September 30, 2022

Embracing Stillness

 When I had the rare energy to record my experiences during the first trimester, I wrote in a document entitled “First Trimester Woes.” I counted the days to 12 weeks, where the second trimester promised to sweep away my symptoms and revive some bodily and emotional energy. Once 12 weeks hit, I learned that it’s often not until 15 or 16 weeks where you start to feel better and for me that was true. I felt deceived in that people often fail to make that distinction, dismissing the extra few weeks as too insignificant to mention. Though it is true that once you move into a different phase of being, the intensity of before wanes. Which is part of why I want to document the depth of it all as it’s happening. 

I am very grateful to have moved past the severe nausea and fatigue of those first few months, but when I started recording my experiences of the second trimester, my first instinct was to write them in a document entitled “Second Trimester Woes.” Because this period of time has brought its own set of battles, made a little more annoying by the fact it’s generally perceived as the easiest time in pregnancy. 

Now that my symptoms were not as constant, I’d been looking forward to being more active. I missed the movement of climbing, the way it engages so many large and small muscles. But when I started again, I noticed that I couldn’t contract my core muscles as well anymore. I also had to be mindful of my joints given their increased laxity. Despite the struggle, I somewhat enjoyed these new challenges, which made me feel corners of my pregnant body that otherwise felt stiff and unexplored. I also felt thankful that I could move without feeling woozy and nauseated, even if the flow of climbing had given way to a more disjointed zigzag of arms and legs.

Then, one day at work I stood up to grab an envelope and after a few steps I realized I was leaking blood, leaving a trail of red spots on the floor. I’d never experienced a flow so fast and heavy. My colleagues kindly provided me with a pad and the firm instruction to seek care. 

I had been too sick during most of my pregnancy so far to be anxious about miscarriage. Now I started to panic, wondering if the little being whose shape I had gotten to know through black and white ultrasound images was going to seep through me with all this blood. Because I wasn’t experiencing any pain, I reassured myself this was unlikely. Still, it is hard to supplant the idea of loss with the idea of continuation when bright red blood is coming down your legs.

After blood tests and an ultrasound and repeated questions about how much I was bleeding (which seems like an impossible question to answer unless given a measurement to quantify, which I never was), I was told that the baby was fine and none of the tests showed anything serious. My placenta was lying low in the uterus, which is common during this stage of pregnancy. But because of the bleeding, I was advised to not do anything to increase the pressure in my stomach. This included lifting anything heavy with my arms, lifting my legs to go up hills, and pulling myself up in any way. When I asked what I could do: “...You can walk.” 

I’m extremely relieved to see our baby moving around on the ultrasound screen. Holding my gaze with teary eyes, G expresses his gratitude that both the baby and I are okay. 

Still, I’m crushed, not just by the activity restrictions at a time when I was finally able to be more mobile, but by the sense of constant limitation. I didn’t expect that after the expected woes of the first trimester passed, the second trimester would bring new kinds of disruption. And new shades of fear. While before I dismissed my parents’ warning to “not exert yourself,” and felt strongly that motion nurtured our baby, now I wonder if any type of physical effort is going to jolt him in jarring, unhealthy ways.  

In climbing, my mind constantly evaluates whether the fear I’m experiencing is rational and valid, or simply limiting my progress. There, if I decide to face the fear and I am wrong, I’m the only one who bears the consequences. Here, if I choose incorrectly, another being is on the line, a being who is dependent on my decisions and cannot choose for himself.  And so, I’m adjusting not just to a different physical state but to a different mindset about how to assess risk and what it means to be brave. Now, courage is less about leaning into scary positions and more about accepting the need for stillness.  

As I await the sensation of my baby moving in me, I understand that for the moment I am exchanging my motion for his. I’m not one to glorify maternal sacrifice, not because I don’t recognize that motherhood necessitates compromise, but because I worry that putting sacrifice on a pedestal creates guilt around maintaining boundaries and promoting self-growth. At the same time, as someone who has always felt that community is built upon the act of sacrificing for the sake of others, I am awed by how pregnancy is teaching me new, visceral means of putting another before myself.      

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