So far, pregnancy has not been my favorite experience. In fact, when looking back on so many of my own big life moments or life-changing decisions, pregnancy, for me, falls towards the bottom of my "would totally do again, no questions asked" list. I had a hard, terrifying, horrifying pregnancy. But every time I expressed my less-than-enthusiastic feelings towards 40+ weeks of gestation, and unapologetically said I hated being pregnant, no one believed me.
Perhaps it was because becoming a mother is packaged as the end all, be all of the socially acceptable female existence. Parenthood is so shamelessly pushed on women — by either stripping women of their reproductive rights or endlessly asking when any married, or single, or possibly happy and definitely slightly financial stable woman plans on procreating — that those who don't want to be parents, are hesitant to become parents, or don't emphatically enjoy every second of parenthood, are made to feel defunct. Maybe it was just impossible for certain people to believe me when I said that I didn't like another human being taking over my body; that I like being in control of my person and that when another being was calling the shots, I felt helpless.
Maybe it's because I was fantastic at hiding my overwhelming fear. I came from an abusive home, grew up with a toxic parent, and was deathly afraid that the cycle of abuse I had grown accustomed to would end up befalling my potential, and turns out future, child. I knew the statistics — the ones that say children of domestic violence are three times more likely to repeat the cycle in adulthood — and those figures bombarded my already pessimistic brain with reckless abandon. And still, I forced a smile and rubbed my pregnant belly and was "excited" about the future and the chance to do parenthood "right," even if I wasn't entirely convinced I could. My pregnancy felt like a horrifyingly real game of Russian Roulette: perhaps I would be the perfect mother for my son, but maybe I was destined to end up like my own toxic parent: hurtful, hateful, and the reason why my future child would end up spending their adult years feeling utterly, painfully, alone.
I smiled and I posed for maternity pictures and I pretended like that was another me, in another life; a woman who didn't cringe when someone made a sudden move, and a woman who didn't panic when someone walked too close behind her.
Maybe it's because people forgot that I was a victim of sexual assault, and the loss of complete body control seemed eerily, if not unforgivably, familiar. I wanted to love the kicks and the hiccups and even the back pain — as they're all indicative of a healthy pregnancy with a healthy baby who's moving and growing and preparing for life outside the womb — but I couldn't. Not entirely, anyway. The ability to enjoy the loss of control was taken away from me when someone forced themselves on top of me and forced me away from the door and forced me to endure their disgusting lust. But I smiled and I posed for maternity pictures and I pretended like that was another me, in another life; a woman who didn't cringe when someone made a sudden move, and a woman who didn't panic when someone walked too close behind her.
I had to carry life and death inside of me, simultaneously, and with every kick and punch and hiccup I felt — after 19 weeks — came the solemn reminder that there's another set of kicks and punches and hiccups I'd never feel again.
Maybe it's because after 19 weeks, my partner and I lost one of our twin sons, but were lucky enough to have another son remain healthy and viable and, eventually, a healthy baby boy. We were told it "isn't that bad" and it "could be worse" and though it was that bad and couldn't have gotten worse — especially to those who have lost their one and only baby — they also downplayed our overwhelming pain and anguish and confusion. We made plans for two babies. We had two carriers and two cribs and two sets of onesies. We had to endure the anguish of birthing a baby who was alive and a baby who wasn't. I had to carry life and death inside of me, simultaneously, and with every kick and punch and hiccup I felt — after 19 weeks — came the solemn reminder that there's another set of kicks and punches and hiccups I'd never feel again.
Maybe it's because I did everything I was "supposed to do." I had the maternity pictures and I had the baby shower and I updated everyone on how my pregnancy was going. I tried my hardest to embrace my current situation — regardless of how painful or unpredictable or just uncomfortable it was — even though I felt unsure and scared. I wanted everyone around me to feel so confident about my pregnancy that I stifled my emotions of pain, anguish, loss, fear, and doubt. I pretended out of obligation, all the while telling everyone that I was being "honest" when I said I hated being pregnant.
I missed being able to voice how I felt, when and how and why I felt whatever it was I was feeling, without it being contributed to hormones or pre-birth anxiety or "normal pregnancy experiences" or whatever it was in the moment that could be used to downplay my very real, very valid concerns.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's because I simply didn't like being pregnant at all. I experienced relentless morning sickness (that really lasted day and night, up until my third trimester), pregnancy complications, a devastating loss, and felt completely and totally uncomfortable throughout the baby-growing process. I missed calling the shots when it came to my body; I missed feeling like I knew my body; I missed going through each and every day without a stranger touching my stomach or asking inappropriate questions.
But mostly, I missed being believed. I missed being able to voice how I felt, when and how and why I felt whatever it was I was feeling, without it being contributed to hormones or pre-birth anxiety or "normal pregnancy experiences" or whatever it was in the moment that could be used to downplay my very real, very valid concerns.
Not everyone loves being pregnant. In fact, there are numerous, untold amounts of women who can't stand the process. It doesn't make them defunct women, or bad mothers, and it most certainly doesn't make them hormonal basket cases. No, what it makes them are women in need of support and understanding — all things I didn't get when I said I hated being pregnant.