Pregnant and Loving it…?
So, I’m about to make a pretty grand statement, one that I hope some people out there might relate to and one that I hope might help unburden a few people of the guilt they might feel surrounding pregnancy and the fact that lets face it, its not always enjoyable.
‘I DID NOT ENJOY BEING PREGNANT.’ There, I’ve said it, in black and white, written down, a statement that will be able to be read by my children one day. But hopefully one that will allow other women who may be feeling the same right now to get rid of that feeling that there’s something ‘wrong,’ with them because they’re not enjoying every second of pregnancy. One that might help unburden them of the guilt that surrounds not enjoying being pregnant, no it does not mean you haven’t bonded with your baby or that you’re not thankful every day for the beautiful blessing you have been given. I hope also the statement will allow anyone out there who’s not having the best pregnancy to just stop worrying for a second and to know, there’s someone else out there just like you.
Let me start by saying, I’ve done the pregnancy thing three times – and as a result am unbelievably blessed with children I adore more than anything else on the planet. Moreover, I was also blessed with incredibly easy pregnancies each time. I had not an ounce of morning sickness, I had no SPD or pelvic pain which would indicate my less than enjoyable experience of being pregnant. I was incredibly fortunate enough to never have had to go through the incredible heartache of losing a baby, premature labour or miscarriage and for that I am eternally grateful. Yet I still did not enjoy being pregnant.
When I had my oldest child Harry, who’s now 9, I was totally in shock about the pregnancy. It was un-planned and we had our wedding booked for the August – he was due to be born in the March. I had been an avid member of slimmers world in an attempt to shed some excess university pounds ready for the wedding and had just got down to target weight when I fell pregnant. After the initial shock, we were over the moon and like I said, I had a pretty easy pregnancy. Apart from tiredness which I could only liken to what it must feel like to be given sleeping medication, I felt wonderful. I carried the baby really well and had a simple, small bump that meant I needed no maternity clothes. So why on earth did I not enjoy being pregnant? I don’t want you to think for a minute that I’m not extremely grateful to be able to carry a baby to term, that I don’t know how incredibly lucky I am to be able to have children without years of trying, painful IVF or that I don’t know how lucky I am to be able to have children at all. I know some people would kill for what I have been able to do. I think this is half the problem with not enjoying being pregnant, it’s the fact we ARE so grateful that means its almost become unmentionable to say – ‘I don’t really like being pregnant, and its not the glowy, wonderful experience I’ve read and heard about!’
For me, it wasn’t anything major that made me not enjoy the pregnancy, I think it was the feeling of the lack of control I had over my own body, its shape, it’s growth, the way it now slowed me down, the impact it had on doing the things I loved. Living in a fast paced environment as we women do now, being career driven as many of us are now and being pregnant, don’t always go together. As a teacher, I found I had less energy to be on the floor with the children, sitting on the tiny reception chairs, standing for long periods of time. As women, we expect to be able to carry on at the pace we have previously and pregnancy, rightly so, slows us down. The world we live in now however, doesn’t always compensate for this slowing down and whilst certain legislation and laws have been put into place to support pregnant women in the workplace, we still often expect ourselves to be able to work and live at the pace we have previously in order to not burden anyone else with our workload, be seen to be using our pregnancy as an ‘excuse,’ to get out of things or to be seen as now not able to cope. Maternity packages and maternity pay also mean that women carry on working right up until their due date in order to get the maximum time at home with their baby after the birth. So whilst we should be relaxing and preparing and nesting, we are still trying to run around and tie up loose ends in work, prepare someone else for taking over our role and worrying about things other than ourselves and our baby.
When I was pregnant, each time I expected that I would feel like I was being wrapped up in cotton wool, cared for, nurtured and loved. And don’t get me wrong I have the most amazing husband and family who did a lot for me whilst I was pregnant but I still put those high expectations of living upon myself, I still never gave myself a break. I didn’t want others to ever think I was ‘playing the pregnancy card,’ so I tried to maintain life at the high paced, pressurised way I was running it when I was not pregnant. It was whilst trying to do this, that I became increasingly frustrated with my inability to ‘nip,’ anywhere. Every journey seemed to take forever, even going up the stairs for a tea towel is exhausting. I didn’t like the feeling of not being able to sleep in the way I’d always slept, of not being able to sit comfortably on the couch and of the fact that I was so slow. I didn’t like the feeling of being out of control of my whole body. And I didn’t like the way I felt so guilty about my feelings all the time. I enjoyed feeling the baby move around and kick, I loved singing songs to them all and I loved talking to them, resting my hand on my bump, but I didn’t really like the way pregnancy made me as a person, as a woman feel.
I thought maybe the second time it would be different – but as Harry was only 8 months old when I fell pregnant again, I found I had even less ‘time to be pregnant,’ than I had had before. No heavy lifting is a bit of a non-entity when you have a milk guzzling baby to get in and out of the bath – plus the house we were living in when we became unexpectedly pregnant for the second time (I was on the pill) was suddenly too small and the thought of trying to fit toddler toys, a one year old Labrador and a jumperoo and playmats for a baby was almost enough to send me over the edge. So whilst being heavily pregnant, we moved house. Not into a lovely finished house no, into a project that needed doing up… and 8 years on, still needs a fair amount of work doing to it! So again, life was busy during my pregnancy and I thought that I didn’t enjoy being pregnant because it slowed me down and again, I had no time to be any slower.
Bring on third pregnancy – Harry was 6 and Jess 5. A totally different phase of our life. We had become the parents who went to soft play and sat down for coffee rather than the parents who were in the soft play with the children. Expressions of fear and exhaustion on our faces as we scrambled up the cargo net and descended into tunnels that were not designed for 32 year olds. So I though maybe this time, I would enjoy the pregnancy. I would have time for massages, pregnancy relaxation, pregnancy yoga, aquanatal and all of the other wonderful things on offer out there for pregnant women. But alas, it was not meant to be. Again, there seemed little time for me to be, ‘pregnant,’ and the feeling of being out of control of my body came back again. I also worried more during this pregnancy. I felt like I already had two beautiful, healthy children, so I must be going to have some bad luck. That there were so many people around me trying so hard to get pregnant, going through IVF, having miscarriages, that surely my luck must have to run out soon. I felt like my thoughts and feelings, if I spoke about them, would make others think I was unstable, or ungrateful, or silly, so I didn’t speak about them at all. So although I was very lucky again with no physical symptoms of a ‘bad pregnancy,’ no morning sickness, no pelvic pain, no sciatica, no pregnancy related illness. I again did not enjoy being pregnant.
Whilst I may not have embraced the pregnancy stage, I did embrace and love every second of my new babies, each and every one of them. I know how lucky I am to have been able to carry them and am forever thankful that my body has housed three of the greatest human beings ever to walk the planet. I want you to know that not enjoying pregnancy, whatever stage you are in, is ok. That it’s ok to admit these feelings and that if they become overwhelming, its ok to talk to a health professional about them too. Not enjoying pregnancy does not mean you won’t enjoy your babies or that you haven’t bonded with them, in the same way that loving being pregnant doesn’t mean you’re automatically exempt from developing post-natal depression.
On reflection, what I have learnt from being pregnant each time is that no-one out there will give you, ‘time to be pregnant.’ No-one will know what you and your body needs more than you. It’s not indulgent to take things easier at work. It’s not laziness to move a little slower. It’s not ‘playing the pregnancy card,’ if someone else hoovers up while you put your feet up. And its not ‘a waste of time,’ to finish work a couple of weeks before your due date and give yourself the time to watch tv, drink tea, go for walks, read a book, meet friends for coffee, take a nap and all of the other wonderful things we should make the time to do that makes our heart happy. As a first time mum, you will never get the chance to do these things again, you will never be this person again, so enjoy it. Make time for you whatever number baby you are having because no-one else will make the time for you. Its not that they don’t care, that they don’t empathise or that they don’t understand, its just that their lives are busy too and whilst someone just carries on regardless, they assume everything is ok and within your capability. So if you are pregnant, take what you need, the time you need, slow down and look after yourself. If you are struggling, talk to someone, anyone, let them know how you’re feeling. If you know someone who is pregnant, do something for them today – they may not always ask for help but any help will be greatly received I’m sure.