Pregnancy is so much more than growing a baby, then bringing that baby into the world. Yes, there are a lot of physical nuisances that go along with gestation, like swollen everything, heartburn, and loss of breath. But the reasons why the emotional pains of pregnancy are so much worse than the physical are undeniable. Mental pains can far outweigh any hypertension or temporary asthma or lingering nausea. Emotions can't always be controlled, whereas physical symptoms can, usually, be alleviated almost all of the time.
My pregnancies were pretty painful, and that pain didn't subside at any point during the 40 weeks (more or less) that my body did the work of growing a human being. If there was a pregnancy symptom on the books, I had it. From the typical morning sickness to leakage of amniotic fluids, pregnancy had it in for me. Big time. But if I'm being honest, I have to admit that I'd take all of that, and then some, over the emotional strain pregnancy put on me. Hormonally, I was a wreck. And aside from the emotional highs and lows I had anxiety and a lingering depression.
I could explain my physical pains. They were obvious to anyone who so much as looked my way. There was proof I hurt in the places I said I hurt. But you can't see emotional wounds. The ones that are deep and sometimes unexplainable. I could cry about something insignificant and blame it on the hormones, sure, but what about the times, especially near the end of the second pregnancy, when I became so terrified of losing the baby that my anxiety became unbearable? Telling me to "calm down" was like slapping a bandaid on a sucking chest wound.
Pregnancy can be frustrating enough when you consider the physical pains, but there are more than a few reasons why the emotional pains are so much worse. We, as a society, must start to acknowledge the emotional labor women go through when pregnant, way before the physical pains of labor actually begin to take hold.
Because Bodily Autonomy Doesn't Exist During Pregnancy
When I was pregnant with my first my entire body felt foreign. The concept of another human being growing inside of me was panic-inducing. There was no such thing as "my body," however temporary, and it was a hard truth to accept. Every move I made didn't only affect me, but my baby, too. There might not have been a physical indicator of how emotionally labor intensive letting go of "my body" felt at the time, but it was there.
Because Memories Of Past Pregnancies Are Triggering
While it wasn't an issue with my first (because I didn't have another pregnancy to compare my initial experience to), my second was somewhat traumatizing. Before I had my son I had two miscarriages. The fear of losing him — my rainbow baby — was enough to change me as a mother. Being pregnant again meant having to re-live my fears, day in and day out, for 40 weeks. The pain wasn't colored in anything visible, and yet, I hurt all the same.
Because Emotional Pain Rarely Has A Quick Fix
Not that physical pregnancy pains can always be cured right away (if at all) when you need them to, but emotional pains sometimes don't go away at all. I could elevate my legs and feet to reduce swelling and puffiness, but I didn't know how to make a lingering ache in my heart disappear. That, to me, was one of the worst parts of pregnancy — the lack of remedies for the pain no one could see.
Because Emotional Pain Is A Slippery Slope
With a personal and genetic history of mental health issues, I had to tread carefully when I was pregnant. I knew I was more susceptible to prenatal and postpartum anxiety and deepening depression. However, because you can't see any of these things, it was hard to verbalize how I felt at times, making it impossible to get the help I needed. Oftentimes an anxiety attack was written off as my hormones when, really, I needed serious help.
Because It's Harder To Gain Empathy
Everyone wants to write off any emotional pain as hormones doing their thing, because that's honestly so much easier than actually doing the work and being a helpful, supportive person a pregnant woman can turn to. The idea that "this, too, shall pass" does nothing to help a woman experiencing a never-ending sea of emotional labor in the moment. So, you know, do the work. Don't write off someone else's emotions. You have no idea what is lying just under the surface.
Because It Feels Infinite
Physical pain certainly can feel endless at times, but you know there's most likely an end point. Take labor, for example. Even if you're in labor for 27 hours, you know you won't be in labor forever.
With invisible, emotional pain, though? Yeah, not so much. You have no idea when it will dissipate. Until then, you're swallowed up in your emotions. To me, that's the worst feeling ever.
Because Research Says It Is
Despite how much pregnancy messes with you, emotional pain isn't just in your head. Actually, there's research that backs up how much worse emotional pain is when it's compared to physical. Because, you know, science.
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