Some women love pregnancy—bless you, glowing mamas—and other women, well, we really struggle through the 10 months. For me, especially after a rough first pregnancy filled with a love-hate relationship with food and the toilet, it was easy to mentally dread any other future pregnancies.
It doesn’t help that there’s often an idea in our heads of how pregnancy is supposed to go. Cue the dream-like montage: a joyful journey to conceiving, a dainty dry-heave or two in the first trimester, all the cute maternity clothes, and a smooth birth. If you’ve been pregnant, you know this is more the exception than the rule. However, not all babies and therefore not all pregnancies are created the same. Here’s the story of two pregnancies: Both have a healthy baby at the end (thank goodness), but they were very different.
Pregnancy #1: The Rough One
This pregnancy had a vendetta against me from the beginning. As soon as the perfect two lines revealed a positive pregnancy test, I had developed a close-knit relationship with the toilet. From the moment I could snooze my alarm and stumble into the bathroom, I stayed there until I could find a break from tossing my non-eaten cookies into the bowl. I felt completely hopeless as I spent most of my non-vomiting moments kneeled over and begging for relief. I crossed my fingers hoping somehow, as most people said, my morning sickness—but really all day sickness—would disappear by the end of the first trimester.
No such luck, as my nausea and vomiting carried into the next trimester. But the ultrasound comes with the second trimester, when I breathed a cautionary sign of relief and transitioned into the next stage of pregnancy. The second trimester was also when I felt more comfortable taking prescription medication for my intense morning sickness. Even though I wanted to power through, it was not possible.
I crossed my fingers hoping somehow, as most people said, my morning sickness—but really all day sickness—would disappear by the end of the first trimester.
Through the help of my anti-nausea medication, I was able to transition back into working and functioning like a regular human being. However, what came along with being able to keep my food down was an intense and insatiable hunger. Since I was finally able to eat and enjoy food, I found myself craving and giving into greasy foods. And while plenty of women stay similar to their original size, I ballooned and gained a total of 65 pounds during my 38 weeks of pregnancy.
This meant growing two sizes larger in shoes, an entirely new emergency wardrobe, and intense swelling because of the weight gain. My partner found joy in making imprints on my legs like Play-Doh. The end of my pregnancy and weight gain also coincided with the height of summer heat—an experience that would have me swearing off having a summer baby again.
Besides an incredibly physically daunting pregnancy, my baby was healthy (a whole 8 pounds and 4 ounces of goodness) and had no complications. However, if I could do it again, I’d try to lay off the double cheeseburgers and chocolate shakes once I was able to keep food down. Still, I was perfectly happy waiting a good year or two before doing it all again. I was owning my new role as mama, pregnancy-free.
Pregnancy #2: Smoother But Complicated
Something about the second pregnancy gives you a false sense of confidence. I had gone through one pregnancy, so I figured I knew what to expect. I mentally prepared for morning sickness, swelling, and exercising to avoid the heavy weight gain.
Wrong. Everything was different. Starting with the nausea, in my second pregnancy, I threw up a whopping two times. I had preordered my nausea medication after my first OBGYN appointment. Plot twist: I had basically no morning sickness whatsoever. I was entirely confused and remembering my previous experience, waking up every day wondering if today would be the day my body decided to betray me. Thankfully, it never happened.
I woke up every day wondering if today would be the day my body decided to betray me. Thankfully, it never happened.
Since this baby was conceived in the height of the pandemic, I had anticipated fewer doctor visits and ultrasounds simply because of precautions.
Wrong again. I ended up having multiple extra ultrasounds since our baby was measuring bigger and they wanted to double check my due date. After the follow-up appointment, they changed the due date by eight days. After the 20-week anatomy scan, we had to go to a cardiologist to get a fetal echo done. The deafening silence of the 20-week anatomy scan spooked me into assuming everything was going wrong. However, the cardiologists assured me that everything looked OK based on what they could currently see. We still had another follow-up ultrasound a few weeks later to ensure everything was measuring correctly. While externally, I seemed to be managing this pregnancy better, internally, every visit increased my overall anxiety for a healthy baby. I would even imagine trading in all the extra worry for all-day nausea.
Since there were uncertainties around our baby’s birth and health—and not to mention the stressors of carrying a baby during an “unprecedented time”—the relief I hoped to feel with a physically smoother pregnancy (while truly a blessing) felt short lived. There were other obvious benefits like seamlessly blending in with a loungewear obsessed society and spending more time at home nesting and together as a family. But the most important thing was our health, mine and the baby’s—even though it felt completely out of my control.
As the landscape of births changed drastically during the pandemic—masks, no visitors, quick discharges—the anticipation in the last few weeks of pregnancy quickly heightened. So much so that the second arrival was fast and furious, only reinforcing the reality that every pregnancy, birth, and baby are truly unique.
Different Pregnancies, Same Gift
While every pregnancy is a gift, it’s incredibly hard not to compare yours to the Instagram mom who folds all her laundry and rocks a bump like it’s the cutest accessory. Even between your own pregnancies, comparison is inevitable, sometimes leading to the feeling that pregnancy is too hard and being discouraged in our own experiences. Honestly, there’s got to be a video archive of pregnant women saying they’d never do it again, only to be completely swooned by their baby at birth. Our pregnancies may not be the same, but the desire and anticipation of the newest addition definitely grows from experiencing one miracle to the next.
I didn’t even realize it would be possible to have such different pregnancies, and I’m completely thankful. I had dreaded a terrible morning sickness experience and the relief in the second pregnancy felt like a total gift in the midst of challenging year. This gives me hope for future pregnancies, and I want to encourage other moms who felt defeated by difficult pregnancies. Sometimes, redemption comes after a horrible experience, and at the end, we get to celebrate a new life. And carrying a new life, new beginning, and new legacy seems weighty and worth it, even if it is hard.