I have this friend. You probably have a friend just like her, too. She has had three beautiful, magical pregnancies and she documented all of them online. In every picture, she is glowing and cheerful. Her face never looks swollen or tired and she always has positive things to say about her pregnancy.
I'm not judging her at all, because I honestly admire her ability to stay so optimistic during her pregnancies. If I looked and felt amazing during my pregnancies, I would probably document the whole thing online, too. Instead, I spent most of my three pregnancies ducking and hiding from the camera, especially later in my pregnancies. I didn’t want to pretend my 3rd trimester was magical when I was really having a hard time getting through each day.
It wasn’t really about how I looked, per se. I actually liked the way my pregnant body looked most of the time. It had more to do with how I felt. I was tired and uncomfortable all of the time and I didn’t feel like smiling or putting on a brave face.
During my first pregnancy, I felt obligated to enjoy every moment. I felt so blessed to be pregnant that it felt wrong to speak up about just how terrible I felt. But I did feel terrible. I had carpal tunnel in both wrists, something my doctor attributed to hormones. I had hives all over my body from PUPPS, a skin condition that's fairly common among pregnant women. I had heartburn and swollen feet. I wasn’t sleeping. But I was trying my best to suffer in silence, complaining only occasionally to my husband.
For pregnant women, there is this unspoken pressure to pretend that growing another human being is magical. Truthfully, what our bodies are capable of is truly amazing, but that doesn't make every day of pregnancy fun. In fact, pregnancy is one of the hardest things I have ever done, especially during the third trimester. And I don’t want to be made to feel guilty or ungrateful because I didn't enjoy it.
For pregnant women, there is this unspoken pressure to pretend that growing another human being is magical.
When women feel pressured to pretend we are OK during pregnancy or postpartum, we don’t feel free to ask for the help we need. Without open conversations about the physical and emotional toll pregnancy can have on women, we might push ourselves too hard or neglect to take care of ourselves by asking for help, calling into work or even just ignoring the housework for an afternoon.
Our bodies are amazing. The simple fact that many women are able to grow a human being inside of themselves while going on with their daily lives is incredible.
Still, our bodies aren’t perfect. Some may be more prone to weakness or illness, and some may experience complications that make pregnancy almost unendurable. For this reason, we need to create a culture around pregnancy and motherhood that allows us to talk openly and honestly about our needs, instead of encouraging moms to pretend they are OK when they’re not. If pretending my 3rd trimester was magical adds any pressure onto other moms, I won’t hesitate to keep speaking up about just how hard my pregnancies really were.