The Truth about the Second Trimester

I’ve read that the second trimester is a golden period, a break between the sickness and exhaustion of the first trimester and the discomfort and exhaustion of the third. Books and websites wax on about the glow that emanates aura-like around the expectant mother in her fifth month, and promise a return to normal levels of energy, strong nesting instincts, and a resurrection of the sex drive. Some even whisper about the “babymoon,” an erotic oasis amidst the desert of desire that is pregnancy.

So far, I’m not seeing it. Sure, S looks great, but she’s still pretty tired at night. And she’s having lots of growing pains: aches, cramps, indigestion, and general discomfort from her body shifting and expanding to contain the now rapidly growing fetus. Last night she came home from work with sore legs and feet. All she wanted to do was veg on the couch and prop her legs up. I felt frustrated, because there’s not much that can be done about this pain, she just has to grimace and bear it. All I could do was make her dinner, rub her feet, and try to be nice. Try and fail.

After cleaning up from dinner, S hopped up onto the kitchen counter so I could take a picture of her big tummy. On top of the leg pain, she now had a strange soreness in the center of her chest, like her organs were being pushed up and compressed. This got me thinking about how some women have such extreme symptoms during pregnancy that they have to be bedridden for their health, and that got my anxiety machine working, and so in a not-very-enlightened attempt to work through my feelings I violated one of the few golden rules of living with a pregnant woman: I made cracks about S’s weight.

First I compared her shape to a pear from our fruit plate. Then I said she looked like Humpty Dumpty sitting on his wall. Then I dropped any attempts at humor and got all serious, saying that maybe her body wouldn’t hurt so much if she exercised more. She already does yoga and pilates several times a week, and walks a few miles to and from work everyday, but I droned on about how she should do even more to keep herself physically fit. “After all,” I argued, trying to cinch my nomination for the Jerkiest Husband of the Year, “you’ll have to be pretty active after the birth in order to get your old shape back.” Snap!

Later, after (I admit) making another joke when she bent down to pick something up, I apologized. It’s hard being on the outside, seeing all these changes happen to her, and hearing about how uncomfortable they make her feel. It’s hard dealing with the inconsistent state of her pregnancy, with pains coming and going day to day, sometimes hour to hour. And I’m also snappy because we haven’t been intimate for a long while, as all of the above leave neither of us in the mood.

I don’t know where this myth started about the second trimester. Sure the symptoms are less extreme than the first, and it lacks the “holy shit I’m pregnant” stress, but that doesn’t mean either of us feel totally normal. There are just as many pains and anxieties as there were at the beginning. They’re just different now, more subtle, but also more pervasive. And maybe we’ve gotten better at dealing with them. Though that doesn’t mean we don’t slip every now and then.


2 Responses to “The Truth about the Second Trimester”

  1. 1 Ingrid January 18, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    It’s inevitable to feel ambivalently about being with a pregnant person and riding their various highs and lows, in the same way it’s hard to be with your partner all the time and see your own insecurities mirrored in their daily verbal and non-verbal responses to your pregnant self. I think that the entire birthing world, with its talk of partners as coaches and sharing the experience, are setting couples up for unrealistic expectations about what the whole endeavor entails and the natural behaviors that are supposed to fall into place from the first week of a pee stick announcing the positive news. Unfortunately women do bear the brunt of most of it, marked only superficially by our self-consciousness about our bodies, the need to care for it, as well as postpartum pressure to provide bountiful milk and snap back at the same time so as to restore ones sex life. At the same time, men are tricked into believing that if they are sympathetic partners (as if this is such a huge task), they will reap some sort of satisfaction or rewarding feeling from this nurturing, fathering role. However, all these behaviors are often very much learned, so daddy-to-be, don’t be so hard on yourself, as you can only do so much, and of course, lay off your lady! You have only a fraction of an idea of what she’s going through.

  2. 2 cindy January 28, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    What struck me most in this post was your mention of the way S’s body is shifting around to make room for the baby. I’m sure many others have thought of this long before me, but isn’t it incredible how what’s going on her body is basically a physiological version of what’s going on in your *lives*?

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