Thursday, August 13, 2015

The first trimester

The day I knew tulips  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |

Early this spring, not being able to find a good bouquet of solid-colored tulips, I went with a mixed bouquet for the first time. Later that day, continuing the theme of trying new things, I realized that I was pregnant.

And so began one of the most happiest periods of my life, which also happened to be one of the oddest. The day that I felt nauseous for the first time I was ecstatic. When I said to R that I felt like throwing up it was accompanied by a smile and a little dance.

The next day I was no longer dancing—my nausea turned into nausea plus dizziness, searing headaches, and a level of exhaustion I didn't realize was possible. The last two and a half weeks of my first trimester were the worst. I spent days at a time not moving from my prostrate position on the couch (and being very thankful for the entire series of Friends being on Netflix).

During that fuzzy-headed period I slept on and off all day long and didn't dare to sit upright (the other reason for my lack of posting this spring). Gloomy days seemed gloomier. Visiting friends in seafood-heavy towns was challenging. And much as I enjoyed riding on the motorcycle with R, I knew it wouldn't last for very long (though as of today, I still am!).

But the morning my pregnancy app ticked over into the first day of my second trimester and revealed that I should soon be feeling much better, my body happily obliged. I'm always one for sticking to a schedule, but even I was surprised at how precisely my symptoms shifted in line with the baby's development.

Gamla Stan  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |

Other than my new hobby of pressing buttons on the TV remote control when I wasn't sleeping, I was suddenly preoccupied with eating. My usual habit of a milky coffee or tea in the morning followed by a proper lunch in the afternoon and dinner in the evening no longer worked. I woke up hungry and the only appealing breakfast to be had was toast.

Now I'm not normally a toast person, but nothing was more delicious to me than two slices of toast, either with cream cheese (something else I never ate) and a passion fruit split on top of it, or with peanut butter and jelly (more things that I never used to eat).

I actually never had any odd combination cravings, I just craved foods that I wasn't accustomed to eating, like the aforementioned toast with assorted toppings and loads of "exotic" fruit (mangoes and papayas, especially). I usually find that kind of fruit too sweet, but I had to have some every day. Also, and here's the really weird thing—although probably not so weird given all the hormonal turmoil going on—my intolerance of flour just disappeared.

I noticed it when one horribly stormy "spring" day we got caught in the rain on the way home from work and feeling achy and blue and blah, R went straight to the kitchen to make a pot of pasta for himself (I said I wasn't hungry) while I took a hot shower. Once dried and dressed in winter pajamas, I walked into the steamy, pasta-water scented kitchen and the only thing I could think of was delving into a bowl of his (non gluten-free) masterpiece.

So I did. And then I waited for the pangs in my tummy to begin—but they never came.

As soon as I realized that for whatever reason I don't seem to have the same unpleasant reaction to flour when pregnant as I do when I'm not, I've taken it upon myself to indulge in this phenomenon for as long as possible.

No longer does R have to boil two pots of water for his pasta and for mine, no longer do I always have to choose a chokladboll or nöttopp when I go out for a fika. 

Instead, I've been frequently visiting the bakery for kardemummalängd and bullar, excitedly ordering carrot cake whenever I see it at a café (for whatever reason Swedes like this very American-style cake and they make it really well!), and joyfully pampering myself with all manner of sandwiches, pasta dishes and the like every opportunity I get.

Stadshuset, Riddarholmen & Gamla Stan  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |

Besides my newly-expanded food world, the other big news during my first trimester was our first visit to a doctor, or rather, a midwife, as all pre- and post-natal care falls into the hands of midwives in Sweden. And for healthy, non high-risk pregnancies, those hands are very hands off (something a paper in NYC wrote about not too long ago).

Sweden ranks at or near the top of all fetal / baby / mother health rankings, but when we first decided to move here a few years ago (and when we knew we'd wait to have children until then) I started researching and was immediately comforted by the idea of midwife-led care, but also  a little worried to see that despite so many positive outcomes, Americans generally feel abandoned during their pregnancy here.

The thinking in Sweden is that pregnancy is a natural process and women don't need to be treated like they're handicapped. Which is nice, but a little frustrating for those of us who grew up in other cultures and are aware of the much more frequent check-ups that occur elsewhere.

When I called to make our first appointment with the midwife I was scheduled for a "registration" meeting nearly 5 weeks later, during my 8th week of pregnancy. I knew from everything I had read that it would happen that way, but I still pulled the American card and asked if it would be possible to come in earlier (it's not).

We had decided to not say anything to anyone until after we met with the midwife—making for a very, very long two months. When we finally did see her she spent more than an hour with us (which from what I've heard, isn't quite the way it goes in the U.S.) and suddenly I didn't mind so much having had to wait so long for our first meeting.

(Although it could also have been such a lengthy chat since she welcomed my desire to do the entire appointment in Swedish.)

The registration appointment consisted of our her going through my medical history, our "road" to getting pregnant, the process of giving birth in Sweden, the timeline of check-ups and whatnot from then until I deliver, and asking about my lifestyle.

Before we left she asked if we had any other questions, to which I sheepishly said, "From the blood and urine samples you took to check my blood sugar and iron levels...could you 'see' that I'm pregnant?".

Södermalm  |  My Swedish pregnancy: the first trimester on afeathery*nest  |

She looked at me curiously and said, "don't you know?".

I told her, "Well I think so, based on my one positive pregnancy test and how I feel, but I'd really like a professional to confirm for me".

She laughed and said, "Do you feel pregnant?". I nodded. "Well then you are!"

That's the mentality here. That women know what they're going through.

Even so, I couldn't believe that we'd have to wait another 10 weeks for the one and only sonogram, done between Weeks 18-20, which would confirm without a doubt that I was pregnant. Since there was no possible way that R and I could manage for that long, we asked to do the the optional genetic testing scan at Week 12 (a more palatable month away) so we could see our little one and get proof that there was a more legitimate reason for why my pants stopped buttoning (which happened really early, by Week 6!).

When the day finally came I said to R that I hoped it would be like the movies, where the technician kindly says to you: "this is going to be cold", as they squirt goo onto your belly.

And of course it was exactly like that (in Swedish).

Up until that moment when the screen went from fuzzy static to BABY! we hadn't let ourselves fully believe that I was actually pregnant—we had waited so long and didn't want to be heartbroken if it was all a fluke. But as the sonogram image came into focus and we saw our little one for the first time, with his or her hand raised in a greeting (I swear!), we finally realized it was true—we were now a family of three.

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More on Swedish healthcare, prenatal care and giving birth in Sweden:

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One year ago: Apparently I jinxed myself & Hello, August & Weekend play-by-play
Two years ago: Rituals & Growing up Goan & Somewhere else this week

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