Hello again! It’s time for another pregnancy update, this time about the glorious stretch of three months known as the second trimester. You know, the one where the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, everything tastes great again and morning sickness is all but a distant memory? Well, most of those things at least.
Unlike my first trimester review, I won’t be going into as much detail per week, as I felt consistently energetic and normal throughout this time. Rather I’d like to focus on a few key events – good and not-so-good – that shaped the experience and got me thinking more philosophically about pregnancy as a whole. Off we go!
Body, mind & belly by week
My first trimester was dominated by food coming up, rather than staying down. At the start of the second trimester, I was nervous about our babymoon to Japan, a trip focused largely around eating everything in sight. By some miracle, a few days before boarding the plane, my hyperemesis lifted; I was able to eat and enjoy it. Better yet, I was able to eat a much wider variety of things, and smells were no longer much of a problem.
Our time in Tokyo and Kyoto was so wonderful… we are already excited to go back one day. It was the right kind of trip for us: loads of walking, eating, surprises, being flagrant tourists and finding a few things off the beaten path, thanks to our airbnb hosts. We were blown away by Japan’s food, hospitality, gardens, art, history, and quirkiness. I’m glad we went so early on in the pregnancy, as it was still easy to spend all day on my feet!
Something very special happened in week 17 that nearly went unnoticed… baby’s first kick! Well, the first kick I could feel. I got a little jab at my GP’s office, just after she poked around to measure my belly. Based on what I’d heard from others, I was expecting a flutter or popcorn sensation, but this felt distinctly – instinctively – like a tiny punch from the inside. I just knew it was her. It was another week or so before I started feeling them more regularly, and another 2-3 weeks before Jase could feel from the outside. Magic.
Change, change, change. And, a big mental shift. That’s the short version of the story.
The longer version is that around 19 weeks, I left my salaried job to focus on the sustainability fellowship I’m in, devote more time to my creative work, and consider my longer-term career goals after baby. And – gasp – rest and focus on myself!
There were people who thought I was crazy for doing this; that spending my last few months before a big life change doing what I love, and preparing for the future, was an insane move. I didn’t agree, obviously, but understood their trepidation. Taking a leap meant going against the two choices we are pressured into making in life: do it all or fail and die.
Apparently during pregnancy this absurd choice is super urgent, judging by the amount of times in months prior I was asked how I was going to do it all. The alternative (fail and die), it became clear, represented any choice other than running myself into the ground.
Abandoning that ship felt like the right thing to do, and it was. I distanced myself from that frame of mind, diverting conversations that swerved in that direction. I spent more time seeing friends, writing and pitching, cooking, researching my next move, exercising, supporting our family business, and ultimately… being myself, with my husband, enjoying this unique time together before baby. We remind each other daily that the concept of doing it all was designed to keep people insecure and unhappy. Simply: we want to pass a sense of personal freedom on to our daughter, who deserves more choices than those outlined above. There’s no way to do that without embodying it ourselves.
Around week 23 I went on a retreat, had a bad fall in the shower and got really, really sick. I wrote about it here, and boy did it solidify my confidence in my decisions. That week of madness reminded me that there is no shame, ever, in focusing on our own wellbeing and defining our values. Without those things, we have nothing, especially when nurturing a new life. If given the choice, it’s the very least we can do for them.
Week 24 was my 31st birthday! I was still recovering from my freak illness but Jase went out of his way to make me feel like a million bucks. We spent the day out in nature, riding a historic steam train through a fern rainforest (yes, it exists), eating old fashioned scones with jam and cream, and being together. I thought that my ‘last birthday before baby’ might feel bittersweet, as events often do before stepping into the unknown. But, it was marvellous. I can’t wait to celebrate 32 with her next year.
Jumping back quickly to Week 20 and the anatomy scan… wow. Our little girl, in so much detail! It was incredible to see the shape of her legs and arms, to see and feel kicks at the same time, to get a quick glimpse of her face – tiny lips! – and know, with even more certainty, that not only was she doing okay, she was thriving. I still look at the little photo we were sent home with every morning.
Nesting, exercising, chucking stuff out (see below), more frequent midwife appointments, happiness, looking far more pregnant, tummy rubs, freedom, time passing quickly, excitement.
The second trimester, starting with our Japan trip, marked the reemergence of my love affair with food. I was ever so grateful. I missed cooking, the smells of the market, chatting with friends about which cafes they’d been to recently, and overhearing conversations about food without exiting the room.
From week 15 onward, a typical day looked something like this:
- Yogurt, grapefruit, or a fried egg on toast to start the day.
- Salad sandwiches (i.e. halloumi or hummus with lettuce, tomato or other shredded veg) for lunch.
- Vegetable and chicken or beef stir fry, or a stew, escalope, roast or pasta for dinner.
- Arabic food. I guess it makes sense to return to your roots when you’re starting a family! I craved maqloubeh, fasoulia, labneh and Teta’s creme caramel.
- VINEGAR. Vinegary items peppered throughout the day, especially pickles. Pickles of all kinds, shapes and sizes, especially those Vlasic dill pickles in the 1L jar from Costco (bless you, Costco). Also, salad laced with vinegar. I ate fattoush like it was going out of style.
- STRING CHEESE. Another item that deserves all caps and a category of its own, to represent my primal need for it during this time.
- Banana-berry smoothies, nuts, dates with tahina, more grapefruit, fruit in general, hot chocolate (sensing the sweet theme here?) for snacks.
Being able to eat again also reminded me of how much food affects me psychologically. I am either lucky or cursed in this way, but the food I eat has an immediate impact on my emotional state. I never feel guilty about the occasional treat because I think enjoying the finer cakes in life is an important part of self-care. However, if over a full day or several days I consistently leave fruit, veg and protein out of my diet (so, a day of snacking, cheese sandwiches, desserts, chips etc) my morale plummets. That, plus keeping my daughter’s developmental wellbeing top of mind, was an excellent motivator for staying mindful about what I used to fuel myself each day.
This next paragraph is for the pregnant ladies: as babies start taking up more space in there, digestion slows down. Factor in the iron supplements and like many women I found myself in a… slow situation. Enter prunes. Trust me, get a bag. They’re tasty, and combined with extra water intake, they were very helpful at getting things going in a gentle way. Hey, not all of it can be glamorous. But it’s worth knowing!
Exercise & personal care
Much like diet, exercise is very therapeutic for me. Since I nixed my gym membership, it’s free! Throughout winter we bundled up and went on 5km brisk walks nearly every day. I also relied on YouTube for free workouts when I was short on time: Lara Dutta prenatal yoga and Jessica Smith strength workout (with light, 2-3kg hand weights) were both great! I loved anything with lots of squats, lunges, and biceps to build up my puny arms for baby carrying.
We switched to natural body and home care a few years ago, so I didn’t use any of the usual pregnancy elixirs, creams, potions or stretch mark serums. Anyway, I think our genes decide our fate with stretch marks, rather than what we smear on ourselves.
Growing bodies do get itchy though, so I slathered myself in coconut oil, head to toe, every day (and as an overnight hair mask every few weeks – so good). It felt wonderful after a warm shower and relieved my itchy belly. It’s also about $12 for a big jar, which lasted me well through the first and second trimester.
We live in a two bedroom apartment, so keeping things relatively minimalistic is key to staying off a late-night documentary about compulsive hoarding. But, who doesn’t want to buy cute things for their baby!?
With family and friends eager to help, we found ourselves thankfully inundated with secondhand items like tiny clothes and a lovely mini-crib for our room, which was a great start. I found a Baby Bjorn bouncer on Gumtree in perfect condition for 1/3 of the retail price (score) and also bought the ingenious folding Puj tub so we could bathe baby comfortably without needing a bulky bath. Our parents gifted us a beautiful stroller and car seat so babe can travel safely and in style – this was a huge help. I got myself a wrap carrier, too, in hopes that she’d love the idea of baby wearing as much as I do! (#pleaselikeit)
Other than that, we didn’t buy much in Trimester Two. I was more focused on getting rid of stuff rather than getting more. The urge to clean out our nest before bringing in new things was strong. Stacks of clothes were donated, old papers recycled, and junk was tossed. What a feeling.
Finally: another short note on staying positive
The second trimester is when most women start looking distinctly pregnant… which invites the first trickle of the tidal wave of unsolicited advice. Most of it has been respectful and, when not, easily discarded. No pregnant woman escapes the experience without receiving a few gems, though.
I’d like to say I can laugh at it and do my thing, undisturbed. Except I’m not a soulless robot. I’m learning, however, that people are only trying to pass on helpful hints they discovered or wish they’d known about. In the rare cases where advice is negative and judgy, I can set boundaries without guilt. Nobody has the answer for my family, just as I don’t have the answer for theirs. Good practice for parenthood, I suspect!
Ultimately I’m just so proud of this little girl for growing strong, and of my body for letting nature take over and make this extraordinary process possible. The second trimester was a time of relief and of marvelling at my body changing, even in the strange ways. I’m so grateful for the amount of people who, during this time, told me I was doing a great job, looking great, and that Jase and I will make great parents. Family, friends and readers, that’s you! Your small but powerful affirmations grounded me in times of worry – thank you.