Pregnancy Journal: Reflecting on the First 20 Weeks
– Written at 20 Weeks, Published Later –
Twenty Weeks. What a journey this has been so far, it already feels like an eternity of knowing i’m pregnant (since way back in September 2020), yet it’s really only just feeling real and as if the journey is truly beginning. May, my due date, seems so close, but equally a further twenty weeks, the same as what has just passed, feels so long. Another lifetime to wait.
It’s not just the time and the duration of the pregnancy at twenty weeks either, truly i’ve experienced so much and such varied emotions and physical changes in this period. The first 12 weeks, which I shared a little about here, feels like a lifetime ago. The anxieties that riddled me daily eating away at my hope and positivity, feel like a story from another person now (which is quite the relief), and the 8 weeks that then followed came with a totally new set of feelings, changes and experiences.
If you read my post about anxiety, you’ll know already that it was one of my most common symptoms pre my 12 week scan (the first time by the way, that someone confirms you are indeed pregnant and not just going mad), that alongside huge levels of tiredness, some nausea / food aversions and a Colitis flare up at 10 weeks pregnant – very common apparently. As a first time mum I found the period full of emotional solitude, over thinking and so much worry, yet my second trimester following a successful scan and more formal confirmation / support on the whole process has been packed with much more excitement, joy and milestones that have truly transitioned the journey from a concept to a reality.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the 8 or so weeks that followed – telling people, my nausea and worry evaporating, the tiredness easing, seeing the baby in our scan and hearing the heart beat, being ‘on record’ and having a clear roadmap for whats to come, feeling ‘safe enough’ to start ordering books and things to read and understand what’s happening and most recently as of about 17 weeks – my bump truly popping.
The first 20 weeks have really been a tale of two halves, and I know this is only halfway and there will be so much more to experience and come too. I feel a renewed sense of purpose and love for my blog and I will be using this to document my journey mostly for myself, but as I said in my last post, I know i’d have valued hearing a more honest account of the experience of pregnancy in those first few weeks, so I hope perhaps some of you may find this helpful, reassuring or even just a little interesting.
I’ve decided to journal my experiences in three key areas – emotional, physical and practical, as I think this sums up and will capture all the things I want to get out there (out of my mind, to record for my personal reflections etc). As i’ve already documented the first 10 /12 weeks, and I wrote this at 19.5 weeks pregnant, this will largely reflect my experiences from 12-20 weeks (post 12 week scan, and before my second 20 week scan).
Pregnancy is a serious emotional rollercoaster. Hormones aside, the volume of new experiences and the unknown is enough to make anyones emotions a little on edge. The first 12 weeks were packed with anxiety and shrouded in ‘not wanting to get my hopes up’ too much, the latter 8, when we finally shared the news with our family, friends and work were glorious. Just as perfect as I’d hoped and imagined – packed with moments we’ll never forget, emotions of joy, tears of happiness from loved ones and myself and Jase, and just this sense of pure magic of what was happening.
Whilst I’ll talk about the physical changes in more detail, the emotions that sit alongside the changing shape of my body, the blooming bump thats forming are of total happiness. Any self consciousness (for which I’ve had much, for many years) has almost dissipated and i feel liberated from the voice of criticism, and instead find the growing tummy to be just a real miracle and thing of wonder. As of around 19 weeks I’ve started to feel little movements inside (not kicks outside, but flutters and little wriggles if you will, inside) and this again is just beyond words – a bond and connection already forming that fills you with love and warmth.
I’ve seen my mood swing – I’m usually quite stable and strong, but every now and then, even the most silly thing could make me cry, make me return to a state of solitude inside, or even feel fit to burst with frustration. Fortunately in most of these bouts, they’ve been so ludicrous and out of character that they’ve actually caused me and Jase to burst out laughing at how insane I am being, post the emotional release itself. Most the time I am ‘normal’ me emotionally, but whats changed is the speed and ability for that to flip, with something that perhaps might not usually bother me – Jase not listening to me properly, or moaning at me for something trivial i’ve done. Simple things like that can fill me with tears and sobs, or red rage and fury now.
My anxiety of the first 12 weeks quickly evaporated after the reassurance of my 12 week scan (something I cried the whole way through out of absolute relief more than anything else – Jase felt the same, so relieved for me, and us) and the return of blood tests for all the usual checks, but in recent weeks a new form of anxiety has formed. It’s less worry and fear, more overthinking which in turn can make me unsettled. An utterly obsessive and overwhelming ‘anxiety’ around the gender of our baby – I say anxiety, but like I said it’s not fear, it’s obsessive overthinking and guessing, and stressing.
I’ve spent HOURS, and I mean HOURS reading old wives tales, doing chinese gender tests, analysing how i’ve felt, what I look like, my symptoms, analysing my 12 week scan for nub theory conclusions or scull theory clues. It’s all fun and games, until it’s not. The most hilarious thing about my overthinking is that we aren’t going to find out the gender. I believe for me the best time to find out is at birth, by this stage any instinct, visions or imagined scenarios will no doubt be redundant – to find out at 20 weeks is more likely to spin me out. I just want to caveat here, I am over the moon to be having a baby, it goes without saying that as long as it’s healthy we’re happy, but I’ve come to realise these fears and thoughts around gender aren’t uncommon or shameful. Even a quick google of ‘pregnancy gender anxiety’ provides you with tons of articles of others who’ve experienced that same sense of worry, intrigue and obsessive over thinking. It is in my nature to over think and panic when things are out of my control – i’ve been disordered / disabled by this in many ways in the last 15 years, and the need for control has manifested itself in different ways throughout my life. This is just another. It’s important for me to relinquish any sense of control – because there is not one part of this pregnancy that I am truly able to control, and that is the pure magic of it. It’s probably to be my biggest life lesson, but that doesn’t mean i’m ‘in control’ of it or able to calm my mind right now.
I actually thoroughly enjoyed and related to Emily Ratajkowski’s pregnancy article in Vogue which touched on this.
So to sum up the first 20 weeks of pregnancy emotionally – it’s the ride of your life. You can’t control what is happening inside or physically to you, emotionally that fear, lack of control, and sheer volume of ‘unknown’, whilst in one way magical, is only naturally going to create emotional madness for you. It’s sheer joy mixed with dark fear, it’s elation mixed with exhaustion, it’s magic and warmth, accompanied by overthinking and panic.
It’s like pre exam nerves, and the desperation to pass, the anxiety of ‘waiting’ and soon the ‘relief’ of knowing the result.
Physically so much has changed, yet funnily enough, for me this has been the less dominant thought in my head throughout the last 20 weeks.
It all started with my boobs. Even before that positive test I KNEW I was pregnant, my boobs were so swollen, so sore and so sensitive it was unlike anything i’d experienced before. I knew it wasn’t my period causing those changes, and eventually after a missed period, and a couple of extra weeks of waiting (until the ‘right moment’) the test came back positive and confirmed just that. I only did one test, I already knew.
Although rewinding back, there was one thing that happened before the boobs which was perhaps in hindsight the biggest physical clue that I was indeed pregnant, or that ‘conception’ was taking place. And no I don’t mean sex. I experienced a migraine. Migraines are common for me, but this one was out of the blue after getting mine under control, and really took me out. I ended up off work for two days just laying in darkness dealing with the pain. Something inside me told me not to take codine or the other heavy medicines I usually have to default to, I even made Jase go to the pharmacy and ask for something pregnancy safe just in case. The Migraine wiped me out, and on top of that one night (I think before the Migraine arrived on a Monday) I was awoken in the middle of the night with the sharpest most excruciating pain in my abdomen. I have Colitis so I am VERY used to pain there, but this was really quite different. It woke me up and truly felt like something was wrong – then I eventually fell back asleep and thought not much more of it. Until of course the migraine. And then the boobs.
Aside from that early experience, which is quite magical in hindsight, the first 12 weeks for me were packed with exhaustion and tiredness, sleep insomnia (i’d wake at 3am every night and be wide awake by 6am – which I appreciate is normal for many, but not for me), food aversions (the thought of so much food made me feel nauseas and the smell of garlic was enough to send me to bed) and some food cravings (Raspberries, grapes, blueberries, banana and strawberries are all I wanted to eat, alongside tuna mayo and marmite toast).
Another huge physical symptom for me was that my colitis flared, after being in remission for a long while, the pregnancy and inflammation caused a big flare. One that came on much quicker than normal and worsened much more quickly too – this obviously was quite scary, but actually a big turning point in the anxiety stakes for me, because it triggered my doctor and colitis consultant to be all over me and getting my flare under control, and because I still hadn’t had my scan, this ‘formal’ medical support was really reassuring for me. Thankfully within a few days the medicine was effective and now I’m back on my medicine throughout (and will be for life ultimately).
The end of the first trimester graduated me from anxiety, food aversions and tiredness, to headaches. Fortunately not my usual migraines, but daily dull headaches which means I’m constantly swiping forehead on to ease the pain. They’re so light compared to my previous chronic migraines that I don’t mind it – but they’re there, and it’s definitely a second trimester symptom for me.
Of course one of the biggest physical experiences is your body, and le bump.
In those first 12 weeks I was certain my belly was growing, and whilst it definitely was changing, it was actually at 17 weeks it seriously popped. Looking back at pictures I find it quite funny how big I thought I was at 12 – 15 weeks, and then all of a sudden at 17, 18, and 19 I am actually, undeniably WITH BUMP. The shape and size changes daily, one week it may look huge, the next a little smaller again, going to the toilet makes quite a big impact on this, and I certainly know it’s bigger in the evening than it is the day.
I don’t think my bump is compact or like a ball – my bum, thighs, hips, waist and tummy all feel bigger and thicker. My boobs by week 12 had already gone from a 30E to a 30FF so god even knows what they are now at week 20. That was the first major ‘maternity’ investment I had to make – bras. My normal lace underwire bras were out the picture as soon as week 7 or 8. I’ve worried at times I’m getting ‘too big’, I am too fat, and at others i’ve compared my ‘bump’ with other images online and thought it was comparatively small – the moral of the story, is not to compare oneself to others. Perhaps pregnancy will finally teach me that lesson. I don’t weigh myself, but I know by 12 weeks I’d put on at least a stone given the checks they were doing, that’s enough reason to ignore the scales in my eyes.
Physically the changes are now obvious, the bump has arrived, and it’s only going to get bigger. A concept which already seems mind blowing, but something I am so looking forward to.
The other physical change which is just starting to appear (alongside spots and frazzled hair, hooray), is little tiny wriggles inside. As of 18/19 weeks I was really starting to feel the odd fluter, wriggle or movement that really makes you realise there’s a baby inside, and as of 20 weeks far more prominent little kicks and rolls which is truly magic. I can’t wait to feel it more, more often and for everyone to be able to feel those kicks.
From a practical point of view, the transition from first trimester to second opened the door for ‘planning’. As you will have guessed the inner control freak in me loved this and it allowed me to put my ‘mind’ to something useful / I could control. The worry of it being too soon or not wanting to ‘jinx’ things passed, and with that scan image came a licence to buy books, sign up to hypnobirthing, begin thinking about the nursery layout and design, start researching prams, cots, slings and everything in between, it opened up the conversation for names (albeit we kinda already have them chosen, as there are a few we’ve always loved), for sharing the news and having conversations with other people.
I’m going to do a post soon on my first 20 week pregnancy buys, of course there’s not many but theres 5 or so that I think are good investments or things that have been recommended to me that i’ve found invaluable.
Another big moment, aside from telling our friends and family between 13- 17 weeks or so (dragged out and made far more complicated given Corona), was finally telling my work. Something I realise I was very anxious about (but needn’t have been). I’d found myself worrying a lot about May onwards and how I could ensure things would be okay, a burden that of course needed to be shared, and what this meant for my career, my role, my job security and all the rest.
I am in quite a senior position in my work and have put a huge amount of myself into my career to get where I am, so naturally its fairly uncomfortable and nerve wracking to take time out and I felt an overwhelming sense of ‘letting the business down’ and concern for my career from here on in.
Of course as soon as I shared the news, the opposite was true and the reactions were pure delight and joy for me, i’ve worked at my company for coming up to 10 years so my colleagues and bosses are friends too, and their support and joy was in equal measure wonderful and reassuring. I’ve yet to tell all my team, given the Christmas break I wanted to wait for that to be done rather than do it before and cause any worry (by the time this goes live they’ll know), but I’m excited to do that shortly and once again it’ll be another thing to make everything feel even more real.
I’ll also, once I am back in work in January (reminder: I wrote this over my Christmas break when I was 20 weeks), start to work through the logistics of my maternity leave which I haven’t done yet – and funnily enough having time to unwind, destress and slow down over Christmas after a very busy few months has made me feel really quite excited and grateful to be taking some time out of work, for me and my life. A real contrast to how I felt ‘last year’. An old bosses biggest piece of advise to me when I told her was to ‘take all the time I want and need, you only get this experience once or twice in your lifetime’ – and that is exactly what I needed to hear and exactly what i’m holding close to me.
I’ve never taken a break since I started school, so not only is this time going to be hugely important for my baby and our family, but it’s also hugely important for me and my life.
And all of this sharing of news and beginning to think about the future, alongside the physical bump and emotional reassurances of the scan and midwife appointments meant that as I ended my 20 week milestone, pregnancy officially progressed from being a concept, to my reality. And that, for me, was the real highlight in those first 20 weeks.
As of now, publication day, i’m creeping towards my third trimester which is just a couple of weeks away, and even reading this back today, I realise how much once again my experiences in the last month or so have changed and evolved.
The physical, emotional and practical leaps are monumental week by week, and it makes it even more lovely to have documented this journey from a moment in time, because the truth is each new week brings so much more, it’s hard to remember outside these journals how I was really feeling or what I was really experiencing in those weeks and months gone by.
I think my next journal will be a reflection of reaching my third trimester, and the journey to get to that big milestone (Note: the emotions got wild & the bump continues to change daily). So keep an eye out for that in a few weeks, in the meantime i’ll be publishing my top buys for those first 20 – 24 weeks too.