When You Skip The Third Trimester

skipped-third-trimester

I was not a cheerfully glowing pregnant lady. 

Don’t get me wrong, by the second trimester I looked fanfuckingtastic, like I was sneaking a well-inflated basketball out of the sporting goods section of Target. I rocked the preg-tini at the pool, my tattoo battling an expanding midsection, as the grandmas gasped, “in my day!” and fell against the fainting couch. Though I was stoked to let my ab muscles have a break and embrace my inner earth mother goddess while my round belly threatened to go hulk smash on my pre pregnancy shirts, I cannot say pregnancy was an enjoyable experience. 

The piece that I took for granted was the communal aspect of the ways pregnancy sucks. Get a group of mothers together, show them a positive pregnancy test, and you’ll see what I mean. These shared experiences are sometimes off-the-wall hilarious; Jennifer couldn’t turn over in bed without a crane, Brittney peed every time she laughed, and Kelly had to use her cell phone camera to shave her bikini line. 

I – I had a baby.

There was very little third trimester, and what I had was spent staring at hospital walls, wondering how far we could stretch the pregnancy. The rest was daily drives to the NICU to sit beside my tiny son, while I wondered if there would be any lingering effects. My preeclamptic ankles and blood pressure were given no time to recover, and let’s not even speak of my sliced-and-diced midsection.

See? That escalated quickly.

We were joking and having lighthearted conversations about the woes of the third trimester and newborn period, and I jump in with my story to ruin the fun. 

There are, of course, serious concerns that come up when you face having a baby weeks or months before you planned. While you’re in the midst of it everyone wants to know the details, to hear how you’re doing, and to help. It was when the dust settled that I began to see the full landscape of what I missed.

I felt cheated out of a mountain of experience, and my ability to connect with other mothers sometimes felt like it fell off a cliff. It can be annoying when women share their pregnancy and childbirth war stories for the shock factor, or to scare new moms – but sometimes I have to share them because it’s all I have to contribute.

If you find yourself in a conversation a NICU mom, know that she wishes it was different as well. It’s isolating to have been part of this universal experience, and yet have so little in common with everyone else in the room.

I am lucky to have a previous full-term pregnancy and normal postpartum under my belt, so I can sometimes chime in with pithy end-of-gestation ditties, but for some women, the traumatic tale is all they have to bring to show and share. She likely feels as awkward about it as you do, and desperately wants to be able to participate, but the voices in her head tell her she’s bringing everyone down.  

Try to make sure she knows she’s welcome around the campfire, even if all she ever does is hold a flashlight under her chin and tell horror stories. And if you see the glazed look of a mother who can’t figure out what to say, hand her the flashlight and ask her to tell the story, feeding tubes and all.

Related:

What You Should Know If You Have a Preterm Baby

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10 Comments

  • I love this. Thank you. I’ve been wanting to go back and write a day by day blog of what it’s been like having a NICU baby. Our baby was born at 33 and 4. She was just released yesterday, one day shy of a 6 week stay. Every day that she was in the hospital was pure torture. If I went out and saw moms that were pushing their baby in a stroller or shopping cart I’d get insanely jealous. They were walking around obvious to the fact that there was a Mom there that would sell her soul to be in their shoes. They take for granted the fact that they got to have the stereotypical normal birth experience. I had an emergency csection and saw our baby for 5 minutes as they rolled me through the NICU into the room I’d stay in for almost a week after. I didn’t get to see her for a whole day after she was born. 6 long weeks of being attached to a bedside by wires and cables. Non stop bells and whistles and other babies crying. Watching babies that are gestatioally younger than your baby and so much smaller than her leaving before her. Seeing the pain on your husbands face every time he looks at her. This experience made us stronger. As much as this has hurt I don’t know for sure that I would change anything because we bonded with other NICU families and our family got bigger because of it.

  • Thank you for writing this and for the other moms sharing their stories. I had my boy 8 days ago at 31weeks 2 days due to a mixture of preeclampsia, cord pressure increase, and a placental abruption. Just one bad thing after another in an otherwise symptom-free pregnancy. Baby is still in NICU and is likely to be for 6-7 more weeks.
    I haven’t had time to think about why it’s hard to look at other pregnant women in their third trimesters. It’s just started to occur to me that I miss that, and that he should still be inside me and I didn’t get to get tired of being pregnant or not seeing my feet, or not being able to shave my legs, etc. Although, it is healing to hold him and talk to him and know that he probably misses it too.
    Right now we drive to, from, and stay the whole day in the NICU. It just doesn’t feel right not to. I know it’s not sustainable. That is very much not a judgment against anyone else who spends time away from the NICU, we should to take care of ourselves. I think we just keep going, not really taking in the gravity of what is happening. At least, I think I am.
    These experiences are so important to share and read. Thank you, and I am sending all you and your NICU babies containment hand hugs, and lots of warm incubator wishes.

  • This is very true I had my little one at 26 weeks so I didn’t even make it to my 3rd trimester. We are currently on day 137 of our NICU journey. Glad to say they are finally talking about discharge this week

  • Thank you for writing this to bring a little laughter to the otherwise horrifying experience of preterm birth. I feel robbed of a huge part of the birth experience, especially knowing this is my only child that I will have. I was so looking forward to (and needing) the bonding experience of natural birth and hormone rushes and breast feeding and skin to skin contact etc. My emergency c-section prevented that, and not being able to hold my baby or breastfeed for the first week contributed to my milk not ever establishing. My friends don’t understand and I feel very alone in my experience. I look at pregnant women and feel a longing that makes me so sad. I am grateful that my baby is now home and has cleared the early hurdles of preterm birth. That doesn’t change the disappointing fact that I will never have a wonderful birth experience though. I wonder if that longing will ever go away.

    • I am so right there with you, Sasha. It’s been almost 6 months since my son was born and it’s still tough knowing I won’t ever get the pregnancy experience again, that we will never have a third trimester. Although you may not want to be part of this community, and neither do I, we are out here with you, thinking the same longing thoughts. We’ve got each other.

  • Sometimes you have to let yourself mourn the loss of your expectations. And grieve. I was so disappointed that didn’t get that crunchy home natural child birth I envisioned. That instead of I had a C-section and 65 days in the NICU. It’s okay to feel lost.

    Now 7 months later I am enjoying my relatively healthy babies and feel blessed that I live in a time where you can have a baby at 29 weeks and things might turn out okay.

  • Thank you for writing this. I had my twins at 28+5 days due to severe preeclampsia, and am still driving to the NICU everyday to see them. Technically I’m still supposed to be pregnant, and I feel sad that I missed out on having a normal pregnancy and newborn experience. It’s hard for people who haven’t had the experience to understand.

  • I can definitely relate to you… I had my baby 11 weeks early so I missed out on most of my third trimester. I can’t relate to most moms that say they were in labor for so many hours or days & felt the labor pains & everything a new mother expects…But, by my 29th week I had full blown Eclampsia; seizures, high blood pressure, swelling limbs, etc.. My daughter spent 51 days in the NICU,- feeding tubes & all..

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