I’m transparent in my articles for FamilyEducation, and here I go again with a confession: I am crazy in love with my daughters, both under age 5, but struggled with pregnancy. I was high-risk both times and even though I understood and did appreciate that I was growing life, I felt incredibly self-conscious about my 80 lb. weight gain with Baby #2. In the last few weeks of pregnancy with #2, I woke up every morning and silently prayed that today would be the day my water broke. (She ended up arriving on her actual due date!) Some therapy, and watching the movie Waitress, about a mom who struggles to come to terms with her pregnancy, made me feel better on days I had the “I hate being preggo” blues. (Well…I guess really the ‘pinks’ since I had girls.)
I felt guilty that I didn’t enjoy being pregnant, either time, especially since many women struggle to conceive, including beloved friends of mine. In this feature, I consulted with other moms, and a mental health expert, about ways to come to terms with your “I hate being pregnant,” feelings, and accept them as the new normal—sans mommy shaming.
Moms get real
At press time, Utah mom, McKinzie, is just weeks away from meeting Baby #2. This has been a tough pregnancy for her as she’s battled gestational diabetes, the flu, kidney stones, gallbladder attacks, visits to the ER, and other pregnancy complications. She cannot wait to meet her daughter, but in the meantime, she’s found ways to emotionally get through this pregnancy; mostly by keeping busy via a blog, TodayMommy. "I found support in mommy-related Facebook groups, as well as through blogging. It was a great way to use my challenging experiences to help other moms. It was also cathartic to be able to share what I'd been through.”
By trying to stay as positive as possible during her current pregnancy, McKinzie says enhancing friendships also helped her, emotionally, and kept her busy, through bed rest.
“I wrote out cards to people in my community. I would write anonymous cards to people mentioning what qualities of theirs I appreciated, something they had done that impressed me, or just a happy thought or quote,” she says. (Who doesn’t love receiving a beautiful, handwritten card in the mail as opposed to bills?) “After I dropped it in the mail I would get excited as I imagined how they would feel as they read their card. It made me happy knowing that I may be made someone's day!”
According to New York City-based psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, it's not uncommon for some women to have a range of feelings (including negative ones) about pregnancy and being pregnant. “There is this mythic idea and high expectation, culturally, that women will love everything having to do with being a mother—starting at pregnancy—and having kids, so this can make it surprising to upsetting when a woman has strong emotions that counter this idea.” Some women, she adds, have a hard time adjusting to their growing bodies, feel “out of control” of their bodies and may feel overweight and unattractive.
Her advice for moms who don’t “connect” with pregnancy is: “mom-to-be’s can have any feeling that they want about being pregnant—don’t judge yourself for some uncomfortable feelings that may come up. This is a time to take care of yourself, and to give yourself some extra ‘TLC’ (tender, loving care) both physically and emotionally.”
Talking to supportive and understanding friends or undergoing short-term, supportive counseling is also something to consider, she says. Don’t rule out some counseling if you think you need it; many therapists specialize in postpartum and can help you navigate your emotions. Ask your OB-GYN, or mom friends, for some therapist referrals.
Baby love at first sight
New Hampshire mom-of-two, Dahlia, founder of Buckle Me Baby Coats, may work in a kid-related industry, but admits pregnancy was a rough go.
“I did not enjoy my second pregnancy at all. The novelty of all the ‘firsts’ was over. I felt huge and exhausted, plus I had a little one to contend with.”
Dahlia also had a huge, guilty fear that she would not love her second baby as much as her first child. “I loved the first one so much I couldn't believe I had room for another—and that made me so unhappy. It was probably the hormones too!”
Once Baby #2 was born, everything flipped, emotionally. “I totally fell in love with her ‘starfish’ hands and sweet baby smell, so it was all okay!”
Food for thought
Says Dr. Ludwig: “We have very definite ideas about how mothers should feel about their children, even before they are born. Therefore, we don't make room for real reactions or reality, culturally.”
Real reactions and feelings of mothers, especially if they are not in sync with our idealized image of the perfect mother could be very scary to address, she explains.
“Because of this, women, who may not feel as connected as they believe they should be, are afraid to discuss their honest feelings for fear of being judged—by others and by themselves—as “bad mothers”.
Talk about your emotions. You certainly aren’t alone.
Adds Dr. Ludwig: “When we can't discuss real reactions to important life events, it creates a block of communication which can very easily lead to a lack of understanding of motherhood/pregnancy as it really can be.”
Remember, like those internet memes say: There’s reality—and there’s expectations. Same goes for pregnancy. Find support, and acknowledge your feelings—you’ll be OK, mama.
If you still aren't feeling like yourself after giving birth, take a moment to read up on Postpartum Depression.