I've experienced the first trimester twice - each being it's own experience, nearly polar opposite to the other.
The first positive pregnancy test I ever took, I didn't believe - mostly because I didn't really understand how any of this pregnancy thing worked. I understood I was pregnant, and you know, how I got pregnant. But, that's about all I knew. We had gone off birth control over a month prior to this, so I blindly assumed I was about 6 weeks along. "Blindly assumed" would be a good descriptor of our first experience with this whole parenting thing. We blindly assumed our pregnancy would progress smoothly. Ignorance was bliss - until it wasn't.
Despite assuming the best during our first go around, I was still very much so anxious. What sparked my anxiety was everyone telling me to wait to share the news - the unspoken rule of the first trimester. You wait to tell - just in case. I was terrified of being that "just in case" situation. My anxiety showcases itself as control, and since I had zero control over the development of this embryo, I obsessed over "getting to 12 weeks." I assumed once I hit the 12-week mark, it was like this magical gate into a safe zone would open. Nothing could go wrong and we'd be "allowed to" openly share our pregnancy, worry free. Our chances of something going wrong were very slim. People constantly reassured us "You're so young!" and "You're both so healthy." It all made sense, so I mistook their words for the truth.
Despite my anxiety's best effort (re: multiple doctor's visits, endless conversations with friends and loved ones needing to hear reassurance that everything was going to be fine), something not only could go wrong...it did. Right at the 12-week mark. Looking back on those first 12 weeks, I intuitively knew that something wasn't right.
I woke up the morning of our 12-week appointment with a pit in my stomach. Something was off - I didn't know what. Perhaps I had slept wrong. Or, perhaps, deep down I knew this wasn't going to be the magical day I had built it up to be. Unfortunately, it was the later. The ultrasound showed our baby was not developing healthfully - but more information would be needed. We would just barely make it out of the first trimester when we found out our daughter had Turner Syndrome with a less than 1% chance of surviving.
My second pregnancy was the exact opposite. My husband and I were both in a constant state of "waiting for the other shoe to drop." Trauma has this effect on you. Due to our first experience, my ego and it's fear-focused-narrative sang loudly in my head frequently. However, I had this feeling deep in my soul that everything was going to be okay.
Our second go around, I took a pregnancy test to see if I could drink with my friends to celebrate of my 28th birthday. I had low hopes. In fact, I'm pretty sure as soon as I peed on the test and placed it on the bathroom counter, I said to myself, "bitch, you're not pregnant." I washed my hands and waited the 3ish minutes, ready to toss the test in the trash. To my surprise, I turned it over and there was in fact two pink lines.
I picked up our cat, Walter, who insists on always joining you when you go to the bathroom and just smiled in the mirror, my eyes starting to swell with tears. I went into the kitchen, poured a cup of coffee and took out a post it note. I left it next to the pot of freshly brewed coffee with the positive test saying, "Good Morning, Daddy!"
I moved to the couch and slowly sipped my coffee. I was overwhelmed with a sense of peace. I knew it was unrealistic to assume I would feel this way throughout the entire pregnancy. I knew there was a chance I could wake up tomorrow no longer pregnant. It didn't matter. All that mattered in that moment was that I was pregnant and it felt so right.
I held onto this feeling, this moment for nine months. Any time fear seeped into the forefront of my mind, I reminded myself that this was temporary. I reminded myself I would feel that overwhelming sense of peace, again. I'd have to sit in this fear for only a moment, recognize its existence but not let it define me. I had felt at peace with this pregnancy before, and I would feel it again.
Unlike our first pregnancy, I was overly aware of all the things that could go wrong. I had decided to not track ovulation this past cycle, as it was far too triggering, so I found myself once again unsure of when I had ovulated. Based on my test and signals from my body, I had pretty good idea of when it was. This time, when I made my first appointment, I set it to be a little later - a date that I knew we'd be at least 8 weeks along. We decided to change practices. We felt it would be far too triggering to revisit the same place that told us our most devastating news to date.
Waiting for that appointment wasn't easy. With our first ultrasound ever, I was nervous with excitement. This time around, I was hyper aware of what could happen. "Would there even be a baby in there? It'd be our luck to have a blighted ovum." "The baby could've stopped growing a week ago and my body hasn't recognized it yet." "What if I hear the words, 'I'm sorry - there's no heartbeat.'" Although I'm sitting here, watching my sweet boy sleep on the monitor, my heart still beats a little harder, to the point that it's in my throat, reliving these thoughts.
I kept bringing myself back to the morning of February 9 when I saw that positive test. I kept bringing myself back the that overwhelming sense of peace that I felt as I sat and sipped my coffee. That feeling was just as real, if not more real, than the negative ones that were fleeting through my mind. I had no idea what the ultrasound would show. I could choose to feel this way up until the appointment, or I can focus on that one peaceful morning. There was the right choice and there was the easy choice and of course those choices were not the same.
Finally, the morning of our first ultrasound came. The nurse who took my weight and blood pressure asked how I was doing. I replied with, "I'm feeling pretty anxious, actually." My ego wanted her to respond with reassurance that everything was going to be okay. She replied with, "That's normal! Try your best to relax." While this was 10000% the perfect response (she had no place to reassure my fear without any factual evidence to back it), my ego had been triggered and I assumed because I felt this way, because she didn't tell me everything was going to be okay, that something was wrong. Back in the waiting room, sitting next to Adam, my hart starting pounding, I felt hot and nauseous. I was on the verge of having a panic attack. Then, they called my name.
Our ultrasound tech is an actual angel. We are forever grateful for the role she played in our pregnancy. Within seconds of starting the ultrasound she said, "There's a baby and there's a heartbeat. I'm going to check your anatomy first and then we'll go back to the baby." The biggest of weights was lifted off my shoulders. I could relax and enjoy this moment.
All looked well with me, and all looked well with our baby. We were 9 weeks along, which matched around the time I thought I had ovulated. As we finished, I got dressed and returned to my husband and the technician. Sweet Adam looked at me and just lost it, sharing "he so badly hoped today would go okay." We both sat there, sobbing. Although we are not a praying family, our ultrasound tech wrapped her arms around us and asked if it would be okay for her to say a prayer for us. She sat there for a couple of minutes, praying out loud as she embraced us in her arms. We were overwhelmed in the best way.
Next, we would meet with a midwife. We made it a point to be open and honest about our fears and anxieties from the start. We knew that a part of providing us the care we needed and deserved was knowing our history and how the trauma is currently impacting us. All of our midwives and physicians throughout our pregnancy went above and beyond our care expectations. We are forever grateful.
Because of our history, we were eligible for genetic testing via bloodwork at 10 weeks. This testing is available to everyone, but would be covered by insurance since our previous pregnancy had a chromosomal abnormality. Unlike a first trimester screening, it would tell us a diagnosis rather than the chance of us having another issue. We opted for this testing without hesitation and chose to not have an ultrasound at 12 weeks.
The following week, I went in to have my blood drawn at 10 weeks 1 day. Our midwife let me know that she would call with the results as soon as they were in her box - even if it was the weekend. The results would take 10-14 days.
Once again, we found ourselves waiting. Waiting in this season was never easy. This time, though, I was well aware that feeling anxious didn't make the wait go by any faster - it simply made it less enjoyable. Miserable, actually. Luckily, I kept busy with my students and classroom. In moments of fear, I went back to that coffee on the couch moment. It didn't mean good news was guaranteed, but it reassured me that good news was possible.
It had been 14 days. I decided to try and call the testing company themselves - just to get an idea of when the results would be sent to my doctor. The results had been sent and were available to me if I'd like them. Within minutes, the results were in my inbox. My heart pounded as I read through the each trisomy - not detected. We had a healthy baby boy growing. I ran throughout the house saying "This is real, you're real!"
This is not to say that our first pregnancy, our first baby, wasn't real. She and her short life inside of me was very much so real. But getting over this big hurdle made the joys of pregnancy, the possibility of our family growing feel oh so real.
An hour or so later at 7:30 PM, our midwife would call with the wonderful news. Having her call after hours as she was about to walk into her own house is just a mere insight of how supportive our care team was.
We had reach that "magical" point in our pregnancy. This time, though, it wasn't magical because we were guaranteed everything was going to be okay. It was magical because we had overcome a major triggering point in our newest pregnancy. It was magical because, in this moment, we had a healthy baby growing. It was magical because we had grown, and we were ready for our growth to continue.