Growing up, I was given a very rose-tinted vision of pregnancy, as I think are many women. Morning sickness was something I was casually aware would happen, but all of the other negatives were sort of casually blown off with, “Oh, but when you hold your baby in your arms you just don’t care about all of that.”
Which is exactly what I heard one friend (who had never been pregnant – let’s call her Jane) trying to convince another friend of (also never been pregnant but getting married and in a tough situation where her fiancé wanted kids but she didn’t really – let’s call her Susan) when we were at dinner one night.
As a first time pregnant woman, I was LIVID at Jane and trying REALLY HARD not to show it and still productively stand up for Susan.
At the time, I was in my first trimester (now into my second at the time of writing this) and was fully entrenched in the morning sickness, sudden fatigue, bloating, and food aversion and all I could think was:
“Jane, you have no fucking idea what this is like or what you’re talking about.”
Because Susan and I have something in common – we really enjoy using our bodies to feel like free, strong, independent women. And something I have since learned? Pregnancy doesn’t care how you enjoy using your body.
I’m a Health, Wellness, & Empowerment coach for women. I’m also (non-career-wise) a runner, a yogi, a pretty good healthy chef, among many other things pertinent to being a healthy person overall. Prior to pregnancy, I understood my body and its needs down to the fuckin’ T. I was a well-oiled machine that understood my limits and how to push them in a safe and effective way to get the results I wanted. I wasn’t necessarily the fastest or the buffest, but I felt like I fully understood and could communicate with my body.
So when pregnancy happened most, if not all, of those things were taken away because of nausea, food aversion, insomnia, and fatigue.
This caused STRESS above all else. I didn’t feel productive because I had to nap, I couldn’t make myself feel productive because I couldn’t stand for long without getting nauseous or tired or have a random crying fit for literally no reason.
I lost control of my body and thus, my feeling of independence.
“Just calm down and you’ll get through it. It’s ok if you can’t be productive or exercise in the way that you want. Try some gentle yoga or go for a walk instead. That’ll reduce your stress.”
Actually, it won’t.
Because the way I de-stress is by doing those things that you are inherently NOT supposed to do as a pregnant person! I feel CALMER when I’m pushing myself to run faster and farther. I am PROUD when I can get myself into a more difficult yoga pose. I ENJOY skiing, rock climbing, hiking, etc. And I like that I know how to fuel these activities with the right foods.
Stop telling me to just “relax” and then watch me fail at that because all the ways I relax have been taken away.
So, here’s the realization I ended up getting to:
I don’t like being pregnant.
There. I said it. I’m the asshole now.
But the second I admitted that to myself, a change happened…
I calmed down. I’m more content. I’m better able to let myself break my health rules for the sake of just living with how my body is for a little bit.
Because here’s the thing – I DEFINITELY want to have a baby. No questions asked. I want to be a mom so badly! I realized when I was a teenager that I was definitely mom material and it was going to happen for me come hell or high water.
And with that comes the assumption that I WANT to be pregnant.
Part of being a healthy, happy human is being able to communicate with yourself and your body clearly enough that you can identify your wants, needs, likes, and dislikes. And I was blatantly ignoring all of those because of an incorrect, ingrained belief that I WANTED to be pregnant. I mean, it seems like wanting a baby and wanting to be pregnant should go hand in hand right?
But they don’t. At least, not for all women. Wanting to have a child and wanting to be pregnant are two mutually exclusive things.
I liked my body the way it was. I worked hard to be able to communicate and understand its needs and wants for years and I am proud of that work. That work has enabled me to do things I never thought I would physically, mentally, and emotionally, AND make a career out of it.
And to have that all taken away? Even if it’s for a good cause? That’s hard. And it’s, frankly, demeaning to say to a pregnant woman, “Well, just calm down and enjoy it.”
Nope. Shut up and here’s my middle finger at you sir or ma’am.
I wish I had heard a different story. From anybody. This isn’t just something that family life taught me, this is something that was everywhere. I was lucky enough to have a WHOLE LOT of Sex Ed in my life (like… actual education… not just experience.) Pregnancy was always talked about in the positive if it was a wanted pregnancy between two people who love each other, and in the clinical (note: NOT negative) if it was an unwanted pregnancy. The negative always came AFTER the fact, during the actual parenting/responsibility for another human life.
I wish it wasn’t taboo to speak about wanted pregnancy as something that can still be difficult and not so fun. When I am talking to my kids about sex later in life, I’m going to try very hard not to say, “Don’t have sex too young,” and, “Pregnancy is a wonderful miracle of life,” in the same breath. I would rather my kids know that this is a commitment and a responsibility in and of itself, not just once baby is born.
So I guess the point is this: It’s ok to feel like your body is suddenly taken over by an alien. It’s ok to not quite know what your body needs and do your best in the given circumstances. It’s ok to be able to only survive on Nilla Wafers for the day (that’s A LOT of wafers) because everything else makes you want to puke. It’s ok to admit that you don’t enjoy this time of life because you feel so physically inhibited.
And that doesn’t make you a bad person, woman, mother-to-be, partner, or anything else. It just makes you human and aware of your body.
We could all practice listening to our bodies a little bit more.