The first trimester
We found out I was pregnant the day before the annual Yoga & Wellbeing retreat I run on the beautiful Island of Herm. I knew I was pregnant, I had been able to feel through my hands the energy of new life within me from inception of the embryo. But of course I still managed to get myself really wound up so that I didn’t sleep the day before I did that glorious little test and saw the stick say “pregnant” and tell me how many weeks. Amazing isn’t it, no blue lines anymore, how things change!
It was of course a glorious relief, although strangely I had not considered that the test would have been anything but positive. We had done everything asked of us by the book, so that it seemed inevitable that we would get the positive result. Sadly this is not the case for so many couples and I have only respect for their ability to pick themselves up and start again.
Fertility, or infertility then, is such an incredibly stressful experience for so many. When you are struggling to conceive all you can see are mothers with babies and it seems that the whole world has somehow conspired against you. It is ever so easy to fall into the “why me” zone of self pity, but as I was wisely advised by one of my closest friends who had also experienced difficulties, this is the worst thing you can do to yourself. Catch the self pity and transform it into positive energy.
There is this wonderful book that a very kind friend sent to me called “The Stork Club” by Imogen Edwards-Jones, which is a really helpful read. It may make you both laugh and cry and give you some hope if it seems rather bleak out there at the time. There are a plethora of online chat sites where women share their experiences of the whole journey of conception, although I did my best to avoid these as the single most important thing to me was not to buy into any fear and these sites are full of exactly that. You have to immerse yourself in positivity, you really do.
In any event there we were, in Herm, finally pregnant. I am delighted with the timing for it means the bean was immersed in the wonderful world of Yoga and wellbeing from the beginning. I am all into the vibration of energy and keeping that light, so that you too are light, and I guess I am interested to see the effect that this has on the bean. Thankfully in those early days I didn’t really feel any effects within myself apart from the vibration of the growing embryo, to which I shall always be thankful to Reiki for providing me with the opportunity to feel energy like this.
Still a few weeks after Herm and I was very aware that I was pregnant as my hormones were a touch challenged! In fact it was fascinating. I experienced two notable anger fits. Now I used to be really rather angry in the days before I found Yoga and Reiki, have little anger tantrums all the time I guess. Strange to think of me like that now, but in my twenties I was plagued with frustration, which manifested as anger, directed mainly at myself but also of course my poor family. It often runs through the family, you can literally take on the wounds of the past as they filter through your genetic make up.
Still it is also a very powerful motivator for change. And I have embraced these outbursts as a healing and an opportunity to move on a little bit lighter again. I recall one time when I was staying at home with the folks in between Yoga trainings in Australia, it was summer and I was putting the washing on the line. For some reason the healing came and I completely lost it with the washing, stamping on it, throwing it around, shouting at it, just losing the plot with it really, only to realise that my parents and my brother were sitting at the table on the patio waiting for me to come and join them for lunch and looking incredibly bemused and entertained by my little show of emotional release. Needless to say they found it hilarious, as I did too once the energy had dissipated!
This happened again in Australia, my brother Ross and I were driving the Great Ocean Road together and for some reason we got into an argument about something. I was driving and I got so angry with him that I literally stopped the road in this town, got out of the car and started stamping my feet at the side of the road because I was so fuelled with anger I had to get rid of it from my body somehow, before bursting into tears and sat there calming myself down, with people looking on and my brother totally thrown. We laugh about it now.
So anyway, E has not seen me have an anger attack, because I don’t get them anymore, I guess I have worked out that anger through years of hip opening poses in Yoga (that is where it literally “sits” for me), Reiki and intensive massage therapy. So it was a bit of a shock to him when we were returning home from a visit to the shops and a packet of organic ginger oat biscuits (bought to ease my morning sickness) fell from my arms as I was struggling to open the front door, and I just lost it, I kicked this packet of ginger biscuits into the house, picked them up, went into the kitchen and proceeded to throw them around, stamp on them, absolutely destroy them, with E not having a clue what was going on, to then feel the calmness return as I swept up the remains of biscuits that was now littering the floor! E laughed about that with everyone for weeks to come. Hormones!
So yes, those early days, say week 6 to week 9 were indeed challenging for my hormones were all over the place and I would find myself crying at the smallest things. I tend to avoid the news and violent or distressing films/programmes anyway, but during this period I would get upset watching the most stupid things. I was also incredibly irritable and snappy. It was confusing because Yoga had provided me with an opportunity to mange my emotional and mental state, but here I felt I had digressed to the person I was when I was in my twenties. It was rather disturbing because I wasn’t sure how long this state of being would last.
We were fortunate to have early pregnancy scans. I say fortunate because the jury is out as to whether these may actually harm the foetus, but we felt we had little choice, so there was no point me researching this too much. Some times in life ignorance is indeed bliss. In any event it was indeed rather amazing to see this heart beat, only one heart beat as it turned out, on the screen. The bean was indeed alive and alone in there.
Those weeks were testing. People say to you how your life will change when you have children, but I believe your life changes the day you decide to have children, let alone the day you give birth to them. I find it rather entertaining how people will say with some trepidation in their voice that our lives will never be the same again and we comment to ourselves how that is exactly the point, we want our lives to change, so that we are not doing the same thing in ten years that we are doing now, we want to get out of our comfort zone and take on the responsibility of a new being in this world.
Pregnancy offers a huge opportunity for transformation. For while I may have attempted to continue life as I had always known it; I quickly realised this was not going to be possible. And actually there is some joy in that. Even my body was changing, all of a sudden I actually needed the support of bras, now that was a revelation!! Still it wasn't all fun, fun, fun and despite the fact I was essentially living a dream, I couldn't shake this depressed feeling for about a week in those early days, hormones are powerful things!!
The sickness was a challenge, not so much morning sickness as the name has you believe, but all day sickness, in waves too. Teaching Yoga was actually a blessing for it distracted me from the intense nausea I was feeling. Sadly not so sitting at a desk in the office that was when it was at its worst. It is ironic really that the sickness tends to be concentrated at the time in pregnancy that you can’t tell anyone, and yet the time you really should tell people, so they may understand the reason everything is a bit of a challenge for you!
My diet changed. For years I have been insensitive to dairy products but that is all I craved and strangely during those few weeks I didn’t react to them as I had done in the past. Salt too and bread, I haven’t eaten bread for a long time but this has been a saviour to me. This was actually a huge lesson to me in truly listening to the body and overriding the mentality that told me whether foods were deemed “good” for me, or “bad”. It wasn’t about good or bad, it was about what my body needed in that moment.
Admittedly I did struggle with the craving for fruit flavoured mentos! I can’t remember the last time I ate sweets, they are not something I generally consider suitable for putting in one’s mouth, but there you go, pregnancy is a law upon itself!! In Thailand, where we were on holiday from week 9 to 11, I just could not stomach the Thai food that was cooked for us by the Thai ladies in the villa every day. It was such a shame. Even to this day the thought of sticky mango rice makes me feel incredibly sick!
Thankfully we were able to source Western food so it was toast for breakfast, goat’s cheese and tomato sandwiches with salted crisps for lunch, salted nuts, and rice with vegetables in the evening. It sounds rather healthy now I see it in black and white but at the time it felt anything but that as it was such a shift in my diet and especially as I was generally chain drinking fizzy lime drinks and ginger ale with tons of ice throughout the day!
Back home in the UK, we were in Euston station awaiting a train across to North Wales and I couldn’t decide which sandwich to buy. The fact I was even buying a sandwich was a big deal to me and I kept going from one sandwich shop to the other looking at what was on offer. Essentially all I wanted was the roast beef sandwich, which of course is a little strange for a vegetarian! This desire for meat carried on for a few weeks (which bemused E no end) so I tried to increase my iron consumption in other ways!
Talking to my friends and other ladies with children, this craving thing is very common and it amuses me what ladies are drawn to eat. It seems that dairy products are a commonality, hardly surprising when you consider the fact you need that extra calcium for the baby to grow bones etc. I did notice that during the time the bones are calcifying, was the time I particularly craved the dairy products, which fascinated me no end. I can’t account for the desire for “junk” food at a time when the baby is forming organs and all sorts of sensitivities, but assume there is some reason to it – I have been assured that the baby takes the nutrients it needs from you first, so I guess it is ultimately you that suffers in the end!
In any event from 9-11.5 weeks of pregnancy, Thailand came at a really good time, not least to be able to have the opportunity to rest, but also to relax and enjoy some sunshine, family time and time to bond with the life growing within me. I swam a lot, it eased the sickness, and I took myself off the Yoga platform most days and while my meditation practice has certainly been challenged with the sickness, I was able to move gently and sit for a very short while before lying and channelling Reiki to the growing baby – it certainly helps with the bonding.
Talking of bonding, throughout the pregnancy and helped of course by the scans we had seen, we have been following the progress of the baby’s growth through baby centre (www.babycentre.co.uk), quite amazing to reflect on the size of the little bean and the affect he/she was having on me. E still continues to laugh about the amount of food he/she needs when he/she is smaller than the palm of my hand. It is fab to get weekly updates and learn a little more about the changes taking place in you as well as the baby.
The travelling back home from Thailand was challenging for me, I would not recommend long haul travel during the first trimester to others. It messes even more with your hormonal balance, or imbalance and the sickness was really unpleasant. Our trip back was not helped by the fact I experienced stomach cramps the day after our arrival in the UK when we were across near the border with North Wales for a wedding. The cramping came on very suddenly in the morning and was accompanied with a discharge that was out of the ordinary.
Strangely I had read an article in one of those trashy magazines about miscarriage the day before on our train journey. - see how our fears can manifest so quickly! Needless to say feeling particularly tired and jet lagged and incredibly vulnerable I panicked that I was indeed miscarrying and so we visited the nearest a&e. The doctor was very pragmatic, my symptoms sounded like a miscarriage but there was absolutely nothing they could do for me, it was a bank holiday so there was no chance of scanning for a few days and even then, well if one is going to miscarry, having a scan is going to make no difference to the outcome.
It was a bit of a scary day and back at the hotel I found myself on the internet researching my symptoms, which I really wouldn’t recommend you do, one sight will ease the stress while another will make it ten times worse – I have tried to avoid this since. Needless to say I was on edge most of the day and was particularly fearful of going to the toilet and seeing red blood. Thankfully none came and it became quite clear throughout the day that there was something else going on here and as it happened I ended up with a stomach bug instead, a little present I had brought back with me from Thailand.
Sadly the fear that accompanies the thought of miscarriage stayed with me for some time. It is unusual for me to taste fear like this and I had to really go within and face it head on to release the hold it was having over me - I am very aware that the more you fear something, the more it will present itself to you, hence the joy of Yoga in helping us to address our fears through our practice. I turned to flower essences too, white chestnut was recommended by Zita West, a well known fertility expert and I have to say it helped enormously and I would recommend this to others.
It is crazy really as it all comes down to trust and faith, but that aside when you have been challenged on the conception journey, and with friends who have miscarried and with a best friend who sadly had a stillbirth at full term, one is very aware of the fragility of life in these early days. The sickness became a blessing where once it was draining. It is incredible how our perception of something can change so dramatically depending upon our experience of it – another reminder to avoid judging until you have been in that position yourself.
For me this whole episode was a real wake up call. It is all very well being strong and carrying on life as usual – I played netball for the Island vets against Jersey, albeit only for 15 minutes, but all the same I was 5 weeks pregnant at the time – but life is not as usual. The one thing I continue to learn is the need to slow down and be gentle, soften then, pregnancy encourages a softening. And here was my reminder to do exactly that.
It changed my Yoga practice significantly, in fact I wasn’t able to practice for a few days, which in itself is a rarity. While we were in Thailand, I had managed to get to two Yoga classes in Chiang Mai, one was a general class which I adapted and another was a gentle class which the teacher made pregnancy friendly for me. The penny was already dropping during these classes that perhaps I needed to back off a bit, but this little scare was the icing on the cake and the message was loud and clear.
This isn’t to say that one has to temper one’s practice the whole way through pregnancy, I still remember one of my students practicing crow pose (her choice after all) the morning of the evening she gave birth and in Byron I remember seeing a very pregnant lady in handstand against the wal. But I do believe that in those early months, when the baby is literally forming within you and the placenta is developing too, that you should honour this new life and provide it with a gentle, gentle space to thrive.
Upon reflection the stomach bug provided me with an opportunity to totally slow down that first week and catch up on sleep, something I needed after the exhausting nature of long haul travel. You see that is another thing, you feel so tired all the time, and it is a tiredness that you cannot push through as I am so used to doing ordinarily. I have to go to bed much earlier than I have ever done. And I have noticed that if I am tired one day and don’t sleep well, then the next day the sickness is worse. The body is very clever in making you listen and essentially slow down.
Almost 12 weeks and back home in Guernsey, I returned to find a booking for a visit from the midwife and a booking for the 12 week scan. This was a whole new world to me and one that was initially a little overwhelming. You see I do not believe in the medicalisation of birth per se but I had been so focused on simply getting pregnant and getting through the first trimester that I hadn’t given much thought to what was to happen after then. Still, that can wait until another time.
Every day I give thanks for the life inside me and can’t believe my luck that this is really actually happening to us. With much gratitude again to all those wonderful beings who have helped to make this possible and to all those wonderful beings who provide such loving and supporting energy to me, E and our bean, we are both so excited.