The Second Trimester: Pregnancy's Middle Child

Second trimester is supposed to be a period of rainbows and sunshine and zen-like bliss. You’re over the first trimester with its puking and crying and 2pm naps, yet you’re miles away from the third trimester, when you can’t get out of bed without a decent rolling start and you’re pretty sure your baby’s head is actually poking out of your vagina most hours of the day. Oh second trimester, you mythical 13 weeks of superhuman energy, teenage sex drive, and beautiful maternal glow, why do you dangle your sparkling wares in our faces, dragging us through these middle weeks whispering sweet lies in our desperate ears? While the second trimester is perhaps not as abjectly miserable as the first or third, it still has many unique traits that remind you that pregnancy has no pause button. Below are just a few of the ways the second trimester shines own its special star over the 40 week shit-storm that is growing a human:

  • Nausea II: The Revenge—All of your pregnancy apps and weekly emails begin to inform you around Week 6 that nausea and vomiting may soon be upon you, but each is quick to reassure that morning sickness disappears the moment the clock strikes midnight the day you enter the 2nd trimester. Then when you’re actually in the 13th or 14th week (because no single resource can agree when ol’ 2T really begins), your app is all like, “JK, BTW, nausea often recurs until 16 weeks, and sometimes it lasts the whole pregnancy, but it will DEFINITELY be gone by the time your kid starts kindergarten, trust us, winky face, heart.” I have found that there are some notable differences between first- and second-trimester nausea. Whereas my 1st trimester morning sickness arrived after breakfast and just kind of hung around in the background all day like your pot-head college boyfriend, my 2nd trimester nausea has been a sneaky little bastard, leaping in with a karate chop in the afternoon and forcing me to mainline tortilla chips and Gatorade ‘til dinner.
  • Weight Gain—Those same hateful pregnancy apps that lied about morning sickness may also welcome you to the 2nd trimester by telling you that it’s OK if you haven’t gained any weight yet, but you’ll probably start adding a pound or so a week going forward. For both of my pregnancies, I gained 5 lbs the moment I saw two lines on the stick. Something about the act of peeing on a pregnancy test sends my body into a spiral of carb collecting and calorie hoarding that results in an impressive accumulation of back fat by Week 3. But the real fun starts at about 15 weeks when your wee one begins the journey from tomato to watermelon and you being your own journey from freshman sorority girl to hibernating grizzly bear.
  • Bleeding Gums/Nose Bleeds—Apparently Nature has her reasons for absolutely ensuring no father will ever get laid during his wife’s pregnancy, and boy is she thorough.
  • Braxton Hicks—Braxton Hicks contractions are like real labor contractions in that they both involve your uterus, and otherwise they have absolutely nothing in common. But you won’t necessarily know that, so it’s OK to panic the first time your stomach seizes into a hard knot for several seconds. For me, BH contractions feel like a charley horse in the uterus, and while they may be uncomfortable, they don’t hurt (just an FYI for first-time moms looking for a comparison: no matter what Ina May Gaskin says, labor contractions hurt, and not in that “holy crap, that really hurts” kind of way, more in that “holy crap, I am being eaten by a tiger” kind of way). Mine show up around 18-20 weeks, whereas some people don’t feel them until the end of the 3rd trimester, and a few lucky ladies won’t experience them at all. Exertion and dehydration make them worse, so if they are frequent enough to ignite the twinge of worry that inevitably leads you to WebMD, park yourself in front of a House Hunters marathon with a bottle of SmartWater and tell your spouse you can’t do the dishes until next week. As always, if you feel something is off or funny in that general region, don’t be afraid to call your doctor’s office so that the nurses can have a good giggle behind your back.
  • Frequent Peeing/Heartburn/Aches & Pains—So begin the minor foibles of pregnancy that by 38 weeks will have you feeling homicidal, if only you could get off the couch without grunting like your grandpa. I have to pee about 45 times per day, with approximately 80% of those times occurring in the 20 minutes between turning off the lights and falling asleep at night. I am only up twice per night, however, which is a far cry from the bi-hourly pee breaks that will begin around week 30 and make you twitchy with rage every time some moronic jack-hole in your office elevator says, “Sleep now while you still can!” Also, I generally have to pee far less often this time around because I spent the first few months of my son’s life only getting to pee once every four days, thus re-training my bladder for the lifestyle of a cactus. The heartburn has started, but again, it’s merely a harbinger of misery to come—the canary in the mineshaft of my esophagus is still tweeting merrily with nary a premonition of the volcanic hellfire that will erupt in late September. Likewise, the back and hip aches are only just beginning to flare up, most often when I have to carry my two year-old home from the park because he threw his $40 sneakers in the creek again. 

Despite my rage against the machine of lies about the glories of the second trimester, I must note that many of these discomforts become relative in your second and subsequent pregnancies. First-time moms are delicate flowers, dedicating most of their days to sensing, experiencing, and Googling every single symptom of their magical journey. Second-time moms are often a bit heartier and/or more distracted—is that sciatica I feel or just the result of crawling under the electronics display at Target this morning to retrieve my toddler and the armful of women’s underwear he sprinted off with while I tried to find a belly band? I imagine third-plus-time moms are downright Amazonian about the whole process, and I’m surprised more of them don’t accidentally give birth while waiting in line at McDonald’s to exchange the Minion toys in their kids’ happy meals because they already have the purple one and want the caveman one that supposedly swears. And to be fair, second trimester has its perks, like you’re allowed to have an occasional glass of wine, assuming you live in Europe where they’re cool like that, and you’re probably wearing maternity pants now, so feel free to belly on up to the buffet at Golden Corral for thirds because you’ve got room to spare. And sleep while you can, because seriously, the whole house of cards is about to come crashing down, and also you’re about to get hemorrhoids. 

Written by: Kathleen

The best part about the 2nd trimester is getting to find our your baby’s sex so friends and family don’t lose any time imposing ridiculous gender stereotypes!

The best part about the 2nd trimester is getting to find our your baby’s sex so friends and family don’t lose any time imposing ridiculous gender stereotypes!