I wanted to write something for those of you with BPD who are pregnant, hoping to become pregnant or are interested in pregnancy. As I mentioned in my previous pregnancy post, it's difficult to find writing or vlogs by people with BPD about their experiences of pregnancy so I wanted to share mine.
This post is a reflection on some aspects of my first trimester (week 1 to the end of week 12). Every pregnancy is (of course!) unique and everyone's experience of this time will be different. Pregnancy is a very personal thing, so I won't be sharing every single detail just the aspects I feel comfortable sharing.
*Please note, this post briefly mentions a previous early pregnancy loss. It also mentions food.*
My baby was a longed for and dreamed of baby so learning I was pregnant was a joyful and wonderful experience. I sensed I was pregnant a week or so before taking a pregnancy test, so I didn't have the fabled two minute wait for two lines to appear on the pregnancy test in the way it's presented in the movies. My husband was really happy too. I haven't been able to stop thinking about our baby ever since and my love has been growing each day.
The first few weeks of my pregnancy were laden with anxiety. Last year, I was pregnant for a few weeks and then had a pregnancy loss. This was upsetting for me and my husband and made me anxious for the future. I managed the anxiety by distracting myself as much as I could with puzzles, audiobooks, quizzes and TV. At around nine weeks, we paid for a private scan to confirm there was a heartbeat because I had read that if there is a heartbeat this is a hopeful sign that the pregnancy will continue. When we saw the tiny embryo with a beating heart on the screen we were relieved and already in love.
From around seven and a bit weeks, I had constant nausea. When I say 'constant nausea' I mean feeling sick 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Morning, afternoon and night, the sensation never left me. I couldn't think of anything else because nausea just took over my mind and body. Nausea stayed with me for the rest of the first trimester and, to my dismay, some of the second trimester. It was like being on a ship that I couldn't get off for over three months.
I tried every remedy under the sun, but nothing worked. The nausea robbed me of enjoyment of any activity and I cried a lot because I longed for the the sick feeling to go away and give me a moment of relief. After about 11 weeks, I spoke with doctors about safe medications that could help me and tried one: it didn't work. Usually my husband and I share the housework, but I don't know what I would have done without my husband to support me with all the practical tasks that I couldn't manage: shopping, cooking, cleaning, washing, walking our dog etc.
Apart from being at work and resting when I was home, I couldn't do anything else at all. I didn't find fun in anything or find jokes as funny as I usually do. At times, I felt irrational guilt and embarrassment because I wasn't my normal energetic, lively self. I needed to remind myself that this was nothing to feel ashamed or guilty about— I was growing baby, dealing with horrible pregnancy nausea and that was extremely hard work mentally and physcially!
Food and drink
Sometimes I discovered a food or a drink that would give me a fleeting burst of relief. I would then crave these foods and drinks like a desperate explorer longing for water in a desert. Some of these foods I wanted for a couple of weeks, before the mere thought of them repulsed me. Tomatoes, kiwis, carrots, Babybel cheese, Mini Cheddars, ice-cream, Salt and Vinegar Snack-A-Jacks, milky instant coffee made with cold water poured over ice-cubes and lemon water with ice-cubes. My taste changed in out-of-character ways, most notably that I wouldn't touch a hot drink or slice of toast and daydreamed about about ice-cream and green tea.
At around ten weeks I told my work I was pregnant. It was hugely difficult hiding 247 nausea in my role as an SEND teacher and the weight felt too heavy to carry. I was crying every night after work as each day felt too hard and I knew that saying something would give me relief.
I was very anxious about telling my work as my job is very important to me and it felt like a lot to essentially tell them I would be having next academic year off to be with my baby. My anxiety was so intense that I didn't have the capacity to tell them face-to-face so I sent an email because I feel so much safer and more in emotionally control communicating via writing. They said they were really happy for me and have been supportive.
I also had a lot of anticipation and anxious excitement about telling my family. It just felt like such a huge thing to tell them and the emotions of anticipation were overwhelming. As a person with BPD, emotions tend to be very intense and even those happy emotions can be so big they feel hard to bear. As always, my husband supported me a lot by validating me, accepting me and listening.
12 week Scan
There was much excitement and apprehension in advance of the first NHS scan. Seeing the baby's growing body with a beating heart on screen was such a delight and a relief. A couple of days after the scan, some blood test results came back and I was told I had a 'marker' that required extra monitoring later in the pregnancy. I was really scared and confused about what it all might mean for the baby and myself. I didn't get all the answers I wanted from professionals and this made me quite distressed.
It took me a few weeks to find the reassurance I needed and to feel more positive. Once again, my husband and my family helped me through. I've needed a lot of rest to manage my emotions and the fatigue that is a natural part of growing a baby. I have written a separate, brief post on my experiences of maternity and mental health services.
As I write this post I'm now 24 weeks and I feel my baby gently kicking! I had no emotional or physical capacity to write anything until midway through the second trimester. I'm still really tired, but also in this space where it's not that long until the baby joins us so I am enjoying day-dreaming, preparing clothes, the pram, thinking ahead to the birth and the early weeks and so on.
I hope you have enjoyed this post if it's relevant to you in some way and I hope to write a reflection on my second trimester when I can. As always, sending lots of empathy to those of you reading this who may be experiencing loss or infertility or other difficulties, I really send you all my best wishes and lots of compassion.
- Rosie x