So you’re pregnant — congratulations. You’re going to start hearing a lot of things now, from friends and your parents and well-meaning strangers at the grocery store. They’re going to start asking questions you aren’t ready to answer and commenting on everything from the shape of your bump to what’s on your plate at the dinner table. You might not want to admit it, because society tells us not to, but pregnancy isn’t always what it looks like on Instagram. You might be tired. You might feel stressed. You might not think your bump is cute, and frankly, you might be too worried about doing this whole “mom” thing right to even feel excited in the first place. Pregnant lady, no one can tell you how to feel.
Some pregnancies are radiant with joy from beginning to end. A planned and wanted baby, conceived on the first try, through perfect health with a great doctor and all the birth choices you desire. You look beautiful; you actually do effing glow. You get that perfect round beach-ball belly. There are, of course, minor complaints. But they can be brushed off as the normal pains of growing a baby.
Some pregnancies work that way. And some of them do not.
No one can tell you, first of all, that you have to be happy all the time. It’s not up to anyone else to measure your excitement. My third baby was a complete and total accident, and up until mid-pregnancy, I dreaded people asking if I was happy about it, because I wasn’t; I was scared. I already had two kids 2 and under, and my husband didn’t have a great job. So when people said I must be soo happy, I wanted to punch them. Instead, I felt like I had to simper that I was. But it’s your right to feel unhappy about pregnancy, if you want to.
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And, while we’re at it, let’s talk about the glow. “You’re glowing!” people will squeal. Except you may not be. You may feel like you’re effing dying. I know I did. I had hyperemesis gravidarum with all three of my pregnancies, which got subsequently worse with each baby and landed me in the hospital with number 3. I did not glow. I was a pale shade of greenish-gray for most of my pregnancies, and I felt like vomiting on someone’s shoes. You do not have to feel great to fulfill some societal expectation. You are well within your rights to feel totally freaking miserable.
People will tell you that you look good or you’re barely showing or you’re probably expecting twins when you know damn well there’s only one baby in there. No one has the right the scrutinize the size of your body. Maybe you haven’t gained much weight, and you’re frightened about it. You don’t want to be reminded that your doctor lectures you to eat more. And you’re pissed, because you want to bask in the love and the questions and the squeals every other pregnant woman gets except you. It’s okay to be pissed. You have the right to those feelings.
Or maybe you’ve gained a lot of weight. I did. With each pregnancy, hyperemesis gravidarum and blood sugar issues meant I blew up like a balloon, and I hated it. I hated the way I looked, I hated the way I felt, I hated the transition from normal body to this swollen thing with thighs that rubbed and arms that jiggled. There is absolutely nothing wrong with those things, of course, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t feel at home in my own skin. Feeling horrible about your body, about weight gain or weight loss, about swollen feet and the lack of a perfect beach-ball tummy? You’re allowed to have those feelings. No one can take them from you or tell you they’re invalid.
Children are wonderful, but don’t let anyone make you feel bad if you don’t spend the entire nine months thinking “babies are a blessing.” Maybe you have money problems, or job problems, or a scramble for daycare; maybe right now pregnancy feels like a frightening and overwhelming burden. It’s okay to feel scared. We were terrified when, six months into my pregnancy with baby #3, my husband still didn’t have a steady teaching job. It was okay for me to feel burdened instead of blessed. It didn’t mean I loved my baby less. It meant I had feelings I couldn’t change.
You can be anxious. Of course, every pregnant woman is anxious. But you can be really, truly, borderline clinically (or actually clinically) anxious. There are so many things to think about: childbirth; if your baby will be healthy; if you will be healthy; if you’ll be able to breastfeed, if that’s your choice. If you’re worried about baby’s progress — or you’ve gotten news of a congenital issue, or a possible developmental hiccup — it’s okay to wonder about the outcome and take it one day at a time. I took antidepressants through all three of my pregnancies, and I spent many a night terrified about their effects on my unborn children. It’s okay to worry instead of radiating sunshine.
Whether you feel elated or frustrated, annoyed or overjoyed, it doesn’t make you less of a mom. You don’t owe the world anything by virtue of your pregnant belly. You do, however, owe yourself your authentic feelings about your pregnancy. You deserve them. Because in the end, pregnant lady, no one has the right to make assumptions about you. No one has the right to tell you how you ought to feel. This pregnancy belongs to you, and you alone. It is happening in your body, from the tips of your swollen toes to the top of your scattered brain. You are growing a human being. And you can feel however you want to feel about that.
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