The end of my third month and the beginning of my fourth meant it was time for my husband and I to share our exciting news! We waited until we had the nuchal translucency screening test. This is the test that occurs between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy and determines the risk for Down syndrome and other chromosomal disorders. This test includes a detailed ultrasound which was amazing: I got to see the baby moving around, crossing its feet, and waving its arms. I saw the brain, the heart, and every part of its body in great detail, and I got to go home with an amazing profile picture. The previous ultrasounds had only shown a single view and one picture. This was just something else. Of course they make your wait a week to get your results, and I remained worried every minute until I called to get the report. Then it was TIME!
I happened to be at a friend’s house when I got the good news, so I told her first. Then I slowly began to share with family, other friends, colleagues, and clients. It was exciting and a relief to no longer be “in hiding”. Everyone was happy to hear about the pregnancy, but I was definitely a bit disappointed when those I told responded with, “I knew you were pregnant.” Of course many suspected, and I knew that they did. I must have been in a bit of denial, thinking that I was hiding my body better than I actually was. One friend noted that my baggy clothing, which is not my usual style, was the giveaway. Another friend knew something was wrong with the fact that I sat in front of her eating a buttered Health Muffin (made with whole grains and fruit, but nonetheless still large and high in calories) while explaining to her why Goldfish and other snack foods were not great choices for someone watching their weight.
She kindly waited to tell me this after she found out I was pregnant, but this was clearly not my usual behavior: I do not consume large portions of carbohydrates at one sitting as the main part of my meal, nor do I slather fat on my food. After she reminded me of this incident, I did recall almost feeling guilty talking about healthy food choices while stuffing my face with this breakfast. One of my best friends noted that I sat right next to her fake drinking a couple of days earlier, but wondered why I ordered a Caesar salad. I asked her, what’s wrong with a Caesar salad? I ordered no croutons and got the
dressing on the side, BUT I never asked if the dressing was made with raw egg. I never even thought of that! I am not perfect, and I am still learning every step of the way.
A couple of clients responded with bit more negative comments. Hearing them once was enough: I understand my body was changing and that they sure took note, but hearing the below, sometimes more than twice from the same person, was not necessary. Some examples were:
- “Now you look like a ‘real person’, not pregnant, because you have a tummy and a tush.”
- “You’re packing a caboose!”
- “Now you have a butt!” (Did I not have one before? And is that a compliment or insult?)
- “I knew you were pregnant because your behind was spreading.”
- “I noticed your chest looked a lot bigger.”
All I can say is that it’s a good thing I had already come to terms with my weight gain and accepted that I was getting bigger, and this is all part of a healthy pregnancy. I did learn that my clients and colleagues were scrutinizing my body more than I ever imagined, and were NOT shy about sharing with me. I also wondered if they would make these comments to anybody, or just me because of my profession.
This larger body of mine meant it was finally time for …..(drum roll, please!)…..Maternity clothes! I couldn’t really hold off any longer as my tops and T-shirts were getting too short and even leggings were starting to dig into my belly and legs, leaving ugly and uncomfortable marks. I did not have one pair of pants that fit at this point. One of my friends took me to a great boutique in New York City called Veronique. I was overwhelmed at first and didn’t know where to start, but because my friend just had a baby and the salesperson was so helpful, I was able to purchase a few great basics: leggings, T-shirt, tank top, long sleeve shirts, and over-the-belly black pants. It was strange: I realized then that I would have to start building parts of my wardrobe basically from scratch. This is why my second maternity shopping trip was to Target. Who wants to spend tons of money on clothes that are temporary? Not me. Target was great for cotton T-shirt and tank tops, which I lived in the rest of the summer. It was definitely a strange feeling to officially wear a full maternity outfit for the first time. But the comfort was amazing.
As I began to fill out my maternity wear, I was trying my best to practice what I preach and focus on eating healthy, balanced meals, but nausea, cravings, timing, and convenience often played opposing factors. My go-to staple for breakfast has always been egg whites, oatmeal or whole grain cereal, and fruit. I often have a 2-3 egg white omelet made in a Pam-sprayed pan, and about 1 cup of cooked oatmeal with a half a cup of fruit. I do try to vary my fruit: raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, banana, applesauce, watermelon, peach, nectarine, pineapple, etc. Other times I have a 0% Greek yogurt instead of the egg whites. One morning when I was out of both eggs and yogurt, I put a couple of tablespoons of natural peanut butter in my oatmeal for a bit of protein. If my husband suggested bagels on the weekend, I wasn’t saying no to my scooped out all-grain bagel with low fat cream cheese and tomato. A few times before a morning workout I grabbed a Dark Mocha Almond Kashi granola bar and a yogurt just because this was quick. My mom had bought me the bars, which I normally wouldn’t buy or eat because they contain a lot of sugar. I know many believe because an item is high in fiber and contains healthy ingredients that it must be “good for you”. Yes, this bar does have positive attributes: 4 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, but you must always take a closer look. Read the list of ingredients for this item and you will find: brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, evaporated cane juice crystals, evaporated cane juice syrup, and honey. Each of these (except the honey) is a form of processed white sugar, and more than I would like to put in my body on a regular basis. However, they were quick, easy, and gave me the energy I needed to get through a workout.
There were other times that I ate foods I wouldn’t consume on a regular basis. For example, I don’t usually need a snack on a 2 hour car ride, but I sometimes I found myself starving to the point of feeling weak. The best choice at a gas station or convenience store was often a Nature Valley granola bar. As a rule, I don’t drink juice because it’s just empty calories without the fiber provided by intact fruit. One day when I was on a boat with friends who were waterskiing, I had gone too many hours between breakfast and lunch. I had not brought a snack, was basically stuck on the boat with only drinks on board, and famished. So I had a juice box. At least it was all natural and organic, and gave my body some calories until I could eat. As soon as I sat down to lunch that day, I dove right into the warm bread and butter placed on the table. I was giving into my cravings because I had not planned ahead and had allowed my blood sugar to drop. That day I did not take the advice that I gave in my Month 3 blog!
Although I was fortunate to not have suffered from horrible morning sickness, I still experienced terrible waves of nausea. One morning this happened after my usual egg whites and oatmeal. I ate a few saltines and felt better. These crackers are refined white flour, but they helped! I then grew very hungry for lunch. I had cottage cheese and salad and again felt very nauseous. One morning after a workout I ordered oatmeal and mixed berries for breakfast. I sat down at a table with my husband to eat, went to take a spoonful of oatmeal, then almost gagged at the smell of it. I had to push it far away from me, cover it up, and I ended up giving it to my brother. I then proceeded to order a plain bagel with butter, ate the whole thing, and felt so much better afterwards. Another strange eating experience occurred when I had a friend’s bridal shower and bachelorette party dinner in the same day. For lunch, I sampled what was offered: a piece of a frittata, granola with fruit and yogurt, and bites of sorbet-not bad, but not my usual fare. When dinner came, I could barely touch anything that was on the table. The chicken flat out repulsed me. I took a couple of bites of spinach and macaroni and cheese, two fries, and a fork full of chocolate cake for dessert. Not one thing tasted right, and this was at a restaurant where I usually love the food. This all sounds weird, I know, and it’s nothing I could explain fully or understand until I experienced this nausea and food/taste aversions myself. Each day had become a new adventure in eating that I was navigating the best I could with the knowledge I have.
My fourth month also brought me a bout of terrible lower back pain that exacerbated over a couple of weeks. One Sunday it kept me in bed all afternoon, although I’m sure wearing heels all day Saturday did not help. I called my OB-GYN to get a prescription for physical therapy. I didn’t want my back to get worse, nor did I want it to lead to knee pain since I have 2 torn ACLs, one which I had surgically repaired over 5 years ago. I understood that my posture was beginning to change, with my lower back curving more as my stomach progressively grew and protruded. My expanding uterus was shifting my center of gravity, stretching and weakening my abdominal muscles and putting strain on my back. I was carrying around more weight than my body had ever seen. Adding a thorough stretching session before each workout and keeping yoga in my routine at least once a week seemed to do the trick, and my back was better within a couple of weeks. It turns out that I had a lot of tightness in my body. My hamstrings, hip flexors, and sides were particularly stiff. This surprised me at first because I was expecting the opposite. When a woman is pregnant, a hormone called relaxin is produced, which relaxes and looses the joints and ligaments in the pelvic area. I have heard others women say that this has helped them feel more flexible during pregnancy. For me it caused some instability in my spine, which led to pain. All these shifts lead other muscle groups to work differently and harder. This is what caused my added tightness. This is not what I expected, but definitely makes sense now, and I am just glad I am feeling better and understand how to prevent and alleviate the pain.