What Pregnancy Really Feels Like, Trimester by Trimester

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It’s hard to explain why, because I didn’t particularly feel any different. No tingling, bloat, or weird dreams or thoughts. Nothing.

We were sitting eating dinner in our little one bedroom apartment in Yonkers, New York, and I told Joe I was thinking about taking a pregnancy test. He laughed and told me it was impossible for me to be pregnant so soon: we’d just decided to start trying, and after almost a decade on birth control, I’d only stopped taking the pills for about two and a half weeks.

“You’re probably not ovulating yet,” he said. “Probably next month or so.”

I assumed he was right, of course. It was probably just excitement.

But as I was brushing my teeth before work the next morning, I spotted the Clearblue pregnancy tests sitting on the top shelf of the cabinet. It was as if the pink and blue package was calling my name. Teasing me.

Giddy with excitement, as if I already knew, I unwrapped one of the tests, and less than a minute later, the words “pregnant – 2-3 weeks” popped up in bold print. Just like that, so matter of factly.

I didn’t shriek with excitement or clutch my heart dramatically. I didn’t even gasp. My mouth dropped, and no words came out. I smiled. Knew it.

What came next was a blur: looking at my husband in bed, heavy with sleep, the covers bunched at his ankles. How was I supposed to tell him? I’d pinned birth announcements on Pinterest (I think that everyone following me on Pinterest knew that we were trying to conceive!), had watched tons of creative videos of women filming their hubbies’ reactions to positive pregnancy tests, even had some ideas of my own. But in the heat of the moment, my body reacted faster than my brain. I literally ran to the bed, jumped on top of the covers, and louder than I expected, began waking up my husband.

“Joe,” I said, smacking the test on his shoulder. “Joe… Joe… Joe!”

He shot up, rubbing his eyes, still blurry with sleep.

“Look,” I said, shamelessly shoving the pee stick in front of his eyes. “I’m pregnant.”

“No, you’re not,” he said, squinting at the test. His eyes narrowed on “pregnant”. “No, you’re not. Holy crap.”

After fifteen minutes of hugging and mentally preparing ourselves, it was time for me to go to work. I called my mom when I got on the highway; she was happy and claimed that she knew it would happen quickly, like it had for her as well. I called my best friend, who was blow drying her hair before work, and blurted the news. I walked into work with a little too much excitement for 8 in the morning. I was screaming on the inside but knew it would be weeks before I could share the news with my colleagues. I didn’t want to jinx anything.

It was finally hitting me: I was going to be a mom.


Now, I’m one of those women who had a relatively uneventful, peaceful pregnancy. But that’s not to say it was all fun and games, either! Here is a breakdown of my pregnancy, trimester by trimester, the good and the bad… Hope I didn’t forget anything 🙂 It feels like ages ago!

Hard to believe it was over a year and a half ago…


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On day one, I cleaned out my makeup bag and shower products. Out with the crap, in with the organics. I wanted to make sure I didn’t put an ounce of chemicals on my skin.

I was prepared for the nausea and kept waiting for it to hit me. Until it did. I thought it was my prenatals (ugh, those enormous pills, three in the mornings and three at night, definitely don’t miss those), and they were probably partly to blame. I was forced to eat ridiculously huge breakfasts to keep them down. I had an emergency granola bar stash in my car in case it hit me on my way to work. That’s how bad it was.

Then, it really hit me. Okay, great, I don’t want to eat anything. And by that I mean, anything. If you know me, you know how sad this made me: I’m a foodie, I love to eat and go out to restaurants, and literally all I could swallow were pretzels (I don’t even like pretzels!) and bagels with butter. And strawberries, once in a while.Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 11.10.21 AM.png

Yes, I was on a full blown carb only diet.

My only craving? Tomatoes. Weird, I know.

I was teaching at a middle and high school at the time and my biggest fear was that I would
throw up in front of a 12 year old and scar him for life. Luckily, I had my motion sickness bands and Gin-gins. Life savers.

Then the exhaustion. I was used to working out at least three times per week at the gym. All of a sudden, there was no way I was going anywhere after work, let alone move off the couch. I would drive home (Fast and Furious style!), run up to my apartment, grab a throw blanket, and hibernate until my husband came home from work… with a bag of pretzels.

This was my life during the first trimester. I don’t want to hear you complain about being sick and not feeling the taste of the food you are eating. Try 3 months of despising all foods you previously loved. Feeling faint at the smell of tomato sauce, sick at the sight of grilled chicken. I was miserable.

But… I did not throw up once. Nor did I lose any weight, despite my shameful diet. Although I did look a teeny tiny bit pregnant by the end! Or more like I was super bloated. I’ll always remember sitting with my best friend, telling her, “Oh my god, I look so pregnant” and her laughing at me. I was still skinny compared to what I would end up looking like at 40 weeks.

Liam was healthier than ever, and I can’t begin to describe how emotional it was to go to my first ultrasound appointment at 7 weeks. To see and hear my baby’s heartbeat for the very first time. I wanted to keep looking at the screen all day. What a blessing, I kept telling myself. Together, we’d created a miracle.


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The so called “comfortable” trimester… Partly true.

During my first trimester, I thought I would never be able to smell chicken without gagging. But about 15 weeks into my pregnancy, the aversions became a little less intense. Yes, I still binged on bagels daily, but I was able to add more variety to my diet. I started craving red meat during my 2nd trimester, which is very unusual for me.

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I still didn’t gain much weight and didn’t totally look pregnant… until I went to the Caribbean for winter break. Since I was going to the beach almost daily, I started noticing a little more roundness in my lower belly. To everyone else, I probably just looked like I had overdone it during the holidays.

Regardless of the few pounds I gained, I still didn’t need to splurge on maternity clothes. It was mid winter and leggings and sweaters were just fine. Except that my colleagues quickly caught on when I stopped wearing dresses and wedges to work and hid behind thick wool sweaters and scarves. Whoops.

The first kicks/jabs are magical. I wasn’t sure at first and always assumed it was my stomach growling. But then it happened during an ultrasound and the tech person confirmed that the baby was moving. Oh, so that’s what a kick feels like. 

I was expecting the energy to come back, but I was still exhausted well into my second trimester. Turns out that I was a little low in iron and needed to supplement. I had a lot of trouble motivating myself to go on walks or do yoga at home. I really just wanted to curl into a ball and binge watch Sons of Anarchy (that’s the show we were into at the time – and yes, I did contemplate naming our son Jax after Jax Teller.)


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I was fine at the beginning, until the pounds really came piling on. I felt like I wasn’t eating excessively, yet kept gaining a good pound or pound and a half each week. I felt heavy, and Liam still hadn’t dropped so it was hard to breathe. I started getting pelvic pain, which meant weekly appointments with my chiropractor. I spent countless hours bouncing on my yoga ball, gyrating my hips, and gripping the edge of the kitchen sink, stretching my lower back.

I compulsively lathered my belly and hips with shea butter. No stretch marks until that point — I was just praying they wouldn’t just appear out of nowhere.

I had a panic attack at the dentist’s when at the end of my cleaning,  I gargled and spat out a mouthful of blood into the drain. My dentist  was quick to reassure me: inflamed, bleeding gums are totally normal during pregnancy.Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 10.48.32 AM

I refused to wear closed toe shoes anymore (I wasn’t that swollen, but it was so uncomfortable) and luckily it was the start of summer and flip flops/sandals were acceptable. So were maxi dresses. Thank god. I couldn’t see my legs anymore and shaving became dangerous. Oh, and my boobs… yeah, they made their appearance. Which meant I had to put my push up bras away and wear sports bras. Sexy.

I started waking up around 3am every night, and staying up for an hour, sometimes longer. Probably my body’s way of telling me, “ha, better get used to it now.” I should’ve enjoyed my nights regardless (having a newborn is 100 times worse!) and stopped complaining about how tired I was. I had no idea what tired meant.

I was also very anxious — not nervous, just anxious. So many things were on my mind, like whether I would get the birth I wanted, how my labor would start, if Liam was healthy… and it’s really easy to freak out when you’re this close to the finish line. You just pray that everything will go as planned and your baby is doing well in there. It’s the weirdest thing to feel his kicks, jabs, and hiccups, but have no idea what he looks like or if he’s okay. Like I said, you just hope you’re doing everything right and that nothing goes wrong.

You know how they tell you about the “nesting” instinct? Well, let me tell you something: it’s a real thing. I had these compulsions (sometimes at 11pm!) to clean, organize, and organize again. I had Liam’s nursery ready three months early. I put the crib together when my husband was at work one day. I was motivated.

My colostrum made an appearance during the third trimester as well. It randomly squirted out when I was in the shower one day. How lovely. And I kept expecting the mucus plug to fall into the toilet bowl… but it never did (kinda glad that never happened.) The linea nigra did appear well into my third trimester, and is only now starting to fade entirely.


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Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 3.21.18 PMOverall, I had a very easy pregnancy. Minus the exhaustion and food aversion, I can’t say I was miserable for 40 weeks… It was nice to have an excuse to relax at home and eat an extra cookie (or two) once in a while 🙂

I always tell my husband we should be grateful for my healthy pregnancy, delivery, and baby. So many families go through tragedies and health is not to be taken for granted. It is a miracle when everything goes well… and should be treasured each and every day.


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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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