We have been so excited to find out we are expecting our first child in February 2018! Honestly, the news has been hard to believe, but here we are, week by week watching as this journey continues to become more and more real.
My pregnancy aversions were few, but insane: I didn’t like the smell of coffee (crazy! Coffee is my life!), the smell of alcohol, fresh flowers, floral scents, and fruit. Walking past the large public garden to get into the city centre didn’t smell fresh and outdoorsy–it smelled like floral rot and decay. I had to completely avoid the coffee shop we are regulars in, because the smell of roasted coffee was too pungent! However, the severe exhaustion was my biggest pregnancy symptom. Even when I wasn’t sleeping I was most likely in bed, trying to stay awake enough to work and eat. And if I didn’t eat? I felt nauseous. My morning sickness wasn’t terrible, thank goodness, but I NEEDED to eat anytime I felt hungry, or I would instantly feel weak and nauseous.
Speaking of eating, food has been a big pregnancy symptom, but my preferences would change almost weekly! Early on, I was ravenous. I easily ate three meals and two large snacks everyday. And a lot of that extra food was as much protein as I could eat! Unfortunately, the craving for meat wasn’t healthy. The first weekend I had these cravings (July 4th) Taylor made a delicious holiday meal of barbecue ribs, potato salad, fries, and corn. Over the course of that same weekend, I also requested hot dogs, chicken strips and mac & cheese.
After a weekend of giving in to my cravings Taylor had a food request of his own–to add vegetables back into our meals! At this point, I was okay with that. I no longer felt like an adult; my food cravings started with meat, but I felt like I was regressing into even simpler food cravings. At one meal all I wanted was chicken nuggets (with ketchup), raw carrots, pickles and tomatoes. Turns out my huge appetite was slowing down and would become even simpler than what a toddler would want very quickly.
A few weeks of eating six meals a day quite suddenly took a turn. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling very hungry at all, although I was still nauseous if I didn’t eat. I felt full almost all the time. I decided to cut back to three meals a day, but that didn’t seem to do much. It wasn’t until I totally simplified my diet that my body started feeling better. My daily meals were simple: for breakfast I would have oatmeal, lunch I would have soup (yes, in July), and dinner I would eat what Taylor made, but usually just a small portion.
I am so grateful to Taylor for being patient and understanding as I figured out my body. The first trimester was hard on both of us. He took care of most (basically ALL) of the chores and cooking. I would usually feel good enough to do a load of dishes or laundry a day, along with making breakfast every morning, and sometimes I felt ok enough to go to the gym for simple exercises, which equated to maybe 1-2 hours a day where I was being active. Otherwise I was in the bed or on the couch.
The First Ultrasound
We’ve been slowly navigating our way around the UK medical system. Most pregnancies are dealt with by midwives and it’s totally free. We are in awe of this, and so grateful, but the first trimester didn’t have a ton of appointments. I was expecting a lot more confirmation about this pregnancy than we received at first, simply because of what I knew about US healthcare. It was 6 weeks before we met one of my midwives. She walked us through a lot of paperwork and blood draws, and told us to wait for our ultrasound appointment to come in the mail.
Before our scan, we had calculated the baby was around 12 weeks. The day of our scan, we were excited and nervous–this would be the first major confirmation there was actually something there! (I know, this is crazy, but even with all the pregnancy symptoms it’s hard not to wonder if you’re making it all up) We were both in awe when we saw this small body on the screen! For me and Taylor, it was an amazing experience. We saw the baby jump and wriggle and could make out all the tiny features. However, to the ultrasound technician, this baby was not cooperating! They couldn’t properly measure everything, especially the nuchal fold at the back of the neck. The tech had me bounce, jump, and cough to try to get the baby to move. After a while, the tech told me to eat some chocolate, walk around the hospital for a bit, and come back to try again. We were grateful we got a second chance that day, but no matter how hard we tried (I even did squats) the baby refused to stretch out properly. Although we got some cute pictures out of the deal, the technician told us the scan was inconclusive and we couldn’t get an official due date. One thing we DID learn from the measurements, is that the baby was measuring way bigger than 12 weeks, more like 13 weeks 6 days. Technically the measurements didn’t count, but we had a feeling I was further along than we originally thought.
The Second Trimester
Even though our first ultrasound couldn’t give us an official due date, I decided to mentally skip ahead from being 12 weeks along to 13 weeks 6 days, meaning just one day after we saw the baby I was suddenly in my second trimester! I wasn’t expecting all my first trimester symptoms to go away immediately, but I’ll make this quick and easy—I feel A LOT better. I get tired and winded easily, and have a few slight food cravings. I also get headaches almost daily. Coffee and alcohol smells normal again! Flowers smell normal, too, but I’m still not enjoying any type of floral scent! All in all, every week is different, but my energy levels have risen and my eating has mostly evened out (No more soup-only diet)
We also got to meet my second midwife. This appointment was more paperwork, but we heard the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler! The midwife talked me through a few simple pregnancy questions, but one of the highlights (aside from hearing the heartbeat, of course!) was being told about the Pregnancy Exemption Certificate. She told me to go to my general practitioner to pick one up so that I would be eligible for free dental work and free prescriptions from now until up to a year after the baby is born.
The Second Ultrasound
About three weeks after the inconclusive first scan, we were scheduled a second scan. When all goes well, most pregnant women only get a 12 week scan and a 20 week scan. However, since they couldn’t measure the baby properly at my first scan, I had to go into a second one. Having an ultrasound at this time is considered less accurate, as far measuring the nuchal fold, but it was still important to try again. Unfortunately because we weren’t expecting this scan and it was scheduled only a few days before the appointment, Taylor couldn’t go. He had already made plans to attend a conference in Ireland that week. He really didn’t want to miss the scan, but was able to text me during the whole process. As far as measuring goes, the technician had a much easier time. I didn’t have to jump or eat chocolate to try to turn the baby. I saw fingers! The baby had grown so much since the last time and I couldn’t wait to show Taylor. However, I was in for one more surprise–our official due date. February 8th! The same day as my birthday! I was in total shock and completely amused at this! This due date also meant that I skipped ahead four more days and was officially 17 weeks pregnant!
So, here I am at 17 weeks 6 days. I have my third midwife appointment tomorrow where we will learn about the results of the scan and blood work. She will tell us about any potential risks, and we’ll get to hear the heartbeat again.
However, this time, I definitely don’t need confirmation that something is in there, because I’m starting to feel kicks! Almost daily I can feel small nudges and bumps when I’m laying down. It’s amazing how something so small already feels so real to me. I can’t wait until Taylor can start feeling the kicks as well.
Three weeks from now we will also get to find out if we’re having a boy or girl!
Thankfully I’m not craving TOO much, and what I am craving is actually American food. This is interesting, but also frustrating! My unhealthiest cravings are fast food–but only American fast food! Even from the same restaurant, the taste of food differs greatly because of nutrition and ingredient regulations from country to country. This is actually a good thing for me, because other than the breakfast sandwich I had from McDonald’s last Sunday morning, I haven’t eaten any fast food and maintain a fairly healthy diet (once again, ALL thanks to Taylor for cooking most of the meals!).
However, the strongest cravings that I can’t get out of my head have been Hot Cheetos and sour gummy candy. They don’t sell Hot Cheetos in the UK! Seriously, Taylor and I have bought every kind of spicy chip we can find (probably about 6 attempts, so far) and nothing is spicy or satisfying enough to replace Hot Cheetos! Same goes for sour candy–the gummy candy isn’t sour enough, because I’m craving specific things from America.
So this is a big year for us (now until end of 2018, that is). Taylor is on the last leg of his PhD, I’m pregnant, and our visa that we use to live in the UK is almost up. We’re staying optimistic, planning ahead for the things we need to plan ahead for, and focusing on the present where that’s more important. Without getting into too many personal details, we realize we could move anywhere fairly soon (again, after 2018, most likely). Because of that, we decided to have as minimal of baby stuff as possible. We aren’t splashing out on a big nursery update, lots of baby gadgets, or even a lot of clothes and toys. In fact, we’re hoping to make a lot of smart hand-me-down purchases.
So, our dilemma was: If we weren’t going to spend a lot of money, what SHOULD we invest in? We decided to focus on the first few months with baby–lots of sleeping, feeding and learning to be a family. To me, this equated to having a calm, relaxing bedroom, so we are working on repainting our room, adding a small co-sleeper crib, and making it the main ‘hub’ of baby activity.
However, as I was taking a break from painting the bedroom one day, I sat on the small couch we have in our second bedroom. I looked around and saw a hopeless mess. The couch is a faded purple color, which folds out into a bed for guests. The curtains were bright blue, and the walls were a terrible wallpaper of red and cream. It was just too much work to rip down the wallpaper and make all the repairs needed to make this a nursery, or even a prettier guest room.
But, as I took another look, I had a crazy idea–what if I just painted the red stripe in the wallpaper? It wasn’t a perfect plan, but it set the ball rolling to create a small nursery/guest room! I spent £1 on a small paint roller, and 50 cents on the black and white throw blanket over the couch, but other than that (and the baby stuff, like the Moses basket!) it didn’t cost me anything to paint or decorate this little room. It’s probably not the nursery I would set up for myself, if I had more of a permanent home, but it makes me happy, it’s bright, and features a lot of black cats, in honor of our three legged cat, Sabre. We’re still planning on having the baby in our bedroom for at least the first few months, but for naps, storing clothing and supplies, and also as a contingency plan (what IF the baby sleeps better in a separate room? Who knows what could happen, right?), this tiny room will be there!