I didn't exactly see my first pregnancy coming. I mean, I wasn't shocked, because I'm an adult and I know how babies are made and we were already starting to kind of talk about starting a family, but I was still thrown for a loop when I peed on a stick and returned to find it said "pregnant." So I am going to chalk up some of the ways I set myself up for disappointment during my first pregnancy to the fact that, really, I wasn't at all prepared.
But this doesn't lie entirely at my feet. Society has painted two diametrically opposed pictures of what pregnancy is: an over-the-top hellscape and a rosy, beatific, cosmically profound milestone. The truth, generally, falls somewhere between those two extremes. And it's not that I went into this whole grand adventure completely clueless — I knew a thing or two — but a lot of what I assumed or thought I knew was based on a whole lot of unrealistic expectations, misinformation, and the presumption of a best case scenario greeting me at every turn.
Overall, my pregnancy was neither terrible nor disappointing, but I probably would have had a better time of things had I not set myself up for some rude awakenings by doing the following:
I Listened To The Lucky Ones
Certainly I'd heard that pregnancy is hell from other women who'd been there, but I figured those were just those women. I preferred to pay attention to the ladies who said they felt so amazing being pregnant. The women who glowed. The women who talked about how amazing their birth experience was. The women who were considering becoming surrogates just because they loved being pregnant so much. Those other women, the ones who complained, they were just whiners... obviously.
I Expected I'd Like Being Pregnant
I was definitely going to be like the lucky women, you guys. After all, my mom was one of them, and I was probably going to have pregnancies like hers, because were were related and all.
Yeah., that's not how pregnancy works.
The expectation that I was going to positively revel in every aspect of pregnancy led to a whole lot of disappointment when I felt like hot garbage so much of the time. Because on top of feeling like aforementioned garbage, I also felt like I had somehow failed at being pregnant because why didn't I enjoy every minute?
I Never Thought I'd Have Any Complications
Of course all pregnant women probably worry to some degree about miscarriage (and I did), but aside from that the idea of anything that would complicate my pregnancy never crossed my mind. That changed in my first trimester when we got the results from my preliminary bloodwork — I was a carrier for two genetic conditions, Fragile X syndrome, which causes intellectual disability, and cystic fibrosis, a chronic and deadly lung disease. While Fragile X manifesting as an issue was a long-shot due to my particular genetic profile, cystic fibrosis became a very real possibility when my husband was tested and was also found to be a carrier. This meant that our child had a 25 percent chance of inheriting an illness that would likely kill them before the age of 40.
Fortunately, amniocentesis confirmed that our child was just fine (a carrier himself, but not afflicted with the illness), but the rollercoaster experience was absolutely harrowing, in part because such a thing had never been on my radar in the first place.
I Overestimated My Social Ambition
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I was determined that I would be living it up until the day I popped. I wouldn't turn down social invitations, I would have and attend dinner parties, and I would plan a "babymoon." After all, I knew my life would change once the little one was here, and I wanted to be able to have a last hurrah before that happened.
But they don't tell you how moody and exhausted you are when you're pregnant. (Or, well, I guess they do, but per point one I wasn't listening to those people.) I was pooped. Seriously, I generally don't need all that much sleep but I was often zonked out by 8:30 every night for a while. So I was pretty bummed by the end of 39 weeks (when I gave birth) that I had done maybe a quarter of the social things I'd intended.
I Got Pregnant In December
Do the math, you guys: this puts me in my third trimester in the summer... a New York City summer... one of the hottest New York City summers experienced in a decade.
It. Was. The. Worst.
There's a reason my second child was conceived in September is all I'm saying.
I Assumed I'd Feel Like A Goddess
This wasn't just about feeling good. I thought I would feel serene and beautiful and at one with the universe. I thought I would have the feeling a great treasure around in my belly or whatever romanticized version of pregnancy I read about in cheesy poetry. I didn't feel imbued with some deep, secret, womanly knowledge. I felt... like me. Only uncomfortable.
I Thought I'd Be Fashionable
I think pregnant women are absolutely beautiful and, moreover, that pregnant women look amazing in all the lovely maternity clothing I see in magazines and in store displays. So I was excited to delve into the wonderful world of pregnancy fashion which, I was assured, was so much better now than it was back in the day.
The problem? Well, maternity clothing is expensive AF. So it's like "Ooh this top is cute... and also $120." I'm sorry, I'm not spending a small fortune on a wardrobe with an extremely limited shelf-life. Secondly, not everything that looks beautiful on the models looks beautiful on non-models. So, you know, there's that. And three, yes there's some really cute maternity wear out there, yes on the whole it's a lot better than it was but, guys, maternity wear is still pretty fugly. (Why does everyone think pregnant women only want to wear stripes?!)
I Discussed Gender Preferences With My Husband
It's not like we were going to be devastated if things didn't turn out the way we wanted, and, personally, I didn't really have a preference. But my husband was pretty open about the fact that, if he could have picked, he'd prefer a girl. So when we found out we were having a boy I wasn't disappointed personally, but I was bummed because I knew my husband was going to be a little disappointed. Honestly, it put a damper on my own excitement.
As it turns out, his disappointment was extremely brief (seriously, not even a day) and a complete non-issue moving forward, but I feel like it probably would have been better not to talk about preference at all and deal with whatever needed to be dealt with when it came up (if it came up at all).
I Didn't Think My Weight Gain Would Bother Me
"I'm pregnant!" I thought. "If I gain 30 pounds who cares?! I certainly won't! It's not going to make me feel bad about myself!"
Oh, but society runs deep, friends, and even the most body positive, feminist-y types are not immune. After gaining about 35 pounds I did feel insecure, and that made me feel like a feminist failure, which made it worse. I wish I just could have accepted that I might feel crappy on the self-esteem front, and that I didn't have to and it's OK.
I Figured Labor Wouldn't Be That Bad
Oh, my sweet summer child.