The Second Trimester Isn't The Utopia Everyone Says It Is

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A mother in the second trimester holding her pregnant belly with the beach and sea in the background...
Scary Mommy and Fabian Wiktor/Daniel Reche/Pexels

“Just wait until the second trimester! It is the best part of the pregnancy,” website after website, friend after friend, and even my primary care team promised. The first few months were long and arduous, so this promise land of the “honeymoon” trimester sounded like a sweet alternative. I could not wait!

Yet as I got closer, I never really turned the sharp corner I was told would come. Then the weeks started to pass on the calendar — 14, 16, 18, 20 — and the oasis of the magical stage seemed to fade further into the distance. Does this special part of pregnancy really exist or is it simply a mirage on the long journey from conception to birth?

The benefits of the “honeymoon period” that are tossed about sound like an ad for the greatest drug ever invented. Soon-to-be moms are promised a burst of energy, an eradication of nausea, glowing skin, luxurious hair, increased sex drive, and a perfect little bump, just big enough for the world to know, just small enough you can still sleep. No wonder so many people claim to love this part of pregnancy!

My reality, however, has proved a lot less appealing. While some first trimester symptoms have improved, a new batch quickly arrived in their place, marked by discomfort and pain. Let’s just say Pepcid AC and Tylenol quickly became mother’s little helpers.

In the first trimester, there were entire days where I could not get out of bed. Now I can get up and be amongst the living, but I am only half there as a new pattern of insomnia has developed, where I wake up every night (sometimes twice, sometimes three times) between 1:30 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. either starving or with searing back pain. This has kept an afternoon nap as an essential part of my pregnancy survival kit and the supposed second trimester energy boost feeling more fantasy than fact.

What was general nausea has given way to a more specific kind of nausea occurring after, well, pretty much anything I put in my mouth, thanks to slowed digestive functions. This makes for most of what I eat lodging in my esophagus, while underneath my stomach groans with alarming hunger. Yet, multiple friends continue to assure me, “Soon you won’t even feel pregnant!” I nod politely ignoring the breakfast sitting ominously in my throat.

I sometimes wonder if people tell pregnant women they are glowing because that is what you say or because they actually glow? Personally, I feel anything but luminous, especially considering I have not slept in five months. It does not help that since entering this supposed free facial phase, I have had a consistent teenager-like acne break out residing on my chin. And to speak briefly about hair growth, since we’re on the subject of beauty care, no one tells you that thicker hair on your head also means hair everywhere else too. Let us just say that your past laser hair removal is only as good as your pregnancy hormones are strong.

As for the increased sex drive, it is hard to feel sexy when you are exhausted and choking with heart burn. And not to be TMI, but hormones can cause dryness, making sex both a painful and unpleasant experience. Luckily, my husband is incredibly understanding, and we have learned to be creative (and patient).

Ignacio Campo/Unsplash

And then of course there is the promised perfect little bump. I look for this bump every morning since I reached the second trimester. As a first-time mom, I had no idea that you may not show until the end of your second trimester. Instead, you swell and bloat and while you may not look pregnant per say, nothing in your entire closet fits and yet you are not the right shape to fit into maternity clothes just yet. Thank goodness I work in fitness and have the option to wear sweat pants most days.

No, this is definitely no honeymoon, but in a way, I’m glad it’s not. My husband and I worked hard to conceive. I don’t want to not feel pregnant. I will take the stabbing pains, back spasms, bleeding gums, bloody noses, and excess gas any day. These are not negative things. They are all necessary changes to help bring forth the miracle that is our baby. In fact, I find all of these symptoms reassuring, because they make things feel real.

And the term honeymoon “period” comes with an expiration date. It implies something that will end. Think of the phrase “the honeymoon is over,” like it is all downhill from here. But pregnancy has been the most amazing, exciting, and fulfilling period in my entire life! I don’t want that to end. The best is yet to come.

Then suddenly, something amazing happens just beneath my belly button. What felt like little pop rocks has given way to an even more distinct feeling. Is that what I think it is? Oh my gosh, it is – it’s a kick! Every day the sensations get stronger, pops coupled with swirls and suddenly every negative thing I felt fades into the background. May this joy never end.

So, no. Let us no longer call the second trimester the honeymoon period because this is not the end. This is the beginning.

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