I’m writing this today because I need to be honest, with myself and with other people. I am going to warn you up front that I am going to be honest and candid and if you know me in real life and don’t want to read it, click away. Go read something else for today. But if you want to know what I was thinking and feeling, then read this, because I feel like this is something not many people talk about, but it’s not always an uncommon experience. Because there are expectations that certain people in certain situations should act a certain way.
And I felt like the expectation on me was that I should have loved pregnancy. I should have been head over heels about being pregnant. This baby my husband and I wanted very much. This was not a surprise to us. I have always wanted to have children and I have always wanted to be a mom.
But here’s a secret. Here’s a confession, if you will.
I hated being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love, love my son with everything I have to love him with. He is wonderful, I already know that, and every time I felt him kicking then or see him smile now, I feel so blessed to be his mother.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I hated being pregnant. At first I felt a lot of guilt about this. I wondered, how could I love my baby and hate being pregnant? Was that even possible? I felt like I somehow loved my baby less because I hated pregnancy (which I know isn’t true but it took a lot of time for me to convince myself that it wasn’t true). I felt selfish too, like I was making this all about me. And I felt ashamed, because I know there are a lot of people who struggle with infertility who would give anything – anything – to be able to be pregnant like I was. To have gotten pregnant so easily like I did. And I wish with all my heart that they could get pregnant, but it doesn’t make me like it anymore or change my feelings. Wishing they could and knowing how lucky I am doesn’t change my feelings.
And I felt, a lot, at first, that I didn’t even have the right to hate being pregnant. For the most part, my pregnancy was easy. I never got really sick with morning sickness and both Dominic and I stayed healthy with no complications. Towards the end, however, I had a lot of back pain, somedays enough to make me feel completely useless (for example, I would try to do dishes and I only get maybe 5 dishes done before I had to stop because I was just in too much pain). And eventually I was in such pelvic pain that it was hard to walk and sometimes even to just shift the way I was sitting hurt. But even before all that, I really hated being pregnant.
And I know, I never expected pregnancy to be a walk in the park. I knew it was a serious responsibility and I knew there were a lot of side effects, but still, I expected that I would love it or at least like it. Not that I would hate it.
I hated it, for one, because pregnancy made me feel so out of control. I never expected to feel so out of control of all the changes that were happening in my body. I never expected to feel so out of control of my emotions. It’s frustrating to me to be able to get a full night’s sleep the night before and yet still fall asleep for 2 or 3 hours when I sat down in the afternoon. It’s frustrating to me to be in pain and to know that the only thing that is really going to relieve it is to give birth – I mean, I had ways to temporarily fix it, but no way to fix it for good. It made me feel really helpless.
Another reason I hated it is because I felt so emotionally unstable. I could cry at the drop of a hat (well, I didn’t drop any hats, but I bet if I did drop a hat it would have made me cry). I cried almost every single day for almost my whole pregnancy. And I didn’t want to be crying – I really didn’t – but I just couldn’t help it. Things I cried about included knocking over a full bowl of cereal so that it spilled all over the floor, accidentally dropping a plate in the sink where it broke, ruining dinner, taking my vitamins, getting a parking ticket. And that’s only like the tip of the iceberg. At one point, I had a complete breakdown in church where I just could not stop crying and I’m not even sure why I was crying anymore. It made me feel like a crazy person. And this was not just tearing up sometimes, this was full on crying. One day I could not stop crying for hours (3+) and I couldn’t go to class because I could just not stop crying. There were other times where I cried so hard that I could not breathe and would start hyperventilating and Nick had to work really hard with me to get me to calm down because like I said, I could not breathe.
A third reason that I hated it is because there were many of my friends and a little family, who I know were well meaning, and who I know were well intentioned, who acted like pregnancy was the only thing that was going on in my life. And I know they were excited for me and like I said, I know they meant well, but I was still a person besides from everything that was happening in my uterus. I still wanted to talk about all the things that I liked to talk about before. And not everything was somehow subtly connected to the baby, though sometimes I would ask questions on Facebook and people would jump to the conclusion that it had something to do with the baby when it didn’t. This just made it harder on me because there were days I just didn’t want to talk about being pregnant because of my feelings about pregnancy. There are days I just wanted to talk about, well the things I liked talking about before – what’s going on in the world, what good books I’ve read lately, things like that. Those things made me feel like I was still a person who had value outside of being pregnant. If somebody made me feel like my whole world revolved around being pregnant, then it was especially hard for me when I had those feelings. I felt pressure to appear like I loved it, even when I didn’t. Please don’t feel offended if I never said anything to you when I was pregnant. I was so ashamed for a long time about feeling this way that I didn’t really open up to many people.
Somedays I didn’t know if I could make it through the end. But I knew I would because I was committed to my son and I needed to make it through for him.
What I recognize now that I couldn’t recognize before is that I was probably suffering from prenatal depression (also known as perinatal depression). It’s kind of similar to postpartum depression, except that it happens when you’re pregnant as opposed to after you give birth. While I was pregnant, I had some good friends suggest this possibility and I kind of ignored it. It wasn’t that bad, I told myself. This is totally normal, I also told myself. But after giving birth, I can see through the fog I was in then and what I was experiencing was not normal. There were days when how I felt emotionally really effected my ability to function, in by that I mean I could hardly function at all. I wish I had gotten help while I was pregnant, but I was so afraid to talk about it. So please, if you think you are dealing with this, get help. E-mail me, if nothing else, because I will listen.
And I feel lucky because I have a husband who lovingly supported me through all those feelings, who was amazingly compassionate, who was amazingly loving, who was amazingly supportive. I could not have made it through this without the support of him and the support of the friends who I was able to confide in.
And despite all of the mixed feelings I have about posting this: the fear that people will judge me, the fear that people will criticize me or call me a bad mother, the fear that people won’t understand, I still feel the need to post this. One, to be able to be honest. And two, so that maybe if somebody else finds this post and they are going through the same thing I am going through, they won’t feel so alone and so isolated. They won’t feel like they are a bad mother like I did for so many weeks until I finally confided in somebody and they told me that it didn’t make me a bad mother at all. Especially after I confided this in some mommy friends of mine, women who I look up to, who I consider to be great mothers, who told me they also didn’t like being pregnant. And learning this from them didn’t make me think they were any less great mothers or make me think they loved their children any less. I was so thankful to hear I was not alone and this was some defect whereby all other mothers who were like me just loved being pregnant.
So there you have it – I have been open and honest with you about how I feel. I’m not going to turn off the comments, but please be nice if you are going to post a comment. It was really hard for me put this out there – I am still afraid even after writing all of this. I’ve already berated and beat myself up enough for this, I don’t need someone else doing it too.
And as an editor’s note, I wrote this while I was still pregnant so I have tried now to make all the tenses agree, but if I messed up, I’m sorry. I didn’t have the courage to post it then, but I do now. I almost didn’t post it, but I did for two reasons. One, because writing and posting this is part of my healing process. And two, because this isn’t being talked about very much and so I hope that I can help somebody else.