Let’s talk about how it really feels to be pregnant.
Full disclosure from the beginning: I am not one of those women who enjoys being pregnant. To be honest, I never really thought I would be that type of person anyway, so I’m not surprised or disappointed in the least. Right up until I actually took that pregnancy test (well, actually, I took 4 of them to be sure) and saw that it was positive, I had this vague idea that pregnancy was…well…gross. This is probably more of a normal feeling for a 16 year old to have, so at 27 years old I may not have much of an excuse. I definitely also felt this way in high school though, and it seems that I simply never shook the feeling. I fully appreciate that a lot of women do not feel this way and actually find pregnancy to be a magical and wonderful experience – that is incredible for those women and I wish I could be more like them. But, for me, pregnancy is an experience that is a means to an amazing end, not necessarily something I’m loving.
I should probably explain before I get a bunch of negative comments and hate mail. Being pregnant, my body feels very alien to me. I am sure there are many women out there who feel this same way, and maybe it’s not the smartest thing I’ve ever done to share these sentiments publically on a blog, but I do think there is not enough discussion about how challenging, scary and plainly uncomfortable it can be to be pregnant. There are many bloggers, YouTube vloggers and Instagrammers who are speaking honestly about this nowadays, which I think is great – I just wanted to add my own voice to this conversation and reassure any women who might stumble upon this post during a difficult pregnancy that not loving the 40-week journey isn’t a sin or a crime.
I want to be a mother very much. I wouldn’t be pregnant right now if I didn’t, I can assure you of that. When I was in high school, I envisioned myself with a child in the future; when I met my husband and started dating him, those fantasies became even more real; and when we got married and realized the time to start trying might be near, I could see our family life in my mind so clearly and it made me excited. I am even more excited now that our baby’s room is furnished, now that we know we are having a boy and can call him by name. Having said all that, just because I am excited to be a mother does not mean I relish the idea of carrying another human inside of me. Just because I want to hold my baby in my arms, does not mean that I am overjoyed by the idea of him residing in my stomach at this very moment.
A lot of my feelings stem from the fact that being pregnant is a huge responsibility. This is something that a man cannot ever fully understand (although I am lucky enough to have a husband who is sympathetic to it). Being pregnant, not only does my body feel alien to me in so many ways, it also feels like it is not entirely my own. That’s because it’s not – although my body does still belong to me, for 40 weeks it also belongs to someone else, someone helpless who must be protected and nurtured at all costs. I don’t know many people for whom that would not be a daunting prospect. For example, I have had to change my life in numerous ways to accommodate for the fact that everything my body experiences is being felt by another human as well. I have mentioned previously my struggles with severe anxiety throughout my pregnancy, beginning early in my first trimester, and that is something I’d like to write a specific post about very soon. But apart from that, I have had to make subtle every day changes to make sure my body is the perfect (albeit temporary) home for my baby. I have had to stop running at the gym because the pounding motion was proving to be too much for my now delicate back. Honestly, that’s been a welcome change because it’s been nice to have a break from that particular type of exercise and try some new ones instead. It is an adjustment though, and as I lower my upper and lower body weights each week that I become more pregnant, my husband can still push to his usual limits. I have also had to change some of the things I eat, and the other day when I went to a local bagel shop to grab a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese, it wasn’t until after I had scarfed it down that I had a moment of panic wondering if the cream cheese was pasteurized. I did my due diligence and called the shop to confirm, but I was reminded of just how careful I have to be about every item I put in my mouth. Then, there was the time I fell going up the stairs at the subway station by my house (I blame my stupid, bulky Converse!). I was pretty sure I hadn’t hit my stomach because I caught myself, but I found my mind racing and second-guessing, so I rushed to the hospital I’ll be delivering at to be checked out. In all these ways, and so many more, it feels not only like I am sharing my body but also like I am having to sacrifice it. Yes, for something miraculous and beautiful and one I would readily make, but a sacrifice nonetheless.
So, my body isn’t fully mine at the moment because I am sharing it with my unborn baby. That’s a hard adjustment, certainly, but one that is necessary and that I could wrap my mind around (even if it still does take me by surprise every time I feel him moving inside me). What’s a bit harder to swallow is the fact that I also feel like my body and my pregnancy experience are being shared with everyone else around me. I don’t mean my husband and my family members and friends, who are naturally going to be excited and involved – I mean the strangers who stare, the distant family friends who want to touch my belly, the random people who think it is okay to say that I “look great” even though they have no idea what I looked like before being pregnant and really shouldn’t be commenting on my appearance at all. When I was in my first trimester, I desperately wanted to start showing because I wanted the people around me to know what I was going through; now, in hindsight, I kind of wish I could keep my bump secret, between only myself and certain people I choose. Pregnancy is a very public experience, but at the same time, it is also extremely intimate and personal. There’s this strange dichotomy in that everyone can see your pregnancy clear as day and can profess an opinion about it (whether negative or excited), but very few people actually have a right to be directly involved in it. Sometimes, more often than not, the stares make me uncomfortable and I am made more anxious by people commenting on my pregnancy than I would be if they just stayed silent. Yes, I am having a baby, with my husband, and while that might be exciting to a whole bunch of other people, it’s actually none of their business in the slightest. Maybe it makes me heartless to speak this way, but I already think about being pregnant pretty much every second of the day, so the last thing I need is some random person wanting to engage in conversation about something my mind is already going over and over constantly.
I should also mention that I am definitely having an off day as I write this. I’m not at my best today, and I’m trying not to be hard on myself for it because my body and mind are going through a lot right now. The plain fact is that every single day of being pregnant is not a happy or a beautiful one – that doesn’t mean that a lot of them aren’t so special, but a lot of them also aren’t and I think that is okay and something that really needs to be acknowledged. At the end of the day, I am very eager to have my baby boy beside me, and the fact that that requires having him within me right now is par for the course. Will I be relieved beyond words when he is out here where I can see him, though? Most definitely!
Janille N G
Girl with a Green Heart