Before I even realized I was pregnant with my third child there were a few weeks when I thought something was seriously wrong with my body.
Was someone slipping me a sleeping pill?
Was I eating too many carbs?
Was my body starting to reject caffeine?
I would lie on my floor and let my two toddlers climb on me telling them I was a jungle gym just so I could shut my eyes and be semi-conscious while knowing they were close. There was no other way to get through the day and I had to give in.
I had never felt such a heavy tiredness in my life until I realized, oh yes I have — the first trimesters during my other two pregnancies — and ran out to get a test.
Pregnancy fatigue comes on hard and fast in your first trimester. You literally cannot keep your eyes open past 8 p.m. and getting out of bed is impossible without walking into things.
Lying down means you are sure to be asleep in two seconds flat so binge-watching Netflix is a thing of the past.
My ex-husband used to get upset every night as I was drifting off on the sofa during the evening news since it was the only alone time we had together after working all day. But the truth is, I didn’t have a choice — the first trimester of pregnancy takes every damn thing out of you.
My midwife told him to shut it during one of our appointments after he’d mentioned how tired I was. She reminded him I was growing a set of legs, a brain, a heart, and a liver in my uterus and yeah, something that epic tends to wear you out a bit.
It’s a shame we can’t sleep right through those first three months.
And if you’re pregnant and have little ones running around, your days consist of thinking of ways you can stay awake. It’s a matter of survival so forget about signing up to be the snack mom or offering to volunteer for the annual Christmas craft fair.
Going out for errands takes a different kind of strength when you are in your first trimester and have kids to tote along with you.
You get take out all the damn time because all your energy is focused on surviving and who has the energy to cook at a time like this?
And the house? Forget about it. There is no reason to kill yourself trying to keep it clean, because picking up while you are growing a human really does feel like self-harm.
Between your growing body and lack of energy, plans get canceled all the time — your mind and body simply cannot go out to socialize and show up the way it used to.
Falling asleep mid-conversation with a seltzer water in your hand isn’t your idea of a good time. All you want is a night in bed with a body pillow and a dozen cookies. That’s the fuel you need to manage tending to our lives the next day.
Not to get too scientific on you, but we’re about to get more scientific on you: This extreme fatigue you feel in early pregnancy is not in your head, so don’t fight it. It’s caused by hormonal changes, and the fact your body is producing more blood to give your growing baby the nutrients they need. All that extra blood means your heart is working overtime, leading to higher heart rate. Coupled with lower blood sugar levels, lower blood pressure, lower iron levels, and a spiked production of progesterone, you are basically sleep walking your way through the first 13 weeks of your pregnancy. Women with symptoms of morning sickness and nausea may feel especially drained as so much effort goes into projectile vomiting your nutritious meals (or, you know, a bagel and a heaping serving of schmear). Not to mention any stress or emotion you feel about the life change bringing a new person into the family will create.
There is planning to be done, new clothes and supplies to buy. Thinking about how you are going to juggle it all can wipe out any energy you have left.
The good thing is, for a lot of women, your energy will return a bit during the second trimester — this is when I’d nested hard and felt like I could get things done. But don’t get used to it. You might crash again during your third trimester since your belly has grown enough to make it hard to get comfortable during sleep. And when your do enter dreamland, you will be up every 5 minutes to pee.
Let yourself be tired during the first trimester and don’t worry about the dirty dishes in the sink or getting everything in order for the new baby.
Make sure to ask for help, take those sick or personal days, and start skipping outings at the park or story hour at the library if you need to. Your body (and new baby) are sending you signals it’s time to rest up because all your energy is going into making a human being and it’s one of the most awesome things your body will ever do.
So, by all means, take the extra nap if you can, delegate more cleaning and cooking to your partner, download all your favorite fast food apps on your phone. Lie down and shut your eyes whenever your life allows.
You have a free pass, don’t waste it.