After being together for over six years, my husband and I made a big decision together. Or should I say we made the big decision. After much thought and discussion, we decided that 2020 would be our year to start our family.
Shortly after, during the first week of March, we were overjoyed to find out that I was pregnant with our first child. The Novel Coronavirus had not yet started to manifest in the United States so our biggest concern at the moment was figuring out how to be around our families without them suspecting our impending addition. I like my red wine, after all.
Currently 15 and a half weeks pregnant, I look back on my first trimester as one of the most mentally and physically challenging periods of my life. I was incredibly sick, living through an unprecedented moment in history and most of the time it felt like there was no end to the pandemic madness in sight. But all great things come with a little bit of a challenge, and everything Andy and I went through together has made us even more eager to meet our bundle of joy.
In case you’re curious what it’s like to carry a baby through what many women note as the least glorious and often most challenging trimester during a global pandemic, sit down, buckle up and read on.
I didn’t yet know I was pregnant. Andy and I had officially decided to try and conceive so I knew I could be pregnant at any time and not know it, but I wasn’t experiencing anything out of the ordinary. Looking back, however, there were definitely a couple of indications. One morning I had to end my daily workout early for feelings of lightheadedness (not totally out of the norm for me and my history of low blood sugar) and there were several instances where I came dangerously close to falling asleep at the wheel during my morning commute . My nightly 5 hours of sleep just didn’t seem to be cutting it and I was often passed out on the couch before 9:30 pm.
It was a Thursday and Andy and I were getting ready to go out of town for an overnight trip for his birthday. We were finally going to watch his favorite sports team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and I kept telling him he was about to have the best birthday ever. Deep down, I kind of knew I had to be pregnant for this reason. Call me superstitious, but I was raised in an Italian family. What are you gonna do?
I told Andy as we were packing that I was going to take a pregnancy test so that if I was in fact pregnant I would know not to drink at the game. He wasn’t expecting a positive result but indulged me. And so I took the rest.
Wait three minutes the instructions read. Well – it took about 10 seconds for that little plus sign to make its appearance and come through loud and clear.
I always dreamed that telling my husband I was pregnant would be a grand experience, or at the very least romantic. In reality, all I could muster up was shouting down from the landing, “Ummmm, I’m pregnant.” We both just stared at each other in disbelief (after I made him read the instructions and verify the results) before I ran back upstairs and took a second test of a different brand. Yep, pregnant again.
There were many happy tears and hugs involved and the constant repetition of, “I can’t believe it.”
We went away on our trip the next day and it ended up being perfect timing. It was amazing having some time away from work and family to adjust to the idea as a couple – we were going to be parents! We spent time in the car making lists of projects we wanted to complete before the baby’s arrival, things we’d need to buy and purchasing parenting books on Amazon.
That weekend we saw many of our family members during various family events and somehow managed to keep our big news hush hush. At that point, we were still planning our grand announcements.
OK, this is where things got interesting. COVID-19 started to infiltrate the U.S. and our feelings of bliss were soon accompanied by feelings of anxiety and fear. At the time, there was limited research on the effects COVID-19 could have on a pregnant woman and her unborn child. We were terrified to leave the house.
With no one informed of our pregnancy, we experienced feelings of severe isolation. We had no one to relate to and no one to understand what we were going through – people didn’t understand why were were being hypersensitive to the virus and the fact that it was slowly inching closer and closer to our small town in Central New York.
Time that should have been spent telling our families or researching names was replaced with 10 pm apocalypse shopping sessions at Walmart and thinking up ways to convince our employers that we should all, in fact, be working from home. We didn’t want to announce the pregnancy too early but we also didn’t want to risk going into the office every day. I tried calling our doctor to see if they would write me a note that would allow me to work from home, but the government had not yet started taking the virus seriously and my healthcare provider wasn’t allowed to write me a note to work from home on the basis that I was pregnant. Andy and I were both incredibly frustrated by this response and began strategizing how we were going to achieve our end goal of leaving the house as little as possible.
Thankfully, some fears were assuaged when both of our physical offices closed shortly after, thankfully also still leaving us with our jobs. And thank God I was allowed to work from home indefinitely…
Weeks 6 & 7
Picture this: I am Regina George in “Mean Girls” and morning sickness is the big, yellow school bus. It hit me and it hit me hard. Neither my mom or grandmother had experienced extensive morning sickness so I had never worried about it too much. It’s different for everyone (or so I’m told) but I was woefully unprepared for just how awful it can be.
For those who have never experienced morning sickness, imagine having the worst hangover of your life for several months straight, with no relief, no cures and about a hundred different triggers. Oh – and none of the fun that comes with inducing a hangover.
For me, triggers included the smell of basically all food (coffee brewing and meat cooking were the worst), computer screens (this made work extremely difficult), an empty stomach (I had to eat carbs nonstop), loud noises, the list goes on and on. Thankfully, I wasn’t puking (yet) so I didn’t have to worry about the baby getting proper nutrients (Thank you, prenatal vitamins!).
This was a very difficult time for me as I had to adjust to a diet without vegetables and most forms of protein – I just couldn’t fathom the idea of eating a piece of broccoli or any kind of meat. The thought alone would send my stomach up into my throat. As someone who tracks macros and previous strove for as small percentage of body fat as possible, my bread and cracker diet was incredibly humbling.
Workouts that I once found simple were already leaving me breathless and my all-carbs, all-the-time diet was finding my high-rise jeans a little too snug for comfort. These factors brought on feelings of depression. I didn’t feel like “me” anymore.
My husband was an amazing support system during this time and picked up all of the house chores and taking care of our dogs while I was essentially incapacitated. He also listened to my endless crying and moaning and responded only with love. He is an amazing human being and deserves a medal.
It was during this time that I had my first real prenatal appointment. We were both heartbroken to learn the day before the appointment that Andy would not be able to accompany me due to visitor limitations (the government was taking things more seriously now). We tried calling different doctors’ offices, desperately trying to find a place that would allow my husband to see his child’s heartbeat for the first time but it as a no-go due to federal restrictions.
We accepted the rules for what they were, reminding ourselves that the most important thing was knowing that our baby was healthy and safe, and I attended the appointment by myself. It was a strange experience, as I always pictured Andy being by my side during the entire process. But while he wasn’t by my side physically, he was as there for me as much as he possibly could be – driving me to the appointment and waiting in the car until I could come out with ultrasound photos and video clips of our baby’s heartbeat.
I remember my doctor asking how I’ve been holding up. I also remember I started to tell her about the morning sickness and got about 2 words in before breaking down and crying. I was so physically distraught – I had never experienced sickness like this in my entire life and virus restrictions were making it difficult to get the foods and medications I needed from the store.
My doctor suggested B-6 for the morning sickness and assured me that most of the pregnant women she had been seeing felt the same way I did – none of us had planned to be pregnant during a global crisis. Because pharmacy runs weren’t really an option in our house, I immediately texted Andy who ordered tablets from his spot in the parking lot (of course delayed shipping times didn’t see the B-6 at my door until a week later).
Despite my distress, there was a bright moment when after my appointment I was able to show Andy a video of his baby’s heart beat and our first ultrasound photos. It wasn’t the way we imagined the moment but it was magical just the same.
Weeks 8 & 9
And this is where my no-puke streak ended. My nauseous-all-the-time state quickly transformed to nauseous-all-the-time AND puking 2-3 times every day. According to my astute Google research, this is a pretty normal amount of daily hurling so I’m grateful it wasn’t more extreme than that. It was around this time that cheese puffs became my ironic best friend and one of the only foods I could eat.
I spent much of this time lying on the floor (in stretch pants of course), scrolling through blog articles searching for home remedies for morning sickness and only slightly seriously wishing I had been born a man.
Weeks 10 & 11
Sweet relief from morning sickness finally started to ease by week 11. I was still overcome with extreme fatigue (passing out on the couch around 8:30 pm every night) but the future started to look hopeful.
Andy and I still didn’t know the gender of our baby at this point but had already managed to nail down a favorite name for both sexes.
Time for the second prenatal appointment! COVID-19 prevention methods were even stricter during this visit, with everyone having to wear a mask and all patients forbidden from checking in to their appointment inside the building. I had to call to check in to my appointment and wait for a nurse to come out and point to our car before getting my temperature checked at the door and going in for my appointment.
Much like the first, Andy was unable to go with me but unlike the first, Baby Janitz went from looking like a bean to an actual human being! It was very surreal having a human silhouette pop up on that grainy black and white screen.
It was during this appointment that I also had my blood drawn for chromosomal testing on the baby (Spoiler alert: Baby Janitz has promising chromosomes!) that would also determine the baby’s sex.
Like the first appointment, Andy waited for me out in the parking lot and we were able to have our moment of looking at the videos and ultrasounds together. It was amazing watching the baby moving around and we were even treated to some 3D images.
It was that weekend that we finally shared our big news with our family members. We had been waiting to tell them until we could share the news in-person and thankfully the weather was warm enough that we were able to employe methods like socially-distanced BBQs and campfires to share our good news.
Our family members have all been so excited for us which has been truly heartwarming, and we’re enjoying having something positive to focus on during these uncertain times. The first trimester was nothing if not memorable. I’m excited to see what the next two have in store.