The First Eighteen Weeks

Okay, we're about to look at ten pictures of my midsection, and I need to make sure that you're alright with that. You said you didn't mind if we talked about pregnancy-related stuff for a little while, so I thought I'd take you up on it and share with you my ever-expanding girth, which I have been photographing since week 9 like every other elated first-time mother-to-be with a camera and an internet connection. 

Side note: can you imagine our grandmothers' generation taking belly shots? I simply cannot. And our great-grandmothers' generation....well, let's just say that my mother once told me that her mother was banned from using the phrase "district nurse" around her parents when she was a child because it was deemed entirely too naughty. Why? Well, the district nurse is the person who'd show up at your home when someone in it was about to give birth. And since giving birth is what happens at the end of pregnancy and pregnancy was considered an entirely unsuitable topic for public conversation—especially among children—"district nurse" was the sort of scandalous term that made my grandmother and her brothers giggle uncontrollably when someone dared to whisper it. 

Fast forward to 2013 when I'm about to tell you about all the different times I threw up in the first trimester!

I know weekly pregnancy updates on a blog are a little bit of a cliche, and I swear on my life that you can lock me in a room that plays only Gangnam Style on repeat and/or mail me a severed goat's  head—whichever you think would be more offensive—the minute I start talking as though I'm the first person in the world to ever be pregnant, but I hope you won't mind indulging me a little bit if I try to keep a record here of how I'm feeling each week. This is such a weird and exciting time in my life, and I don't want to forget a single second. 

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was only five weeks along, and I felt pretty much the same as I always did. I was a little more tired, sure, and I may have got irationally angry at Sean for something I can't even remember now (like, so angry, at four o'clock in the morning, stewing there silently in bed), but for the most part I didn't feel particularly different at all. Apart from one thing: I suddenly abhorred coffee. 

Now, I've always been a one-cup-in-the-morning sort of gal, maybe another mid-morning if I'm flagging, but suddenly I did not even want to think about coffee at all. (This has continued right up until this day, by the way, and has totally rendered the existential "will I give up coffee?" debate that had been raging in my head before I got pregnant completely null and void. Which was sort of useful, I have to say, even though I had pretty much already decided on "no." Luckily, I've had no such aversions to the peyote yet, so I've continued doing that right up until this day.)


Apart from the coffee and the tiredness, I felt pretty much entirely normal—so normal that I worried something was actually wrong—until about six and a half weeks, when I became suddenly and immediately sickened by the very thought of vegetables. And I mean the very thought. If I suddenly called to mind, say, what a roasted brussel sprout might look like, I would have to have a quick lie-down on the nearest horizontal surface. Every time I passed the salad bar at work, I would need to immediately look away. On my first night home during the Christmas holidays, when I hadn't yet told my family my news, my mother made a huge dish of brightly-colored roasted vegetables with couscous and chicken, and I am still pretty surprised that I didn't win an Oscar on Sunday night along with Anne Hathaway for the show I put on while pretending to enjoy them. 

Here is a picture of me at 9 weeks, the first time I thought I looked pregnant enough to start documenting it. HAHAHAHA oh my god, I have no idea what is coming. 

If you have been through the first trimester, you know that it is very strange. Very, very strange indeed. You feel constantly queasy and nauseous—at least I did—and the only thing that makes it better is if you eat. But there's nothing you want to eat! You need to keep your tummy full, so that you don't spill the contents into the nearest receptacle, but nothing at all sounds good. Everything, in fact, sounds terrible. If you don't eat, you feel like you're going to barf, but when you try and think about what you might want to eat, everything makes you want to barf anyway. 

The first key, I think, is to eat whatever sounds even vaguely appealing to you in the moment, even if you've already eaten it for your last seven meals. The second key is to embrace the power of bread. 

Bread was one of the very few things that made me feel like I might feel slightly better if I ate it, and so I ate a whole crapload of bread. Bagels too, and English muffins, and crackers. Oh, the crackers! I constantly had little packets of crackers in my bag, and little stacks of crackers on my nightstand, and I have vivid memories of waking up in the night, feeling absolutely rotten, and wearily stuffing crackers into my mouth because I knew it would ultimately make me feel well enough to go back to sleep. For the first fifteen weeks of my pregnancy, in a desperate bid to not feel completely wretched every single hour of the day, I ate all the carbs Jennifer Aniston had rejected over the last twenty years of her career.

Along the way, there was a brief whirlwind affair with goat cheese, and another with cornichons—likely the only green thing I consumed the entire time—and there was even one very early jetlagged morning where I lay awake tortured by the idea of what saltines, goat cheese, and cornichons would taste like together, and knew I wouldn't rest until I had roused myself from bed at 4am to discover this for myself (verdict: delicious.) For the most part, however, the first fifteen weeks of my pregnancy were a veritable festival of bread. I also ate a lot of egg salad (preferably on white bread with the crusts cut off or white hot dog buns; this was a very specific craving I suddenly got in Target one day, which was lucky because I was in exactly the right place to buy all of those ingredients), drank a lot of orange juice, and became weirdly enamored of chocolate milk. Looking back, it was kind of like I was having brunch for every single meal of the day. Brunch for a seven-year-old. 

As you can imagine, the weirdo eating habits, constant queasiness, and bone-crushing exhaustion made it a really great time to go on an overseas trip. 

This is me right before I boarded a plane to Munich, and right after I threw up in the bathroom of the Enterprise Rental Car Return at Heathrow Airport. This was not my favorite morning. 

Now listen, I do not expect you to feel particularly sorry for me just because I felt a little barfy while I was on vacation—I was, after all, on vacation and not laboring in the coal mines or whatever—but I do not advise traveling in the first trimester, if you can help it. We knew it might be a possibility, when we booked our trip back to the UK for my best friend's wedding, but quite frankly, I think I severely underestimated how lousy I would actually feel. When I fell asleep on a public bus—in Berlin, in rush hour traffic, on a stranger's shoulder—I realized that the rather demanding itinerary I'd planned for us a few months before may actually have been too much. 

On the upside, I did get to take my 11-week photo right in front of Brandenburg Gate. 

While I'd had my first appointment (and my first ultrasound) around 8 and a half weeks—the doctor had walked in, looked at his chart, and said "you folks are here to have a baby!"; Sean had stuttered "well, hopefully not today"—it was at my second appointment that we finally got to hear the baby's heartbeat. I wish I could say something poetic and moving about it—it sounded like the flapping of a thousand tiny angel wings! or something—but if we're honest, it really just kind of sounded like my washing machine when I've put a load of laundry in and am standing right next to it, trying to clean the lint trap on the dryer. Kind of like WHOOSHWHOOSHWHOOSHWHOOSHWHOOSH. Yep, kind of like that. 

This was at the doctor's office, right after we'd heard our own little washing machine. Not the most glamorous setting, but hey, some weeks you can take your photo next to Germany's most famous landmark, other weeks you're going to be standing in front of a poster showing you how to do a self breast exam. 

Around thirteen weeks, I became suddenly obsessed with grapefruits—eaten as cold as possible—which happened when I was down in San Diego visiting my parents and discovered one that my dad had peeled and left for my mother in the fridge. Does anyone know a good technique for peeling grapefruits, by the way? I'm not very good at it and I'm still averaging about one a day. 

Look! My own little baby grapefruit is starting to make an appearance. 

Around week 14, I started thinking—prematurely, as it turned out—that I might actually be feeling a little better. The first trimester had given way to the second trimester, after all, and my vomit count was only up to six. Sean was in Colorado for the weekend and, struck by the sudden desire to cook something—to cook vegetables, even—I invited my brother Luke over to dinner. I drove to the grocery store in a haze of happiness and picked out plump carrots and earthy new potatoes and fresh peas and vibrant green leeks. I got home, spent a million hours making a chicken pot pie, and then decided that I didn't want to eat any of it at all. The day after that, I found myself locked in the bathroom stall at work, sobbing my eyes out for absolutely no reason I could determine. Later that evening I started crying again, which soon turned into weeping, which soon turned into the kind of crying where you can't catch your breath because you're shuddering so hard. I cried so much—again, couldn't have told you why if you'd held a gun to my head—that I actually made myself throw up, and so there I was, head down the toilet, simultaneously sobbing and vomiting, and I thought to myself okay, I guess I'm not feeling better after all. 

I also thought to myself are you kidding me? This had better be the nadir of this whole goddamn thing. 

Week 14: the week you discover the art of bawling while barfing! 

And luckily it was. As if by magic, week 15 came and ding!, I felt instantly better. I started craving salads, I started wanting to exercise, and—in a cruel twist of fate not usually associated with such healthy behaviors—I realized that maybe I needed to order one of those stretchy belly band things. It wasn't that I couldn't do up the top button on my jeans; it was just that it felt a whole lot better if I didn't. 

I still hadn't told anyone at work at this point, so I just kind of assumed that they all figured I was just letting myself go. 

During week 16, when I turned 33, I wore my one and only maternity shirt for the first time—finally I was able to try something on in the Liz Lange maternity section at Target ON PURPOSE and not because I'd just wandered over there accidentally and picked it up because it was cute—and then felt immediately self-conscious about it the entire time and worried that I was going to run into someone from work. Which would have been fairly unlikely, honestly, because we were up in Sonoma for the weekend, a trip Sean surprised me with for my birthday and which I need to tell you about in more detail later because there was one amazing thing he'd planned for us without realizing that pregnant ladies couldn't actually do it. 

Not wine tasting, obviously. I think he probably knew I couldn't do that. 

In week 17, I actually started wearing my belly band, and immediately deemed it the world's greatest invention ever. Did you know you can wear YOUR PANTS UNZIPPED if you're wearing a belly band? My colleagues certainly do, I'll tell you that. I think I cornered all of them, one by one, and said "Do you know my pants are actually unzipped right now? You didn't even know until I told you. MY PANTS ARE UNZIPPED UNDER HERE. My pants are unzipped at work." 

I expect to be hearing from HR shortly. 

And this brings us to week 18, where I am currently languishing and feeling—I have to say—absolutely great. I'm eating totally normally again—although I have a strong hankering for very cold things (smoothies and frozen yogurt, mostly) and very cold, very tangy fruit—and I even seem to be waking up fewer than 39847387 times a night to pee (WHERE DOES ALL THE PEE COME FROM? I mean, that is just not science). I'm still wearing most of my regular clothes—with some belly band help on the more snug items in my wardrobe—and I even think I have maaaaaaaaaybe felt the baby move once or twice while I've been lying awake at night in the stillness and dark, trying my hardest to distinguish it from regular old digestive rumblings. 

In fact, there's really only one thing that's particularly notable this week, and that is this: I am suddenly looking very, very pregnant. 

Damn, girl! Where'd that thing come from? 
More news from week 19 next week—I promise these will be way more cursory going forward; if you managed to read this entire thing in one sitting, I'd like to toast you with this imaginary glass of champagne I keep having guilt-dreams about accidentally drinking—but for now, thank you so much again for all the kind words you've offered so far about my pregnancy. Honestly, this baby doesn't even know how lucky it is to have so many wonderful people wishing it well. 

Mar 03, 2013

Congrats, Holly!
Even though it's been 10 years since my son was born, you made me feel better about the all the extreme weirdness of my first trimester with him--constant hunger and carrying food always and plastic bags in case I had to vomit--even threw up while driving!!!, weird aversions to food and certain cravings, dry heaves, fatigue, etc. etc. It goes on and on. And then feeling normal in my 2nd trimester!

So, just know that all that weird stuff of the first trimester is your body making sure that you are not eating anything that can harm the baby and that you are on your way!!

Mar 04, 2013

"I ate all the carbs Jennifer Aniston had rejected over the last twenty years of her career."

Oh, I was totally there with you on that one. Reading this was like reading a report of my pregnancies all over again!

Mar 04, 2013

I don't eat grapefruit, but I eat a lot of tangerines from Trader Joe's (or Cuties from Cost Co) and by far the best $1 I ever spent was on a citrus peeler at a Pampered Chef party, which I'm assuming you can also use on grapefruit:

It looks deceptively simple, but it has made peeling citrus fruit so much easier. I always hated getting bits of peel and pith under my nails and this solves the problem so easily. One end has a sharp pointy edge that you use to break the skin and then you pull it around the equator of the fruit so that you can then peel off the skin in two perfect halves (which you can then put in the middle of the room to absorb odors - not that I'm assuming any of your rooms stink). The rectangular doo hickey scrapes off any extra pith. It's seriously one of my absolute favorite kitchen gadgets.

Mar 04, 2013

Last year I threw up at Dulles, but I didn't even make it to the bathroom. I was the classy broad puking in the garbage can outside of the terminal.

Bread was my go to hangover food in college. I could not eat anything else, and even then I had to tear off tiny microscopic pieces and let them melt in my mouth. Sometimes I went to the food court and bought a bowl of plain white rice and ate it one grain at a time. People probably thought I had OCD or an eating disorder.

Mar 04, 2013

Oh Holly! I've been a lurker for SO long and just had to post..finally! I'm 13 weeks pregnant and the way you describe the first trimester is right on! I've been thinking, "so this is what an eating disorder feels like!" :) I have several friends who experienced zero sickness with their pregnancies (yes, I hate them too) and I've been trying to explain my simultaneous need for food and absolute food aversion. I'm going to read them your post! It's the best description of what it feels like to have morning sickness EVER! I'm also loving cold tangy, sour fruits...I'm in a frozen lemonade phase right now and have become addicted to mango smoothies with extra ice. Thanks for making me feel normal again. Congratulations on your little Hamish and please keep posting about your experiences! Life has so many different adventures to offer us and each one is a blessing to us and to those we share our lives with!

Mar 04, 2013

I just needed to thank you for writing about your sickness in the first trimester. I'm in week 14 right now, and have been trying to explain to my husband and friends exactly how it feels. And just like you, trying to not act like I'm the first person to be pregnant. But I've have found that few people have felt as crappy as me! The dry heaving on an empty stomach has to stop sometime, right!?!

I'm with you on the chocolate milk thing, but for me it's pineapple, not grapefruit.

Good luck, and thank you for sharing. Someone for me to "talk" to!

Mar 04, 2013

You look "very pregnant"? I'd save the very for week 38. :)

Mar 04, 2013

I've been following you for years but after reading about your week 17 revelation I had to share with my friend at work who is currently 11 weeks along.

Imagine my excitement when she walks up to me today and whispers "the top button of my jeans is undone".

I can't wait until she lets everyone know she's pregnant so she can share such gems with them all.

Mar 04, 2013

Most adorable teensy bump pictures ever! Have you found the "your baby is the size of" fruit and vegetable sites yet? We'd celebrate each week by having whatever food Benjamin compared to at the time. Excellent bonding opportunity. My favorite was sweet potato, but really, it would be so much more convenient if they'd throw in Cadbury eggs. Delicious!
And I'm impressed only coffee and vegetables made you barf. The damn Grand Canyon made me barf. And the dog. And the car. And Simons. Rowan Oak was particularly smelly and horrible, but I doubt I'm the only person made wretched by Faulkner.

Mar 04, 2013

Squee! I'd forgotten you were pregnant and I'm behind on my blog reading. Thoroughly enjoyed this post, and remember, the French believe you can drink wine during pregnancy ;) (no surprises there)
I remember feeling magically better round week 15 with my first pregnancy too!

Wacky Mommy
Mar 04, 2013

For me it was... Month 1: fine. Months 2-6: sick. Finally gained back 3 pounds, after losing 5. My best friend suggested, Honey, you have to eat something... Maybe a bagel without butter? and I hung up on her, burst into tears and threw up. (True story. You're not alone, see? :) ) Months 7-8: Happy! Gained weight, good, good. Month 9: sick again.

Yogurt, watermelon, popsicles, spaghetti, egg salad, oh and those godawful peanut butter pretzels kept us going and voila! A happy, healthy 10-pound baby.

Just try not to get dehydrated, mama. Drink more water and try not to shed too many tears. Love the pictures, bella! Really gorgeous.

Mar 17, 2013

I cannot tell you how much I am loving this- I was sent your blog by a SF friend last night. I'm due a few days after you (have been a bit slack on the belly shots, but have been baking something based on the bubs size each week to keep track. Currently brainstorming about bananas.)I know exactly, exactly how you're feeling. Particularly about the barfing at Heathrow. We had the inspired idea to go travelling through the US and South America between weeks 7 and 12 of our stowaway's percolation. I have now emptied my stomach at no less than 4 wonders of the modern and ancient world (and JFK immigration).

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

Just to make sure you have a pulse
Enter the characters (without spaces) shown in the image.