First Trimester: Reflections on food & body image throughout pregnancy

Updated: Sep 24

At the time of writing this - July 2022 - I’m pregnant! 🎉 Cue: the emotions. the changes. the uncertainty. the joy.

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Sweet lil babe at their 12 week appointment

There are many aspects of pregnancy that I could document and share with you, but I am especially interested in paying attention to my relationship with my body and food over the next year. This is an area of life in which I've done a lot of personal work, I've studied and researched, and now the area I work clinically as a coach.


But pregnancy is unique. It's new. It's uncharted territory.


Things will be happening with my body that I've never encountered before and I want to take you along for the ride with me - keeping it as honest and real as I can!


I’ll be writing a blog post reflecting on each of my trimesters + postppartum and this post is all about my first trimester.




 

First trimester - the first 13 weeks of pregnancy.

I found out I was pregnant on week 4 (2 weeks after ovulation). My first physical symptoms started between ovulation and getting a positive pregnancy test. I had to pee all the time and was thirstier than I’d ever been. Even though I was acutely aware of these needs for water and peeing, I didn’t connect the dots and link it with pregnancy prior to taking the test.

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Got that ultrasound glow

Once I saw the positive pregnancy test in week 4 I started feeling very sick shortly after. From weeks 4-14, I was extremely nauseous. I would wake up between 4:30-7 am every morning nauseous and with a need to EAT.


Normally when you have a stomach bug eating isn’t the most desirable activity, but this pregnancy nausea was different. Food was one of the only things that helped the nausea subside just a little bit. I was nauseous every day from early morning to about 8 pm every night. During the first trimester, I ate A LOT of food. I was constantly eating.


Also during the first trimester, I was extremely tired - fatigued - and had little energy or ability to move my body due to the combination of nausea and need for sleep. It wasn't a fun time.


That's a rough sketch of the facts; let's unpack them a little.


 

Nausea

Sitting in extreme nausea for 10 weeks can do a number on your psyche and mood. There was no escape and no relief.


I live in NYC so the streets are smelly (think trash, urine, and cigarettes, YUM), my sense of smell was 1000x stronger and heightened due to preg hormones, and I travel everywhere by subway, train, or bus which don’t have fresh air circulating and can be bumpy. I was also wearing a mask 90% of the time I wasn’t in my apartment. All of these factors made leaving the apartment a struggle and made it very hard to go about my days. But I had clients to see and work to do.


I didn't realize how challenging it would be to have to suffer in silence/secrecy. I didn't tell anyone about my pregnancy, even my family, until week 10. I won't get into the pros and cons of how I made that decision here, but that's what felt best for me.


Although it was my choice to keep the pregnancy quiet, it wasn't easy. I was talking to friends and family and pretending that all was well even though I was laying in bed all day cursing my existence. I was having session after session with my clients while sipping peppermint tea, sucking on ginger chews, and hoping I wasn’t going to have to bolt to the bathroom.


So keeping my struggles hidden was one unanticipated challenge. But for those who I did confide in, I faced the challenge of questioning how much I should discuss my discomfort with them. Something I’ve encountered throughout my years of dealing with chronic pain is navigating the dance between naming my pain versus feeling like I’m complaining.


There’s some benefit to letting people around you know that “hey, I’m in pain and struggling right now.” It’s helpful to explain why I can't do certain things or why I might be in an irritable mood. And it just helps to feel seen and understood.


But when something is constant and chronic it reaches a point where I assume people around me know I'm perpetually struggling to some degree. Continuing to name the pain/nausea begins to feel like complaining. I want to feel seen, but I don't want to feel like a broken record that's whining all the time.


It's such a push and pull that I face with my chronic pain and also faced with my nausea and fatigue. Just for a little perspective, 10 weeks is over 2.5 months!! That's a long time to feel really sick and not know whether to whine about it or not!


Thankfully I have a therapist and her job is to listen to all the complaining. I looked forward to my weekly therapy sessions where I could cry and vent and share my fear that this would never end and express how I never want to be pregnant again and just let out any and all the thoughts (some rational, some not) and emotions.


 

I send out periodic love notes, educational tips & tricks, and alerts about new blog posts!


Want to stay in the loop on my pregnancy journey and get a dose of Intuitive Eating support along the way?


👇 Come join the party! I would love to meet you!


 

Food

As I mentioned, eating was one of the only things that helped my nausea subside a little. Because of this, I'm SO GRATEFUL for all the work I’ve done around my relationship with food.


I experienced a hunger like I'd never felt before during the first trimester. It was a gnawing at my insides that reappeared every couple of hours.


I would like to think this intensity of hunger would be hard for anyone to ignore, but diet culture and fatphobia have such a strong hold on people that some might have found it challenging to eat in response to their body's hunger cues as frequently as I did.


I was able to listen to what my body wanted and needed without rules, shoulds, or guilt. I was able to allow all foods and eat bagel after bagel for weeks on end if that’s what my body needed first thing every morning. I was able to honor my hunger with no objections or exceptions. I was able to connect with my body with a nonjudgmental listening ear and say "okay, whatever you need, I've got you."


Intuitive Eating is beneficial at any time in your life, but it's especially helpful to be familiar with these skills and ready to go when your body starts changing and needing things in a new way.

Intuitive Eating is flexible eating and pregnancy requires flexibility.


 

Fatigue and movement

During the first trimester, I. was. tired. No, not tired. Exhausted. No, not exhausted. Fatigued.


It was similar to the lack of energy that accompanies a depressive episode. I was able to easily fall asleep at any time of day. I don’t normally nap so easily or accidentally doze off on the subway or need to rest my head on the escalator railing for the 30-second ride up because it felt like too much work to keep my head upright. It was intense.


With the nausea and fatigue combo, moving my body was pretty much off the table. Because getting around in NYC requires walking, I did continue to get outside and walk, even if only a short distance, most days. But besides this, I dropped all other forms of movement.

pregnancy, motherhood, midwives, body image, trauma informed
My amazinggg midwifery center.

I stopped going to physical therapy and stopped taking dance classes. Thankfully my midwives were very understanding about how challenging the first trimester can be and never made me feel like I was doing harm to my body or my baby by resting so much.


I had to trust that this wouldn’t last forever. I had to trust that my energy would return. I had to trust that laying in bed and sleeping was what I needed right now and that my body would let me know when it had the energy to move again.



I was able to ride this wave due to all the healing work I’ve done around “shoulds,” movement, and being able to listen to my body. The first trimester would have been so much harder if I faced all the things I was already dealing with AND ADDITIONALLY felt guilty about it all.


I had no guilt. I had no concerns that I was doing something wrong or eating too much or exercising too little. I feel confident in my ability to listen to my body and understand that we are on this ride together. We are a team. ❤

 

I send out periodic love notes, educational tips & tricks, and alerts about new blog posts!


Want to stay in the loop on my pregnancy journey and get a dose of Intuitive Eating support along the way?


👇 Come join the party! I would love to meet you!

 

Body Image

More than anything, I spent the first trimester reflecting on the future of my body. I prepared myself for the upcoming changes. I spent time appreciating the body I currently have knowing it will never be the same after growing and birthing a baby - there was some grieving to be done here as well.


I can tell you now in hindsight that my body did not change shape for the majority of the first trimester, but even as early as week 6 of pregnancy, I felt different. Whether it was bloating, the amount of food I was eating, or just the anticipation of having a baby bump, my body felt different and I found myself wondering if I looked different.


But I couldn't tell. I would look in the mirror and be uncertain of what I saw. Is that bloating? Weight gain? A baby bump? My imagination? WHAT IS REAL?!


It can be disorienting and confusing when it feels like you don’t “know” what you look like. This is something I discuss with my clients often. Many people wonder if what they see in the mirror is the same thing others see when they look at them. Or they feel lost and confused about “What size am I really?”What do I actually look like?”


Just as I instruct my clients to do, during times like this I had to ask myself “Does it matter?”


Does it matter if I know exactly what I look like or can pinpoint whether the heaviness I'm feeling is weight gain vs. bloating? Does it matter if I have gained weight due to eating so much versus the baby growing?


How can I detach from needing to know what I look like? How can I accept that whatever my size or however anyone perceives it, it is what it is? Maybe I don't need to "know" what, if anything, has changed about my body. Can I sit in this unknown? Can I place my attention elsewhere?


THIS was the inner work I had to do. Being able to sit in the unknown. To accept that the way my body feels right now may or may not be indicative of the way it looks. To accept that all the changes I was feeling internally may or may not be visible to the eye. And if the changes were visible to others... what does it matter.


Remember, at this point, I haven't announced that I'm pregnant so any changes that others may have noticed about my body are fully left up to their interpretation. I had to be okay with this and return to the belief that "It doesn't matter." It doesn't matter what others think about me.


 

If you've ever wondered when might be a good time to start healing your relationships with food, your body, and movement... the time is now.


When faced with challenging experiences such as a body that's changing shape, a decrease or increase in appetite, a loss of mobility or ability, or any of the gazillion other things that can happen to our impermanent bodies and selves... its helpful to have done the healing work ahead of time as much as possible. At least enough to have a foundation to build off of.


I'll be on maternity leave from November 2022 - January 2023, but if you're reading this before or after those dates and want support, I'm here for you. Seriously.


>>You can learn more about my 1:1 coaching here.<<


I wrote this blog post mid-way through my second trimester and so much has changed already! I can't wait to share it with you in a couple of months! ❤


**Update: Second trimester has come and gone! Read all of my thoughts and reflections on second trimester here!

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