I have a confession to make: I did not enjoy being pregnant. There. I said it. And I’m pretty sure I’m far from the only person who feels this way.
But you won’t hear people admit it. That’s because we live in a society where women are taught that being pregnant – and all that goes with it – is supposed to be the most beautiful and glorious time of your life. A time when you feel energetic and alive, when you are “glowing” from the inside out, and when you sit on a proverbial lily pad all day while doves coo at you and deer eat out of the palm of your hand. Ok, I’m being a little facetious, but heaven forbid if a woman should admit that she secretly felt anything less than total and utter bliss when with child. Notwithstanding the fabulous monologue delivered by one Elizabeth Banks in the film “What to Expect when you’re Expecting” in which she proclaims “pregnancy sucks” while her younger counterpart played by Brooklyn Decker appears pleased as punch with pregnancy (and didn’t we all just want to Deck-her at some point?!).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there are many women out there who genuinely did/do enjoy being pregnant, and that’s wonderful. I just wasn’t one of them. And I had a pretty smooth ride, all things considered! It wasn’t crazy-hard or unmanageable (human beings are remarkably resilient creatures, by the way). It wasn’t scary or life threatening, like it can be in some rare and unfortunate cases. I just didn’t love it. I consider myself to be a really active and energetic person. I love taking long walks, hitting the gym, and playing sports, and I really had to cut back on all of that.
Between nausea and fatigue that rendered me borderline comatose at times, I often missed out on the joy of engaging in three of life’s most pleasurable experiences: Eating, drinking, and being merry with others! And beginning about halfway through and lasting to the end of my term, it just got really, REALLY uncomfortable. My feet flattened out, it became difficult to breathe and speak, I ached and pulled in places I didn’t know existed, and I couldn’t sleep for the life of me. It would be one thing if pregnancy only lasted a few weeks, but 9 months is a long time. I actually thought giving and recovering from birth was easier!
Now here’s the kicker: All of this was completely ok. I am not nor was I ever mad about having gone through any of it. Grumpy yes. But never resentful. The discomfort, the changes made to my lifestyle, the insomnia, the weight gain, the endocrine system that seemed to have lost it’s mind on me, all of it. And I definitely don’t have a single regret. I just didn’t like it. And that is a very different thing. When my son was eventually born, I came to realize that I couldn’t conceivably love anything more. I also came to know of a kind of love that cannot possibly be taught or understood until one has a child; the kind of love you don’t even realize exists in the world or that we have the capacity for. And if I want to have more children, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.
There were also some wonderful things about being pregnant for me, mostly feeling my baby kick and move inside of me (though at times, still uncomfortable!) Perhaps pregnancy is the first training ground for the fundamental shift in life and expectations that must occur after actually having children. But the point is, being pregnant is a different experience for every woman. Some will love it, and some won’t, but many will still be compelled to fake-love it if they don’t.
We shouldn’t judge another woman or come to conclusions about how she might feel about her child or how good of a mother she is based on whether she did or didn’t enjoy the experience of being pregnant. Whether you do or don’t, here are a few tips on how to keep in real during those 9 months:
1. Don’t judge others, and don’t be judged! Careful to catch yourself saying things aloud or inside your head that start with the words “I would never…” Your situations are unique and personal, as are those of other people. Disregard the comments and opinions of others that you didn’t personally solicit!
2. Take care of yourself! It’s a big cliché, but this isn’t just limited to eating well, resting, and taking warm baths. It involves knowing yourself, what your needs are, and seeking to have them met, either by you or another willing person. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it, and seek help from a professional counsellor or therapist if you are going through emotional changes that seem to be overwhelming you.
3. Manage your expectations. In my Toronto Counselling and Therapy practice, many women I see tell me stories of feeling devastated after giving birth because they marry themselves to a very specific ‘birthing plan’ and things don’t go the way they expected. Which is ironic, because giving birth is just one of those events that can be hard to plan for. Keep it simple. Be aware of and assertive with your preferences, but don’t attach yourself to a single outcome. This is called “All or Nothing” thinking in psychology, and usually leads to emotional distress.
4. Feel what you feel! Be honest with yourself and authentic about how you feel about the process. You don’t have to advertise it, but you also don’t have to hide or fake what you feel. It won’t have any effect on the kind of mother you will be.
NKS Therapy offers services such as Career Counselling Toronto, Couples Counselling Toronto, Relationship Counselling Toronto, Family Counselling Toronto, Psychoeducational Assessment Toronto, Toronto Mental Health Services, Psychotherapy for Depression Toronto, Toronto Psychologist Services, and Child Psychologist Toronto Services. Call us today at 416-745-4745. We love to help.
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