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February 29, 2012 7:43 PM   Subscribe

Help me survive my first trimester.

I feel like a big whiner writing this, but I also feel at my wit's end and really overwhelmed. I'm 8 weeks pregnant with my first child -- a very wanted pregnancy -- and it sucks to the point that I don't know how I'm going to keep going. All of the problem stem from one big one:

I feel like crap all the time. The morning sickness is severe. I'm already on medication but the medication is only somewhat effective; it prevents me from puking and being nauseated to the point of being unable to leave the house (which is how it is without medication) but I still am nauseated at intervals over the day, and still puke most days. I may be starting a stronger medication (the strongest there is, apparently) soon, which makes me feel guilty because less is known about its effects on the fetus but I am still considering it anyway. Even beyond that, though, the exhaustion is unreal. I sleep 12 hours a night and still spend the entire day in a fog. I feel like taking a nap 30 minutes after waking.

Because of this…

1. I don't feel like I can do my job. The problem is that my job is really intense - I'm a professor and research scientist. Yesterday I completely flubbed a lecture due to a combination of poor prep (thanks to the lack of energy/time), foggy brain, and nausea I was dealing with. I don't have the energy or brain capacity to do anything that requires concentration or thought, which is unfortunately most of my duties. I have tried to get rid of or postpone everything I can (including a book chapter I promised to write, almost all of my research development for new projects, any reviews, and a lot of my supervising load) but I still have to press on with some of the research projects that are ongoing, the reviews I've already committed to, the minimum for the students I already have, and the classes I have to teach. I don't know how to do this. The worst of it is that I have several grants, which means I have promised the government to do a certain amount of research in exchange for the money they are paying for -- so I can't simply decide not to do it and face the personal cost of publishing less this year. (I do have tenure at least). I have told a few of my colleagues and they are really being helpful where they can but there is only so much they can do; we all have different responsibilities and different skillsets, so nobody can take my classes or do my work for me (nor would it be fair to expect them to). My husband is also helpful, and has taken on most if not all of the domestic duties at this point, but again there is not much he can do to help at work.

2. My normal coping mechanisms are gone. I used to deal with stress by exercising (the more intense, the better) but I feel so shit all of the time that it takes all the energy I have just to walk to work. When I have tried to exercise anyway, thinking I just needed to push through it, it has made the nausea much worse. I also used to try to eat fairly well but anything with meat or smelling of anything makes me want to barf. The single best food I have found is McDonald's chicken McNuggets (I have no idea why); incidentally this is the only meat I can stand to eat. Other than that, grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, french fries, and ice cream are basically all I can handle. Fruit is okay sometimes but never makes me actually feel better the way these other things do. I feel like I'm totally messing up the baby by eating such crap, and I am sure that eating such crap all the time is part of the explanation for why I feel so bad, but I just can't eat anything else.

3. These hormones are nuts. At least I think it's the hormones -- but where I used to be a generally optimistic, happy person I have several times a day now where I just want to burst into tears, generally for a really stupid reason (like not being able to see the chalkboard, which is the most recent incident, just to give you a sense of the ridiculousness of the reasons). I lie awake at night, even while being sooo tired, getting anxious about the most objectively trivial things. The other night, for example, I become convinced I was going to get thrown in jail for defrauding the government by taking a grant and not producing enough research (I know this is absurd, and knew it then, but still spent two hours unable to sleep because of it). I feel like all I do anymore is whine. When I found out I was pregnant I was overjoyed but any excitement is completely gone. My husband feels a bit helpless in the face of my unhappiness, and (as he reminds me) this is something I wanted, but still all I can think is how much longer I have to go through this. I feel like I need to suck it up and stop being a wuss but all my mental pep talks just make me feel like more of a failure.

So… basically, I need some coping tips. I hear the second trimester is better, but on the other hand it isn't better for everyone (and my pregnancy has seemed worse than many so far) so I'm scared to hope. But even beyond that I still have at least a month, if not a month and a half, of this hideousness to get through. If I'm lucky and don't miscarry, that is.

My questions are as follows (and I'm particularly interested in hearing from women who have had hard pregnancies at the same time as difficult jobs / life situations): how did you get through the day? How do you balance things? How do you deal with the hormones? Any tips for how to get through this with my sanity intact, and hopefully without feeling unhappy and miserable every hour of every day?

Things I do not want to hear. Tips for surviving morning sickness - I have googled obsessively, I know everything out there, and nothing has worked other than medication. I also do not want to hear from anybody telling me their pregnancy was easy and nice - I'm happy for you, but this will only make me feel worse. And finally, if anybody says all this stress is bad for the baby and I should just try to relax, I will reach through this computer monitor and strangle you. If I knew how to relax and be less stressed, I wouldn't be asking this question.

Thank you in advance.
posted by forza to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Have you been diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum? Get checked for this pronto.
posted by brujita at 7:55 PM on February 29, 2012

No, I haven't -- I can keep food down -- but my doctor is keeping an eye on it in case it gets worse (and he is pretty good). Though my understanding is that if you are diagnosed, you get the same strong medication that I might be taking soon anyway.
posted by forza at 7:57 PM on February 29, 2012

I too, had a rather difficult first trimester while working full-time as a graduate student in biological sciences. I am sorry you are struggling.
How do you get through the day?
Slowly. Forgive yourself for not accomplishing everything you think you should be doing.

How do you deal with the hormones?
You don't. You probably just have to ride the crazy train. I remember walking to work one day and bursting into tears because I wanted my mommy to make it all go away. No, it wasn't rational and there was nothing I could do about it.

Get through with sanity intact?
Well, from your question, you sound like a person who places a lot of responsibility on yourself, and expects a lot from yourself. The fact that you can't meet your own expectations of what you should be able to do is probably one of the hardest things for you to deal with--at least, I know this is the case for myself. And you know, the HARDEST thing for me to learn through life was that I have to be able to forgive myself for not meeting those expectations. So go easier on yourself!

I know this is probably not what you are needing to hear. However, you are certainly not alone in the experience. You will make it.
posted by nasayre at 8:00 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

This was very much my experience, and I'm glad you don't want advice on fixing these problems because none of them ever went away for me. I just got through awful moment at a time.
I really thought to myself during the bulk of my pregnancy, "this HAS to be a joke."

The best coping strategy I found was to try and identify with the darn thing (we still call my 19 m/o the "assassin") and to cut yourself some slack while you're MAKING ANOTHER HUMAN BEING.

Also, as my mom always says, remember "this too shall pass." All the stuff that comes next will soften the bad parts.
posted by MediaMer at 8:17 PM on February 29, 2012

The fact that you can't meet your own expectations of what you should be able to do is probably one of the hardest things for you to deal with....So go easier on yourself!

Totally! A pamphlet I got from my OB had a great line about first trimester- "You are in survival mode. Do the best you can." If all you can do is eat chicken nuggets and lie on the couch, then that's what you should do. I ate whatever I could stomach during first trimester- one day, it was donut holes, the next, fruit slices candy. You are in survival mode! Do the best you can! You are not going to ruin your life by taking it easy for 5-6 weeks until this passes or lightens up.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:21 PM on February 29, 2012 [14 favorites]

I threw up 30 times a day for 7 months (and I was lecturing college classes at he time). You get through it one day at a time. And I kept reminding myself -- even if this is the worst day I ever have, and it keeps repeating, it would be over in 9 months. You can do anything for 9 months. In fact, after my rotten first pregnancy, I did it a second time. Fully as bad. But again, only 9 months. You can survive it, promise.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:21 PM on February 29, 2012 [6 favorites]

Listen, you are not alone and you're not having a freak pregnancy. It's totally okay to be utterly miserable. In reverse order, here are some thoughts:

3. Yes, it is the hormones making you weepy and foggy. This too shall pass. In the meantime, you absolutely totally 100% have to make getting sleep your priority. If you have first trimester exhaustion and then can't sleep because you're struggling with anxiety, it makes everything massively worse. You should expect to need way more than 8 hours a night right now. Pregnancy is a major and stressful transition; if on top of that you're having a lot of anxiety, I would consider seeing a therapist weekly. Not because I think you're nuts, but because if you can bawl and offload some stress for an hour a week with someone helpful and validating, a) everything will likely seem better 2) you may actually sleep better 3) you may be able to reduce your anxiety with basic theraputic techniques.

2. Eat whatever you can stomach and don't feel bad about it in the least. Seriously. Your baby is not going to be fucked up by chicken nuggets. Your palate will change through pregnancy anyway, and while it may be all carbs in the first tri, it could be all fruit (or steak or coal or green beans or God knows what) in the third tri. It's okay, really. This is age old and totally common, and people commonly have totally healthy babies. While it sucks for you right now, you may get your energy back later and be able to exercise more. In the meantime, it is impossible to sing and worry at the same time, so I would suggest trying to sing instead of exercising.

1. You are not the first pregnant woman to struggle at work, especially early and late in pregnancy. Hold on to the fact that you have tenure. Work on getting more sleep so you have a little more energy at work. Do everything you can to preserve your energy, no matter how insane you fear it will look; right now you have to treat energy like a precious and finite resource. If you have to take a taxi to your building's door every day rather than walking from home or from the parking lot, do it. If you need to schedule a nap in your office every single afternoon, do it. If you need your partner to pick you up every day, do it. You will by no means be the first woman in academia to do so. This does not make you a slacker; it makes you someone who can respond to changing circumstance.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:29 PM on February 29, 2012 [17 favorites]

Oh, pregnancy can be awful. I made two babies, somehow, and reading your question takes me back to that feeling of I-can't-survive-this. With my first, the sickness did last the whole time, and the second was more classically better after the first trimester. HOWEVER, with both kids the height of praying for the sweet release of death was around 8-9 weeks. Whether physical or mental, I'm not sure. This sounds weird, but for me it sort of feels like you get used to being sick all the time after the first month or so of puking. I even handle stomach flus better now. "Oh, this again," barf, move on with life.

You are probably more sensitive to your job performance than others around you. Get through what you can on a day to day basis. I would probably work under the assumption that things will, in fact, improve, and just try to cover for myself on any given day. Let the long term slide for now. I did find that the burst of nesting energy in the third trimester tended to carry over into the workplace. I was a terrible worker in the first trimester and great in the third - it balanced out, even though I was still sick. The nausea and the first trimester brain fog are NOT the same thing. Even if you aren't so lucky, 7 months in tenured academia is not a long time. You'll get through and people will take note that you survived. I have found that no one really expects people to have an easy time. In the long run, as a type A overachiever sort of person, the childbearing experience has made me more driven.

On the food thing, eating is for you, not the baby. Eat what makes you feel better and you can keep down. The culture of pregnancy promotes this idea that the baby is somehow constructed directly out of every single piece of food you eat during pregnancy. And yet, no baby yet has come out entirely made of Cheetos, or in my case Lucky Charms (my survival food). The baby is taking nutrients from your body and will get what it needs. Stay hydrated and eat for energy.

Stress makes cute, happy, smart babies, and I should know!
posted by pekala at 8:41 PM on February 29, 2012 [11 favorites]

What would you do if you contracted a very very serious illness and couldn't do your job? Are there provisions for short or long-term disability at the university? Because you are sick and can't do your job and this is the moment where you should make full use of that.

I wasn't nauseous after the first month or so of pregnancy, so I don't have any tips there, but I was totally exhausted in my first trimester. I slept sixteen hours a day. I had a big, stressful job at the time and before getting pregnant I was working 60+ hours a week. In the first trimester, I would struggle to get into work by 11 and many days left around 3. That was just all I had. I really encourage you to look again at your responsibilities and cut them back some more. I mean--what would they do if you died? Or suffered some catastrophic illness that meant you could not work? They'd figure something out, right? I'm just suggesting that this will not be the first time that someone hasn't been able to do everything they are supposed to do, and the world has not yet come to an end. Really allow yourself to just shirk as much as you possibly can.

This thread has some suggestions about foods that have helped other women through the crappy times of pregnancy.

Don't stress out about the baby unless your doctor tells you it's time to stress out about the baby. As I said there "this might be cold comfort, but what my midwives told me was that unless I was absolutely starving myself, the only harm that was coming was to me, not the baby. The baby'll suck the calcium right out of your bones to build its own, so you want to eat more to save yourself, but if you can't the baby will still be just fine."

It looks like the foods that are working for you are high fat. Fat builds the baby's brain! I ate a lot of McDonalds cheeseburgers while I was pregnant and I just told myself I was making the smartest baby on the block.

Pregnancy is a time when all the rules can and should be thrown out the window. If anything isn't working for you, toss it. I think this is particularly hard for extremely self-disciplined, high achieving women, but honestly once you let yourself go down that road, you'll get at least a modicum of relief.

Good luck and may the comforts of the second trimester arrive for you soon!
posted by looli at 8:44 PM on February 29, 2012 [5 favorites]

Pregnancy is awful. I used to cry frequently about how much I hated being pregnant. It did get better physically, but emotionally I was a wreck for nine months and a wreck for a few months after the baby was born, to the point where I could not function. I'm shocked I came out of it with friends and a partner because I was just a giant walking ball of misery, anxiety, and rage.

My biggest regret is not getting help--like, actual therapist or possibly psychiatrist help. Think about it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:56 PM on February 29, 2012 [1 favorite]

I too am a professor and a research scientist, and I had a pretty miserable pregnancy. One thing I did in my first trimester was to give myself permission to work at home a lot. Some weeks I only went in to teach and the rest of the time I wrote in bed. I even made my students come over for meetings on occasion. Giving myself permission to rest and work at home at my own pace made me more productive and less stressed than I would have been at work, fighting the urges to vomit and sleep under my desk.
posted by girl scientist at 9:04 PM on February 29, 2012 [4 favorites]

It sounds like you need an RA or a TA, like, yesterday. Can you get one of those?
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:16 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh and the things that helped me through, mentally, included this pregnancy calendar with a sense of humor and Let's Panic About Babies.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:27 PM on February 29, 2012 [3 favorites]

You know what, you all are totally awesome. (You made me cry! But not from anxiety or rage this time!) I don't want to mark a best answer because just hearing all of these has been really helpful. Even though the main message seems to be "there's not much you can do" -- well, perversely, that seems to help because it means that there's not something magical I should be doing. And maybe I will find it easier to be easier on myself if I honestly believe that is true.

The advice about sleep and possibly finding someone I can vent to and conserving my energy and seeing if there are additional responsibilities I can let slide and letting myself eat whatever the hell I need to eat -- all of that is good and I will do my best to take it on board. And I'm already laughing at your links, young rope-rider.

I have always been pretty bad at cutting myself some slack but maybe this is the ideal time to try to learn to get better at it.

Anyway, if any others have advice or commiseration please do keep it coming. I have been reading and rereading all of these comments and they really do help. If so many women did it, maybe I can do it too.

(Though let me say the odds of a second child are going down every day.)
posted by forza at 9:41 PM on February 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can you reach out to colleagues who have had babies? Is there a children's center, a mom group, something? You sound like you're convinced you're The Worst at being pregnant and doing your job, and I kinda doubt that's as true as you think it is. Maybe hearing from some people you know and respect in real life that they, too, flubbed some lectures and needed sleep all the time or whatever and made it out OK (and with a baby!) would help?
posted by MadamM at 10:03 PM on February 29, 2012

I have always been pretty bad at cutting myself some slack but maybe this is the ideal time to try to learn to get better at it.

Let me just mention that if you don't actively work on this now, your infant will likely school you in this with what is literally the mother of all ass-kickings. You are currently trying to keep a million balls in the air, but there will come a day with early infancy when taking a shower will be a major victory. Pregnancy teaches you to prioritise sleep so you can survive infancy. Infancy in turn teaches you to not give a flying fuck about dishes, laundry, email or bathing, because all you care about is feeding the baby, soothing the baby, the baby sleeping, and you sleeping. This is totally how it is supposed to be, and pretty much how it has to be at first. If you can learn to cut yourself slack now, you will be better positioned to take that period of insanity in stride. And then that, too, will pass.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:14 PM on February 29, 2012 [12 favorites]

Really great advice above. Hang in there!

My high powered job was at its most stressful in my career during my first trimester. I got through it by prioritizing sleep above almost all else. And I ate whatever I felt like, whenever. Which, in my case, was the same exact Potbelly sandwich every single day. And I dont like potbelly. More importantly, though, I learned to lean hard on other people. I delegates like crazy. I prioritized aggressively. I cut myself massive slack and just let stuff go if at all possible. Pregnancy forced me to prioritize my health and my family, and I'm ok with that.

And now I am nursing my four week old daughter (soooo used to sleep deprivation now) and oh my lord was it all worth it. It was hard to grasp that when she was just theoretical, but wow.

You'll get through this!
posted by semacd at 1:14 AM on March 1, 2012

You really, really have my sympathies. It sounds like you're on the right track as far as paring down your obligations. Is there any way you can do the same with your grant-funded research? Surely the grants must have some sort of extension/interruption clause for researcher illness? Considering the circumstances, I'm sure you could get your doctor to write a note about how you are unfit to work. And do keep that in mind - you are ill and you have every right to ask for interruptions and extensions based on your current health issues.

Likewise, there is no shame in taking sick days as necessary. If you had the flu, hopefully you would take a few days (at least!) off to recover. With the beginning of my pregnancy, it did feel an awful lot like a flu that just wouldn't go away. A Friday or two spent sleeping did wonders for my mental health.

Some women fly through pregnancy, but many of us don't. One of the silliest mentalities I bought into was the idea that 'pregnancy isn't an illness'. For many of us, pregnancy damn sure feels like a particularly unpleasant illness (especially in the early months). Fortunately, it does last for only a limited amount of time and two or three lectures that are disorganised or hard to follow, a paper that gets a few negative comments from reviewers, and a month without vegetables are all ok and survivable. What's more, just because you need to take it easy now, doesn't mean you'll have to take it easy forever. Mentally and physically, you'll be feeling different in a month or two (and even if, like me, you end up being ill well into the second trimester, you'll naturally adapt and find ways to cope - there's no need to force yourself to cope perfectly now).
posted by brambory at 1:18 AM on March 1, 2012

Hey academic mommy!!!

1. Read Professor Mommy

2. Cut yourself some slack. For the pregnancy and the immediate after period, getting work done is going to be incredibly difficult. Be okay with that.

Re-prioritize what needs to get done versus what could slide. Really.

3. Once you get settled into your new routine with little one, getting back to work will be a slow process. Personally I think that I am differently productive with a now 3.5 year old. I don't screw around, that's for sure.
posted by k8t at 6:26 AM on March 1, 2012

Specific Appetite
Not sure of any scientifically verifiable link to pregnancy food cravings, but thinking of your hunger in this light, as a sort of scavenger hunt for your child's building materials, may relieve some of the unnecessary feelings of responsibility you're placing on yourself re: your diet
posted by MangyCarface at 6:32 AM on March 1, 2012

Just want to make sure you are on Zofran (or whatever else is effective for you) for the nausea? It doesn't solve it completely but it definitely can take things from unlivable to livable.

It's so hard. People who haven't had a pregnancy like this have no idea. My mom was like "won't some saltines help?" It would have been hilarious if I weren't puking.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:06 AM on March 1, 2012

It's ridiculous, isn't it? But think of it like getting your PhD or MD - except this time your thesis project is to create a fully-formed, functioning human being. I mean, you would expect that kind of a thesis project to be all-consuming, right? Instead of moving the project forward by staying at the lab for 24 hours straight and writing manuscripts, you move the project forward by

1. resting,
2. searching out small bits of food that do not completely disgust you, and
3. perfecting your ability to be truly compassionate and loving to a struggling person who has many faults and needs a lot of help (Currently: you. In a few months: your baby.)

Good luck, and congratulations.
posted by Ausamor at 7:18 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hi, I'm a research scientist who had my first kid while trying to write my PhD thesis (and TAing a class and teaching my own class), and am pregnant with my second during my post-doc, so I totally get the job aspect of this. I wasn't super sick with the first, but the second one made it so impossible for me to work during the first trimester that I had to tell my boss way earlier than I was planning

how did you get through the day?
By listening to my body as much as possible. I spent a bunch of time lying on the floor until the nausea died down (even though this looked silly to all my labmates), snacking on anything I could convince my body wouldn't immediately make me throw up, and napping on the lab couch for 1-2 hours most afternoons. And then I'd come home, do as best I could to make it until my toddlers bed time (which didn't always work), and then go immediately to sleep.

How do you balance things?
You don't, you prioritize. Obviously any teaching you have to do gets pushed above any research work you need to do for right now (and hell, just do the minimum you need to do to make the lectures intelligible, you can make it up to your students later). Any work with your students will have to go down too. Just let them know you are sick. Other than that, your body/baby takes precedence. Slow way down, you can make it up to yourself/science the next two trimesters.

How do you deal with the hormones?
Avoiding emotional situations as best you can (no reading sad stories on the internet, etc) and then excuse yourself if you are getting overly emotional, or save it for when you are alone. If it helps, you probably seem less hormonal to others than you do to yourself.

Any tips for how to get through this with my sanity intact, and hopefully without feeling unhappy and miserable every hour of every day?
Be easier on yourself, growing another human is incredibly difficult, and this is just the beginning of reworking your point of view to adjust your life for a little one. I honestly got next to nothing done my first trimester this time around, and when I told my boss (a PI who just had her 2nd baby, neither of which went smoothly for her), she completely understood. And don't think there is something wrong with you because this isn't going smoothly, there are those who are that lucky, but most of us have to do major readjustments to make it through those first weeks. As far as the sleeping goes, I found that giving something to distract my brain while falling asleep got me to sleep. This means I tended to fall asleep with the tv on (something engaging enough for you to attend to, but not so engaging that you can't stop paying attention... commercials were usually when I'd fall asleep), or with the radio, or doing Yoga Nidra. Nights I didn't do this I'd be awake for hours with anxiety just like you. Distracting the brain is the key.
posted by katers890 at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2012

Just chiming in to say, again, that you are not alone, and those people you know that are making it sound like their pregnancies were all cakewalks are probably mostly just forgetting how exhausting those first months are especially. I was in my early twenties when I got pregnant with my first and I went from working a 12hr swing shifts on my feet in the hospital no problem, high energy personality, running daily, six hours of sleep a night, never took a nap type of person... And by my fifth week of pregnancy I was literally unable to get myself off the couch some mornings to the point where my husband was coaching me along the way, "Okay, get up, I started the shower for you..." I went to my job every day terrified I was going to make some mistake due to my brain fog. ha. It's so unlike my personality and my ordinary drive in everyday life that it makes me laugh now to think of how pitiful I felt and how Out Of Control of myself I felt. It seems to be a theme of pregnancy. You are out of control of your body, baby takes all your energy, your nutrition, baby makes you gain weight sometimes even when you are being careful about eating the right stuff, and someday before you know it, baby will decide to make you go into labor and that's a surreal feeling because again, you have zero control. So my advice to you is to get very used to the idea that it's okay if you don't feel in control of your energy levels. I felt a lot of embarrassment about being so exhausted, I apologized to a lot of people for not being on top of my game all the time, but really, I could have had a much more pleasant first pregnancy if I just made peace with the idea that it's just how pregnancy goes and that I was still totally a rockstar because carrying a baby and surviving the experience was definitely one of the hardest things I've ever done.

And my firstborn was so freaking awesome that I did it all over again and now I've got two hilarious, smart, awesome kids and I'm able to look back and see that I made it through those terrible exhausting months and I'm back to my old multitasking, high energy self now. It's not forever. That's what you have to keep telling yourself. :)
posted by takoukla at 7:42 AM on March 1, 2012

This gives me the warm fuzzies.

I wanted to come back and amend what I said yesterday slightly. I said something about how you should shirk your responsibilities a little, and you and others have talked about cutting you slack, but I think that's the wrong way to frame it. I like what Ausamor says about this being like another thesis project. You're not shirking or slacking, you're taking on a whole other immense packet of work.

The problem is that the work of pregnancy is invisible, especially in the first trimester. It really did help me to think about the fact that I was growing a person using just my body. It's kind of amazing that women can do anything at all while that is going on. A skeleton! A central nervous system! No wonder you're tired.
posted by looli at 7:49 AM on March 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Seriously. When you feel like utter crap, just think to yourself: I AM GROWING A NEW BRAIN. And BONES. And a whole set of organs.

And tell your husband that it does not help to remind you that you wanted this. Wanting a baby does not mean that you are happy about puking all the time, feeling like a sloth, and living in a hormonal brain fog! It is something YOU are bearing so that BOTH of you can have a child. His job is to support you in whatever way you need, and to think of ways to support you if it's not evident what you need. If he doesn't believe how hard pregnancy is, show him this thread!
posted by chickenmagazine at 7:59 AM on March 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

one more thing - can you arrange your schedule to work from home on Fridays? If you have enough autonomy for this, it's a huge psychological and physical relief to only have to get out of the house and deal with other people four days instead of five.

oh, one MORE thing - if you have "What to Expect When You're Expecting" lying around the house, go ahead and chuck it into the recycling. I don't know why people hold it up as this classic. Just the section on restaurant eating by itself warrants a good book-burning.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:47 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Chiming in again to say that pregnancy prepared me, in many ways, for being a mom. I had to get psychologically used to the idea that something else took precedence over my work. There were periods where I took sick leave for pain. And periods where I took sick leave because I was too tired to work. And the train did not crash. And then one day my body went into labor, even though projects were not complete. And life went on. I had to learn to accept that. And the future holds more of the same. Even healthy babies get sick. She'll get sick and I'll be exhausted when I need to be alert at work, or I'll have to suddenly miss work.

For an anxiety five things sort of helped: (1) avoiding the internets and fear mongering books, (2) repeating the mantra "we'll worry about that if it happens," (in heavy rotation still), (3) talking to friends, (4) talking to my OB, (5) crying it out.
posted by semacd at 9:08 AM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

One other good thing about prioritizing sleep: you can sleep through more of the bad parts! I was absolutely exhausted during the first trimester, and slept as much as I could because I was also just miserable with the nausea and sleep was a sweet release from that.

I also had another, rare symptom that literally had me thinking about abortion in my darkest hours because I simply could not see how I could go through months of that kind of misery. But, it got better, and it was so worth it because my son is the cutest, sweetest, funniest little boy on the planet. Pregnancy sucks, but it's not forever. You can do it!
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:34 AM on March 1, 2012

I'm the 30-time-a-day barfer from above, back with a bit more now that I'm not on my phone. A good friend of mine is a high-powered criminal defense attorney, the only woman in an all-male shop, who works very long, demanding days with people who are jackasses on purpose. Every day during her first trimester she could close the door, tell the secretary she was working on a difficult brief and was not to be disturbed, and nap on the floor behind her desk so nobody would see her. She didn't want to get caught being "weak" but she was So. Tired. (Take advantage of working with not-jackasses and let your coworkers help you out!)

To a certain extent, owning it and (as you get more public about it) just telling people you feel like shit is helpful. During my first pregnancy I tried to keep a "positive outlook" and I had nurses scold me for not being more excited about being pregnant and people kept saying how I should perk up and feel better and all. Eventually I snapped and said to one of the nurses, "I'm super-fucking excited to have this baby but I have thrown up 17 times today and I'm not going to be happy about this until the baby arrives," which made her back off, and I realized, I do not actually have to live up to this cultural expectation of liking pregnancy. So when people asked how I was, I started saying, "I hate being pregnant." and 90% of people were sympathetic. (Even men -- "My wife had a terrible pregnancy with her third, it was so hard on her ...") I'd also say things like, "I'm really grateful the baby's healthy but I'm not enjoying the process." or "I'm so excited for #2 to arrive but the pre-release beta testing is killing me." Because, like you, a very wanted baby, but a very difficult process to get there, so I tried to acknowledge how awful the process was while emphasizing how much I wanted the outcome with people I didn't know as well so they wouldn't think I was a sociopath. With friends I just groused about how much I hated being pregnant.

Actually twice this month I've had pregnant friends call me when they had emergencies and needed support (emotional in one case, someone to drive in the other) and said, "You hated being pregnant too, I don't want someone to try to tell me it isn't so bad." And I was like, "Dude, it fucking sucks, but it only lasts nine months."

In my first pregnancy, in the first trimester, my husband came along to the 8-week appointment and the doctor asked if we had any concerns, and my husband said, "All she'll eat is greasy fast-food burgers and I"m concerned it's not good for the baby." And the doctor gives him this LOOK, like, How are you still married? And tells him, "Whatever she wants to eat is fine, especially when she's having this much trouble with nausea. She probably wants cholesterol-heavy foods to build the baby's brain. What is much more stressful is someone judging her food choices when she can only keep half of it down. I think you should probably go to McDonald's for her."

My emotional ourbursts focused themselves around such INCREDIBLE ROAD RAGE I was almost afraid to drive. Also sobbing at my husband at 3 a.m. about everything being his fault. But that, too, went away after the baby arrived. (And came back, like clockwork, with #2 -- the CRAZIEST ROAD RAGE, when I'm a normally very calm driver. The one thing I will say about the second, which was a harder pregnancy for me, was that I coped with it better because it was easier to recognize when my emotions were hormonally out of control and it was easier to believe it would only last nine months. However, my two-year-old found it hilarious to mimic mommy throwing up. So there was that.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:39 AM on March 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

One of the best bits of advice I have ever seen came from the relaunch of "Scrubs." A pregnant Elliot tells an overwhelmed medical student, "You first, then the world."

Take care of yourself first, then handle the rest of your world. So if you need to take a 10 minute breather before class, do that. If you need to end your class 5 minutes early so you can eat something, do that.

I think a lot of people have covered everything else really well, but I just wanted to share that piece of "Scrubs" wisdom because it's really helped me get a grip on things as a mother (and former pregnant person). I also happened to catch it during a showing at 3 am while nursing my newborn daughter, and it's been an invaluable mantra for me. I hope remembering it can help you, too.
posted by zizzle at 10:37 AM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

First thing is, eat what you can eat. I've spoken to doctors about this and the rules for nutrition go out the window when pregnant. If you only can stand chicken nuggets? Go for it. Whatever you can keep down is what you should be eating. I had a phase where I could only stomach ramen noodles and Kool Aid. By my second trimester, I was eating more real foods and baby and I made it through just fine.

As for getting through your job... you just sort of do. It's one of those things that when you think about it, it's impossible. And when you're doing it, it feels like climbing Mt. Everest. But then one day you realize that you're 20 weeks along and you're less tired and oh, I guess I did it.

I had a SUPER exhausting job. I was nannying 10hrs day for two boys with high-functioning autism in the middle of a super hot and humid summer in a house with no air conditioning for my first trimester. I survived on ginger ale, giving into my cravings, and trying to physically move as little as possible (which... given my job... was difficult). I gave in to the fact that I would have to nap the very second I got home and my husband accepted doing all the chores and lighting incense whenever he would cook to mask food smells. The first trimester of my pregnancy is lost in a haze of nausea and exhaustion.

By just making it through each hour, the hours passed. By making it through each day, the days passed. I allowed myself the freedom to think "If I can't do this, I will quit." And it never came to that.

I also wasn't vomiting as much as it sounds like you are - you should absolutely talk to your care provider about hyperemesis. If you have it and get better treatment for it, that could help a ton. If you're already doing what you can, you might consider a leave of absence or vacation time or whatever until your second trimester when things should settle down. Four more weeks sounds unbearable right now, but it's truly four more weeks and then in all likelihood things will start improving. Of course, each pregnancy is different and this might be how things are for longer than that, but in general nausea subsides in the second trimester.

And yeah, pregnancy sucks. Mine was one of the most wanted babies in the entire world and I was very much in love with him from moment one - but I still didn't really love being pregnant. It was pretty much a necessary evil. I didn't *hate* it - but it's not my idea of a fun time.
posted by sonika at 10:46 AM on March 1, 2012

I will also say my sister's entire pregnancy sounds much like yours does now. For months the only food she could keep down was McDonald's and Burger King, and she felt guilty as hell about it until I told her, "At this point, any calories are better than no calories. If that's what you can eat, then eat!"

She also finally was referred to L&D triage in her seventh month for IV fluids one day when she was outright exhausted and just needed nutrition. You should really ask about something like that as an option for you. The L&D people, when reviewing my sister's chart, were all, "Why haven't we seen you before?! You could have had this earlier if you needed it!"
posted by zizzle at 11:11 AM on March 1, 2012

My first pregnancy SUCKED. Royally. I spent nine months wondering how the human race made it to this point because it is a miracle anybody would do that more than once.

Seconding everybody who says screw worrying about what you eat. Take your vitamins and call it a day. Baby will be fine.

I also came in to suggest you keep an eye out for depression - some women do get depressed during pregnancy, and if you've spent nine months feeling like you have a chronic illness you're probably much more susceptible to post-partum. I was a miserable, angry person for the first year of my kid's life, and when I finally did get pregnant again the first thing I did was make an appointment with a therapist and tell her my history, so that if I get to that place again I'll have someone I can call.

For the record, I'm a week away from having my second kid and miracle of miracles, this pregnancy has been a freaking BREEZE. Seriously. Still not fun, mind you, but completely bearable. Here's hoping yours eases up, friend.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 12:34 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Time to bone up on some things you've never had to look into before:
-Is/are your grant/s through an agency where you can delay it for a period of time? I know, in the meantime you need to pay your students, but there may at least be someone in the grant-giving office you can talk to.
-Does your campus have a person who's in charge of helping people sort out familial responsibilities? Ours is part of the Diversity and Inclusion office--if you have anything like that, call there and ask.
-Is there a women in science networking group on your campus? Women with children in your department or closely-related departments? From my experience, even the briefest of "help how did you do this i dont have the energy to ask nicely" emails will bring lots and lots of valuable advice (and babyclothes, and other amazingness).

Have your partner look into the things above, if you can't deal right now. You're busy building a spinal cord and lungs and important things like that, after all.

If your office doesn't have a window that looks out on the hallway, close the door and take a nap after lunchtime. I found that how rested I was had a HUGE influence on queasiness which in turn affected everything else, and also that "being rested" had a really different scale than usual. Sleep as often as humanly possible.

Give your postdocs or senior grad students more responsibility over the junior/undergrad folks. Get them to collaborate on a paper in progress or something, anything, that will keep them out of your hair for a few weeks at a time. Maybe the senior people could help with a section or two of the reviews you must still produce?

Eat what you can. Truly. If you were a healthy person beforehand, your body will have plenty of stuff to give to the baby.

I am still amazed that people choose to become pregnant after having one child. I love my kid but I'm done. On the other hand, I'll say that 8-10 weeks was a definite low point, including a conference that involved getting as far as the hotel and then being too ill and miserable to attend 90% of the conference and being to ill and miserable to pay attention for the remaining 10% (oh, and a miscarriage scare the day I got back, no thank you never doing that again.). No guarantees, but it is actually possible that things will be better by spring break.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:43 PM on March 1, 2012

This too will pass.

Get it rotating round your head like a prayer.
posted by Sebmojo at 1:09 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you again, everyone. This all has helped so much.
posted by forza at 2:47 PM on March 1, 2012

So as it happens, I'm just finishing the first trimester of my ... *counts on fingers* fourth pregnancy. And I have miserable, horrible pregnancies. Vomiting several times a day for the first few months, and then I think I'm feeling better, but literally 10 minutes after the baby's born, I'm like, "Holy shit! I felt like utter garbage that entire time, and it was only in comparison to the first trimester that I thought I felt okay!" And then I drink hospital-issue ginger ale in a styrofoam cup with ice pellets in it, and it's the first sugar in 9 months that doesn't turn to death in my mouth.

My first pregnancy, I was in a high-powered job. But I have found it harder to cope with my subsequent three pregnancies -- home with 1, then 2, and now 3 children, now all 5 and under. It's mostly to do with the amount of movement I could avoid in my job. There was a lot of sitting and writing. Now a lot of picking up and carrying up stairs and preparing food that makes me feel sick to look at.

So here's a new thing I've done this pregnancy: delegate. I hired babysitters to come three evenings a week (my worst nausea times, and husband has long, late work hours) even though I'm here. They do everything, and I lie on the couch and read MeFi and eat plain yogurt. I have cleaning help once a week. I do not cook dinner; the kids have been dining on fish sticks/pasta/whatever and cut-up vegetables for literally 11 weeks. (Just think of my poor children next time you pop a chicken nugget, and know that you're going great compared to me! It's not like you're feeding it DIRECTLY TO THE BABY!) I basically move as little as possible while still keeping three small children clean and fed.

And here's a thing it took me 4 pregnancies to notice: a lot of people swear by pure carbs for morning sickness (saltines are the classic, and then I saw Lucky Charms mentioned above) but they are pure horror for me. Aforementioned death in my mouth. Dairy works okay. I mean, some of the time. Some of the time it comes back up, because of the time of day or how much sleep I got or whatever. Cooked vegetables are often all right.

I also wanted to mention that I get "donut-hole" sleep in first trimester, which is something you attribute to anxious thinking (up for 2 hours with irrational worries). I mean, I'm sure anxiety may be part of it, but sometimes I feel like it's just the final daily cruelty of first trimester that I'm so, so exhausted and in need of sleep, and yet I persistently wake for 1-2 hours during the night. I have to be in bed around 11 hours/night in order to get 9 hours, which is what I need to be merely miserable instead of a horror show. So it may not be something to pressure yourself to positive-think your way out of. Actually, it's probably my least nauseated 2 hours of the day, for whatever reason, as long as I don't try anything crazy, like changing positions. So if that's true for you, too, maybe just try to account for it in your bedtime and then let it happen.

My sister, it's horrible. This is my last pregnancy -- I always wanted 4 children -- and I say that to myself several times a day. "This is it, never doing this again." "This is the last time I disappoint myself by thinking it's going to get better after 12 weeks and it NEVER DOES." I don't like being pregnant, but hey, I've done it 4 times, so you can tell there must be something I like about the results.
posted by palliser at 3:26 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, shit, I forgot my favorite first-trimester story. (Probably because I can't think straight.)

A few weeks ago, my seriously wonderful husband tried to cheer me up by quoting some Latin at me to the effect of, "This, too, we shall look back upon with nostalgia."

And my response was, "Really? Because I just talked to my 91-year-old grandmother on the phone, and she said, 'Wee, darling, it's terrible, terrible, I used to eat my dinner and go straight to bed so I wouldn't vomit again. I can still remember that feeling, terrible, terrible.' You might want to let her know when that nostalgia's gonna kick in, because she's running out of time."
posted by palliser at 3:32 PM on March 1, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, pregnancy sucks! I was so exhausted and nauseous (pretty much the whole time). I still look back and shudder at how much it sucked. A wasted 9 months, in a way. I ate copious amounts of fast food and diet coke (the only thing that really tasted ok), gained too much weight (since eating seemed to help) and slacked quite a bit on my job. It wasn't fun, I cried a lot and pretty much dreaded every day. I just had to grind through it. But my baby is pretty darn cute now! :)

One thing I did that I liked: prenatal yoga, taught by a very gentle lady who had each of us say a little something about our pregnancy at the beginning of each class. It was awesome to be in a room of other pregnant gals, all with our various woes (or not).
posted by kirst27 at 5:27 PM on March 1, 2012

The second trimester really is better, for most people. And even if it's not entirely a picnic for you, it will likely be an order of magnitude better than where you are right now - the hormones just slow down, and the food issues get easier, and the unbearable exhaustion passes. You will actually have days where you feel like you might be ok without a nap. You have a few more weeks of this misery - try to be gentle with yourself, as much as you can be. You're doing the best you can.
posted by judith at 8:22 PM on March 1, 2012

I just had my baby 7 HOURS ago. I'm so happy now. But yeah, my first trimester sucked sooo much, it spilled over to the fourth month too. I had terrible nausea and vomiting every day, no matter what I ate. I was prescribed some really strong medicine but the damn thing cost so much per pill I still tried to save them for specific ocassions, so mostly I was miserable every day I was in my house. I also felt like napping after every meal or outing. I wasn't working so I cant relate with you on that, but still wanted to comment as many others hace done: to say that you are not alone and that as much as your baby is wanted and planned for, you can totally complain and cry about pregnancy being awful and feeling hopeless about dealing with symptoms. All I can offer are some good vibes so that this nausea of yours goes away at some point. It did for me and when the nesting hormones got me, I felt so different. I wish that for you.

Oh yeah, I have an ouchie in my abdomen now from a c section, so the fun stuff keeps on coming. Sometimes all you can do is sigh and try to deal. On the upside, my baby was born with beautiful everything, and I survived most of my nausea days on tamales and frozen taquitos. Hang in there and eat whatever seems less yucky.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:46 PM on March 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

As has been said over and over above - pregnancy sucks. I often joke with friends and family that I could reduce the rate of teen pregnancy single-handly simply by taking about two things I personally experienced: loud & excessive belching and the hormones that cause skin tags to grow on any ever-so-slightly-abraded skin surface. And quite frankly, the first trimester suuuuucckks ... the point when pregnancy is kicking your ass the most is the time that you least appear to be pregnant and may not even feel comfortable telling people about it, so you have to suffer quietly. It's in some ways worse when you're in a constant state of nausea - at least when you vomit you get *some* momentary relief.
The non-stop physical misery got pretty bad with me - I remember white-knuckling my way to a doctor's office because I became so depressed that I was trying to find the least morally objectionable way to die.
Giving you tips on the "right" food to eat or the most positive way to think about your pregnancy is IMHO bullshit. You are making an entirely unique human being and that shit is just straight up hard. Before any other pressing priorities, you need to be gentle with yourself. You are no go good to anyone or anything unless you can find a way to take care of yourself first. And it does get better - for me, it was all good after 16 weeks. Hang in there.
posted by echolalia67 at 9:34 PM on March 18, 2012

I doubt anyone is still following this, but I just wanted to note for posterity that now that I'm in the second trimester, life is so much better -- I'm one of the lucky ones. Only one puke a day! And I have energy again!

Just wanted to thank everyone again. You all really kept me sane at a tough time. I have renewed respect for anyone who is pregnant, particularly those people for whom all nine months are hell. And people with chronic illnesses, for whom there is no end to the crap feeling -- I have no frickin' idea how you do it. You're amazing.
posted by forza at 9:01 PM on April 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'm so glad you feel better! The first trimester really is a hard one. So is the first "trimester" after they're born!
posted by looli at 8:57 AM on April 10, 2012

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