Friday, October 28, 2016

The First Trimester: Fear and Secrets in the Empty Room

Twelve weeks in is when many people choose to reveal their pregnancies. The reason is largely due to the risk of miscarriage; it drops from about 20% in the first few weeks to 3% after twelve weeks. (Bumps also become much harder to hide around the same time.) Miscarrying is shockingly common; I’ve had many friends and family members lose a baby, and while this used to be ignored and not talked about, I’m glad my generation seems to be more open to sharing it. But the commonality doesn’t do too much to alleviate the fears of it; I was so excited to be pregnant, but simultaneously so worried it was too good to be true. I tried not to get my hopes up too much (yeah right) or believe it was too real until we hit that magic twelve-week checkpoint; I wouldn’t even let Husband refer to the spare bedroom as Baby’s room, as if that might jinx it. 

But for anyone who thought twice about that bedroom (why do we need an extra, completely empty room?) it was pretty obvious anyway. The most telling sign that a woman is pregnant is that she suddenly stops drinking (if she drinks to begin with, of course). I tried to avoid social situations involving drinks (“Happy hour? Nah, let’s do lunch instead!”) but it became pretty impossible. At a baby shower serving mimosas in champagne flutes, I tried to whisper to the bartender that I’d like plain orange juice, wink wink. He put it in a juice glass. “Oh sorry, could you put that in a champagne flute? WINK, WINK.” He skipped giving me the fruit garnish. “And could I please have the raspberry? WINK, FREAKING WINK! … And could you please realize we are at a BABY shower, with at least three obviously pregnant women and likely some others trying to hide it?!” (Many women have similar stories from weddings, etc. — Can we give bartenders a briefing on this or something?)

Obviously, we need this totally empty bedroom. Just don't ask why.
That baby shower was with my teammates. If they hadn’t noticed the strangely dark hue of my “mimosa” (I didn’t continue my whispered fight with the bartender long enough to ask for a splash of seltzer) or the fact that I was sweating profusely (Oh hey, did you know pregnancy makes you sweat more? It’s delightful!), I’m pretty sure they saw right through my “race plans.” Or lack thereof.

For months, I kept putting off nailing down races, which is pretty atypical of me. I generally announce them here before each spring and fall season. But I had no summer or fall schedule and no explanation of why. “Oh, you know, just enjoying my post-Trials break… for six months…” I couldn’t explain it and I dreaded the “What’s next for you?” question, through the months of trying and the first months of pregnancy. While it’s probably hard for everyone to disguise, I wondered if it isn’t way more obvious for runners—forget the sketchy drinks, I was suddenly a competitive runner who wasn’t competing.

But despite not competing, in some ways I still seemed like a marathoner. Pregnancy is a lot like marathon training in that:

(1) You’re exhausted all the time.

I used to be able to say I was tired because of a morning twenty miler. Now I go up the stairs and I’m tired? (Well, I was also busy making an eyeball.)

(2) You’re hungry all the time.

I craved mountains of purely bad-for-me foods: french fries, burgers, milkshakes (exactly the food I scarf post-marathon… because, you know, those stairs were such a Pheidippidiesian task). I luckily avoided the classic puke fest so my appetite was in no way diminished, except for an aversion to anything remotely healthy. (I did feel nauseous sometimes but the lack of anything more extreme made me more worried, since many friends experienced worse morning sickness during healthy pregnancies than ones in which they miscarried. My doctor later refuted this and says it’s totally normal (and lucky!!) to not be super sick.) I wondered if people speculated my new little paunch was a baby bump or just assumed it was a big lunch. (Answer: both.)

But I wasn’t running like a marathoner. My worries about running mostly went away after we conceived (running does NOT increase the risk of miscarriage, just like it doesn’t hurt your knees or kill you) but I still didn’t increase my mileage much or jump into workouts. My main concern was that it was the middle of summer and many things I read cautioned against running when humidity or heat is too high, but there were no numbers indicating what “too high” meant. (And news flash: it’s humid here Every. Damn. Day.) I spent some of the worst summer days on treadmills, hating every treadmill step, but when my doctor said I’d be fine so long as I was smart (i.e. go early in the morning, hydrate well), I felt better about getting back outdoors and started enjoying it a lot more.

When the twelve-week mark came and we were blessed with everything being fine, I was obviously immensely relieved. People say many of the other stresses and annoyances of early pregnancy (exhaustion, nausea, the constant need to pee) also go away at the end of the first trimester. (Although some make a not-so-welcome return in the third.) They didn’t for me; I’m now well into the second trimester and still feeling much of the same. And even after I told people what they already suspected, it took a while for me to believe it myself. Maybe my paranoia/fear of jinxing it set in a little too deep. We officially started calling the empty room Baby’s room, but still, I couldn’t quite grasp this was real. Does it ever set in? I’m pretty sure I could be holding a newborn and still in disbelief. (Check back in a few months.) My worries about this little one haven't subsided either, and I'm sure they'll last years as it hopefully grows much bigger than a little one. (Check back in a few decades.)

But at least now every one knows it wasn’t (just) a big lunch and no, that’s not a mimosa. And not having to try to hide that is another big relief.

Dream big, 


  1. HA! I totally did not catch on to you at the shower, but I DID think about it in retrospect. Verryyyy sneaky Teal!

  2. You're doing great, Teal! Love the Ali Wong comedy clip on pregnancy-at first I thought you were making a baking reference and that you had literally baked some Halloween eyeball candies. Not a bad idea though! :)

  3. I think the whole summer of not running thing may have helped. At least around here (deep South), a lot of people cut back on running in the summer, even if they are serious in other months. People do stand up paddleboarding, swimming, biking, yoga... other things. We hardly have any races either, and people train before daylight, so you don't really "see" as many runners out. Not that Charleston's a huge running community anyway.

    It's great to read an update from you and on your pregnancy! I'm glad out out of that zone and working on the baby's room and getting ready. Seems like there should be some sort of secret language with pregnant ladies and bartenders, though. Maybe like rubbing your tummy means splash of seltzer in that plain orange juice instead of champagne?

    1. Yea, we definitely need some sort of secret language. Although some bartenders just seem completely clueless, no matter what hints we drop, so not sure what would work!