The skies are dark and stormy on this late afternoon in late July, and I am sitting cross-legged on our couch wrapped in a cardigan and blanket with my laptop as I write this since our house is feeling awfully chilly in the air conditioning. Today I am 37 weeks and 3 days pregnant with our first baby boy, and I have been experiencing some pretty intense Braxton Hicks contractions (or at least I think they are) for the last few days. I will get to all of that later. But I am finally sitting down to recap this entire pregnancy and I am very excited about sharing it with you!
I’m not sure how, but it has simultaneously felt like I have been pregnant forever, yet at the same time like I blinked and woke up in the last couple weeks of the third trimester. It is probably because SO much has happened over the span of this year, but that also made it feel like it passed so quickly. Time is a funny thing, isn’t it?
It’s certainly not news to anyone that this year has been particularly hard. Wow, we are going to look back on 2020 and wonder how we all got through it, right? Jordan and I purchased our first home and moved into it RIGHT as the first lockdown happened in our country due to the pandemic. My business had to temporarily shut down, and I was starting to come undone as all of my weddings were being rescheduled left and right. Just when I thought we had a clear idea of how we would move forward with one, another couple would come to me worried and concerned. My heart was so heavy for my couples every day, and at the same time, I was so worried about whether or not my business was going to survive this. Jordan was absolutely slammed with work at the time, and we were both extremely stressed. Luckily things eventually started looking up on my end when I was finally able to start taking sessions starting in early May. It brought me so much joy to get to see my sweet clients again and get behind my camera. I thought I was going to lose my mind when I wasn’t able to do any of that for 7-8 weeks! Fast forward to June, and we unexpectedly found out that Jordan was laid off from his job. We definitely had a moment of panic, wondering how this could have happened when we MOVED here for this job two years ago and loved our life here so much. It seemed like the WORST timing since we had just bought this house and had our first baby due to arrive two months later. I knew we would be okay, but phew that was a hard time for both of us. Looking back now, however, I can see God’s hand in all of it. He gave us the opportunity to be together as a couple, grow, spend quality time, and get ready for life as we know it to be forever changed.
Through all of the ups and downs, I definitely didn’t document or journal this pregnancy in real-time as much as I wanted to. My mind felt too overwhelmed and my anxiety sadly kept me from wanting to write about the hardships we were enduring. But what holds true is the upcoming arrival of our baby boy is the very thing that kept me going and gave me such JOY. And while so much of this pregnancy is still very vivid in my mind, I want to write it all down before my world completely changes after this baby arrives.
Some of this will probably be a little TMI, but that is how it goes when it comes to pregnancy. So just here to warn ya. 😉
The very surprise of it all was probably my favorite part. As I mentioned in our pregnancy announcement blog, Jordan and I were not trying to get pregnant. So when we found out we were, it was the most exciting and exhilarating feeling in the world. My favorite part about the first trimester was getting to share the news with our family, close friends, and eventually the rest of the world. We found out we were pregnant on December 7th and told our parents right away in person. They were absolutely shocked and SO ecstatic. Since it was right before Christmas time, we decided to wait two more weeks to tell our siblings and the rest of our family at our holiday events. It was so hard to wait that long to share the news with those closest to us, but it was so worth it to get to hug them in person!
We told my brother Justin and his whole family with a little onesie for our nephew aka their newest addition, Leo, that said “Guess What?” and they were able to figure it out from there. Then, I ordered these wine labels on Amazon and we stuck them on a few bottles we picked up to bring over to my other brother, Adam, and his wife, as well as our extended family and a couple of close friends. When we brought these over as gifts, it was so fun to watch the reactions when they realized what they said!
My other favorite part of the first trimester was seeing our baby on the ultrasound for the first time. I was so nervous and excited to finally go to our first doctor’s appointment, and seeing that little heartbeat flicker on the screen was one of the most surreal moments we’ve ever experienced! Hearing the for the first time heartbeat several weeks later was another memorable moment. It’s so crazy that you can actually HEAR it when the baby is still so small! This whole experience has made me realize what a true MIRACLE it all really is.
What struck me the most was how EXTREMELY hard the first month is. Most doctors will not see you until you are at least 8-10 weeks pregnant. So when you find out about being pregnant pretty early on, that could mean waiting a month or more until you are seen. That seemed SO CRAZY to me! We found out in early December and I wasn’t able to get in for an appointment until early January. That was the longest month of my life. It felt so strange to me to think that I was pregnant but that I couldn’t be checked by a doctor to “confirm” it for me. That lead to me being extremely paranoid and taking SO. MANY. AT-HOME. TESTS. I look back and laugh about the 17 sticks that I peed on, but at the time it was the only thing that continued to make it “real” for me. When you’re going through being pregnant for the first time and you’re not sure what to do with yourself, you sort of feel like you’re going crazy! Especially because you hear about so many “what if’s” and awful stories from miscarriages to ectopic pregnancies, etc. Every time I went to the bathroom I was terrified that I would find blood, and every time I felt an ache or pain I worried something was wrong. I wish someone would have told me that this was totally normal. Since most people decide to announce and talk about their pregnancies beyond 12 weeks, this part seems to be missed. I am here to tell you that if you have been through this stage and you felt like you were spiraling…you were/are not alone!
Speaking of when to announce…this is another thing that no one tells you. IT IS 100% UP TO YOU WHEN YOU CHOOSE TO SHARE!!! Somehow there has been this “standard” of waiting until 12 weeks before you share the big news with anyone. However, I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with sharing your pregnancy whenever YOU decide you want to. For me, it was SO HARD keeping it a secret! I wanted our people to know right away, and if God forbid anything were to go wrong, they could walk that alongside us. Others may want to wait a little longer to announce(or even until after 12 weeks) until it feels more comfortable, and that is completely valid too! Personally, I did not want to let fear steal any joy from the situation. I believe babies can be celebrated at any point. 🙂
The last struggles I will mention about the first trimester are the obvious ones — nausea, food aversions, insomnia, extreme fatigue, extreme bloating, and constipation (yea, that was probably the roughest). I am very grateful that I never actually threw up from nausea, but it was definitely there. So many foods grossed me out and I basically lived off of bagels, boxed macaroni and cheese, and fruit. I was up at all hours of the night because of the extreme thirst, constant need to pee, hunger/random cravings, etc. During the day I was exhausted. I would need a nap by 11 am, and I was so unmotivated to do quite literally anything but sit on the couch. That was pretty hard since I am normally someone who does not like to sit still. But I tried to embrace it all and allow my body to rest and do what it needed to do. Eventually, I got my energy and appetite back and things started to look up quite a bit.
Naturally, when I found out I was pregnant, I started taking a closer look at the everyday products I was using both on my body and within our home. It made me even more passionate about living out a “toxin-free,” cleaner lifestyle. I began making it a priority to decrease my exposure to things like PEG’s, Sulfates, BPA, and many, many other harmful chemicals + hormone disrupters. Making big changes in all of your products from skincare to makeup to cleaning supplies can seem very daunting at first. But it is actually INSANE how awful SO many of the ingredients are in the products we use every single day, especially the things we put directly on our skin! I think if there’s any motivation to finally drop any excuses and take the first step toward bettering your health– it’s trying to conceive and/or getting pregnant!
The product swaps that have made the most impact by far have been my makeup and skincare. At the beginning of pregnancy, I did NOT have that ” pregnant glow.” My skin kept getting drier and drier, and I began having hormonal breakouts. I decided to swap everything over to using exclusively Beautycounter. And WOW was this a game-changer. My skin has felt the best it has literally ever felt in my life, and I am not exaggerating. It feels more even, moisturized, smooth, and overall so much healthier.
Their charcoal face mask is incredible, and I’ve also been using their sunscreen all summer, the resurfacing peel, and adaptive moisture lotion. As for makeup, I swapped out my foundation, concealer, mascara, brow gel, eyeliner, lip gloss, and blush since those are the things I use most often.
There is a whole list of ingredients your doctor will tell you to avoid in your products while pregnant. But my thought is that if those things can potentially be harmful during pregnancy, doesn’t that mean they’re probably harmful ALL the time? What I love about Beautycounter products is that they are CLEAN and upfront about their ingredients. They carry everything from skincare to haircare to makeup and even sunscreen! You can shop for all of my favorite Beautycounter products HERE!
Finding out the gender was the biggest highlight of the second trimester by far! I wanted to think that we could be one of those couples who waited until birth to find out the gender…but we could not wait to know who our little nugget was! For so long, I didn’t feel truly “connected” to the baby because it felt so strange not knowing if it was a boy or a girl. I know not everyone feels this way, but I couldn’t wait to start calling the baby by his name to make it all feel so much more real. Not to mention, people were asking me and Jordan NON-STOP if and when we were finding out the gender. Not that that influenced us to make the decision to find out, but it definitely made it easier to have an answer to that question. We had our anatomy scan at 18.5 weeks. Unfortunately, that also happened to ve the very week of the COVID-19 outbreak hitting the US and starting to shut things down, so Jordan was not able to come with me to the appointment. I was pretty heartbroken about that, but instead of finding out at the doctor’s office, we were able to find out together at home. During the ultrasound, I closed my eyes anytime the technician had to get near the baby’s bottom so that I didn’t figure anything out without Jordan being there. She put the result in an envelope so I could take it home and open it with him. Everyone was completely convinced we were having a girl…so the anticipation and surprise was SO MUCH FUN! Right away we were able to start referring to him by his name…which we are keeping a secret and will be announcing once he is born. Any day now!
I also loved getting started on our baby registry and our nursery. That’s when I finally started to feel like things were getting really real, and I wanted to start shopping and nesting! I was around 20-something weeks when we moved into our new house and I spent most of my days painting rooms and making it feel like a home. Obviously my favorite room to put together was the nursery! It wasn’t fully completed until the third trimester came around, but it was certainly a project of love throughout the second trimester. You can see the full nursery blog post here!
Lastly, feeling the baby kicks was another big highlight. I think I started to feel the little flutters around 15-16 weeks or so. Jordan was able to put his hand on my belly and feel them around 18-19 weeks and that was one of the most special moments that I will never forget! Any time I felt them was just so sweet, especially at the beginning when it all felt so new. Now I feel him nonstop, and even though I get tired of feeling him slam me in the ribs and bladder, I am sure I am going to miss how this feels once he is on the outside!
Two words — heartburn + hemorrhoids. I had heard of these things being a possibility during pregnancy but I did not expect them to hit quite so hard, haha. I will say that constipation got better throughout the second trimester because it was at its worst during the first, but hemorrhoids persisted throughout my whole pregnancy. However, the second trimester was also when the heartburn started to kick in. It got REALLY bad during the third trimester, even to the point where it would occasionally come on so strong that it made me throw up. The wive’s tale is that heartburn means you have a hairy baby, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this little guy comes out with a thick head of hair!
I also experienced some SI joint and lower back pain. It wasn’t anything super crazy, but it definitely got really bad on the days that I was on my feet more. Other than that, the second trimester was probably the breeziest. My energy and appetite came back, and I finally started to get a little belly that actually looked pregnant! and the symptoms were very minimal. Some days I hardly even felt pregnant at all!
When it came to my back and hips, having a pregnancy pillow to put between my legs was clutch. And it also helped to train me to sleep on my side since I am normally a back sleeper! I got this one off of Amazon around 15 weeks or so and have been obsessed with it ever since. I didn’t think I was going to need one until I had a much bigger belly, but I actually had more back and hip pain BEFORE my belly grew due to the hormones that relax your joints. So this definitely made a big difference and I was so glad I got it!
Speaking of a bigger belly, the second trimester was when I started to need to invest in some new, more comfortable clothes! Although they don’t have a TON to choose from, I ended up absolutely loving the maternity clothes from Target. I pretty much lived in their black maternity leggings and tank tops. I am pretty sure I bought one in every color and wore them with a cardigan in the winter/spring months and on their own in the summer. Not to mention they were very affordable too!
Back to those other symptoms…I used Tums to relieve the heartburn for most of the second and third trimesters. However, when it started getting really bad later on in third trimester, Tums weren’t quite cutting it anymore. My OB told me to take a cap-full of Apple Cider Vinegar either right before bed or when I thought the heartburn might start to get bad. It was a LIFESAVER and actually worked wonders! I definitely had to water the shot down a bit so it wasn’t quite as intense but I was so grateful for this suggestion cause it helped me start sleeping through the night so much better!
The second trimester was when I started doing the most reading and self-educating on the birth process. Up until that point, I hadn’t really thought much of it to be honest because it still felt so far away. But I found myself wanting to have more knowledge to be able to make decisions and prepare for the birth experience that I wanted. After doing a ton of reading and research, I decided I wanted to pursue an unmedicated birth. I was absolutely blown away at so much of the statistics and information out there, and for me, I believe it is what will be best for me and for baby. I learned so much through these two books and through listening to all different types of birth stories on The Birth Hour podcast. The woman’s body is absolutely fascinating and was quite literally created to grow and birth life. Society and the movies have made birth out to seem so scary, but now that I have so much more knowledge around it all, I am more excited than scared to experience such a spiritual thing. The best part is that Jordan has been so supportive of this every step of the way. And once he learned a lot of what I did, he felt very strongly about having an unmedicated birth too!
We also hired our doulas, Meaghann + Taryn, during the second trimester. Most people don’t know what doulas are, or they think of them to be super hippie/crunchy/granola. And yes, some can be…but doulas are such an amazing support system to have no matter what type of birth experience you plan on having! Basically, a doula will walk you through all of the non-clinical aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. They will prepare you for birth, help you navigate through labor, and walk you through the stages, support your husband or partner, advocate for you at the hospital, and so much more. I have heard of some people compare it to having a “day of wedding coordinator.” She will keep you calm, help with breathing and pain relief techniques, and allow your partner to be a partner. We are so excited that we will have this extra support among so many unknowns, especially going through this experience for the first time!
We did our maternity photoshoot at around 31 weeks. I was always someone who was a little skeptical of maternity photos for myself. I wasn’t sure if I would feel comfortable taking them or if that I would feel they were important. There was always a part of me that worried I wouldn’t be confident in my growing and changing body enough to dedicate a whole photo session to that time. And well, I could not have been more WRONG. I have struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember, but pregnancy has actually made me feel the most confident I have EVER felt. Watching my body change in a way that is quite literally creating and giving life has been nothing short of a miracle to me. Seeing my belly grow each week before my eyes, and feeling this little life inside of me kicking, moving, and hiccuping are some of the sweetest memories that I never want to forget.
I’m so very grateful to my dear friend, Becca, for making these photos happen for us. She came all the way from Raleigh to shoot this session for us and words cannot describe how much that meant to us! I never thought looking at a gallery would make me so emotional. The last time I had a gallery delivered that made me cry was from our wedding day…and that really doesn’t even feel like it was that long ago! But seeing these images of me, my husband, and our soon to be baby boy, it hit me in a whole new way. We will cherish these for a lifetime.
Because of COVID, I have had to go to pretty much all of my doctors appointments alone. For the most part, I’ve been okay with that since a majority of the appointments were pretty uneventful. But I did get really sad thinking that Jordan had to miss out on all of the highlights, especially seeing our baby boy on the ultrasound. We only had two ultrasounds with our OB — one to confirm the pregnancy around 8 weeks, and the anatomy scan at 18-20 weeks. Since everything was looking healthy and wonderful, they told us we really wouldn’t be getting any more. I was pretty bummed that we wouldn’t get to see him until birth, and that Jordan only got to see him as a teeny little peanut at 8 weeks! So I did some asking around and came across a local place called Womb’s Window that allows you to schedule elective 4D ultrasounds AND have your partner join you during it.
As soon as I found them, I made an appointment so that Jordan and I could go experience it together and see the little guy! We went at 32 weeks and it was the BEST thing we could have done. I couldn’t believe how different he looked from our anatomy scan because he had grown so much and had a lot more meat on him. He was completely folded in half and had his little toes up in his face as you can see in the image below. The scan lasted for about an hour, and he was constantly shoving his hands in his mouth, opening and closing his mouth, and yawning. Seeing him move around in there was SO wild, and SO freaking cute. I’m already so in love with his little cheeks and I cannot wait to be able to kiss them so soon!!! Jordan and I both agreed that scheduling that appointment was the best thing we could have done, even if we had to pay out of pocket for it. 🙂
I honestly don’t have too much to complain about for the third trimester. The biggest struggle was that my heartburn got WAY WORSE and it became harder and harder to sleep through it. As I mentioned earlier, it has even come on so strong and so suddenly that I have thrown up as a result of it. But the apple cider vinegar has helped so much with keeping that at bay. I will say that as the baby grew, it definitely became a little harder to breathe as he pressed against my diaphragm and I felt his kicks up in my ribs. Occasionally things get a little painful when he presses on my bladder and I experience what’s called “lightning crotch.” Weirdly though, my aches and pains have almost subsided in these weeks. The back pain is not as bad and my hips have felt great. I think I owe a lot of that to being in good shape prior to getting pregnant, practicing yoga regularly, and staying active throughout my whole pregnancy. I am definitely not able to work out and move at the capacity that I could before just due to the limitations of having a bigger belly and some sore areas, but I’m grateful to still be able to strength train, stretch, and go for plenty of walks!
One thing that has been interesting to me is how sore my pelvic floor is. I don’t know that I had ever heard of that being a third-trimester symptom. The pain is hard to describe, but it almost feels like it does when you work your inner thighs so hard that your groin gets sore. The doctor explained to me that this sensation is your pelvic sling ligaments and muscles starting to separate to make way for the baby to come through. It doesn’t hurt incessantly, but I feel it mostly when I stand up after sitting down, roll from one side to the other when laying down, getting out of bed, and with certain exercise.
I’ve also been experiencing a lot of contractions over the past several weeks, but they have not been painful or consistent just yet…just intense as I feel my entire belly tighten and harden. Sometimes they wake me up in the middle of the night. But I know these are all good things that will prepare me for labor, and just signs that things are starting to progress little by little!
This list is more of a preemptive list since it consists of the things I am packing into our hospital bags and using to prepare for postpartum!
I wanted to make sure my hospital bag wasn’t excessive but would include everything and anything that we might need for our stay, especially since coming and going is limited due to the pandemic. One of the biggest pieces of advice I have received about preparing for an unmedicated birth was to pack anything that can help make the hospital room feel like a home. The more comfortable you are, the more oxytocin your body will produce which will help labor continue to progress. The bright fluorescent lights and sterile-ness of the hospital room can sometimes cause adrenaline and/or fear to take over, so anything to keep things soft and comfortable is vital. So a lot of what I have packed are things to help create that homey environment!
What’s in my hospital bag:
- portable Bluetooth speaker to play music (I have created a birth playlist with worship music and songs that are peaceful to me)
- battery operated candles so we can keep the lights dim
- string of battery operated twinkle lights
- portable fan to help keep me cool (this will later be used on the baby’s stroller)
- diffusor for essential oils (I have lavender, peppermint, and “chill pill” packed)
- nipple cream for the early breastfeeding days
- washable bamboo nursing pads
- disposable mesh underwear for postpartum
- robe, loose pants, nursing bras + tanks, button-down shirts + gowns for breastfeeding
- long phone chargers
- giant water bottle with a straw for labor
- lots of snacks
- blankets/pillows from home
- swaddle, blanket, and a few outfits for baby boy
I have also made some “padsicles” for postpartum day soreness/swelling. I ordered extra long maxi pads and soaked them in pure aloe vera gel, witch hazel, and a couple of drops of lavender oil. Then I placed them back in their package and have them in the freezer so they are ready to go!