I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and it seems like my feelings about pregnancy and the baby change all the time. But this is how I was feeling then:
I’m excited about this baby. Given the title of this post, I should probably get that out of the way right off.
I have prayed for him or her. I can’t wait for the baby to join our family. I’ll revel in that newborn smell, marvel at the baby’s utter perfection and I’ll even find beauty in 4 a.m. feedings.
But the pregnancy itself? Hate is a strong word, so I’ll just say I strongly dislike pregnancy.
And if you’ve ever been pregnant (or Facebook friends with someone who is) you’ll know I’m not alone. We love to complain about pregnancy because, well, there are so many things not to like about it: the aches and pains, the excess gas, the swollen ankles and unattractive body shape. Not to mention being unable to eat sushi, drink wine, or take almost any medication for something as small as a common cold.
I also think how ungrateful it is, to hate (there, I said it) being pregnant. Many women would give anything to be pregnant, and a healthy pregnancy – and baby – is a gift I won’t take for granted.
All the glossy magazines and mommy blogs tell me I’m supposed to love pregnancy. Cherish it. Be grateful for it. But if I’m being honest with myself, those feelings can be difficult to call up.
During my first pregnancy, my twin boys were born prematurely at 28 weeks via emergency c-section. I’ve written in more detail about it here, but the short version is that our son Graham died six days after their birth, from complications of prematurity, and his twin brother Will spent nearly three months in the NICU at Huntsville Hospital before he got to come home. Will saw more specialists that first year than any person should have to see in a lifetime, and the joy my husband and I felt for him was shadowed, always, by worry.
Losing one son and fearing for the life of the other changed us irrevocably. In some ways I changed for the better, and in some ways there was just change.
And somewhere along the way I internalized the idea that pregnancy is a time of fear and worry. Fear sits right above my shoulder, with me every moment, whispering about all the things that could go wrong, all the ways my life could implode at any second.
I suspect these feelings aren’t specific to women who’ve had traumatic birth experiences. From the moment we see the little plus sign on a pregnancy test, we’re taught to worry.
A picture of a blissfully pregnant woman will accompany a news article about how taking aspirin could give your baby ADD, or how eating non-organic vegetables could cause health complications. We’re told all the ways we could mess this up.
Or that it could get messed up for no reason at all.
Confident, glowing pregnant celebrities grace the covers of magazines and we read obsessively about things that don’t matter, like how they’re going to decorate the nursery, or what kind of stroller they’ll choose.
What you rarely see is women talking or writing publicly about the feelings and worries that can accompany any pregnancy, healthy or otherwise. We don’t acknowledge that it’s OK to have fears and worries and doubts about pregnancy, and that it’s OK to talk about them.
Once I finally admitted to myself what I actually feel, I started working through it. Talking helps.
So does letting go of the idea that I can control everything.
I think all of that preparation for a new baby the first time around is partly about control, or to at least give us a feeling of control over something that in reality we have a limited power to manage.
I don’t want to say all of this to scare anyone – especially a fellow pregnant mama. Most pregnancies in our country are healthy and end in healthy births. My second pregnancy was completely smooth sailing and produced a healthy baby – our “rainbow baby.”
I pray for the same with this pregnancy. And still: In the time I’ve been a mother, I’ve met (in person and online) so many women whose pregnancy stories aren’t what they wanted.
While many of us prefer to keep things private, I hope that in the future it gets easier for us to talk openly about the hard things when we need to.
We’re told it’s up to us to have the kind of pregnancy we want. I think once we give up the idea that we can control everything, it gets easier to appreciate the good in pregnancy.
And it gets easier to wait more peacefully and gratefully for the gift at the end of that road.