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The first trimester is coming to an end, and I’m finally starting to feel a little more “normal.” Not completely – after all, I’m still pregnant. But daily naps are no longer a necessity, I’m no longer peeing every three hours, and what little nausea I did have is even less frequent.
I’ll be honest: physically, the first trimester wasn’t so bad. I’m pretty fortunate in that I don’t get bad morning sickness. In fact, I didn’t have much of it at all. It was the same with Lauren. The fatigue is really the worst, and that’s easily solved with a nap. It helps that I have a very patient, very attentive husband who is willing to take care of me. But, no, the worst for me is more mental. I had a hard time adjusting to being pregnant with Lauren, and it’s been no different this time around. I feel like my brain is working overtime, and it leaves no room for rational, every day thoughts. It’s hard to focus sometimes, to think about the things that need to get done. I feel distracted.
I think the early part of the second trimester is the worst part. The pregnancy symptoms have started to subside, yes, but at least they were concrete proof that a baby is growing in there. In these weeks before the quickening, that is important. It’s easy to start to wonder, to start imagining the worst. Fourteen weeks is not a “safe point.” I cannot relax and enjoy this lack of symptoms any more than I could relax and enjoy pregnancy with them. I can know that the risk of miscarriage is much lower now, but that doesn’t stop me from knowing that there is no guarantee. Experience has touched me; innocence has no place here any longer.
And yet, I believe that’s something instinctive within us. We know that death comes when it will. Even when we think we are safe.
When I was pregnant with Lauren, there were days, before the quickening, that I would lay on that futon in the apartment in Moriya and place my hand over my abdomen and think, please be alive. And she was. She always was, until the very end. But that would be the far future: there in Moriya, things were always well. But, still, I worried. I knew, even then and even though I didn’t want to believe it, that death could be like a thief in the night, slipping in and stealing away that most precious spark of life. It didn’t happen until I’d let down my guard, until I had begun to believe that she was safe and would be coming home. I had stood all those months in vigilance, and in the end, death came and took her anyway.
I’m trying to stay positive with this pregnancy. But now that I’ve entered into this period of being so unsure about everything, it’s hard. A few days ago, I caught myself with my hand on my abdomen, wondering, are you still there? I hope so. There’s still so much to learn about this baby, and I want to know. I long to know this baby.
This pregnancy is not a joyous, cheerful one. I’m okay with that. I don’t care how challenging it is, mentally or physically. Because, ultimately, it’s still a hopeful pregnancy. Some people don’t get second chances, and I feel blessed that at least have this chance, that I have this small promise for the future.
I haven’t given up on this baby yet. And I won’t. Not ever.
When I started telling friends and relatives that I was pregnant with Lauren, a number of them told me I should start taking prenatal vitamins immediately. Everything I read impelled me to do the same thing; in fact, almost everything I referenced assumed that anyone trying to get pregnant was already taking vitamins, particularly vitamins chock-full of folic acid. It all made it sound like any baby born to a mother who didn’t take prenatal vitamins was destined to develop some kind of birth defect.
I held off on buying any vitamins until after we saw Dr. Shoji, mainly because I didn’t really have any idea what to look for, and we’d hoped that he would steer us in the right direction. When I asked him about vitamins I should take, he shrugged and said, “They’re not necessary. If you’re eating a healthy diet, you and baby are getting everything you need.”
His extremely relaxed response surprised me, considering how adamant all the American literature had been about it. But vitamins were clearly not at the main front of Japanese prenatal care. After the appointment, Geordie and I went to a drugstore, just to see what kind of vitamin options there were. We found nothing marketed especially for pregnant women, nothing in the way of “prenatal care.” When Geordie asked one of the employees about it, she pointed out the folic acid supplements but explained that there were no specific vitamins for pregnant women. We ended up getting a general women’s vitamin that had folic acid in it. Later in the pregnancy, I switched to one that had a high amount of DHA, the better for baby’s brain development. None of the doctors I saw in Japan ever asked me about the vitamins or supplements I was taking.
Fast forward to now. One of the first questions the midwife asked me at my first prenatal appointment was what vitamins and supplements I was taking. I was not surprised by the question, but I was a little taken aback by how insistent she was about what I was taking.
I’d started taking prenatal vitamins in late December, once we’d decided that we’d be trying for a baby in the spring. I wasn’t convinced of the necessity,but I figured it wouldn’t hurt. By the time I got the positive pregnancy test, the bottle was nearly empty, and I’d found that the vitamins were contributing to my nausea – supposedly because of the iron. I switched to a gummy vitamin that did not contain iron, along with a calcium supplement since the gummies didn’t have that either.
The midwife didn’t seem overly impressed with my choices. She suggested I look into an iron supplement. She suggested what type of calcium supplement I should take. She suggested a “plant-based” vitamin. She was adamant that, no matter what I took, I should be sure it had the full amount of folic acid.
We talked more about vitamins and supplements than we did about actual nutrition through diet.
I found it mildly irritating.
One of the things the head midwife mentioned at the open house was that they tried to reserve medicine as a last resort. Geordie kind of rolled his eyes at the mention of homeopathic treatments, but I figured that would be standard procedure for an establishment that focused on natural pregnancy and childbirth. Not that I’m into homeopathy, but I’m not in the habit of automatically reaching for pills when I’m not well. I’ve never been that bad off, fortunately.
Even though I do take my prenatal vitamins, I’m not convinced that they’re necessary. Well, maybe right now, while my stomach deals with all of these hormones and aversions and cravings – but I intend to eat as balanced and healthy a diet as I can. Not just during this pregnancy, but indefinitely. I don’t want to be reliant on vitamins for my nutrition. If I find myself needing more iron in my diet, I don’t want a supplement to be my crutch – I know what foods to reach for when I need iron. I want to put my trust in natural foods. I still believe what Dr. Shoji said: baby will get everything it needs from a healthy, natural diet.
Reading through American pregnancy books during my last pregnancy, I often felt that they were trying to convince me that babies aren’t born healthy on their own, that they need medical care, doctors, and vitamins to make it through their ten months in the uterus. Everything seems to offer assurance: follow these rules, and baby will be healthy. What can go wrong?
Well, we know how I feel about that. I took the vitamins, I had regular prenatal care, I carefully watched what I ate to make sure I wasn’t ingesting anything “dangerous,” I took the best care of myself and was blessed enough to have a partner who did his best to make sure that I did just that. None of it kept my daughter from dying. I don’t think any of it caused Lauren to die either, but the truth is that perfect prenatal care isn’t a guarantee.
The truth is that even the perfect pregnancy can end in heartbreak.
I’m not looking for the perfect pregnancy. I’m looking to keep my baby healthy, to bring home a happy child, a living child. Much of it is out of my hands – this early in the pregnancy, anything can happen, and there’s not much I can do to stop it. I know that. I’ll keep doing my best. But I’m not going to delude myself into believing that following all the rules will lead to a happy ending.
So, this is what I will do: I will live as healthy a lifestyle as I can. I will eat unprocessed foods as often as I can, I will eat as healthy as possible. I will take my vitamins in moderation. I will not obsess. I will follow my instincts. I will listen to advice and do what I feel I need to do. I will not follow blindly, nor will I take anything for granted. I will not believe in guarantees.
I will take care of myself and our baby as best I can. That is what I have control over. I’ll take that.
I am so happy to be pregnant. I really am.
But to be fully and completely honest, I don’t like being pregnant. I didn’t like it when I was pregnant with Lauren. I wanted (still want) her so terribly, and I knew motherhood would be all worth the ten months of bodily torture, but I still didn’t enjoy it. Losing Lauren was worse than enduring the pregnancy, and obviously, I’m willing to do it again. It’s just . . . pregnancy is hard.
I don’t think that can be stressed enough. I’m sure there are women out there who loved being pregnant (my own mother appears to have been one of them), but it’s hard work for most of us. It’s especially hard with the first, because no matter what you read or what you hear, you really aren’t prepared for how little control of your body you have.
And I will be the first to admit that I probably don’t have it as bad as other women do. I do have days that I’m queasy all day long and nothing sounds appetizing. But puking hasn’t been a problem, and I haven’t developed any real aversions yet. It’s early still, so there’s plenty of time for that. But I’m sure some women have daily appointments with the toilet at this stage. Or can’t eat anything but plain bread and crackers, and even that’s work.
My worst symptoms are the body aches and the fatigue. The aches come and go, but the fatigue sticks around. I’ve napped nearly every day since getting the positive pregnancy test. I’d forgotten how tired pregnancy made me. Getting to sleep at night is not usually a problem, but staying asleep can be. Aches, pains, bathroom urges, and general restlessness all combine to make for an unpleasant night. Oh, and kittens. It’s not so bad when all they want to do is cuddle up against my tummy, but that’s not all they want to do. Yuzu is in the habit of sleeping on people’s heads if he can. Mirin likes to bring her favorite toys up on the bed and try to get us to play with her. (She plays fetch with her string. It’s adorable, except when she wants to do it at three in the morning.) Most of the time, they behave themselves, and I can’t blame all my sleeping troubles on them.
Also, pregnancy brain. Some days, I have no idea what I’m doing or what I’ve done all day. My normally reliable memory goes AWOL. Today, I left the house to do my afternoon errands and completely forgot to feed the kittens their lunch. They alerted me to this grave oversight as soon as I stepped back into the house three hours later! Sorry, kittens!
Really, that’s about it. I do feel bloated and gassy, but not always. And it’s not so bad that it ruins my day. It’s just irritating sometimes. I’m trying not to dwell on it, because I know it’s only going to go downhill from here. If this pregnancy is liked Lauren’s, I’ve got hip pains, round ligament pains, sciatica, and carpal tunnel syndrome in my future. I’m just hoping leg cramps and varicose veins don’t decide to join them!
No, I do not like being pregnant, but I’m glad I’m pregnant. I’m terrified of what might happen during this pregnancy, but I’m glad I’m pregnant. We want this baby so much. We want to bring this baby home so much. I will endure whatever I have to in order to make that happen.
Oh, before I go, an update on the birth center: we’re in! I liked the place as soon as we walked through the door. It’s very homey, a very comfortable environment. The head midwife said she thought we’d be excellent candidates for giving birth there, which is a huge relief. I love the options they have in place. Both of the birthing rooms have birthing tubs and huge, comfortable beds, plus access to a birthing stool. This time around, I won’t be confined to a bed, which is what I’m most looking forward to. And if something does go wrong, they have a good working relationship with a university hospital.
This is exactly what I was hoping for with this birth. I want it to be the most positive experience it can be. Our first appointment is on the 29th, followed by an ultrasound with an independent company on the 30th. We can’t wait!
Seven weeks down, thirty-three to go!