiny one. All external piles gathered together around my anus. Never painful or stinging, only itchy during pregnancy. They generally kept the same size they had before the birth and never bothered me since. Until now, that is.
A new, tiny one came out after conception. It stung and hurt for a few days. What a nuisance that was! It has stung ever since. Added to that, from the very beginning, the entire anal area has been itchy. Internal piles have also been constant, as proven by regular traces of blood after stools come out. It did not help that despite my best efforts to manage it from diet, water intake and exercise, I was constipated. However, only the bleeding from the internal piles subsided when I had an easy time passing stool. I gave up putting cream on pretty quickly. Although I feel itchy every day, it is not all the time, but rather some moments, usually in the evening. Sometimes I give in, sometimes I manage to breathe it away.
In retrospect, my first pregnancy felt like a breeze. It seems to me we were very relaxed, oblivious and maybe a little unconscious, too. Not to say this was a bad thing. It just made the contrast to how we navigated the second pregnancy all the more starker and evident. Understandably, I believe, given the difficult history of this pregnancy and my age (39), I, we have been more anxious, worrying more.
Anxiety in the first weeks was around the impossibility to get a quick appointment with my gynae, who happened to be away for a few weeks. With my history of ectopic pregnancy, I had been advised to confirm early on the pregnancy was fixed inside the uterus. I had scheduled an appointment with his back-up at seven weeks, so I tried to relax, but could not shake off a feeling of impatience and urgency.
I could not really be happy and hopeful about the pregnancy without this first confirmation. If it was ectopic, there was a good chance I could lose my remaining tube and with it all chance of conceiving naturally. Could we be that unlucky?
A week before the appointment I started feeling mild cramps in the lower abdomen, much like my usual pre-menstrual cramps. I thought it was weird, because I felt them more on the right side, the one without a fallopian tube. No idea if there is or should be any connection. I felt them for a couple of days. Suddenly, they were with me constantly all day long. It felt like (autosuggestion, maybe?) they were radiating in my lower back and down my legs at times. I got worried. Then I started noticing some light brownish traces after peeing, once, twice, three times, every time I went to the toilet, and I became more and more worried.
The following day, six weeks into the pregnancy, I had a first look at my baby. I heard the heartbeat for the first time and confirmed it was in the right place, inside the uterus, on the ER ultrasound machine. All was fine. The urine test came back normal 🙂 I got this one ultrasound image that I showed my husband who was waiting for me outside. He had not been allowed to accompany me in the ER because of COVID-19 restrictions. What a relief! And what a surprise to hear the baby’s heartbeat so early on! I had not expected that. It was so alert..
The nurses in the ER did not seem impressed, advising me next time to call the ER beforehand. There was nothing particularly worrying in my story. Apparently, if it was not bloody red, there was no reason for concern. The kind, smiling gynae that handled the ultrasound looked equally relaxed about it all.
Once the ultrasound at six weeks and then the medical check-up at seven weeks confirmed all was in order, I started counting down to week 12-13 and the end of the first trimester. I kept reading about signs of miscarriage and all the things that could go wrong. I would not get rid completely of the anxiety around something potentially going wrong thereafter either.
Initially, I told only one friend about the pregnancy, immediately after seeing the positive test. Just to have someone to talk about this in case it all went terribly wrong. Around 8 weeks in, I told my mom and dad. It was my mom’s birthday, so it felt like a good moment to share something like this. We told everyone else around week 14, when we got the pre-natal genetic screening results back.
I experienced nausea differently than in my first pregnancy. Still mild; I never actually vomited, nor did it incapacitat me in any way, but a nuisance nonetheless. A nagging sensation that accompanied me between weeks 6 and 12, randomly coming and going at any time of day or night. Plus, I felt hungry all the time; that feeling of having a hole in my stomach that I needed to fill NOW, URGENTLY, or else I could pass through a wall :D.
Very much like in the last trimester of my first pregnancy, I felt the urge to pee frequently. It was particularly annoying at night. I was already having trouble falling asleep to start with. I lay with my eyes wiiide open, impossible to close them, until they did. Once I was up and back from the toilet, I was back to square one and it could take me up to two-three hours to fall back asleep. Luckily, my boys let me sleep as much as possible in the morning.
This only further intensified my chronic tiredness and irritation during the day. I felt tired all the time, up until weeks 12-13. Particularly during late afternoon, after picking up my little gosling from the nursery, I felt exhausted and irritable. It was a tough period for my relationship with the little gosling. The occasional naps I took, privilege of teleworking during a pandemic, helped me cope better. They made for calmer, more serene afternoons and our relationship was gentler and less bumpy. Daddy stepped in quite a lot, at play and bathtime and was, as always, a tremendous help. Generally, throughout the pregnancy, he’s been most supportive, encouraging me to exercise – without overdoing it – and to get some rest.
I hardly felt up for any kind of exercise. It felt impossible to keep up the running routine I had started the months before getting pregnant. Whilst I continued going out for my morning walks in the park, more often than not, however, I ended up sitting on a bench, breathless and tired for most of the time I was outside.
Constipation, bloating, reflux
Constipation, bloating and reflux have been an issue throughout. More than in normal times. I tried to eat as healthily as possible, plenty of veggies and fruits. Some days were better than others. Drinking water was always an issue. I made sure I had extra fiber at hand, just in case I needed to supplement my regular diet.
Breast tenderness was more problematic this time around. More often than not, breastfeeding little gosling felt uncomfortable, sometimes downright painful. This also rendered our relationship difficult. He found it hard to understand my reluctance and irritation, as I ended up limiting his time at the breast or suddenly interrupting it. It often led to tantrums on one side, irritation on the other.
Nevertheless, I was determined to keep our breastfeeding journey going. I did not want him to feel that he was losing out on account of a new baby coming. Furthermore, I have this strong belief (no idea if it is supported by research or not) that breastfeeding my second one would be easier on my breasts if there is continuity. Maybe avoid some of the early issues with sore, cracked nipples or mastitis or such. We pushed through and adjusted. Only some positions have worked for me. I needed him to face the breast front and center, if we were in an upright position and when lying down, I needed him to be similarly at a 90’ angle, at the same height as my nipple.
Weight gain/pregnancy bump
I gained around 1,5 kg in the first trimester. Sometime around week 12, I woke up one morning and I had a weird looking bump, very high, just under my breasts. It was visible to me when naked, but could easily remain hidden under a loose shirt. At this stage, I still fit into my normal clothes. Breasts seem to grow bigger from early on, but I was anyway still wearing my breastfeeding bras, so no need to adjust on that account either.
I had a medical check-up roughly once per month. Not counting the ER ultrasound, I saw the doctor at 7 weeks and then at 12 weeks. Blood pressure checked; cervix checked to make sure it was tightly shut; ultrasound to check the embryo/foetus. We heard the heartbeat every time. Luckily, despite the COVID-19 restrictions, pregnant ladies could be accompanied, so my husband came along to all the appointments. We had made it to the end of the first trimester. All was in order. We were happy.
My gynae called it a “miracle pregnancy”. Might be because of the little odds he had given me for conceiving naturally with one sub-optimal fallopian tube and a history of ectopic pregnancy, at my age. Might also be because the ultrasound showed that my right ovary (the side missing the fallopian tube) produced the lucky ovule, which was subsequently caught by the left fallopian tube.