Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The First Trimester (the second time)

I had forgotten what tremendous upheaval a pregnancy triggers in one’s life – feelings, sensations, emotions, thoughts (hormones) turned upside down and inside out. I seem to recall my first pregnancy being more magic and sparkles than upheaval, but perhaps my recollection has faded. What is burning ferociously in my memory is the immense suffering that I’ve endured over the past 10 weeks and how much worse it was for me the second time around.

“Every pregnancy is different,” they all say. No kidding. I was prepared for four weeks of mild to moderate nausea combined with an almighty lethargy and general exhaustion. And I got it, 250% of it and more. The nausea was combined with a repugnance of all foods which was juxtaposed by a Herculean hunger and rabid need to eat a full meal every two hours. My body was screaming at me to eat but nothing looked, smelled or tasted good. It was agonised, forced consumption. The lethargy and exhaustion were so extreme, my 2-year-old’s favourite phrase of the past 3 months has been, “Mommy’s resting.” Try as I might I simply could not raise myself from the couch or even look at a computer screen on most days (amusingly, the thought of logging onto social media in particular nauseated me).  Every day when my son napped, I slept hard.

One disturbing aspect of this second pregnancy which absolutely nobody warned me about was a bizarre emotional distancing that I felt from my son. Having recently returned from an extended overseas trip where I was the primary breadwinner, I settled back into full-time motherhood all gushing and loved-up about being a mommy again to the exclusion of everything else. I couldn’t get enough of my son and everything about him brought me joy. I was overflowing with love.

Almost as soon as I fell pregnant however, something seemed to change, and I’ve struggled to put it into words. Of course the deep love I have for him was still there, but it wasn’t roaring with intensity the way it was before my pregnancy. His snuggly cuddles against my skin still filled me with contentment, but they didn’t flood me with emotion like before. Even his warm, sleepy smells which I used to breathe deeply into my lungs, suddenly repulsed me. While it's true that every smell repulsed me during that time, the loss of this particular olfactory delight deeply saddened me.

Of course my rational mind scavenged for an explanation. Perhaps it was an evolutionary reflex triggered by a new pregnancy that forces the mother to distance herself from her existing children in order to devote the necessary physical and emotional resources to the developing (and much needier) child. It is certainly a fact that if it were physically possible, I wouldn’t have slowed down or rested for a single day during the first trimester, nor would I have redirected a skerrick of the attention or emotion that I lavish on my son. It seems apparent that my body and hormones have activated a primal instinct and automatically done so on behalf of my baby. Pregnancy truly is miraculous.

Today, a few weeks into my second trimester, I am cautiously optimistic that the worst is behind me. I find myself able to eat again, although precious few foods genuinely excite me (french fries anyone?); my hunger is more balanced and predictable; my joie de vivre is returning; I finally have the mental acuity to write again; and I am free to bask in the sunshine of genuine joy without the shroud of sickness suffocating me like a heavy storm cloud. Perhaps most rewarding for my soul, the fierceness of love that I feel for my son is returning to its previous intensity.  I can only wonder what will happen to my feelings after I give birth, when the cyclone of hormones wreaks havoc on my emotions. 

Would anyone out there with multiple children care to comment?  Does the intensity of feelings for your existing children lessen with the birth of a new child or does your capacity to love just increase proportionally?  How does your heart not explode?


  1. Congratulations on your second pregnancy, myself and partner are considering trying for baby number two this year :)although I am unable to comment with multiple children, I do often wonder as you do, how it is possible to have so much love in your heart...I often feel it will explode with the love for my son!the general feedback I have got from friends with multiple children is that you automatically fall in love with your new child just as much as you love your existing one and adapt as a parent. Best wishes xx

    1. It is interesting Vic, I find myself in the same situation. Reading about your feelings in the first trimester I can certainly relate.
      I don't know about others but for me the week following G's birth was really, really hard mentally for me. I spent most days/nights thinking 'what have I done to E?' I felt terrible, like I was trying to replace her and horrified at the fact that I would no longer spend so much time with my girl. These feelings also stood in the way of really embracing G as well. It took a good week or so for the hormones to settle down and for me to feel 'normal'. Both myself and my husband were monitoring my mental state carefully, I think if it had gone on much longer I would have seen someone. Certainly something to keep in mind as you get closer to welcoming your second anyway :)
      I still feel a little bit guilty and sad that E no longer has my undivided attention, but honestly she is still the happy little girl I had before - her feelings of abandonment and loneliness have all come from my imagination. Also as I kept reminding myself the first week, almost everyone has survived the arrival of a sibling :-)
      Lastly, I have a new love for E now; a deeper appreciation of the unique, funny, happy girl she is. It also makes me look forward to discovering who G will be. Your heart doesn't split in two when you have another child; you grow a whole new heart.

  2. Sarah I love how you finished your comment, you grow another heart. Beautiful! I am worried about how I will cope with the conflicting emotions I will undoubtedly feel when my second is born. I had such hormonal and emotional upheaval in the days and weeks following Bode's birth - I just remember crying and crying on day four being absolutely convinced that Bode deserved better than me and not knowing what to do about it - that I am expecting the worst I guess. At least the second time around we are a little more aware of just how potent those hormones are and that with time and careful monitoring we should pull through ok. And yes, you are correct, almost everyone survives a life with siblings!!