I Don’t Love Being Pregnant
I have an announcement and a confession today.
First of all, I am pregnant. Yay me! And it’s a boy! Yay for a little brother! (This is not big news to those who follow my personal accounts.)
And now my confession: I don’t love being pregnant.
There you have it. I said that out loud and I know it sounds so awful to those who love having a baby bump, the “pregnancy glow,” and everything that comes during those nine months. And it sounds even worse to women who go through hell and back to become pregnant. Let me clarify: I love being a mother. I love children. I love babies. I am not scared (any more) of the actual process of giving birth. I am so grateful to be able to get pregnant and give birth.
However the months of actually being pregnant are really hard for me in so many ways and I have a hard time enjoying it.
The past four months have been a challenge for me physically and emotionally. It was always in our family plan to have two kids, but the moment I found out I was pregnant again, for some reason I didn’t suddenly feel happy. I stared at that pee stick and thought… “Oh wow…ok…I guess this is it. Here we go again.” My face was blank and I didn’t even tell my husband for a couple of days. (He was traveling for work and I decided to wait till he returned.) The few friends I told all responded with glee and then asked the exact same question: Are you happy? (For some odd reason this is 85% of people’s first response.)
Was I happy? In those early weeks I couldn’t really say I was. However that is not what anyone wants to hear so I gave the expected answer. “Yes!!! Of course I am happy! We are both so excited and can’t wait to give Noomi a brother or a sister.” I was not really feeling truly happy but of course I was grateful. Here I was, a relatively healthy woman in my mid-thirties with zero complications. Yet I couldn’t feel the joy and excitement.
I have never had the “pregnancy glow.” For me that shimmer and prenatal bliss is a sweet dream I have never experienced. I felt dread about going through the miseries of my first pregnancy. All I could think of was what lay ahead: “Morning sickness” that actually happens at all times of the day, crazy hormones that make me want to kill people or cry at the most ridiculous things, running to the toilet in the middle of the night to pee, terrible back pain the bigger my belly gets, different body parts hurting each day, random dental issues, cramps that make me worry something is going terribly wrong in there, and intense fatigue making it impossible to get anything done. Then I started to think of the long list of things I could not eat for the 9 months: no wine, no charcuterie, no coffee, no black tea, no runny eggs for breakfast, no salad or raw vegetables at restaurants lest I contract toxoplasmosis, must only eat well-cooked meat that taste like rubber, and constantly stressing about something I ate might infect my baby with some odd parasite or disease I can’t pronounce. My doctor told me to be careful about letting my daughter kiss me on the mouth, drink from my cup, or sneeze on me— things she does all day every day—in case she gives me a rare strain of something that is harmless to normal people but deadly to a baby in the womb.
Many of my friends have had miscarriages in the first trimester, so I also couldn’t get excited until I knew for sure this wasn’t happening. And then I worried about how the heck I would be able to advance on my writing and projects with two kids when I barely get much done with one toddler.
These thoughts and feelings still plague me daily while depression knocks on my door, and I debate letting it in…daily. I have battled depression since my mother died when I was 12 years old. Life changes often trigger this depression for me, and adding a new human being in the mix fits that bill. It is not only the anxiety of that change as you might imagine—although that plays a role—it’s also thoughts of missing my mother to experience and guide me through these milestone moments. If my mother was here perhaps I could call her and talk about how I feel frustrated about my lack of energy to work on my current projects. She could tell me stories about what being pregnant was like for her and remind me to relax and remember this is only a short time in my life. I could call her crying about how I feel like crap and vomited my lunch and feel like staying in bed all day. She would probably offer me some crazy old Nigerian or Jamaican drink to help with nausea and reassure me things would be okay. My mother might fly over to visit me, cook for me, boss me around, hug me, and play with my daughter so I could rest. My husband cannot empathize with me in any way about pregnancy and/or motherhood (he’s a man!) so I long for shared experiences only a mother or older sister might offer. Add to that the #expatexperience which can feel isolating when your best friends are an ocean away and you are too exhausted to fumble through French with strangers.
In addition to feeling alone in all this, I have a hard time with just that fact that some days I have little control over how I feel. I start my morning with a great meditation session, then make an awesome to-do list, and feel ready to conquer my day. Then things take an unplanned turn and I find myself hugging the toilet bowl, or maybe I am lucky enough to make it through midday, and after negotiating and dealing with my very active three-year-old I feel insanely exhausted, leaving most of my ambitious ‘to-do” list unchecked. I am someone who has a lot of ideas and plans and projects but I find that my body and mind are not cooperating right now. Talking with my stateside girlfriends who are birthing and building amazing new ventures, I feel happy for them but really ashamed and frustrated with myself. The rational side of my brain knows this is just a phase in my life and when my kids are off to school I will have hours upon hours to work on my projects. I feel frustrated with the fact that being pregnant slows me down and that many days I cannot control this.
For now I have not let this depression fully take over me, but I am four and a half months into this pregnancy and it’s hard. I try to fake it till I make it, but these physical, emotional, and psychological side-effects rob me of the joy of pregnancy.
After the first rendez-vous with my gyno around week 8 when I saw the little gummy bear on the screen and heard the baby’s heartbeat, I can truly say in that moment I felt happy for the first time. It all felt real and I truly felt joy that we were going to have our second child. But that joy is reserved for the actual kid.
If only I could fast-forward to delivery day and hold that sweet baby in my arms. Yes, yes I know the first three months with a newborn are insanity and I will no doubt feel sadness for my mother never meeting her grandson. But at least no one cares if I look busted, there will be less work pressure since I will be on “maternity leave” from freelance projects, no judgement from my husband about sleeping all day when baby sleeps, and I can sneak in a glass of vino after pumping to chillax.
But since I cannot hit the speed button, I will take it one day at a time knowing this too shall pass. Maybe it’s possible I am not alone out here in the “I don’t love being pregnant” camp? Would love to hear if there are any other mothers out there who had an emotional pregnancy.
Photos by Thomas Buchwalder
UPDATE: If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced a rough pregnancy please ready my follow up to this story about How I Learned to Manage An Emotional Pregnancy.