First Trimester: Dark Night of the Soul
This post was written in mid November. I respected the time I needed to take before publishing it with clear mind. :) I hope it will be helpful to any mama-to-be currently going through the downs of the first trimester and feeling lonely in the experience. I see you.
I am 15 weeks pregnant with my first baby, and currently riding the hormonal wave of slowly returning energy, peaceful joy and seasonal coziness. For the past three months and up until about a week ago, I was in such a fundamentally different dimension. I promised to myself that I’ll share my first trimester experience with the world so others with similar experience and perhaps confused or scared feel less alone.
Before I start, I want to express how grateful I am to Jayna of @kindmatters, who shared her own experience with the dark night of the soul during her first trimester, which ultimately helped me to get through mine. Hers was one of the very few stories that I found in times where I didn’t see much light.
We created our baby consciously in the relaxed mood of Italian summer, and both me and my partner were overjoyed, when my pregnancy test came out positive. I felt grateful. Knowing many friends and acquaintances who struggle or have struggled with conception, and taking into consideration our own health stories, I almost didn’t believe that we were blessed with such a smooth ride.
About 3 weeks in, the first trimester symptoms started showing up. Extreme fatigue. Unpleasant pains in the lower belly. Immense nausea that was constantly present and lasted day and night. I was cynically laughing about the term “morning sickness” and doctors’ encouragement that it’s a good sign. It was unbearable and never-ending. I am quite used to feeling tired due to chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia that I was diagnosed with three years ago, but here I hit a whole new level. What resembled PMS pains in my lower belly felt like a cherry on top that simply made me irritable, angry and eventually withdrawn.
When on top of everything both me and Giacomo got down with rather strong Covid symptoms (it was the first time for us), I was almost glad that I can stay in bed in what I called the “dying hole” and hide from the world. The few days where both of us had strong fevers were hard to navigate. My body went into emergency several times. I didn’t know that I have to eat in order to not feel nauseous, yet digesting anything felt like too much work for my virus-striken body that was working hard creating the perfect conditions for the growth of our little human.
I was grateful that my people pleasing, do-not-bother anyone, zero-boundaries mentality went on holidays, and surprised by myself, I very clearly voiced what I needed to get through.
I am smiling as I type these words now as...
...this recently acquired ability got upgraded to a whole new level with pregnancy and it makes me feel safe, trusting and confident.
Covid passed, nausea and fatigue stayed. But it wasn’t just the physical symptoms that took me by surprise.
What stroke me hard was the absolute loss of skill to protect and nourish my mental health to the point of barely surviving with no desire and interest in anything. I felt numb mentally and exhausted physically.
For a brief moment the inner critic took the spotlight whispering:
"All the years of healing and now you’re back to zero."
"All the years of yoga practice and you can’t even take a proper breath now."
"How can you still teach yoga classes and tell people how to take better care of their nervous system, when you have just completely failed to do it with your own?"
I figured there’s no place for this voice and instead of fighting, I leaned in.
I allowed myself space to ride the wave of darkness.
I slept to my body’s desire, I ate whatever my body asked for as long as I could see myself swallowing it (I swear I haven’t eaten that much bread in my entire life). I only did the bare minimum to keep the most attended classes running and cancelled two that were over my physical capacity.
I cried. A lot. I let the dark thoughts run through, observing. Some of them were scary. Thoughts of death.
One sleepless night I started wondering. I had to know if I am the only one, although I already doubted the idea. The existence of post-natal depression is known, and I was surprised to find out that ante-natal depression can occur as well. Noone in my circles near and far ever spoke about the. The symptoms I read about were straightforward and corresponding largely with what I was living those days. Then I found Jayna’s blog post about her first trimester, and I felt instant relief flooding my body. I was not alone. This darkness, too, will pass.
And it has passed.
Some symptoms have prevailed, as I slowly flipped over to the second trimester, nausea has weakened, energy came back, and with that my creativity, desire to work, to share yoga, to create, to be here for our growing family, friends and my yoga community.
Looking back, I see the first trimester as extremely important rite of passage.
I trust that all the conditions, physical and mental, work together so that we slow down to complete halt (a feature so much needed in today’s society) in order to give the physical body space to start growing a baby, and the mental, emotional and spiritual bodies to prepare for passage to motherhood and arrival of the little soul.
Through touching the very bottom, a pregnant woman undergoes a major "upgrade".
We kept my pregnancy for ourselves until the first trimester ultrasound at 13 weeks. By then I felt ready to share the news with the world. I knew that despite the joy and desire to share with our loved ones, despite being prepared, both me and Giac absolutely needed the time to absorb that we are having a baby on deeper, visceral level, beyond the intellect.
Curiously, I introduced a new class to my offerings - prenatal yoga - just over summer and the very first class took place the day I found out I was pregnant. Nobody knew and I couldn’t and didn’t want to share the news just yet, but the mere weekly presence of the prenatal community full of wonderful ladies and their baby bumps was beyond healing for me. I was there fully invested to take care of them, and it brought me such joy and fulfillment. And equally, without knowing, they took care of me. I will always be grateful for this community.
Since sharing the news with the world and feeling the love and support from all around, physical symptoms subsiding (and new ones appearing, haha), it all feels lighter, real, connected and also grounded and sacred. I can honestly say I enjoy being pregnant these days. It’s wonder. And an opportunity to growth.
If you are a mama-to-be reading this blog post on a dark night amongst tears, exhausted and nauseous, I want you to know that you are not alone. You’re growing a human being in your tummy and that’s the best super power ever. Take a breath, sleep all you want, cut yourself some slack. You will make it through. I believe in you.
Please, do reach out, if you’re struggling. I may be a stranger to you, but sometimes we need strangers to hear our story out and help us feel a little lighter.