I found the first trimester of pregnancy, for the most part, rather hard. I wanted to write some kind of diary throughout this pregnancy and as someone who is pretty bad at ‘planning’ blog posts, I can’t say I have a clue how many of these ‘diaries’ I will do throughout my pregnancy. However, I know that I spent an awful lot of time googling whether certain things were normal, whether a lack of symptoms (or sudden influx) were potentially problematic, over analysing every single twinge I felt, googling everything I consumed to ensure it was safe (literally, from pineapples and mango to milk to orange juice and bechamel sauce), and the only thing that really helped me was reading other people’s experiences, knowing that I wasn’t alone with the reeking anxiety that consumed my every minute. So, I intend on documenting my entire pregnancy, my thoughts and feelings at each and every stage, as much as I can – starting with my first trimester! I wrote this and realised just how long it was, but I’ve condensed 13 weeks into a post, so I hope it makes for good reading…
FINDING OUT I WAS PREGNANT – 4 WEEKS PREGNANT
Finding out I was pregnant was of course very different to most; I was afforded the luxury (luxury really being a very loosely placed word, for lack of a better one), of knowing exactly when my embryo fertilised, when it was transferred into my uterus, and exactly when I could test. Whilst I wish we had never had to undergo IVF, and this wasn’t our first rodeo, I always found it totally fascinating to be able to see the whole development from egg and sperm to embryo. I’ve spoken very openly about our fertility journey and this third cycle particularly on my YouTube channel, and so if you have seen any of my videos you may well know that I was absolutely certain that this cycle had again not worked. We tested on day 9 post 5 day transfer (for any non-IVFers, this means that our embryo was developing for 5 days outside of the womb; on day 5 it was transferred into my uterus and we did our pregnancy test 5 days later!). This equated to 4 weeks pregnant, a point in which most people are only just missing their periods and for the most part, have no idea they are pregnant. I was taking an abundance of medication in the form of progesterone which completely and utterly mimics the symptoms of pregnancy, meaning I had a game of mind screw ongoing at all times. However, bar the fatigue and the lack of energy, I was completely lacking in symptoms which played well into my anxiety for weeks. I was of course absolutely over the moon upon finding out I was pregnant, but to say I was terrified would also be a terrible understatement. I had a blood test about 3 days later confirming my pregnancy, where I relaxed for a grand total of around 5 minutes. I was pregnant, but I couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘too good to be true’. We had waited so long for this, tried so hard and spent so much time and money trying to reach this point, that I struggled to accept it could finally be real. I had switched from the ‘trying to conceive’ supplements to the ‘pregnancy’ supplements as soon as we had our transfer, so I was already stocked up until the end of the month, but one of the very first things I did was buy another 4 pregnancy tests. By the time I reached 10 weeks, I’d done 20 of those things…
TELLING OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY – 4 WEEKS PREGNANT
We told our parents on the same day (minus my Dad, as he was working abroad and I had insisted on telling him in person!) and I felt like a total fraud. I will never, ever forget the privilege of being able to share that news. We were driving around the city that day with the pregnancy test in my handbag; I had to keep checking it to make sure that second line hadn’t gone away. The morning was full of joyful screams, squeezes so tight I’ll be surprised if the embryo couldn’t feel them, tears all round and a few hours of feeling on cloud 9; like it really was real. I recorded most reactions, for our private viewing only, as I feel these moments were something we had been so desperate for and I felt as though the whole day was really a blur. Conversations were launched immediately into whether we would find out what we were having, names we had thought of if any, when we were announcing and who we had already told. I was quite strict on the news being kept private; people knew we were doing IVF so we knew that we wouldn’t have the privacy for 8 more weeks and that really, if we didn’t announce earlier rather than later, people would figure it out for themselves, but we wanted to first see our baby’s heartbeat and have some reassurance that all was okay. I remember standing in the kitchen with one of my best friends, and her asking how much longer I had to be on the medication for after seeing it on the kitchen side. I hadn’t told her I had tested, so I responded with ‘well, I could have been stopping today but we know it’s worked so we have to carry it on for at least another 8 weeks’. I remember filling with panic as I realised she hadn’t twigged what I said… until she did. Standing in my kitchen with our cups of tea brewing, sobbing and hugging, is one of the most precious memories I have to date. I was extremely lucky to have been afforded so much support throughout our infertility journey that I didn’t feel this moment was just mine and my husband’s. Sharing the news with those who had held us up through the darkest of times brought me a kind of joy I struggle to articulate.
THE FIRST SCAN – 6 WEEKS, 6 DAYS PREGNANT
Our first scan was supposed to be at our IVF clinic, but in the days following our pregnancy test, my husband had opened his salon and only had one weekday off per week. The clinic couldn’t get us in on that specific day until 7 weeks rather than 6, and I really didn’t want to go alone, and so we decided to book a private scan in the 6th week locally so that we could go on our lunch breaks (our clinic was in London). The almost 3 weeks between testing and that first scan was a rollercoaster. One minute I was terribly excited, looking at lists of baby names, nursery furniture and little outfits; the next I didn’t want to talk about it to anybody but my husband. As he had just opened his new business, he was out of the house most days meaning I was home alone. I had stopped going to my exercise class twice weekly which had got me out of the house after work, and I work from home with no option of going into the office. I had become so used to Marco working from home that him no longer being here was something to get used to in itself, and whilst for many people work is a distraction, for me I found I was stuck in front of a screen with my own thoughts; a mind that wandered and would always somehow end up at the worst-case scenario. I would spend days in tears just waiting for Marco to get home, and I would never relax until I wasn’t alone. It was a really tense time for me, and I couldn’t bear feeling like I had no control and nothing to tell me that all was okay.
On the day of the scan, I was anxious as hell. I spent the morning pretty much pacing around, moving my laptop from room to room, struggling to concentrate on anything but the time. I sat like a child on the sofa waiting for Marco to appear from work, staring out the window like a dog, my handbag in my lap and checking the clock consistently. He was 2 minutes late and as soon as that clock changed I was panicking he’d been held up and we’d miss it. I ran to the car before he’d even parked and off we went on our way. We sat inside the building on a marvellously comfy brown leather sofa, waiting for our names to be called, surrounded by pictures of babies and stands selling canons for gender reveals. We held hands so tightly, both having the same scary thoughts going through our heads. My heart was pounding so hard I could feel it in my mouth; I knew that the next 15 minutes were either going to be the best or worst of my life so far. I walked into the room and spoke to the sonographer who was truly lovely; she told me to get on the bed and we’d take a look. Now, all of my scans to this point (and my next two!) were internal scans, and so I thought it was odd there were no privacy screens for me to undress first of all. So, my husband took a seat next to the bed and I started to pull down my jeans. The sonographer very quickly stopped me (and in fact found it rather amusing I had started to get naked in her room, I’m not sure she’d ever had that before), and told me this would in fact be an external scan unless they needed to do any extra checks. Feeling like a total plonker, I positioned myself on the bed and felt the cold ultrasound jelly smear across my stomach. She had explained she would go quiet and within a few minutes, there it was. Our very tiny, very little bambino measuring perfectly; the heartbeat flicking away like a ticking clock. It was amazing. I was pregnant, and now I had the picture to prove it. I was shaking and I was crying; I felt so complete in that moment.
THE SYMPTOMS STARTED – WEEK 9
By week 9, we had told all our close family and friends, and we’d had 3 scans – two with our clinic and our private scan at 6 weeks. We were discharged from our IVF clinic at 9 weeks and 4 days, and at this moment I became quite scared. I’d spent those weeks full of anxiety (I wrote a whole blog post on this which you can read here), and so at 9 weeks we decided to announce to the world so that I could talk about it more openly and hopefully, ease my mind. Without a doubt, it certainly helped. I had spoken about how I had very little symptoms; at most I was tired, I was having odd dreams and I was feeling a bit lightheaded, but none of those symptoms differed to my last two IVF cycles and the effects of the progesterone medication. I was reluctant to be so open, I was scared for my private bubble to be popped; scared that if something went wrong, we had a whole lot of people to share that with. However, in the long run I most definitely felt gratitude for the love we received, the support we gained and how many people put my mind at ease with their lack of symptoms throughout their first trimester. Some people told me I was lucky, which really was true, but after all we had been through, I was longing for some symptoms to give me an element of reassurance.
I was clearly manifesting. 9 weeks, 6 days – the sickness began.
THE SICKNESS AND THE SYMPTOMS – 9 WEEKS ONWARD
I started to feel nauseous around the same time we announced; I would spend my days feeling queasy but never actually being sick. I found that the only thing that really helped was beige food; I was living off toast and crisp sandwiches. My sense of smell was absolutely insane, still at 16 weeks at the time of writing, it’s bonkers. I feel like I could give a bloodhound a run for its money, much to my husband’s annoyance as I insist on his socks being changed as soon as he comes in from work. I soon started hating egg with a vengeance, and I was developing a real love and need for Walkers Prawn Cocktail crisps and Mr Kipling lemon slices. My sickness actually started on 9 weeks and 6 days, and it would be every morning like clockwork. For the foreseeable future I would be violently throwing up between 08:15 and 08:45, and then I would be fine for the rest of the day. This continued into the second trimester and became very much part of my morning routine. In fact, the only day I wasn’t sick was the day I ate a Lindt chocolate ball as soon as I got out of bed. Plain crackers, biscuits, and everything else I was recommended did diddly squat; chocolate however, baby seemed to be very happy with at 8am. I didn’t make this a routine, so unfortunately, the sickness stuck around.
My energy levels were also something of the past; I woke up feeling hungover every day, as though I had been hit by a truck and drank 3 bottles of prosecco to take away the pain. I had headaches and felt like a zombie in another world most days, hitting 3pm and being desperate for it to be 5pm so I could switch off my laptop and get in fresh pyjamas. Getting dressed became a chore and most days would consist of a greasy bun on my head, no makeup, and mismatched clothes depending on what I found first. The house was neglected, and my husband would come home to the dishwasher still waiting to be loaded, the bin still full, and a wife who couldn’t go near the bin without wanting to vomit. The only thing that got me through was Gilmore Girls, to tell you the truth. I spent every minute I could sat in bed binge watching the fictional life of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, only ever leaving the house for dog walks. This too lasted the entirety of the first trimester, with occasional bursts of energy towards the end, but never lasting too long.
THE BOOKING APPOINTMENT – 11 WEEKS
My first midwife appointment too was very surreal. I think it was purely because I couldn’t believe it was happening and I still felt as though I was living someone else’s life, as though I didn’t belong in this newfound world of pregnancy and pending motherhood. It was a phone appointment, which I can only assume was implemented due to COVID, as I had to travel for blood tests and urine tests the following week. I had to answer a series of questions about my history, my family history, the conception, and my relationship; it was very thorough but I’m not sure I was supposed to laugh when it was asked if Marco and I were blood related. I’m not sure why, but my initial response was ‘that’s not a real question’, but turns out, it most certainly is. I was told I would be marked as high risk and be consultant led due to some family history, which initially I was quite cross about. I totally understood the need, and I was happy that it meant I would potentially have more checks and baby would be much more closely monitored (although, still at 16 weeks I haven’t yet met my consultant), but I was initially just disappointed that once again there was a little bump in the road for us. Nobody likes to hear that there are any increased risks, and truly it just took me by surprise. I was told my scan date was in the post and I would soon get to go see my baby and receive my ‘official’ estimated due date. Shortly after I attended my ‘booking bloods’ appointment, a series of blood tests, carbon monoxide tests and a urine test later, it was starting to feel that bit more real.
12 WEEK SCAN
My 12-week scan was at 12 weeks and 5 days, and it was my first real taste (bar the booking appointment) of the NHS maternity services. Now, I had a bit of a palaver getting my scan and did end up having it due to a cancellation, but once that was out the way it was rather smooth sailing. We attended the hospital for our scan and our screening tests (a blood test to confirm if our baby was high risk of having Downs Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome or Patau Syndrome) and honestly, it felt a bit surreal being in a room with medical professionals that didn’t care how we conceived. Whilst I had to tick a box to say it was an IVF pregnancy with my own eggs, that was it. It was no longer relevant. All that was relevant was that my baby was healthy, that I was healthy, and they were growing perfectly. I felt, for the first time, normal. I had longed to feel this way for a long time; I should probably do a post on this on its own at some point in the future, but I had been desperate for IVF to be put in a box, locked away where I didn’t have to talk about it, where I could stop being so consumed by it. It had become everything I lived and breathed, and I was pining for it to go away. In this moment, it did. Whilst my anxieties were there climbing onto that bed to be scanned, I imagine they were the same anxieties that every pregnant person feels climbing onto that bed. Except, I had been afforded the luxury – and I really do mean the luxury – of numerous scans before this. For many couples, this is their first, and they have gone weeks without knowing anything. I knew that a heartbeat had been detected 3 times; I knew that whilst possible, it was less likely for me that this scan would be the one to deliver devastating news. In all honesty, for the first time since I started trying to conceive, I actually felt like people who were pregnant naturally were worse off for something; I had already had that reassurance. It blows my mind that couples who haven’t had fertility treatment are expected to wait until 11-14 weeks to be told everything is okay; they are only able to rely on a home pregnancy test unless they pay for that private reassurance. My anxieties existed, but above all it was excitement.
For the first time in my journey to motherhood, I felt like any other pregnant woman, and I had longed to feel like this forever. I saw my baby on the screen, for the first time looking like an actual baby, wriggling about and doing somersaults in my womb; kicking their little legs and showing us their perfectly formed little feet. I found it so crazy that all this was happening inside me and I couldn’t feel a thing. I fell head over heels in love with an image on the screen, imagining all they could be, and truly accepting that this was finally happening for us.
After all this time.
THE FIRST PURCHASE
Friends had been turning up at our house over the 8 weeks between finding out and reaching our 12 week milestone with little gifts for the baby; we had bags full of tiny little hats and little baby grows that I still can’t believe an actual tiny human will fit into. We had been too scared to buy anything ourselves; talk of tempting fate and it being too soon, but we promised each other that when we reached 12 weeks we would. We’d ‘break the seal’ and buy our bambino their first item from us. I had bought a book (a book I truly recommend to ANYONE pregnant) – Pregnancy: The Naked Truth, as I felt it was really to the point and modern, and certainly made me feel more relaxed throughout the first trimester, but that was all. And so, the Sunday following our scan we ventured into the town centre and bought vests, cosy little outfits, a dungarees (for 6 months +) and little baby grows to add to our collection. Our hearts felt full and if my uterus wasn’t already occupied, my ovaries would have been bursting at the seams. My baby will one day be in these outfits, and I will never ever not be grateful for that.
As I write this, I am 16 weeks and 3 days pregnant, and time has started flying. I have every intention of sharing so much around this pregnancy, from our nursery plans and it coming together, to the appointments, reviews and products I’ve bought, tried and tested; you name it, I’m covering it. I really wanted to keep a diary throughout this pregnancy and I have a private ‘BUMP’ journal (my Mum bought me it immediately and it’s beautiful, so the link is here), but I really wanted to make sure I was keeping the blog active and providing content that hopefully other Mammas to be could relate to. It’s certainly been a long post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it nonetheless.
Love, Amber xx
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