While the answer varies depending on who you ask or which website you look at, the third trimester of a pregnancy begins at about 28 weeks. My pregnancy with Kaden ended at 29 weeks and 2 days.
The third trimester is when the baby gains the most weight and thus, mommy’s belly gets big. The third trimester is generally when mommys-to-be take maternity pictures, have baby showers, and can really feel and see their babies move in their bellies.
When you have a baby born prematurely, chances are pretty good that you missed out on all of those things. I know I did.
Right as I hit the third trimester of my pregnancy, I started to feel like I looked pregnant and not just fat. I felt like I finally had that prominent baby bump, and I was so excited to show it off.
I didn’t get to bask in that joy for long.
On May 20th, I was supposed to take maternity pictures and have my baby shower with a big round belly, but instead, I had been in the NICU for a month and a half with my son.
Don’t get me wrong, I was thankful that Kaden was alive and doing relatively well, but it didn’t mean that I didn’t mourn the loss of those experiences. I had only been feeling Kaden move inside for such a short time, and my husband had been able to feel Kaden move outside for an even shorter time. I had spent hours looking at maternity pictures for inspiration, and dreaming about the perfect dress I would wear for pictures and my shower. I was so excited for everyone to see my big, pregnant belly and to celebrate this bundle of joy that was on the way.
I didn’t get any of that.
Now, my husband’s co-workers threw us a shower at his work, and my sister-in-law postponed our baby shower to have it after Kaden came home from the hospital, but they were different experiences than what I had dreamed up. I’d been to plenty of baby showers before, so I knew what to expect, and the showers I had instead were just so different. They felt a little weird, because I wasn’t pregnant anymore and I knew I was supposed to be.
Now that Kaden is home, and has been for about two and a half months, things are starting to feel more normal. However, I have what feels like a dozen friends and family members who are pregnant right now and they’ve all just hit or are about to hit their third trimester.
I’ve got a serious case of the envies.
I started crying one day when I saw a post about hitting the third trimester, because that was as far as I got.
I felt painfully jealous when I watched videos of babies moving in bellies.
My heart ached when I saw the beautiful maternity pictures posted.
I was full of envy as I opened another baby shower invitation.
I don’t want you to think I’m not thrilled for all of these women, because I am! Every pregnancy announcement and belly picture and baby shower and birth announcement makes me bubbly with joy and dance in excitement. I think the world would be a better place if everyone could feel the love that I do when I look at my son (not that I think everyone has to have kids, it’s the feeling of overwhelming love that I’m referring to here, which I know some people get from their pets, and that is wonderful too). I am so happy for these growing families, because I know how happy Kaden makes me and I want everyone to feel that happy.
With that joy and excitement for my friends and family though, comes a bitter reminder that I didn’t get to experience those things, and a little bit of a fear that I never will be able to. Without medical intervention, I will most likely never be ale to carry to term, and that hurts my heart.
I’m incredibly thankful for modern medicine and the wonderful doctors that have made it their life’s mission to help women like me, but it’s still very scary to think that I may have to go through this again if I want another baby. I may never get a big round belly. I may never get video of my baby doing somersaults in my tummy. I will never get to have a natural birth.
You don’t realize how important those things are until you realize you can’t have them.
I don’t want my friends and family to try and hide their third trimester pregnancy milestones and joys from me. I want to celebrate with each baby shower and “heart” each maternity photo on Facebook. I won’t lie and say they don’t hurt though, and that my envy is any less real.
I hope that with time, that jealousy will lessen and I can celebrate without the ache I carry now. For now though, I push through and I celebrate with my loved ones as their families grow.
So if you’re a parent to a preemie baby, know that you’re now alone. I posted in my local NICU support group on Facebook, and I was met with a flood of agreement.
Third trimester envy is a thing, and you need to allow yourself to feel it, just don’t let it overwhelm you and keep you from being happy for those other families.