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The First Trimester

Happy weekend, everyone! I thought I’d take some time to talk all about my first trimester, because let’s be honest, this post is entirely overdue. Especially now that I’m 20 weeks along.

This entire post will focus on the first 13 weeks of pregnancy, from morning sickness, exercise, aversions and more. I’ve found it to be an incredible experience learning from other women, so I thought I’d share this blog post to talk about my pregnancy journey.

In a lot of ways, this past year was a huge transition period for me, but you’re going to read it all. From the good and bad to the ugly.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you. Please read my policy page.

tony and monique taking a mirror selfie

I found out I was pregnant late April 2019. As mentioned in my previous post, Tony and I had tried for almost a year without success. Then finally the day came when the test read positive; I will forever have that day embedded into my heart.

Before getting pregnant

Since we weren’t having luck getting pregnant, I started doing some very basic research on what could be naturally done to help the process including dietary changes and exercise. Before we get into this topic more, I want you all to know that by no means am I an expert in fertility or pregnancy; I’m simply sharing what I did and what worked for us.

Diet changes

My diet before pregnancy was pretty healthy (or so I thought, but everyone’s perception of ‘healthy’ is different). I didn’t eat processed food, beef, pork and rarely had dairy; we usually focus on lean meats, lots of veggies and OF COURSE you know I gotta have my healthy treats. However, it was fairly common for me to not eat breakfast and just have a late lunch, or sometimes I’d be stressed out and forget to sit down for a full meal during the day. I also drank A TON of coffee. Probably 2 cups in the morning and a few more cups in the afternoon (or my favorite iced almond milk latte from Limitless).

After doing a little research and talking to other women who had trouble getting pregnant, I decided to make a few small changes in my diet. Overall, I continued to eat REAL SIMPLE food, meaning food that wasn’t processed or from a package. I wasn’t overly strict because I didn’t feel the need to be, but I’d say I mostly tried to ADD to my diet, rather than take things away.

A big change was incorporating full fat dairy into my diet in the form of yogurt. My dietitian friend Katie had mentioned it to me a long time ago, and after reading a few articles, I thought, why not try it? I ate whole milk dairy 3-4 times per week in my smoothies or with delicious yogurt bowls and homemade granola.

Other diet changes included reducing my caffeine intake, which was fairly difficult for me. I tried to have only 1-2 cups of coffee in the morning. This didn’t happen immediately, but over time I was definitely better and more conscious about relying on caffeine. As far as food goes, I tried adding more leafy greens like spinach in just about anything I could, a scoop of flaxseed meal to my smoothies and incorporating more healthy fats like nuts, seeds and plenty of avocados. I also ate tons of seasonal, organic fresh fruit and focused on not skipping meals (mostly breakfast). To ensure I was satisfied and to manage my blood sugar a little better, I also made more of my own snacks (like these energy bites), had fruit and nut butter, or had hummus and veggies instead of just noshing on my favorite RXBars or GoMacro bars.

Another big change was eating brazil nuts. I know it sounds random, but I had heard of their nutritional benefits including selenium, so it was kind of like a “why the hell not” thing. I ate 2-3 brazil nuts a day in the two months before I got pregnant, so take that for what you will.

My diet wasn’t the only one changing. Tony’s was too! He basically eats whatever I do, so I know he was benefiting from all of this. He also started regularly working out and taking a Men’s multivitamin. More on this in a bit!

Exercise and sleep before pregnancy

The entire year before getting pregnant my exercise routine was somewhat intense. I worked out 5x per week, which included heavy cardio, intense weight-lifting and heated, sculpted power yoga with weights. To be completely honest, I LOVED how my workouts made me feel powerful, strong and like a badass; however, I also began to recognize how stressful it was on my body. I was also incredibly tired, worn out, sore, and probably overusing a lot of muscle groups.

In a lot of ways, I relied on my exercise routine to manage my stress and anxiety. I was addicted to the feeling exercise gave me. Once I started to recognize this, I knew that what I was doing needed to change so I began to cut back on the intensity of my workouts. I probably only went to my cross training classes 1x per week and then slowly switched my complete focus over to yoga. I began taking more slow flow yoga and restorative classes. During yoga, it was as though my mind was forced to slow down, instead of keep up with all the chaos going on around me. It was the peace I needed.

Sometime during this process I also began to realize how important sleep was. (Don’t ask me why it took me until I was 30 to figure it out!)

It’s funny how sleep is such a valuable necessity to live but is never really considered when we talk about our physical or mental health. Yet when you think about how much we actually need sleep in order to function, regulate hormones, release toxins, boost our immune system and so much more, you realize that you should just let your body do it’s natural thing while you can. Thus, apart of my pregnancy journey was focused on giving myself permission to sleep more. Sleep in on the weekends. Sleep when my body needed it.

Often times, rejuvenation and rest is what helps us become the most refreshed and recharged. A huge part of me believes that creating a better routine surrounding sleep was incredibly beneficial to my body and mind.

monique taking a photo in the mirror

All about prenatals

One of the most asked questions I get surrounding pregnancy is what prenatals am I taking. Funny thing is that I actually started taking prenatals BEFORE I got pregnant. During the year of trying to get pregnant, I was taking Garden of Life prenatal vitamins, however, I wasn’t very consistent with it. I’d take them here and there.

Back in March, my friend Locke introduced me to a vitamin company called Binto and connected me with the founder, Nurse Suzie. Immediately, Suzie and I hit it off over email, and I was super excited about her products. First, I thought it was amazing that Binto was a female founded company and secondly, I was intrigued because the founder is also a registered nurse who started Binto to help women get safe and effective personalized vitamins at an affordable price. Not only that, but Binto gives back to women through non-profits.

The best part though? The Binto vitamins are tailored to your needs and body. You just fill out a survey online and then get your results based on your goals. They have regular women’s multi-vitamins, but also have focuses on prenatal, pregnancy, postpartum and menopause. The vitamin packages start at $35/month and are directly delivered to your doorstep! They’re also gluten free, vegan-friendly, preservative free and formulated with methylated folate — (6s)-5-Methylfolate. Methylated folate is important to use over regular folic acid since folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, and relies on a gene and an enzyme called MTHFR to convert folic acid to its active form. Many women have issues absorbing folic acid and don’t even know it, so it’s best to use methylated folate for proper absorption for both mama and baby.

And no, I haven’t been paid to say any of this. I’m just obsessed with Binto and the founder Nurse Suzie. And wanna know the reason why?! Well, I started taking the Binto prenatal vitamins (which included a prenatal with DHA, a probiotic, CoQ10 and NAC) back in March and by the end of April, I was pregnant. Oh happy day! 🙂

If you are interested in trying BINTO, you can use the code ‘ambitiouskitchen’ for 20% off your first order! *this is not paid, I truly just am obsessed with them haha*

I’m also taking Binto vitamins now that I’m pregnant and love them. Each package comes with information on what type of vitamins you are taking and what they do for your body. It’s so fun!

As far as Tony goes, he took the Garden of Life Men’s multivitamin before we got pregnant and still does today! I actually ended up getting him the multi-vitamin gummies to ensure that he actually takes them — ha.

monique and tony on a patio

The First Trimester

The first 8 weeks of pregnancy were a whirlwind. Technically, you don’t know that you are pregnant until you are already 4 weeks along, since that’s when you’ll typically miss your period. After finding out we were expecting, it seemed like the first few weeks went by so slowly. Perhaps it was because I was so overwhelmed with wonder (and maybe a little anxiety too!).

I remember after finding out, I was cramping on and off for about two weeks. Other than being a little bit more tired than usual, my routine was the same. I didn’t really *FEEL* pregnant which was a little bit of a shock to me, because I had always anticipated automatically feeling different once I knew. Yet things were very much the same. I kept up with yoga and all my activities.

One of the first symptoms I noticed was how big and achy my boobs felt. It seems as though they had grown a cup or two overnight! It was extremely uncomfortable but over the next few weeks I grew used to my bras fitting a little more tight. Eventually I had to get a more supportive sports bra to wear while I was working out.

The next thing I noticed was how hungry I’d be at certain points. Like if I didn’t eat every two hours, then I might die of sheer annoyance with everything and everyone. It was more like a HANGRY thing, so watch out for the preggo ladies! 😉

The sickness I’ll never forget

Around week 6, we took a trip to Barcelona followed by a trip to Turkey to look for rugs for Ambitious Home. During the last part of our Barcelona trip I felt as though my throat was on fire, but I just thought it was from inhaling so much smoke on the streets of Barcelona (everyone smokes there apparently). Once we got to Turkey it became evident that I was sick. Very sick, actually. Like the most sick I have been in a decade, I swear. I couldn’t walk, felt like I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t really take anything for it because 1) I was pregnant and 2) the language barrier is very difficult and 3) we didn’t want to take any risks of picking up the wrong medication. I basically slept all day every day for 5 days straight. My body, back and eyes hurt. I had a terrible cough and used up more kleenex than any person should. This wasn’t morning sickness. Perhaps it was the flu? I’m still not sure.

Our trip in Turkey was supposed to last another 10 days or so but I had started spotting, which at 7 weeks is fairly scary. Immediately, I called my doctor and she said to watch for any heavy bleeding, cramping, etc. The spotting continued on and off, which really made us both anxious because I truly didn’t want to have a miscarriage in another country, especially as we were about to leave for the middle of Turkey with little to no medical access. After talking it through, Tony and I made the decision to end our trip early and come home. Not only did it put my mind at ease, but also my body. I slept for days after that. My sickness lasted for another week, and the spotting eventually stopped. To this day, I have no idea what it was, but I’m glad I was in the comfort of my own home to heal.

Bottom line, learn to trust your body. 🙂 I could have really pushed myself to keep going, but know I did what’s best for me.

The exhaustion and nausea

Around week 8, I started experiencing nausea. YUCK is all I can say. Seriously, it was terrible. Basically, I compare it to the equivalent of just feeling VERY hungover, except you’re more nauseated and nothing you do helps.

Luckily, I didn’t actually throw up at all during pregnancy, but the feeling of nausea stuck with me until around week 13.

One thing that really helped me with nausea was making sure to eat every 2 hours even if I didn’t want to. If I went any longer than 2 hours, I would be starving, yet also disgusted with all food. Weird, huh?

If that didn’t work for the nausea, I typically always had some ginger candies on hand. Another thing my doctor suggested was taking a B vitamin supplement and magnesium. I did both and I’m not sure they really helped that much, but I really loved the magnesium drink to help hydrate me.

The exhaustion wasn’t fun either and something I really wasn’t expecting. I usually can fight through being tired, but this was truly something else. From about weeks 7-12, I went to bed every night between 8-9pm and woke up at 7-8am, yet the next day, I still was exhausted by 2pm and found myself feeling worthless. I couldn’t focus or work, which was mentally very challenging for me because I’m so used to getting things done. Instead, Abra would leave early for the day and I’d basically lay on the couch for 2 hours, sometimes falling asleep if I let myself.

After week 13, I was pretty much done feeling sick and tired and felt back to my normal self. The exhaustion went away before the nausea did — thank goodness!

All I have to say is that WOMEN are rockstars. Especially those of you who are pregnant and have to go into an office to work every day — BLESS YOU. Seriously, you’re amazing. Those couple weeks of exhaustion really gave me a newfound sense of gratitude when it came to what I do and the ability to work from home and set my own schedule, because I know not everyone has that option.

Food aversions and cravings

I expected myself to be the healthiest mama on the block, but honestly, I had to let go of those expectations I put upon myself in order to LIVE. When I was nauseated, the last thing I wanted was a smoothie or a salad. From week 8-13 it was all about the carbs, because that’s what my body needed. Instead of my typical smoothie for breakfast I had a bagel with cream cheese. For dinner, sometimes I would just make mashed potatoes with butter because it was the only thing I could stand. I also ate my fair share of french fries, hearty sandwiches, cold cereal and more.

To be transparent and honest, sometimes I would get frustrated with myself because I felt as though I wasn’t being the best mama to be with all of my food choices. I came to an understanding that the guilt wouldn’t be any good for me and I just let that shit go. It’s life, we can’t be perfect. We can only try to make good decisions, but at the end of the day, we’re all human.

That being said, here’s what I hated the first trimester: seafood, meat, avocado, salads, smoothies, most veggies.

Foods I liked: fresh pineapple, all berries, dried mangos, bagels, soft licorice, cheese, cold cereal, peanut butter toast, bananas, fresh fruit, oatmeal, yogurt with granola, hummus, carrots, Simple Mills cheddar crackers, mashed potatoes.

The apps I’m using

There are two apps that I’m currently using to track my pregnancy that I found very helpful. The Bump App and What to Expect. Both are great sources of information, plus there are free linked communities of other pregnant women who are due in the same time frame that you can chat with! I still use both, but in the beginning was religiously reading What to Expect. You can look them up on your phone’s app store and easily find both!

The books I’m reading

There are a few books that I immediately purchased because the entire thought of having a baby is overwhelming. Think about it, you have 9 months to prepare to raise a HUMAN. Part of me feels relaxed about it, but another part of me wants to feel educated and prepared for the upcoming decisions I know I’ll have to make.

The first book I got was Mama Natural, which I really enjoyed because it’s geared towards women who have to have natural, unmedicated births (something I’m planning on doing). It talks a lot about hospital policy and old school traditions based on convention and fear. This book is really all about helping women make their own informed decisions and was super helpful for me when talking to my doctor, midwives and hospital about questions and practices.

The second book I got was Bringing Up Bebe, which came as a recommendation from a friend. I’m still making my way through it, but so far enjoying it.

If you have any books that you’ve enjoyed, please let me know in the comments below. I refuse to read the What to Expect book because I already have the app and feel like that’s enough haha.

monique lifting weights in a gym

Exercise during pregnancy

In term of exercise, my doctor said that I could do everything I was doing before pregnancy besides any contact sports and hot yoga, but from about weeks 8-11 I rarely exercised. Frankly, it was just really difficult for me because not only was I tired, I was also nauseated — which is never a good feeling to have when working out.

Around week 8 I stopped doing my regular yoga routine altogether because it was making me SO FREAKING TIRED and dehydrated.

After a few weeks of sitting around the house, I started to feel a little depressed and somewhat worthless, which I feel are all normal pregnancy symptoms thanks to those hormones.

But I was an emotional wreck and knew I needed to do SOMETHING. Then I remembered that one of my former fitness instructors was also a personal trainer who focused on training women. I messaged her to see if we could start working together, so we did. Currently I do personal training 2x per week to build a strong foundation for birth, mental health and pregnancy. We focus on stability, leg and core strength, and pelvic floor work. I think we might do some pregnancy workout videos too, so stay tuned for that!

Along with personal training, I also bike 2x per week along the lakeshore path with Tony. Lately it’s becoming more difficult with my big old belly, but still enjoyable and I love to soak up the sunshine.

More recently I’ve been going back to cross-training about 1x per week. I do modifications and always listen to my body. If anything seems weird I ask the personal trainer for a different exercise option.

I’ve gotten a lot of questions from followers on Instagram about exercise and my recommendation is to talk to your doctor. If you do any kind of training, it’s also very important to work with someone who is trained in prenatal/postnatal exercises as well. Most of all, LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!

Products I am loving for my belly

Currently I’m using Zoe’s Organics pregnancy kit, which includes a belly butter, belly oil to prevent stretch marks and a refresh oil, which is supposedly amazing for when you are nauseous — you just apply it to pressure points. Any products you are using and loving?

Things I’m doing that are so called no-no’s

There’s a lot of fear surrounding food and pregnancy. I’m here to say that I drink kombucha, eat deli meat, have had a sip or two of wine and I’m still fine. There are a lot of things that can make you sick or overwhelmed. Make choices that are best for YOU! And talk to your doctor, midwife and/or doula if you have questions.

monique taking a photo in the mirror

Judgement surrounding pregnancy

Every woman’s experience is her own, and it’s important to honor and respect that. Being that I have a public blog and Instagram that millions of people read, I’m used to being criticized for my choices and for what I put out into the world. Of course, there is a time and place to let some of that pass without acknowledging it, but there’s also a time to stand up for what’s right because I fear I am not alone in feeling judged and shamed for having non-traditional choices.

Just because an experience or method is different than yours doesn’t mean it should be ridiculed or be invalid. We should not compare struggles or paths to pregnancy, because we’re all unique. I would love to suggest having more open, non-judgmental conversations about pregnancy and fertility because so much of it is tied to our mental health. Women should feel uplifted and empowered instead of knocked down and shamed.

So please, share your compassion. Share your story! Your journey is yours, and yours alone. Support, uplift, be kind.

Whew! That’s all I think I can share for now. I do plan on talking about selecting a midwife and doula in another post, but let me know if you guys have any more questions below!

I sincerely hope that this post was helpful and fun to read. As always, thanks for being here! I’m off to my 20 week ultrasound — xo!

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