WE HAVE BIG NEWS: our rainbow baby is on the way!!!! I’m thrilled to share that E and I are expecting a little girl in September.
It has been a long journey to get here, but it was all worth it to reach this point. I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the chance to carry this baby. When you’re pregnant again after loss, nothing ever feels guaranteed, but I’m doing my very best to celebrate each day I am given and stay hopeful for the future. This baby is already SO loved, and we can’t wait to meet her this fall.
It still blows my mind that we are already entering the second trimester. Time has never passed so slowly yet so quickly at the same time! Each day has crept by, but the weeks have seemed to speed up until now. I’m so thankful to be past the highest period of risk, although after last year’s loss, I know not to take a single day for granted. Every day, we choose to hope for the best and believe in a successful birth and a healthy baby.
As we share this joyful news today, my heart is with those mamas who are still in the season of waiting. I hope that your baby will find you soon. I am cheering for you and always here to listen ♥
During the early weeks of pregnancy, I loved reading through other mamas’ first trimester recaps – so I thought it would be fun to share mine too! I’m also planning to share an update for 2nd + 3rd tri as well as (hopefully) our birth story later this year. BUT, this will still be a photography blog first and foremost, so please feel free to skip the pregnancy posts and stick around for the photography content if you’d like! 😉
Our TTC journey to get here
I realize that compared to many couples who are struggling with infertility, we are incredibly lucky. Infertility warriors are total badasses, and the last thing I want is to discount your experiences by sharing mine. (Note: The more I read about infertility, the more I appreciated all the different ways there are to grow a family, like adoption, IVF, and surrogacy. I highly recommend checking out the documentary One More Shot – it’s intense, but it gave me a lot of hope!)
However, even just one year of waiting was such a challenge for me, so I’m including this part to be honest about our personal experience.
2019 was the most challenging year of my life. Until this point, I’ve been lucky in that if I set my mind to something and work hard enough, I’ve been able to achieve it. Trying for a baby was the first time in my life where I had to learn that I had zero control over the outcome.
Even though my logical mind knew that even healthy couples can take a year to conceive, I felt more discouraged as time went on. I expected the negative tests for the first few months, but after that, the worries started to sneak in. Was something wrong with us?
E and I both felt SO ready to be parents. We had worked for a long time to prepare our minds, hearts, and finances for parenthood, and once we started trying, I wanted so badly to be pregnant already!
Because we originally tried to time pregnancy so that it was least disruptive to my business (in hindsight: LOL), we tried allllll the things in an effort to conceive quickly. E and I both went all-in on fertility diets, supplements, and exercise. I temped, charted, tracked…read the books….Googled all the things. All the endless waiting seemed impossible, so I tried to DO as many things as possible to help the time go quicker.
My mom kept begging for me to just relax (oh, that infamous TTC advice!), but that felt like an impossible task. Yoga, therapy, acupuncture, meditation: all helpful, but nothing could cure my anxiety last year. Every month, I faced my fear that E and I might never be able to have children. Sometimes I could put my stress away for awhile, but especially during the “two-week wait,” every twinge or hint of fatigue would bring my mind right back to the possibility of pregnancy. I just couldn’t turn my brain off.
Fast-forward to July: When we got our first positive pregnancy test, I was over the moon to get off the TTC train and start our family. However, that pregnancy sadly ended in miscarriage a few weeks later, and we fell back to square one again.
Many women shared that they conceived immediately after their miscarriage, so I hoped that we would also have a quick redemption story. However, that wasn’t the case for us, and it took us exactly the same amount of time to conceive again. Every negative cycle following the miscarriage dug my grief a little deeper – my dream of carrying a baby to term felt so far out of reach. I still loved children, but being around them became a painful reminder of what I hadn’t (yet) been able to do.
Last year made me question my body, my dreams, and even the career that I loved and worked so hard to build. Looking back, I can see how dramatic that sounds, but at the time it felt like my world was crashing down. I wish I could go back and give myself a little grace as I walked through that season.
Finding out about pregnancy #2
After a year on the fertility train, I was starting to lose my mind a little bit. I had already reached out to my OB, who told me we would start fertility testing soon.
On New Year’s Eve, I vowed to myself that enough was ENOUGH. I would no longer let TTC take over my life and every waking thought. I missed feeling creative and joyful. So I made a concerted effort to take back my life in 2020 and try my best to not let TTC consume my happiness.
Just two days later, on January 2nd, I got the positive test. Talk about starting the new year with a bang!
I wish I could say it was as joyful as finding out about our first pregnancy…but I just stared at the stick in shock. The line was barely there, but there was definitely *something*.
I watched the test line get darker and darker over the next few days, but then just as quickly as it appeared, I started spotting. That’s how my miscarriage started last time, so I completely freaked out. I was so convinced that it was happening again, and I prepared myself to lose another chance at motherhood.
Time has never passed more slowly than the week I waited for those initial blood work results. Finally the news came back that my HCG was more than doubling (great news!!) But my progesterone came back low at a 6, which was only slightly higher than the level I miscarried at last time.
My doctor immediately put me on progesterone supplementation, and miraculously, my spotting disappeared overnight AND my mood shifted from intense physical anxiety to feeling completely calm. It was the coolest change I’ve ever experienced. The jury is still out on the effectiveness of progesterone supplementation, but whether it was a placebo effect or not, it made a world of difference in those early weeks.
I still worried SO much during the first trimester (more on that later), but seeing a heartbeat at the 8-week appointment was a big relief, and that hope kept me going until the 12-week ultrasound.
We’ve skipped past a lot of the “cute” milestones this time around – pregnancy after loss tends to feel more anxious than joyful. We didn’t get the chance to tell our parents about this pregnancy in person, but I still have the videos from last summer when we told our parents for the first time. They still make me smile, here they are:
We were all together in Dallas for E’s sister’s wedding, so my parents are actually the ones who took the second video! 🙂
It’s a boy…I mean, it’s a girl!
I knew that I wanted to find out the gender as soon as possible. We never had the opportunity to know for our first pregnancy, and I really struggled with that as I was grieving. So when I heard that there was a test that could tell you at 9 weeks, I was all in!
It’s called Sneak Peek, and it’s an at-home test where you prick your finger and mail in a blood sample. I had read that the test could be easily “contaminated” by male DNA, so I was careful to follow all the instructions to a T. I scrubbed my hands, fingernails, and countertops like crazy! A few days after completing the test, the results came back that it was a BOY!
I always imagined that our first child would be a daughter, so I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this news at first! I knew I would love him, but I didn’t know as much about boys. I felt like I didn’t understand how to be a boy mama.
To help this, I poured all my energy into bonding with my baby boy! E and I choose a name, looked at cute baby boy clothing, and noticed every single adorable baby boy when we went for walks in the city. I got teary every time I saw a little boy hug his mama. After a couple of weeks following the gender news, I felt excited and ready for my new role!
Fast-forward to 11 weeks…on my OB’s recommendation, I did NIPT blood testing to check that the baby was healthy. The particular test I had taken also tells you the gender. When the nurse called with the results, I just about fell over when she said, “It’s a girl!!” (& that result is 99% sure!)
I think that was the most confused I’ve ever felt in my entire life!!! I had just found out that my lifelong dream of having a daughter was coming true, but I also felt like the little “boy” that I had fallen in love with had just instantly disappeared. It was so strange to immediately switch gears from boy mom to girl mom.
Hearing my mom and best friend’s shocked reactions were two of my favorite moments of this pregnancy so far!!
The lessons that I learned from this whole ordeal:
- Gender aside, I am so incredibly happy and grateful for a growing baby that is (to the best of our knowledge) healthy so far!
- Now I feel more prepared to have a child of any gender! This experience gave me a small glimpse of how you grow to love whatever baby you’re blessed with. I can only imagine how that love will grow even more when we get to meet our baby and see her (!) unique personality unfold.
- Take those Sneak Peek test results with a grain of salt! 😉
When are you due?
September 15th! I’m excited for summer maxi dresses and autumn walks with our newborn!
What’s your plan for maternity leave?
There is no such thing as “maternity leave” when you’re self-employed….it’s more like “unemployment leave,” ha! I’ve been trying to prepare and save for this moment for a long time. It will be the longest break I’ve ever taken since starting my business 12 years ago!
As of now, the plan is to book client sessions until 34 weeks, wrap up editing for the last ~6 weeks of pregnancy, and then take 3-4 months of maternity leave until Christmas. After that, I’ll be easing back into work starting in January, and then I will return to full-time hours starting in April 2021. I’ve never felt more grateful for the flexibility of my job!
In the meantime, I’ll still be working full-time until the end of July 2020!
Sadly, I will be missing this year’s fall photo season, which is the time when I get to see the majority of my returning clients. I’m hoping that I get to see those families at some other point (either this year or next)!
I feel super lucky that my morning sickness felt pretty mild compared to some of the stories I’ve heard from other women. I only threw up twice, and otherwise I just dry heaved a million times. It actually got kind of comical…it was a little like a chronic case of the hiccups, except for way less cute. 😉
The underlying nausea went away (for the most part) by 9 weeks. The best cure I found for this was candied ginger – I just kept a little bag of these in my coat at all times in case of emergencies. Eating just one piece would relieve the nausea immediately. This stuff is magical!
Food cravings & aversions
More than any specific craving or aversion, I had a HUGE loss of appetite for a few weeks. Whole Foods is usually my favorite place when I’m hungry, but I remember taking one trip with E, walking around for an entire hour, and ending up with absolutely nothing in the cart. Finally, as we got in the car to drive away, I desperately ran back into the store to buy a slice of cheese pizza and scarfed it down.
My appetite just made NO sense and it was entirely unpredictable. Foods that I usually love suddenly became entirely unappealing. I wanted nothing to do with my beloved iced coffee and chocolate for about four whole weeks! One day I ordered my favorite salad, and I ended up giving it to E after three bites because it tasted disgusting to me.
During these weeks of my MIA appetite, the only thing that sounded mildly appealing was carb-heavy food. Like, gimme ALLLLLL the carbs. I’m usually not a bread-heavy person and try to eat fairly well, but I could not get enough of saltines, bread, and bagels. That’s all I ate some days.
At first I was really disappointed in myself because I always wanted to be such a healthy eater during pregnancy…but those ideals quickly flew out the window in the name of making it through the day. Thankfully, my appetite for healthy food is coming back a *tiny* bit, so I’m hoping I can make up for my carb binge a little during the second/third trimesters.
When I *could* stomach food, these were my favorite cravings in chronological order: chicken nuggets & mustard (only early on), avocado toast, blackberry jam on toast, mac & cheese, bagels + cream cheese (!!!), fresh orange juice, frozen pizza, and Five Guys hamburgers. Obviously, all of these choices were super nutritious. 😉
A couple of things that did help with managing a few vegetables during first tri:
- Daily Harvest frozen meal deliveries. My nutritionist recommended these, and they were honestly worth every. single. penny. I don’t think I would have eaten a single vegetable had it not been for these. All it took was four minutes in the microwave, and I had vegetables that somehow seemed appealing.
- I delegated cooking to E, who was wonderful and made us some healthy meals. I felt like such a nuisance when something sounded good in theory but then smelled revolting once I went to eat it….but he was SO patient with me!!! And he ate LOTS of my leftovers! 😉
The day I absolutely HAD TO HAVE an entire frozen pizza…and then the baby rejected it shortly after. Womp womp!
Based on what I had heard, I always thought the worst part of the first trimester would be morning sickness…but for me, the exhaustion was way worse! There were many times, especially around 5-8 weeks, when I felt like a tiny shadow of my old self and wondered if I could even do pregnancy, let alone keep running my business at the same time.
Many days I would try to go to the office, but after showering, I would get so exhausted that I would fall back into bed and not get up for the rest of the day. Some days I was too tired to even make it to the couch. It felt like someone put a stone blanket on my shoulders, and standing up became a herculean effort.
I fought the fatigue so hard at first, but somewhere along the way, I gave in to the Netflix coma and tried to let of the guilt about my overflowing email inbox.
The crazy part is that I don’t remember a lot from those early weeks…I was in an exhausted first trimester haze! Adding to the fatigue, some nights I would be wide awake until 4 a.m. from hormone-induced insomnia. I’ve never experienced anything like it. Maybe that was Mother Nature trying to prepare me for newborn sleep deprivation. 😉
Weight gain & exercise (or lack thereof)
Probably because of my lack of appetite, I’ve only gained three pounds so far, with most of that happening in the last couple of weeks when I started craving hamburgers. 😉 After losing 20 pounds last year to get to an optimal pre-pregnancy weight, it feels strange to purposefully be putting on weight now. But I don’t think I will mind the weight gain so much…I am just so thankful to be pregnant with this baby!!
As for exercise…oh man, that was the furthest thing from my mind during the first trimester. It was tough for me to even walk up one flight of stairs, so attempting workouts was just not in the cards for me. I did try to get in ~5,000 steps most days, but that was the extent of my exercise.
Now that I’m feeling more like my old self, the plan is to start at-home prenatal workouts three times a week (Expecting and Empowered). As an overly nervous first-time mom, I like the idea that everything in that program has been vetted, so I don’t have to worry about accidentally doing any exercises that will harm the baby.
My tiny 12-week bump that’s mostly just bloat 😉
Pregnancy after loss = nonstop worrying!!!
I realize that pregnancy is just the beginning of a lifetime full of mama worries. But dang, pregnancy after loss is such a brutal introduction to those worries!
After losing my first pregnancy, my only experience has been that my body cannot carry a baby to term. Although the rational part of my brain knows that miscarriage is so incredibly common (1 in 4!) and that many women go on to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy next time, the emotional part of my brain has been SO hard to turn off sometimes. I keep thinking, “I’ll relax and enjoy this when we reach ____,” but the milestones keep passing and then my anxiety just jumps to the next one.
When I finally passed 6.5 weeks (the point at which we lost the last pregnancy), I should have felt better…but then I felt nervous about the viability scan at 8 weeks, and then after the 8-week scan I started freaking out about the NIPT results. Then came the 12-week ultrasound, which made me so nervous that my heart started racing almost a full week before the appointment. That was the first time that I had to go back to the ultrasound clinic where we found out we lost the last baby, and I still associated that place with traumatic memories.
Now that the scan has gone well, I feel anxious about the fact that I don’t feel very pregnant anymore! Although morning sickness and fatigue weren’t fun, I felt so grateful for those symptoms because they reassured me that things were still progressing. Now the symptoms are gone for the most part, and my belly is actually more flat now than it was at 8 weeks because the bloating has gone down! And my energy is back up again.
I’m thankful to be feeling great, but I’m also looking forward to later days when it’s easier to believe that there’s actually a baby in there. I can’t wait until my bump starts to show, and then after that when I feel the baby’s first kicks!
The best antidote to first trimester anxiety was forcing myself to get out of the house, even on days when that felt like the most impossible task. When I stayed home, I tended to get stuck googling pregnancy things, and that was NOT helpful even though it made me feel better temporarily. Some days all I could do was commute to my office, take a nap on my desk, and then come straight home again – but it helped calm my anxiety to walk a little bit and change my environment.
I also watched a LOT of Netflix – partly because of fatigue, but partly because it helped me get out of my head and focus on someone else’s plot line for a little while.
Many fellow pregnancy-after-loss mamas suggested repeating the mantra, “Today I am pregnant.” And I did find that helpful. I am trying my best to celebrate the time that I have with this baby, no matter what the future may hold. I imagine holding her in my arms, rocking her in the nursery, and singing songs to her. It’s scary to let myself get attached, but I know from experience that trying to stay detached doesn’t make the pain of loss hurt any less…so I might as well try to enjoy each day as it comes. (Easier said than done, but I’m sure gonna try!!)
Well…if you made it this far, you deserve a medal! Thank you for following along – I’m looking forward to sharing second & third trimester posts a little later this year! 🙂