Second Trimester: Reflections on food & body image throughout pregnancy

Recap: first trimester WAS HARD. I was nauseous the entire time and every day was a matter of just getting by.


>>You can read about my first trimester here<<


Second trimester is weeks 13-28 which for me was early May to mid-August. Just like I did with the first trimester, I'm sharing some of my takeaways and experiences I had around my body and food.


I apologize if the documenting of my pain begins to feels excessive. I am primarily documenting my experience here for myself so I can remember what I went through and be proud of all my body has survived and accomplished! Bonus points if some of my reflections feel valuable to you!


Let's dive in!

 
Gratitude

When second trimester rolled around, I was very hopeful that I was nearing the end of my nausea and fatigue misery since everyone raves about how great second trimester is.


It took a couple of weeks, but around week 14 I woke up one morning without nausea. I remember laying in bed waiting for it to hit, surprised that I had slept in as late as I did since the nausea/hunger combo had previously been waking me up in the wee hours of the morning, and having a moment of disbelief that “wait, could I actually be nausea free?!” The next thought I had was something along the lines of “THANK GOD.”

gratitude candle, body gratitude, body appreciation, body acceptance

This moment of saying “thank you” was a very big deal for me. Ever since my chronic pain started over 5 years ago, I have had trouble tapping into gratitude. Especially in the morning.


The first sensation I feel every day is pain. The first thing I’m aware of upon leaving my dream state is discomfort and the dawning awareness of “Here I go again. Breathe through it. Try to not be discouraged. Try to focus on an area of your body that doesn’t hurt. You’ve got this. You can make it through this day.”


Typically, it is hard for me to wake up and have immediate thoughts of "wow I'm so grateful for this day and all the amazing things I have in my life!"


BUT. Something happened in those precious few days after my nausea subsided. I felt SO MUCH RELIEF AND GRATITUDE.


I remember going to therapy that week and describing how wonderful it felt to experience gratitude first thing in the morning rather than dread or sadness. I explained that the nausea was so miserable that it put my chronic pain in perspective for me and so now I might be able to wake up every day for the rest of my life feeling grateful that at least I wasn’t in pain AND nauseous. It was so monumental I thought it may have been life-changing.


I was clearly very optimistic about the power of relativity. 😂 I was hopeful that this experience of gratitude would last forever. As I discovered a mere couple of weeks later, however, the memories of how intense the nausea were began to fade. My chronic pain sensations became more prominent in my awareness and I began to forget that things “could be worse.”


I don’t have any profound lessons to share here, but I want to document and remember those special days of waking up realizing that I wasn’t nauseous and truly feeling and embodying gratitude in a way that I haven’t in YEARS.


Even if that gratitude has diminished and I’ve returned to my pain being more prominent in my awareness I will still remember and appreciate the experience of relief. The experience of perspective and relativity. The awareness that things could be worse.


Gratitude might not be my default anymore, but its something I can tap into and recall because its not such a distant memory.


 

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Body discomforts

May and June were quite lovely overall. Then July and August rolled around which is the peak of NYC summer.


This was only my second summer living in NYC and I honestly forgot how brutal they are. Unlike the South (where I’m from and am well-acquainted with hot and humid weather), NYC doesn’t have central air conditioning. Nor do I have a car with air conditioning. Nor do restaurants have air conditioning.

NYC summer, hot weather, pregnancy, second trimester
A snapshot from August 9th 😱

So basically this means I was HOT. Very, very, very HOT for a chunk of second trimester. I was sweating all the time. In my apartment, walking outside, in the subway station, as soon as I stepped out the shower, and even in restaurants that keep it "cool" with fans and window units.


The affect this had on my body, was 1) increased joint pain 2) increased swelling (which in some cases probably contributed to the joint pain).


My usual joint pain started getting worse in July. Possibly due to the growing baby, but I think most of it was due to the heat since historically my pain has increased during summer.


Also during this time, my fingers and feet began to swell significantly. They were both noticeably puffy, tender, and sore from morning 'til evening which sounds relatively minor on its own, but when you combine that with full body joint pain and seemingly buckets of sweat, I experienced a lot of physical discomfort.


I was prepared to handle my normal joint pain, but walking around on swollen and tender feet and not being able to use my fingers properly due to their pain and swelling left me feeling irritable, grumpy, and very, very eager to stand in front of our A/C window units whenever I had the chance.


 
Body image

Even though my body felt different during first trimester, it didn't start changing shape until second trimester.


Pretty early on, I started outgrowing my pants and shoes (swollen feet strike again!). As I write this (in my third trimester) I can still fit into most of my non-maternity shirts because I tend to wear loose fitting clothes that had lots of room for growth.


I invested in 3 pairs of maternity pants which I’ve worn almost every day since purchasing them. And I had one pair of flip flops that still fit my expanding feet which became a summer outfit staple.

 
pregnancy bump, second trimester, body image, baby bump
Just two pregnant ladies casually comparing our bumps!

My body shape began to change gradually and subtly. I naively thought every pregnant person got a perfectly round, basketball sized bump that just popped straight out early into pregnancy. This is how you let the world know you're pregnant right? Wrong!


Different bellies take on different shapes and different bellies grow at different rates!


So although my body was definitely changing shape - my belly was undoubtedly growing - I wouldn’t say I looked stereotypically pregnant.


Although I would have the occasional passing thought "I wonder if people can tell I'm pregnant" I didn't get hooked on thoughts of worrying whether people thought I was pregnant, had gained weight, or thought I was a curvy girl with a thick middle. I attribute this to the healing work I've done with my body. There is so much freedom to be found in just existing as we are and not worrying about what others may or may not be thinking about us.


If you anticipate being pregnant someday, I encourage you to start doing the healing work nowwww. Your body is going to change in so many ways and its important to have a strong foundation before entering this new terrain!

 

The primary sadness/insecurity I had during second trimester was preparing myself for stretch marks. As superficial as it is, my belly is one area of my body that doesn't currently have any scars or marks on it and I like how cute and innocent it looks.


I have a hunch that stretch marks are in my near future and feel an anticipatory sadness as I wait for the day to arrive where I wake up and see new markings on my belly. I know I will come to accept them and understand they are the result of growing a freaking human. AND its still okay to grieve when a body part we love changes into something different!


 

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?

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The Glucose Test

Ohhhh the glucose test. 😱😬 The glucose test is the first step in screening for gestational diabetes. Around week 24, I drank a sugary drink and then had my blood drawn an hour later to see how my body responded to the sugar.


You can either “pass” or “fail” this initial test.


Passing means you are in the clear and there’s no signs of gestational diabetes. Failing means that your levels were high enough to warrant more testing, but doesn’t necessarily mean you have gestational diabetes. If you fail, you progress to another test which is more thorough involving drinking another sugary drink and getting blood drawn over a 3 hour period. These results ultimately determine whether you have gestational diabetes or not.


A couple of things I noticed about this experience: 1) the pass/fail word choices 2) my emotions and thoughts that arose at the idea of having gestational diabetes.


First, let’s discuss the use of “pass” and “fail” in regards to this “test.”


What other types of medical procedures do you “pass” or “fail?”


If my iron levels are low, a doctor would say “Your iron levels are low and you need to take iron supplements.” They wouldn’t say “You failed the iron test.”


Or perhaps if screening for a disease they may say the results came back “positive” or “negative.” Meaning something was either present or absent.


Neither of these phrasings imply that YOU and YOUR BODY have succeeded or failed. Its simply a communication of results.


The verbiage around glucose tests could just as easily be “your glucose levels were in a range that warrant further testing.” or “Your glucose levels were in a range that confirm you don’t have gestational diabetes.” That feels SO different to me than “you passed or failed this test.”


Throughout the remainder of pregnancy I’ve had to tell multiple providers whether I “passed” or “failed” my initial glucose test. With each provider its a moment where I'm prompted to either feel proud or shameful of my results.


People will tell you that its not a big deal to fail the initial screening. But even if someone knows that the initial glucose test isn’t a reflection of their overall health, they are still having to report “I/my body failed” multiple times. The words we say matter. They impact the way we think about and connect with our bodies.


 


gestational diabetes, glucose screening, glucose drink, pregnancy
My face = my feelings about this drink and test

The other thing I want to talk about is some of my own fears that arose at the idea of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I want to share this to show that I’m a real human that’s been raised in diet-culture too and even though I’ve done immense amounts of rewiring and unlearning around diabetes apparently there’s still a part of me that was worried about being diagnosed with it.


Diabetes carries so. much. stigma. in our society. There are so many assumptions and stereotypes that accompany a diabetes diagnosis.


Many of my clients fear getting a diabetes diagnosis and use this fear as a motivator for engaging in diet-culture, restrictive eating patterns, and closely monitoring specific foods and nutrients.


I spend a lot of time with clients debunking myths around diabetes, helping them rebuild trust with their bodies, and mentally preparing for the diagnosis if they think its in their near future in a way that’s full of compassion and understanding.


I do all of this because I truly believe that having diabetes doesn’t say anything about your character or worthiness as a human and its definitely not something I’m going to use to judge or make assumptions about your diet and exercise habits.


I believe all of that 👆 AND YET I still had fears show up around the idea of having to tell people I have gestational diabetes, if I were to receive that diagnosis.


Because despite what I know to be true about my health and my body, I was worried what other people would think. Especially as an intuitive eating counselor. Would this make me less credible? What might other people make up about my lifestyle and eating habits?


I’m sharing this with you because I think its important to see how deeply these fears can run. I’m not proud of these thoughts. And honestly, I was very surprised by them. I thought I would go into this test feeling detached from the results. I thought that’d I’d be able to handle a “pass” or “fail” equally well and be able to brush it off as no biggie either way. But the truth is, I was nervous.


It turns out I did end up “passing” the initial test which means I had no indicators of gestational diabetes. And I felt so much relief at this news.


The sad part is that I wasn’t relieved for the sake of my health or for the sake of my baby. I was relieved because I knew I wouldn’t have to tell doctor after doctor that I “failed.” I was relieved that I didn’t have to tell other friends and family that I “failed.” I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to deal with the reactions and assumptions people make about my health and ability to take care of my body.


And that’s when you know we have a problem. When we are fearing a diagnosis not because of the actual health implications, but because of the ways society FEELS and TALKS about that diagnosis.


 
Off-limit foods

Since I wasn’t nauseous anymore, I became more aware of all the foods and drinks that were off-limits during pregnancy that suddenly sounded really delicious and appealing.


Although I didn’t need pregnancy to confirm what I already know to be true about food restriction, it did. When something is off limits, we crave it more. It gains power in our minds. It becomes alluring and shiny.


Never have I ever thought about a bagel and lox as much as I have during the past 6 months. I’m not supposed to have smoked fish and so now ALL I WANT is smoked fish. I have visions and dreams of devouring all the foods that I currently can't eat right now during pregnancy.


This sort of fantasizing and dreaming is common in people who diet. And even though I can observe and understand what’s happening to me, its still uncomfortable.


Its not fun to sit around and focus on all the food and drinks I can’t have and just dream about the day that I can. This is often a frequent experience for people on a diet. Dreaming of and waiting around for the day when they can eat whatever they want. Whether that time is on your “cheat day,” vacations, or a special occasion


Psst... with Intuitive Eating you can enjoy the foods you love YEAR-ROUND - no special occasions necessary.


>> Check out this blog post for an introduction to Intuitive Eating <<

 
Other updates and fun facts

👶🏻 The second trimester is the first time I felt baby existing! I started feeling pressure increasing in my lower abdomen. Then I started to feel “flutters” or little tickles of movement within me. These sensations continued to get stronger with every week that passed until baby’s kick actually started feeling like a kick!


😭 I definitely got more emotional towards the end of second trimester. I noticed the tears came more easily and irritability was closer to the surface (as mentioned, I think a large part of this was due to the heat and all the discomfort that caused me although I’m sure hormones were at play as well!)


💃🏻 I started moving my body again!! When I noticed I had more energy and decreased nausea, I got a gym membership in our neighborhood (to be fully transparent I probably went 6 times total before cancelling the membership), took my favorite dance classes at Broadway Dance Center, and did some online prenatal yoga classes. This was another instance in which I felt gratitude for what my body could do after having so many weeks of hardly being able to stand.


 

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 around your relationships with food and your body, I'm here for you.

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

I wrote this blog post mid-way through my third trimester and so much has changed already! I can't wait to share it with you after baby is born! ❤

 

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!