6/13/2018

Navigating the First Trimester

Navigating the First Trimester x Ashley Neese

I’ve been wanting to share about my pregnancy here on the journal for some time. This year (how is it June already?) has flown by in a blink. As I sit here typing this at my dear friend Lacy’s house in Los Angeles my mind is nearly flooded with memories from the last six months and I am pruposely slowing myself down so that I can share some of it with you today.

At the beginning of this year, I set intentions as I’ve done for the last twenty years around what I want to create, how I want to show up, and where I want to grow. This year I had some very deep intentions and planned to write a journal post about each one. I got through three of them (here’s my favorite) and then stopped as I got pregnant and landed a book deal. The journal had to take a back seat.

I set out this year to manifest a child and a book and came through with weeks of each other in late January. It was such a magical and incredible few weeks. I felt like I was in the flow in a way I had never experienced before. It’s like my body clicked into another gear and I was aligned with a frequency I’d been longing to align with I just didn’t know it consciously until then. Within a week after learning I was pregnant the book deal was sealed (I will post about that I promise!) and then for the next three and a half months I became incredibly sick, exhausted, anxious and unhinged.

The first trimester was one of the toughest periods of my life in recent years. I’ve been through a great deal with my body and health but this was next level. I sought out the support of the amazing team I have including my friends, acupuncturist, midwives, homeopath and partner. The nausea was so debilitating for so many weeks on end that I ended up taking a western medication for a couple of weeks just to get through my book deadline. Feeling that ill shook me to my core. I had so many moments of questioning if I was strong enough to be a mother. Could I really show up for this?

I felt terrible for taking the medication, something I swore I wouldn’t do even before I got pregnant. After talking about it at length with my amazing doula and epic friend Erica and my acupuncturist Amy it was clear that it would be best for me to take it to give my mental health a little reprieve. I was getting so depressed from feeling as sick as I felt that we collectively decided it was better for my health and the health of the growing fetus for me to not be so sad. I agreed. I kept up with acupuncture and herbs while on the medication and sought out the help of a homeopath to help me get off it it after a few weeks when I was ready.

My homeopath (bless her) said in our first session that extreme nausea is right up there with vertigo and chronic itching in terms of how it effects your mental health. It was really helpful to hear it in those terms. It gave me space to go through the experience feeling more supported. The nausea really took a toll on me and it got worse before it got better. I closed my books, cancelled client sessions, stopped teaching and spent my days in bed trying to eat anything I could get down and when I had the energy and wasn’t on the verge of throwing up I worked on the book. I also pulled a away a bit from friends and family, so much so that my mother became concerned about me. We’ve had a great deal of communication since then and she knows now I am good and am on the other side of it.

I’m one of those people who doesn’t fair well with ongoing physical discomfort. I can handle quite a bit mentally and emotionally, but when it comes to the physical, I am very challenged when my body doesn’t feel well. Last year when I went through the experience of having to unplug and slow down to heal my body on a deeper level it seemed like the toughest thing I’d gone through. I can’t even begin to explain how this first trimester made last summer feel like an afternoon in the park. And I know much of it had to do with all of the added pregnancy hormones. My hormone levels were so high in the beginning of the pregnancy that we were speculating if there were two babes growing in my uterus! To be clear, there is just one ;)

Part of what was happening for me is that I had this idea, thanks to the media, that pregnancy was supposed to look and feel a certain way. I saw countless images of pregnant women talking about how great they felt and how their skin was glowing. In my first trimester I looked like bloated ghost with sunken in eyes and pale skin. I lived on bagels and cream cheese, totally not the bone broth, veggies and nourishing foods I envisioned myself eating. I drank ginger ale, ate chocolate croissants from Tartine, and at my most humbling point ate organic macaroni and cheese out of a box. I prayed that this baby would be built of the previous nine months of deep nutrition I consumed and felt like I was already being a terrible mother.

I felt like something was wrong with me after I talked to a few people who said they didn’t feel that bad and were living on greens healthy foods. Thankfully I didn’t stop there and I got a hold of one of my best friends who is a mother and she told me point blank the first trimester can be so tough and that nothing I was experiencing was abnormal or wrong. That initial conversation brought me a great deal of relief and it also allowed me to let go of my expectations of how the first trimester should feel.

Being able to talk to her through this process has been huge for me. I’m not always great at receiving support and being pregnant I’ve learned how much support I actually need. This pregnancy is stretching and strengthening my capacity and willingness to reach out and ask for help. We were joking about how the first trimester is worse than getting sober and that totally feels right to me. I would quit drinking several times over, it was cake compared to this.

And then there was, and continues to be, all of the mental and emotional reorganization that is taking place as this babe grows inside of me. As my brain chemistry receives a massive upgrade to becoming a mother it’s so much to flow through. In those first three months it became crystal clear that my life as I’ve known it, is no longer going to be the same in any way. The dreams (especially as they relate to my career) I have been oriented toward are shifting with such speed. I’m finding myself each month in a place of editing, refining, letting go and making more space to welcome in this tiny teacher who has already become a major and very literal part of my life on a spiritual and cellular level.

I learned some major life lessons in the first trimester, one being that I have got be more gentle with myself. When ate a chocolate croissant in front of my midwives in one of our early appointments they laughed and told me not to worry. They said that the fetus was growing from the nutrition stores in my body and that I would know when it was time to stop eating bagels and get back on eggs, greens and avocado. And they were right. They encouraged me to be patient with the process and to trust my body, it knows what it needs.

Just writing that out brings a sigh of relief again today as I type this entry. The gentleness is such a big piece for me. As is the slowing down and trusting the process. Learning to trust what my body is telling me has been a practice I’ve been in for years. The first trimester was an invitation after invitation to be in the process of transformation and all of the aspects that come along with it.

Sitting here at 24 weeks (tomorrow!) it’s amazing how different I feel, how much more centered I am and how I am able to lean into the joy of these experiences even when the nausea pops back in for a visit. Two weeks before my annual breathwork retreat in May I started to feel better and like this new and improved version of myself. My energy levels increased, the nausea got dialed down to a manageable level and I decided to step out of the cocoon I’d been living in and connect back to the world.

Coming out on the other side of the first trimester I feel like I’ve really been through something huge. Not only did I touch into the depths of my physical body, I visited areas of my psyche that needed to be explored and expressed. Being pregnant is such a teaching in expansion and in order to expand what was hanging out in my body, the fears about being a good mother, the questions of am I strong enough to do this and can my relationship handle this, all of this has to become unearthed in order to be integrated and eventually upgraded.

Revisiting my experiences in the first trimester has been such a healing process. I am reminded of how much I have been through over these last five months and it honestly blows my mind. I wrote this entry for myself as a way to remember and see the shifts spelled out in front of me. I also wrote this for other mothers who are navigating the tender space of the first trimester. The word that keeps showing up is gentleness. Being gentle with ourselves as our bodies expand and the subconscious comes to the surface for digestion and assimilation. And the trust that grows roots when we allow ourselves to sink all the way into whatever we are experiencing.

Here’s to showing up for it all.

Here’s to slowing down long enough to fee it.

Here’s to all the mothers out there raising their consciousness and doing their work in the world.

Here’s the the people who support the mothers and give us space to take care of ourselves.

Here’s to the the practice of gentleness. May we soften, may we expand, may we love, may we share.

 

x

Photos x @mariellevchua

Comments

  • Meike

    Dear Ashley,

    My warmest congrats on your pregnancy, I am only 5 weeks ahead of you and I can so well relate to what you went through during the first trimester! I also felt super sick day and night for many, many long weeks and often I found myself just laying on the sofa or the bed during the day, crying because I was so desperate and at the end of my wit and I just wanted to feel good and be able to work again. It’s seriously tough on the psyche and even if my nausea wasn’t that bad that I needed to get on medication (something I would totally have done happily and willingly if only it made me feel better), now I know that pregnancy teaches us a great deal and that is just simply not that blissful glowy phase all the way through:)
    It’s great to read that you’re feeling better now and I can promise you it will just keep getting better and more exciting! Here’s to a wonderful second and third trimester.

    Love, Meike

    • ashley

      Hi Meike,
      Thanks so much for taking the time to reflect and share some of your wisdom and experiences too! It’s wonderful to have your voice here, it’s such an important conversation.

      I am grateful for your words and I am in agreement, the second trimester is already so much easier!

      Thinking of you and sending love. x

  • Sarah Palmer

    That was so beautiful to read. Thanks. I’ve recently had a hysterectomy so although it may seem the opposite experience on the surface I could really relate to your experience of going into your body and experience. I’ve been frustrated with the standard timeframe of recovery, menopause symptoms, horrendous weight gain, the fragility that came with not being to lift much, well not do hardly anything for a while. So the whole physical and emotional experience was inviting me to go into my body and soul. I’ve been through crying when I know the crying was hormonally induced but again it invited me to grieve the loss of not being a mum. Reading your beautiful journey of your pregnancy did not induce envy but a relief to hear the words of going into your body. It’s all signs from the university reading this as a friend only just said go into your body. I so need to. Weird I came across your article. It was a reief to read such a real article and to know there are other souls out there reaching and teaching. Big thanks and all the best for your further journey. You will be a wonderful mother!

    • ashley

      Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for taking the time to share and for being here. I really appreciate reading about your experiences and am very grateful this post felt supportive to where you are in your journey now. There is so much overlap in the feelings and this invitation we experience to go deeper into our bodies and soul. I hear you with the frustrations of our limitations, the time frame in which we heal as well as the relief that comes from knowing we are not alone. Your words brought such comfort to me and I know to many others who will read this post as well as your comments. Thinking of you on this journey and sending love. x

  • Marta

    Congratulations on your pregnancy ! I can totally relate to “happy feeling” that it is send to us from TV and magazines. My pregnancy was unexpected, and I wasn’t prepare for it. I felt terrible and all my friends told me how it was amazing for them to be pregnant and how wonderful they felt. I also felt that I’m terrible mother, because I could eat the way I wanted. Luckily now everything is ok, I’m listening to my body, and do what I feel it’s right. Every day I’m more and more excited about my pregnancy and little baby growing inside me :) Enjoy your pregnancy time, it’s going so fast ;) All the best and good luck with your book :)

    • ashley

      Thank you Marta! I really hear you about how challenging it can be in the beginning and for some women all the way through. It’s so important to have a safe space to talk about what’s going on and how we’re navigating these tender times. I am thrilled to hear you are okay and listening to your body – that is incredible. I feel the same way as you, a little more excited each day and just in awe of this process. It’s wild isn’t it?! Wishing you ease and joy as you move through the months, it really does go fast :) x

  • Kate

    Ah, thank you for writing this, Ashley! I just hit my second trimester yesterday and I can honestly say my first trimester has been the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through! And I’ve gone through some rough shit in my life. I knew that having a baby would be life changing, but I had no idea the change would be instant! I’ve barely seen my friends in two months and the damage to all the work I’ve done on my mental health this past year has been trampled on. But I know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and knowing other moms have gone through this too is HUGE. Thank you and good luck! xx

    • ashley

      Kate! It is so wonderful to hear from you! I totally feel you. I have been through some rough shit too and this was beyond on all levels. I kept joking with a friend that getting sober was easier. And it was. I am right there with you and am glad we are in this together. Connecting with other moms around these experiences that aren’t openly shared in a public way has been a big deal for me too. It’s so important to talk about what is really happening! Feels like a first step in parenting too :) Thank you for taking the time to share and sending love your way. xo

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