I am sitting here on the eve of my change-over to trimester 3, so I figured it was a good time to recap my thought process/learning curve for trimester 2. If you haven’t read my thoughts on the first three months of pregnancy, they might offer up some context or explanation for why I’m not discussing certain issues.
First things first, let’s bust some myths.
Things People Tell You About Trimester 2
1. The “honeymooon phase” of pregnancy – that wonderful story about how you will get an energy surge in the second trimester and just feel GREAT, so healthy and glowing and full of energy and life. THAT STORY IS A FUCKING LIE. Sure, you get an energy boost compared to the first trimester. I got most of my brain back and most of my energy. I’d say probably 80% of both. But not 110%. Not even 100%. Just comparatively more than the 50% I had the first few months.
This means that my day job remains a crushing burden for me, especially with regard to my personal projects (like writing). It means that I wear myself out for two days doing things that I would normally not even notice doing the next day.
I recommend not mentioning that you are tired. The only response from smug already-parents will be to point out how much more tired you will be when you are chronically sleep-deprived as a new parent. These statements piss me off, ESPECIALLY from men. You know what? I haven’t been there yet, so maybe they’re right…but where I *have* been in are situations like, oh, say, my last three semesters of college where I was averaging about 35 hours of studying after my classes and another 20 hours of actual work on top of that and somehow managing to party and see my friends and my boyfriend all the time. I managed this by getting about 6 hours of sleep every night for 18 months. I know what chronic exhaustion feels like, and I know what pushing myself to my physical limit feels like, AND IT IS NOT THE SAME THING AS WHAT BEING PREGNANT HAS DONE TO ME. There is a different kind of exhaustion to just being short of sleep and busy all the time than from not having the energy you should because your body is expending so much of its energy on an automated process you have no control over and cannot stop your body from spending its resources to do.
So all you can do, even once the horrific exhaustion of the first trimester wears off around week 14, is plan to be about 75% of the person you used to be. For me, alas, this has translated to putting day job first, husband and friends and family second, and any other ambition or hobby I have last. I should be using the last child-free months to write like mad. Instead I’m spending them wearing myself out at work physically and mentally and then mentally collapsing (if not physically anymore) the second I get home.
2. Now that you’re past the first trimester you won’t worry so much about something going wrong and can finally start to love your baby! Wrong. I am just not cut out for loving abstractions and likelihoods. Up till the 20-week anatomy scan turned up normal, there was every chance some medical deal-breaker could happen (any of the things the retard test scans for, severe deformation, etc. I was not going to deal with any of that.) Even after we got normal results, I have not felt a whole lot of certainty. I don’t feel uncertainty, either – I know that the likelier outcome is a baby – but there wasn’t some magical switch that flipped in my head like suddenly I’m having a baby and I get all excited about this specific baby. Eh. No. I’d be very sad if I lost it, but not devastated. It remains an abstraction.
Since I crossed the 24-week viability barrier, I have gone back to percentages. (The gone-back-to is from when I told my friends I was pregnant: I said I was 93% pregnant, bc that still allowed for the 7% of pregnancies that end in miscarriage between 6 weeks and 12 weeks.) Starting with 24 weeks: I have 39% of a kid. I have 50% of a kid. I have 70% of a kid. Right now I have 90% of a kid…almost the same probability as a term pregnancy yields. So my baby has gone from a likelihood to a probability, and that is comforting. Perhaps I can finally let go of some of my emotional guards?
3. Feeling your baby move will be some special life-altering moment. No. For about a month I wasn’t even sure if what I was feeling was the baby, because the way it felt to me didn’t match the way it was always described (either, like a butterfly or like a gas bubble that never descends to become a fart). To me, the first movements felt like a muscle twitch – one of those involuntary spasms that you sometimes get in your thigh, or your cheek, or your eyelid. Maybe I’m a freak and no one else gets those or notices them. Most of the time the baby still feels like that when it moves, although the last week or two it’s gotten some good wallops in. Oh, and for a month or so some of the movements have felt like a tail whipping through liquid (okay, those are a bit weird). But even after I realized what I was feeling was definitely the babe, none of the movements have been either supremely beautiful sources of wonderment or extremely horrific alien sensations of some Thing that is not me being inside me. Just prosaic twitches that feel right at home with things I have felt many times before, or pops and twangs that are gone almost before I register them.
About the only part of the movement myth I agree with is that it is comforting to feel the baby moving and know with certainty vs. a lack of evidence otherwise that I have not accidentally killed it since my last appointment.
Things People Don’t Tell You About Trimester 2
4. The financial burdens of childbearing begin when you start having the regular 4-week appointments.
Maybe for some people this is not true. But I work a day job where I punch in and out on a time clock and get paid to the minute for the time I am on the job. My prenatal appointments are excused absences, but they are time I am not punched in on the clock. My OB, whom I selected because she is natural-birth focused and by all accounts the best advocate in the city for a natural birth no matter what the circumstance (breech, twin, VBAC, etc.), is worth the wait. But sometimes that wait is 3 hours in her office…plus, of course, commute time to and from my place of work. That’s a full half-day I sometimes miss for a routine check-in. WTF. It’s way too much time to make up on other days in my current state of tiredness (in fact some weeks I can’t even manage 40 hours without an appointment, yet another financial blow), and it frankly sucks. Nobody warned me about that.
5. Sitting at your desk at work becomes torturous. I always thought the middle trimester was supposed to be minimal in terms of physical symptoms – you’re over the morning sickness and not yet weighed down with 20+ extra pounds on your belly and back. Wrong! If you sit at a desk all day, no matter how much you have to get up and walk, your back will hurt. You will get stiff and arthritic. Oh, and you’re farting for two, which you can’t just let go of in an office, so your intestines will swell up and get tight and crampy since, inevitably, by the time you get to the bathroom the bubble has worked itself back up into your intestinal tract and won’t descend now that you’re in private.
6. Your co-workers will start to get oddly invasive of your personal space and philosophy. The first thing I think is weird is that co-workers want to know how you plan to deliver – if you’re going to induce, if you’re going to have an epidural, if you’re going to have your husband in the room with you. In the first place, why is it any of your business?, and in the second place, why are you asking if you’re only going to (1) smirk when I tell you I am planning on a medication- and intervention-free birth and say, “Yeah, you say that now” and (2) tell me your (or your wife’s) horror story about how awful and hard childbirth was. I guess it’s the culture of trying to prepare someone, but I personally find the whole “let me tell you our war story” pretty distasteful. It propagates fear of a natural process and sows seeds of doubt about whether you can make it through the experience without giving up and asking for help managing pain. I am not suggesting that I think childbirth will not hurt or that it will be easy, but I am not afraid of it, and I know that my mother did it twice, and I’ve always felt like if she can do it, I can do it (in terms of dealing with pain/trauma/endurance/etc.). But those are intensely personal feelings, and they are hard to articulate in a way that can convey my conviction to someone who/whose partner chose a different path. Inevitably that smugness creeps in, that “I’ve been somewhere you haven’t, and I know better than you what you’re up against.” No. You know what YOU were up against; you have no idea what I will be up against.
Beyond the philosophy, it’s kind of awkward and, again, intrusive, to hear stories about my male colleagues’ wives’ busted up vaginas and know that on some level my male colleagues are thinking about where mine will be in a few months.
Once you start showing, people around you also feel so free to make all kinds of comments/physical gestures they would never dream of doing if you were not pregnant. Everything from comments on how big you’re getting to how fast your belly is growing to actually reaching out to touch you when you do not have that kind of friendship. The weight comments just make you feel self-conscious, even though you swore to yourself you wouldn’t be bothered by the fact that you’re getting bigger – you’re pregnant, after all – maybe because they make you feel like some sort of freak. “Oh my God you’re that big already!? And you have 4 months to go?!” Well…guess what. If you’re not some skinny little petite thing who stays skinny with a round belly, or someone so fat you really can’t see an extra 20-30 pounds of belly, you’re going to get big. I don’t know if y’all (my readers) have seen Away We Go or not, but I am carrying like Maya Rudolph in that movie: my 6 months is someone else’s 8 1/2 months. And I’m watching both my overall weight and my backfat…it’s not me putting on weight. It’s baby and accouterments. Just how I carry, how the women in my family carry. But the comments about it make me feel…uncomfortable. They make me worry about how big I will get before the end.
But the comments don’t bother me nearly as much as the urge to touch my belly does. I am not a touch-feely person in general. I have a handful of people in my life with whom I am truly physically comfortable, but I do not extend touch casually, even to people I consider friends. Best friends only. And I find it offensive that I have to draw, sometimes rudely, boundaries around myself now that I would never have to draw if I were not (obviously) pregnant. Why is it that our culture seems to think it’s okay to touch and fondle the body of a pregnant woman whom we would not touch like that were she not pregnant? Unless you are one of the 5 people on this earth who could just come up to me and rub my belly under normal circumstances, you had better not fucking touch it now that it’s sticking out in front of me like a train engine. My belly is not community property. My body is not suddenly owned by society; it is mine, and just because I don’t have “no trespassing” signs posted doesn’t mean I am inviting everyone in the world to share my property.
I haven’t had an actual stranger accost me yet, but I’ve had to point out to at least one co-worker that I “don’t know you like that.” It wasn’t a big deal, but the fact that I had to say it at all is just weird and wrong.
A Few Other Observations
If you are a married INTJ, chances are you have a husband who is equally rational (anecdotally, most of the female INTJ’s I know or know of who are married are with other INTJ’s or INTP’s). This is both a blessing and a curse. On the blessing side, he has no expectations about things you should be feeling or wanting, so he won’t think you weird or insufficiently excited about your pregnancy for expressing any of the above opinions. On the curse side, if you have actual over-emotional episodes he may not deal with them particularly well…first, because it’s not who you normally are so he doesn’t know how to deal with you in that state, and second because he is skeptical of pregnancy actually causing that kind of symptom vs. women using it as an excuse. Oh, yes, we had that argument, where mine was basically like “I think you’re making up symptoms the media tells you you’re supposed to have.” Let me tell ya, it’s bad enough going through some of the weird things that stereotypically happen – even ones you thought you’d be safe from – without having someone suggest you’re trying to milk an excuse.
Overall at this point in my pregnancy I feel shockingly zen about everything. Maybe I am in denial about how much my life will change, or maybe I just have a better perspective because I still have not been struck by the baby-bug. We really haven’t done much to get the house ready…to acquire things for the baby…to change our space or routines. I dunno. I just feel like there are very few things you actually need with a new baby and an awful lot of things people want to try and sell you. The needs can be acquired in the last month, and the needs you can’t anticipate can be acquired at the point they become needs. About all we’re doing is saving money and talking about things we should research (like childcare providers). I am going to take a childbirth class, but I’m doing the two weekend afternoons version, not the 8- or 12-week prep class. I am just not that worried about it. Maybe my own ignorance and lack of preparation will slap me in the face later on…but that’s for Future Lily to deal with. Present Lily just wants to get through the goddamned week.
Three more months.