My Three Month Hangover


This is actually not a post about college...although there were plenty of fun times in the 2010s...

Hungover is the most apt word I can liken to the first three months of being pregnant. Sitting in the passenger seat, on a sunny day, on a several hour trip, nursing a hangover, while getting over the flu - that's how I felt. I had no idea to expect that. And maybe that is crazy, with all of our media references to a woman vomiting on her way to work as the clear harbinger of a growing fetus. With no older sisters, and in an age where we wait to share pregnancy news until 12 or 13 weeks, I was just not privy to intimate conversations about the real, up-close nature of pregnancy.  Even when I did have conversations with pregnant friends, their experiences were different from my own.

So much was my shock of how actually hard it felt being pregnant and keeping my symptoms a secret, the idea that continued to float to the surface of my thoughts: how, throughout history, have women fought and won so many battles for equality and advancement?! LIKE WOW! I felt like giving up on everything except blocking out hours of the day to nap and using my imagination to find a food that sounded palatable. Cooking had become a chore and meal planning was laughable; could I just eat smoothies from McDonald's every meal? How did my grandmothers birth 7 and 4 children each? How did moms do this since the dawn of time? 

I asked my grandmother of 7 that very question. Her response, to my great annoyance - "I didn't feel sick one day during any of [those pregnancies]. What the heck?! Well, perhaps that's some just some rosy retrospection (our natural tendency to view things from the past as better than they really were), but I didn't think so. That must be how things got (and get) done.

After talking to my mom, I realized she had felt largely similar to me. Yet she was working 12 + hour days on her feet as a hairdresser. I asked her how that was possible - her response, you do what you have to do. Well lucky me, what I had to do during that time was largely nothing. Show up to teach class three times a week, grade papers, write exams, take the dog out, and avoid attracting extra tasks. I was not working 40+ hours a week with kids already at home counting on me. My schedule was flexible and I could afford a two hour nap and a 7 PM bedtime and 7 AM wake-up.

Curious about the frequency of nausea in pregnancy?

  • The authors of a 2000 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found nearly 2 out of 3 women experienced nausea during their pregnancy. Half of those with nausea reported vomiting. This was similar to previously published empirical work. You can see in the chart, out of the 160 mostly Caucasian women they surveyed, most began experiencing nausea at 5 weeks, with the worst experience coming around weeks 10 and 14 for more women. 

  • When comparing women's peak nausea scores to the naseua scores people report from three common chemotherapy drugs, the authors reported: "nausea and vomiting during pregnancy were comparable in severity to those induced by moderately nausea-producing cancer chemotherapy."

  • Only 1.8% of women in the study only had "morning" sickness; 80% of those experience nausea suffered all the live long day.


Timing of nausea during pregnancy. 

Solid rule, Onset of nausea; shaded rule, peak period; dashed rule, resolution of nausea.

It took a lot of reassurance from friends and family that it was OK to take advantage of my situation, to rest without guilt. If you're reading this and planning a family, please know that it's OK to say no, to not feel like it, to just want lay down and memorize the fiber patterns on your couch all day. Don't feel like a bad mom because you didn't work out everyday like some ultra energetic moms on social media. If you're up to it - super! Just do what you can with what you have. Do your best to eat a variety of whole foods, but when that's just not in the cards, love yourself anyway. Challenge yourself but accept that everyone's reality is different. You are making a child, FROM SCRATCH.

Some people feel great and others feel like poop. We all have different bodies and varying degrees of support from our partners, families, and communities. Persist when you have to or want to; otherwise, take a much needed nap! 

**DISCLAIMER: My experience was much easier than some women, who vomit constantly and may need to be hospitalized (hyperemesis gravidarum), and especially women who feel this way their entire pregnancy. I am profoundly thankful for my relatively easy go of it.

Lacroix, R., Eason, E., & Melzack, R. (2000). Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy: A prospective study of its frequency, intensity, and patterns of change. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 182(4), 931–937.