First Trimester Recap of my Vegan Pregnancy

First Trimester Recap of my vegan pregnancy as a first time mother in Ireland. What I didn't expect, my symptoms and cravings.

After finding out we are expecting (Read how we found out HERE), things started to change.

There were a lot of things I didn’t know about being pregnant until I became pregnant. Of course, I’d heard of cravings, aversions, morning sickness and stretch marks but the rest came as surprises along the way.

Like hair, growing in places I didn’t want it to grow. Oh, hello random neck hair, that looks like one of my fiancé’s beard hairs. Oh, you’re attached, wonderful. How long have you been growing there? How many people have seen you before I did? And the regular body hair, that grows much faster, I guess shaving twice a week won’t cut it anymore, eh? On the plus side, the hair on my head has grown noticeably faster too!

My nails are so strong now and grow long quickly. Pre-pregnancy I would have loved long nails, but something about it grosses me out now. It’s like I have an aversion to my own nails. While it seems like the perfect time to let them shine or gloss them up with paint, now is not the time to put chemical laden lacquer on them! Have you ever read about the hidden ingredients in nail varnish?

My skin has cleared up so much, which makes me think it’s a boy, on typing this I still don’t know which gender the baby (eek!) I’m thoroughly enjoying having no breakouts, although I do look like a zombie from feeling sick all the time and I honestly can’t be bothered wearing makeup much anymore.

Ah, the breasts of pregnancy. Yes, I was looking forward to a fuller bosom. Time to get some beautiful brassieres to make them look extra perky. Ah, why do my boobs feel bruised every which way? Yeah, underwire is not your friend anymore. Enter non-sexy soft bras, that offer less support, but much needed soft padding to hide nipples that could be used as coat hangers in this cold weather. Oh and speaking of nipples, the areola that DARKENS and spreads farther over your lovely full mammary gland pillows was a bit of a shocker. Lying on my sides at night is a mission of lifting the offending sliding boob out of my armpit.

My morning sickness had already started before I found out I was pregnant. It hit around 5 weeks and 3 days and it was a slap of reality about what pregnancy was going to be like. In those beautiful day dreams of becoming a mother, the not so pleasant symptoms weren’t at the forefront of the mind.

Functioning as a human seemed impossible for about 5-6 weeks as I tried every natural remedy for sickness without success. I read 7 books in those 6 weeks, glued to any fictional realm that gave an ounce of relief to my fragile physical self. I say fragile because this body could barely handle any food and the muscle mass lost from staying away from the gym from lack of energy (aka food sources of sustenance) was undeniable. The sickness definitely took a toll on my mental well-being and it definitely humbled me. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for people living with an illness  that leaves them bedridden and sick. I had to remind myself that pregnancy is not an illness, this sickness was a blessing, a beautiful opportunity. Still, I was positive I never wanted to feel like this, ever again.

The morning sickness changed patterns throughout weeks 5-11. At first it was lingering in the morning and getting worse between 12pm – 5pm and eased off a little in the evening. I got sick 3 times in the first 3 weeks, but since then have not. For a while the intense nausea started as soon as I woke up at 6.30am and dissipated as much as it could by 6pm. That’s about the time I was hit by mother of all constipation. After 3 days of nothing, I awoke in the early hours of the morning to excruciating IBS pains. If you’ve suffered from bowel pain you’ll know how agonizing it can be, if not check out this poop website for funny stories, just cos sometimes you need to laugh at bodily functions (Poop stories) 

So I’m sitting on the toilet, not knowing whether I’m going to explosively vomit or s#@! My head is reaching for the sink while I’m stuck to the toilet, rocking back and forth as my stomach and bowels contract to the point of “If I don’t release something, the build up of pressure is going to make my organs explode.” and after 5 minutes of writhing pain I accepted my fate of dying a crippling death, right on this toilet seat. The door was locked, I’m the only one awake, if I did shout nobody would hear anyway or be able to get in. I’m wondering why my face is wet. Sweating profusely, tears bucketing down my face without permission to escape, my body is ice cold and I start to black out. Losing control of my body I jolted just as I was falling face first towards the floor and oh yes, explosively crap. The longest 20 minutes of hell and now the release has come. FINALLY! What a beautiful feeling… just gonna clean myself up and go back to b….. “AH!” *pressure, pressure – explosion, explosion* This cycle repeated every time I got up for another 15 minutes until eventually I felt almost human. Thankfully it has only happened once during pregnancy (touch wood it won’t happen again) Rest assured that while constipation is a pregnancy symptom, IBS is not!

Anyway, back to the the sickness, as it began easing off I got an extra 5 minutes of relief everyday until about 2-3pm. It seemed to be evening sickness in week 8-9 until it gradually (luckily!) faded away at 10.5 weeks. I’d still get nauseous when I went more than 2 hours without food but once fed, I felt okay. By 11 weeks I thankfully no longer felt sick and that perked my mood right up. Eating and enjoying food never felt so good! I felt like myself again.

Sometimes, I got an hour or two of feeling yuck if I ate a “big” meal (by big, I mean half of what I used to eat) and I still had aversions to the dreaded avocado and leafy greens. For the first trimester I ate whatever I could keep down, or swallow. I couldn’t eat my favourite healthy foods; like oat bran or green smoothies. For a few weeks, I ate dry crackers, when they didn’t agree with me anymore I ate toast with jam or marmite and bowls of museli throughout the day. Lenny and Larry’s peanut butter Complete Cookies  definitely helped pack in more calories on days when I was barely getting 1,000 calories. Fruit got me through the 6 weeks of nausea. Bananas, oranges, juicy plums, pears, strawberries and blueberries. I drank cranberry juice almost every day because drinking water made me queasy but I was so thirsty. Tea was off the cards, even herbal tea. Brushing my teeth was difficult and brushing my tongue was a big no-no during the first trimester. Just when you really need a fresh breath!

Trying to feed my dog his food was awful. I’d have to pinch my nose, not look at the food and run out of the room while he ate. Dishing out kale for my rabbit’s dinner was barely do-able either. Thankfully my extremely sensitive sense of smell started leaving near the end of the first trimester.

My healthy vision of how pregnancy would go was non existent and my prior 2,500 calories for my fast metabolism was unattainable. I ended up losing nearly a stone in weight, some of that I gained back on my small bump towards the end of the first trimester but I could tell the rest of my body was underweight. Thank goodness for my love of roast sweet potatoes with sriracha, which returned to my list of edible foods around 10 weeks. It helped me feel slightly sane.By the time we had our first scan, I was a healthy weight again, albeit a few pounds less than pre-pregnancy.

My bump began growing very low, most of my belly was bloated all the time but under the belt line there was a firmness. Other people began noticing my bump at around 12 weeks.

Other symptoms I had during the first trimester were vivid dreams, and non stop dreaming throughout the night, I almost felt exhausted from them after a full nights sleep. Getting up to pee twice a night in the beginning was a bit annoying, especially when I was finally sleeping soundly! My advice is don’t turn on any lights when you get up to go toilet or have dull fairy lights in the bathroom as bright lights stop your melatonin production at night!

It’s crazy, after 6 weeks of feeling like a churning pit out at sea, saying I never wanted to do this again and then feeling the beauty that is a settled, well fed stomach I immediately thought, “well maybe we’ll have two children”. During the worst weeks of nausea my projected thoughts toward my fiancé were more along the lines of  “Don’t ever try and make a baby with me again.” While the best part of the first trimester did have a lot of negative side effects for me, it’s not like that for everyone. Knowing there is a life growing inside makes every ounce of yuck worth it anyway.

After the nausea disappeared I felt a little less pregnant and quite a bit paranoid that something was wrong. Although it is completely normal to not have any sickness in pregnancy or get relief a little early, my mind was put to rest at 12 weeks and 3 days, a week after the morning sickness ended, when we had our first scan.

Up until this point I really tried to reign in my excitement and plans for fear of things not working out. I think although the sickness is really testing, trying not to be emotionally caught up in the first trimester of pregnancy is the most difficult. I wanted to be happy and excited but I was also fighting back nerves and fears. I found that staying away from online forums is best, because there is so much divided information and experiences that it can leave you feeling even more anxious.  In my opinion it’s much better, to seek advice and guidance from your doctor or midwife if you are worried about anything rather than being filled with unnecessary worry from stories online.

Our first scan was an incredible moment. I’ll never forget seeing our little baby for the first time. We were both a bag of nerves. I’m generally someone who internalizes my fears and my fiance someone who conquers his by speaking them aloud. Well, on the car journey to the hospital it seemed all I wanted to do was talk, about everything, and all he wanted was silence. My checkup with the midwife lasted an hour in which she took notes of my medical and family history. Afterwards my blood samples were drawn, which was quick and eventually we got to have our first ultrasound. In our nervousness we waited. My fiance made a run for the toilet as the nerves kept racking up. Isn’t it funny what you find adorable in long term relationships? After what seems like the longest 10 minutes of life, we get called into the room, and…

What did we see? A little baby dancing, flailing their long arms and legs around. Immediately we smiled and laughed! After all the nerves, we were smiling with relief and excitement. We saw the heart beating but did not get to hear the sound. We were given print offs of the scan and booked our next scan and appointment. We plan to have a private scan in the meantime, since our 2nd scan seems like an eternity away!

Telling family after the scan was exciting and nerve wrecking too, simply because I didn’t know how people would react. It was nice to share the news and not hide our wonderful little secret anymore. It’s been exciting because it’s not just us that are looking forward to meeting this little baby next year.

Overall, the first trimester, although challenging, once you get past the morning sickness, pregnancy is actually quite nice and very exciting.

The following our some books I recommend reading, if anything it might take your mind of the morning sickness for a while!
  • Christine Hill’s Pregnancy Guide
  • A Perfect Start by Christine Hill
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting
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The Positive Pee Stick

Positive pregnancy test first time mother. Vegan pregnancy and ttc journey.

Starting a family at 26 was something I always wanted as teen. I knew I would like to be a mother before I was 30, in fact, I wanted to be finished having kids by that time. The same young teen who thought I’d have a steady career, a comfortable income and a nice house by the time I was 22, mind you! Despite my rather slow pace at reaching the next steps of the adulthood ladder, as I approached my early twenties my maternal instincts really started kicking in. Every where I looked there were babies and I really wanted one! When 25 rolled round, my dream age of being a mother the following year was ever present in my mind, as much as I tried to ignore it, until it started bubbling over and every baby I saw set off some kind of chemical reaction in my brain that screamed “ITS BABY TIME!”. Trying to shut those feelings into a dark cupboard, at the back of my mind, was testing. Being in a long term relationship, the chats about having our own family were increasing as time went on, until we both recognized we were feeling ready to venture into that chapter of our lives.

After coming of the pill nearly two years ago (Read my story here) my hormones were starting to balance out. Natural Family Planning (Basic info about NFP) was our choice method of birth control, that worked well for some time until we decided to stop avoiding my fertile week and see where the road took us! We were excited with the idea of being parents. Little did we know it would take a year!

In the beginning, I thought it would happen so easily (sex education in school would have you believe so too!) I was so emotionally invested in a positive outcome. Testing at the end of the month went from hopeful, thrilling and exciting to disappointing. After 3 or 4 months, I decided it must be infertility. I must have wrecked my hormones on the pill. Maybe I am barren? Maybe we are both infertile? Things I didn’t give much thought to before. Naively, I thought making a baby would be a given, easy.

It definitely took a toll on me, all I could think about were babies, timing things right, checking my ovulation calendar and I idled between I don’t want to keep setting myself up for heartache every month and “it will happen when it’s meant to happen”, when the timing is right.

And then my period would be late, way late, and I’d feel pregnant. The tests would tell me what I didn’t want know. Months passed by, we talked about getting tested for infertility after one year, we were nearly there. The thought of being told by a healthcare professional that I couldn’t have children was scary. Honestly, I gave up on becoming pregnant. Two healthy individuals, I couldn’t see anything wrong.

I took my fertility for granted and had a few lessons to learn. So I researched all of the ways to increase fertility. Nourishing my body with healthy food and reducing stress were my main areas of concern. I started doing everything I could to promote better health and shared what I learned with my partner, eager and somewhat insistent that he too take better care of his health. We cleaned up our diets (as much as two people who love the noms could), took multivitamins, focused on the fertility friendly vitamins like Vitamin D, Maca powder for hormone balance, healthy fats for hormone production, higher protein intake, brazil nuts for selenium, the list goes on. I’m glad to say the focus on nutrition became part of my life for the better, fertility aside.

Then life had some things planned. Things were going really well for my fiancé, I focused on my work and he proposed the day before my 26th birthday. Things were looking up and I was grateful. Although my mind tried to stray to matters of fertility, I forced myself to be in the present moment and let whatever be just be! Then less than two weeks later, my period was late again. I sure wasn’t going to get my hopes up yet again! I was in a good place, nothing was going to bring me down! A late period, nothing unusual for me at this point. I’m not having a piece of plastic disappoint me again.

My mid-week evening treat of nachos and salsa, sat churning in my stomach. They tasted overly salty. Odd, maybe I got a bad batch. As the night crept by, I guzzled down water trying to wash away the horrible feeling. I swore I wouldn’t be having those again for a while and hoped I’d feel back to normal in the morning. I knew I should have stayed away from the processed food!

Morning came and I was still feeling off. Empty and hungry with a lurking feeling of travel sickness. Even my beloved, soothe-every-ailment oat bran barely settled my stomach. After the gym, (I had been yawning a lot during my workout – odd, I wasn’t tired!) I still felt off and put it down to being overly hungry. Avocado toast would tide me over  while I waited for dinner. One of my faves – vegan sushi! Well, apparently not anymore!

The next day after feeling queasy again, I thought it must be all the fat I’ve eaten so close together, two avocados in one day really was pushing it! I decided to stick to fresh fruits, vegetables and plain foods while my body recovered from this odd bug.

On sharing my tummy bug story with my fiance, he said “You’re pregnant” and my response was “I can’t be, it’s not possible, I’ve just eaten too much fat, I just need to eat healthier. Anyway, I checked my cycle and we missed ovulation so I can’t be”

The next night, still feeling like crap, we drove at 10pm to the nearest 24hr Tesco, only to find they were out of pregnancy tests – of course!  I had started to wrap my head around the possibility that I could potentially be pregnant, despite the calculations on the calendar not adding up. I’ve never had a stomach bug that lasts more than 48 hours, so what else could it be? The next morning we finally got our hands on a pregnancy test.

We got home and got an answer in the form of two DARK lines.

Well, would you look at that!

So here we are awaiting and hoping our little human grows big and strong!

 

 

 

Let me know your pregnancy test stories in the comments! 😀

 

Dysfunctional Eating and Body Image

Blog post about my journey gaining weight a healthy way after a lifetime of being underweight with the health of a plant based diet and weight training

A few months ago I hit a huge personal milestone. For the first time in 26 years, I officially gained enough weight to have a healthy BMI (Body Mass Index). Now I know, health is how you feel, not just how much you weigh or how you look but I was depleted. While my uphill battle to gain and maintain a healthy weight lasted nearly a decade, the last 4 years I’ve been determined to achieve my desired body weight more than ever or at least be considered a healthy weight for my height of nearly 5″8″.

In the beginning people would say “Just eat more, doesn’t matter what it is. Have chocolate and ice cream as snacks!” and so foolishly I tried it. I gained no weight, but I did gain a lot of breakouts!  You see, when you’ve always been underweight it’s not about having an abundance of calories. It’s about nutrition! It’s about tending to your malnourished body, the under-functioning organs and cells. It’s about giving your body some much needed TLC.

I set forth a challenge, to eat the healthiest foods I could stand. That was a process of weaning myself off sugar and processed dinners and making small changes, everyday. Instead of the cereal I snacked on throughout the day, I had a huge bowl of Oat Bran with cinnamon and berries both morning and before bed. That one change alone set me up for a better day. I tried to aim for 2-3 smoothies a week to begin with and added the much dreaded kale and spinach that I couldn’t bring myself to eat in solid form.

For a long time my weight didn’t change, but I felt healthier. I tried upping my fat intake and gave myself the challenge of trying to like avocados. It took a few goes and quite a bit of pepper, but I got there. Flax seeds and Chia seeds in the smoothies that were becoming part of my ‘self care’ routine helped too. And while a plate of salad still didn’t look appetizing, the seven-seeded wholegrain bread did. Salad sandwiches became a staple. I snacked on dates, nuts and berries and made an effort to drink more water too.

A month or so later, I was still anxious to see if I had gained any weight, because at that point I thought, I thought if this doesn’t work, maybe I’m stuck being the underweight girl for my whole life and that thought was scary. Luckily my months of gradually increasing my micro nutrients and macro nutrients started paying off, albeit very, VERY slowly. I gained 2lbs over the course of 3 months, which for some people might be nothing, but when your weight has stayed stagnant for months or years, 2lbs is the little bit of hope, the little voice saying “You can do this”

Of course, I have to hand it to my plant based diet for broadening my food intake and giving me the much needed kick up the butt to start cooking with fresh produce instead of buying freezer food. There were foods I couldn’t eat that I really wanted to love. Like watermelon, pineapple, avocado – sounds odd, but the textures of these foods or smell was a no-go for me. I acquired the taste for them with the help of some positive association techniques.

Being underweight, I felt too self conscious to go to the gym, even though I really wanted to lift heavier weights than my small set of dumbbells at home. I always thought people would look at me and think “What is she doing here, she looks anorexic, why is she trying to lose more weight” I was so involved in how other people saw me that it held me back. Guess what? We have no control over how other people choose to see us and we can’t live our lives by the words others use for us.

I joined the gym, I was nervous as heck! But I went straight to the weights and we became friends. Lifting helped me grow in confidence, clear my head and little did I know it would help me gain weight too. At first, I started to look slimmer, which was scary but then I realised I was gaining muscle and losing fat. On my weight gain mission, I didn’t want to be bloated looking, I wanted to look my best. Making a conscious effort to have my 500 calorie smoothie everyday; with greens, fruits, seeds and protein powder was enough to maintain what I earned in the gym (on top of my regular food, no skipping meals here!)

It was the building block for routine, a positive habit. I was no longer consumed by how many calories I needed to eat to hit my weight gain targets, I wasn’t tracking everything I ate anymore to make sure I hit at least 2,500 calories a day. I focused more on nourishment and health, a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, giving my cells fuel not empty calories.  A year later, I had gained over 1 stone. Putting me in the healthy category of a Body Mass Index chart for the first time. I’m still not at my goal weight of 9.5 stone but I’m getting there and it’s so exciting to see my body flourish for the first time!

In the past, there were times people taunted me, calling me thin, stick thin, anorexic, skinny, frail, lanky, bony and I won’t pretend those comments didn’t hurt.  I listened to words of strangers, peers, colleagues and family, believing for a second there was something gravely wrong with me. That I was abnormal. Little did they know, or care, that I didn’t have anorexia, that I didn’t want to be the underweight woman who was mistaken for a young teen just because of my size. That I longed to be a healthy weight and have curves, that their negative comments about my body were unnecessary and rude.

Constantly being labelled can impact your daily life, even start to change how you see yourself. Eating in public became an ordeal, if I didn’t like the taste of a certain food what would people think if they saw the “skinny girl”  leave food on the plate? If I wanted to wear my favourite pair of skinny jeans, how many remarks would be made of my “stick thin” legs? Too many.

The sad truth is I’d wear a pair of thick leggings, under my jeans, so that at least I didn’t look so skinny for those people who didn’t like my body. Maybe I’d get less hurtful comments, if boiling in summer heat was the trade off. I was so unhappy trying to put on weight while being torn down by what should have been irrelevant remarks but eventually with a change in mindset and a focus on health, not opinions it got a little easier.

Sensory Processing Disorder ruled my daily life from a young age. Especially my mealtimes. SPD is not as simple as being a “picky eater”. Oral hypersensitivity meant food became a source of anxiety and fear. Sometimes the taste but mainly the texture of foods would overwhelm my senses and not in a good way. My neutral foods, food that wouldn’t disturb my palate and reflexes were limited. As you can imagine, it didn’t lead to the most balanced diet and being forced to eat the dreaded foods I couldn’t tolerate only let to more anxiety about food later in life. I wanted so bad to sit like everyone else and eat whatever was in front of them, but it didn’t work out that way.

This weight gain journey has been long and difficult at times. I’ve had to discipline myself to cook when I didn’t feel like it and have greens when I wanted berries and sweets only. To eat a meal when I was hungry instead of having 5 different snacks, even if they were healthier snacking options. Those little things, when done consistently, make a huge difference. There has been a lot of learning and a lot of understanding. A lot of allowing myself to have different tastes than other people and not beating myself up for it. There has been an option of choice and the freedom in that. It’s been a journey of accepting my fast metabolism and my slim, long limb genetics and overcoming the thoughts that bullies or well meaning people with insensitive words tried to place in my head. As much as this has been a physical journey, that continues, it has been a mental journey too. A very emotional, long awaited achievement that still needs to be attended to every day.

All in all, this weight gain journey has helped me take the time to love and nourish not only my body, but my mind too.  I hope whatever journey you are on in your life, you do it with love and self compassion. I hope you keep going when everyone else seems to give up because you’re worth it! Journeys take time, consistency and patience but you’ll get to where you need to be, don’t give up! You got this!

Give a sentimental gift this Festive Season!

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Clouded Ideas Art by Aoife Stokes.

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