As I'm sitting on my couch, fruitlessly trying to position my pregnant body in a way that won't make me uncomfortable, I feel a kick from my future child. Then another. Then another. I've waited two years and suffered through three miscarriages for the chance to feel those kicks, and in this moment I am overwhelmed with gratitude. I'm 31 weeks along and I know, all too well, how lucky I am to be experiencing a relatively complication-free pregnancy. But then I get this horrendous ache in the small of my back and my stomach tightens as another Braxton-Hicks contraction roll on through and I'm suddenly both nauseous and hungry. And while that gratefulness doesn't go away entirely, it is shoved aside by irritation, indignation, and an undeniable willingness to get this damn pregnancy over with as soon as possible.
I know I should be endlessly thankful for the ability to get pregnant and carry that pregnancy to term. I know I should focus on those kicks and how I'll feel when I hold my child in my arms. I know that so many people who want to be pregnant can't be, or have experienced the pain and isolation of pregnancy loss, too. I know that my "happy ending" — a pregnancy I could continue to carry long after those ominous 12 weeks passed — isn't the ending so many women will experience. But more often than not I'm annoyed by my pregnancy and everything that comes along with it. More often than not I am not 100 percent grateful, but simply white-knuckling my way through 40 weeks (more or less) of feeling like my body has been hijacked by a foreign entity I am powerless to control. More often than not I'm miserable.
About 10 to 20 percent of all verified pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the Mayo Clinic, and women who've had two or more consecutive miscarriages are at a higher rick of experiencing another miscarriage in the future. But many women who have miscarriages go on to carry subsequent pregnancies to full-term, so many of us know what it's like to lose a pregnancy and what it's like to remain pregnant long enough to birth a baby.
Yet rarely is there an opportunity for us to talk openly and honestly about how much pregnancy, for lack of a better term, sucks. It is not easy on the body, the mind, or your emotions, yet when pregnant women lament about the trails and tribulations of growing another human being inside our body we're often told to "think of the women who can't have babies" or to "consider the women going through miscarriages," as if our feelings are negated the moment our pregnancies are deemed viable.
If we're to support pregnant women, as a society and in the way we claim we should, then we have to stop shaming women for openly and honestly discussing their pregnancy symptoms and how those symptoms can impact our daily lives.
I don't want to constantly complain about my pregnancy symptoms in front of or to a person who has just experienced a miscarriage. I am not asking for the freedom to consistently whine about my nausea, my food aversions, or my insomnia to a woman who has just experienced her third failed IVF attempt. I don't believe my feelings are more important than anyone else's, so I am not looking to steamroll someone struggling with infertility just so I can talk about how uncomfortable I feel.
But I do wish I could talk about the shitty parts of pregnancy without the faux-concern of people who use pregnancy loss and infertility as a way to negate how difficult pregnancy can be. I know that women lose their pregnancies every single day. I am one of those women. I know that women struggle with infertility. I am one of those women. So I don't need Karen in the comment section telling me that I should think of those women and be "grateful" for all my aches and pains. I am those women, yes, but I'm also the women who can't stand being pregnant. We can, and are, both. We can experience both. We can complain about both. We can embody both.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 700 women die each year as a result of pregnancy and/or childbirth. The United States as the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world, and for black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy and/or childbirth complications than white women. These are harrowing statistics, to be sure, and proof that pregnancy isn't a 40-week culmination of good feelings. But it shouldn't be necessary for pregnant women, myself included, to lean on these heartbreaking facts as justification for feeling less than thrilled about the aches and pains that come with pregnancy. Even if you experience a complication-free pregnancy and birth, the stress on one's body, mind, and emotions is not insignificant. If we're to support pregnant women, as a society and in the way we claim we should, then we have to stop shaming women for openly and honestly discussing their pregnancy symptoms and how those symptoms can impact our daily lives. We have to stop using the pain of some to downplay or disregard the pain of others.
I am not ashamed of the miscarriages I endured. I am not ashamed to say that, after enduring them, I am annoyed by my current pregnancy. I can remember what it's like to be told by a sympathetic doctor that there's no heartbeat. I can also remember a time when my body felt like my own and, without shame, miss that time enormously.
Hating pregnancy doesn't mean I'm not grateful for being pregnant. Wishing my pregnancy would end as quickly as possible doesn't mean I don't think of and support women who want to, but can't, get pregnant. Speaking out about the less-than-ideal moments of growing another human inside my body doesn't mean I take that ability for granted.
I still love feeling my future baby's kicks; the kicks I waited so long to feel. But when it comes to pregnancy, I just don't love the rest of it.