Pop culture is notorious for depicting pregnancy either as a relentless, painful, horrifying disaster (which it's not... entirely) or a blissed-out fairy tale (which it's not... entirely). Our society is awash with images of what a pregnant woman is “supposed” to look like: picture perfect and glowing one moment, apologetically weepy the next; giggling as a burgeoning belly makes it increasingly difficult to maintain awkward pre-natal yoga positions; later theatrically indulging in every pickle and ice cream craving. Pregnancy is truly a wondrous time and an incredible feat of the human body, but the utterly comical result is this polarized dual-depiction where real-life women are left feeling like they should simultaneous dread pregnancy, and appear as thought they're in love with it. (So, about as fair, logical, and poised for success as any of the other messages women are given about how they're supposed to feel about their lives, and what their lives are supposed to look like.)
There are many other sides of pregnancy that don't get talked about enough. Behind closed doors, most pregnant women aren’t simply humming lullabies while softly caressing their bellies and happily folding pint-sized pajamas. Instead, they are painstakingly trying to sort out the complex array of emotions that accompany bringing a child into this world. While it’s long been socially acceptable to share the happiness, excitement, and overall merriment that's associated with pregnancy, somewhere along the line it became taboo to discuss those other feelings. Rather than discussing the feelings society deems distasteful, many women bottle them up inside and deal with them alone. It’s time to shed light on some of those “unsavory” — but fortunately, usually pretty fleeting — feelings that many women experience during pregnancy, because they are very common and absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.
Ahhh, the dreaded hormones. The thing about hormones is that we're generally not psyched to point out how their fluctuations affect us, because those fluctuations are so often erroneously held up as super-sexist evidence and cause that women are unstable. But the thing is, they do exist. And they can rock you during pregnancy. Does that make us less competent or capable or sane or human or good at our jobs? Nope. Should sexist claims that any of that is true prevent us from speaking honestly and openly about how our hormones do affect us? NOPE.
Now that I’m more than 20-months postpartum with my second child, I can totally fess up to being crazed, and hormonal for the majority of both my pregnancies. One minute I’d be laughing at a bit by my favorite comedian, and the next minute I’d be sobbing over some heartstring-pulling commercial and trying to call my grandma. I was a hot mess. My poor husband knew better than to breathe the word “hormonal” around me though and quickly learned to placate me with hugs and Boston creme donuts.
Holy Crap, pregnancy is exhausting! Building a human is no walk in the park, not to mention the extra 65 lbs I had to tote around during each of my pregnancies. (Arguably, my husband probably did too good a job placating me with donuts, if a person can ever have too many donuts, which I solemnly believe they cannot.) Many pregnancy books list “fatigue” as a symptom. I’d call that the understatement of the century. I was dog-tired from sun up to sun down and essentially couldn't keep my eyes open at varying times throughout those months. I didn’t have the energy to shave my legs, let alone keep up with housework or go out in public.
Whether it's your first go around or you're a seasoned pro, pregnancy can cause a lot of anxiety in moms-to-be. I think I skipped right past apprehension and went straight to utterly terrified. The birth video they showed in birthing class made me want to hide in the closet like a scared little girl and become the only woman who has ever remained pregnant indefinitely. Whether you are planning an unmedicated, blissfully medicated, or cesarean section for your birth, the vulnerability and the unpredictability of the birthing process can feel foreboding. Not to mention the enormity of the realization that you will be responsible for taking care of another tiny human being!
Whether or not we admit it, many of us fall victim to trying to live up to those preconceived notions regarding what pregnancy is supposed to look and feels like. When we inevitably fall short of those impossible standards, we end up feeling overwhelmed and defeated. I consider myself to be an incredibly self-reliant woman, and asking for help is not something I care to do often. During both pregnancies, at some point, I had to admit that I wasn’t superwoman and reach out for help. During the dreaded first trimester of one pregnancy, I had to take some time off of work because the slightest smell would have me projectile vomiting. And when I was pregnant with my second, I had to rely on the television and iPad to occupy my toddler on more than a few occasions. Though my pride took a hit, and I did feel defeated at times, I did what was necessary to survive.
If I had a dollar for everything that annoyed me during my pregnancies, I’d be a filthy rich woman. I was annoyed at everyone who wasn't pregnant because they couldn’t possibly understand what I was going through, at 40-weeks pregnant, during the peak of Florida summer. I was annoyed at everyone who was pregnant for being such perky, chipper rays of freaking sunshine and bragging that they never had morning sickness. Meanwhile, there wasn’t a place in my town I hadn’t tossed my cookies at some time over the past 9 months. I even found myself annoyed with my unborn child for keeping me up all night and tap dancing on my bladder. Shrug. Not sorry. To be fair, my pregnancy didn't make those people annoying as much as it just lowered my ability to tolerate them.
So this is the big, bad beast of all taboo pregnancy feelings: At some point in your pregnancy, you may find yourself briefly (or not so briefly) wishing you weren’t pregnant. Maybe it’ll be while you’re dry heaving and clutching the toilet bowl, every day, for the first 12 weeks of your pregnancy. Or when you pass 12 weeks and, as promised by your doctor and all the baby books, the morning sickness doesn't pass. Perhaps it will be when you start contemplating how much your life is going to change or when you convince yourself that you are totally unprepared and unready for this. Maybe it’ll be when you nostalgically look at your other child and realize that this new baby will undoubtedly take time away from the two of you.
This does not make you a bad person or an unfit mother. It makes you human. And you should never feel guilty for feeling it, or for talking about it. After all, what makes a better mom: someone who suppresses their emotions, bottles them up, and inevitably projects their unresolved crap onto everyone around them (which, by the way, will ultimately include their child), or a mom who has the self-awareness, self-acceptance, and pragmatism to face even her messiest feelings head-on, sort them out, and let them go so she can move forward unburdened of them? Yeah. No guilt.
Images: Jiawei Lin/Unsplash; Giphy(6)