“Glowing,” “radiant,” “miraculous.” These are the words so often associated with pregnancy. While growing a tiny human truly is nothing short of miraculous, currently-pregnant me can’t help but be a little displeased with the over-glamorization of pregnancy that has become so prevalent. Allow me to explain.
I’m currently in the third trimester of my first pregnancy. I’ll start by saying that this entire experience has been transformative. It’s changing who I am for the better, forcing me to become more mindful, more attuned to the lives of others around me and — my family will probably heave a sigh of relief when they read this — more patient. It’s been a lesson in letting go, as it has forced me to finally accept that I can’t control every facet of my life. And I’m so grateful to have a healthy pregnancy and a baby on the way. But there is an important distinction to be made between appreciating an experience and enjoying it. And for all the learning and maturing I’ve experienced over the last seven months, I can truthfully say that I am not enjoying my pregnancy.
I can’t tell you what a relief it is to put that in writing and throw it out there for the world to see. Because for all the positive public dialogue around women’s health, body image and the positives of watching your body change as you make a contribution to the human race, there is still a limited amount of conversation and acceptance around the concept of not enjoying the actual process of growing a baby. I went into this experience with a positive mindset. I was determined to love every minute of it — social media made it look so glamorous, after all! But despite treating myself with kindness and patience, picturing life with my little baby and attempting all the positivity hacks the internet has to offer, I still find myself counting down the days, wishing each would go by faster than the last. The fact of the matter is, I just do not enjoy being pregnant.
Pregnancy — even a healthy one — is a huge strain on the body. (I mean, we’re growing a human for goodness sake!) For me, the first trimester was nightmarish. I had unending nausea and vomiting, and spent all day, every day curled up in a ball crying and praying for relief. By the second trimester, constant nausea was replaced with constant heartburn and, of course, the rapid weight gain that is synonymous with pregnancy. This weight gain looks different for everyone but for me it’s meant struggling through my daily workouts and an inability to go up the stairs without being winded.
More than the physical strain, a less-discussed reality is that pregnancy has the capacity to take a serious toll on a person’s mental health. For me, pregnancy has come with added stress and anxiety (Did I microwave this lunch meat long enough? Oh no, I woke up sleeping on my back again!), but much more prevalent has been the monumental mental battle with body image. Of course I knew I was going to gain weight but there’s a big difference between knowing this fact and facing your closet in the morning, unable to pull your favorite pair of pants up past your thighs or your largest t-shirt over your belly. Acknowledging your changing shape can become even more challenging when people are constantly staring at your protruding navel and telling you how pregnant you’re starting to look or, worse yet, implying that you look much bigger than what your due date suggests.
In today’s society, to speak ill of pregnancy is taboo. There is an incorrect assumption that to do so implies you are ungrateful for the experience. That you have no respect or sensitivity to the fact that not all people can get pregnant. Or that you are a heartless monster who has no love for the unborn child causing your discomfort. But I resent this mindset and I heartily disagree. I have all the empathy in the world for those who can not physically conceive or carry a child. I can’t even imagine what that’s like and I know how fortunate I am to be growing a child of my own. But while I know I am fortunate to be growing and carrying my son, it doesn’t also mean that I have to enjoy the process. The same goes for implying that feelings directed toward the physical state of pregnancy are comparable to those a person will have toward their child. How someone feels about nausea, fatigue, and back pain has no bearing on how they will feel towards their baby.
When I signed up for pregnancy, I signed up for holding my baby, for nurturing them, and raising them into a kind, independent human being. This is the end goal. This is the part I look forward to. I did not (willingly) sign up for puking, heartburn, or mental obstacles at every turn. These symptoms have been my reality but they are not what I chose. My pregnancy is a journey but it is not the destination.
Of course pregnancy is beautiful. It really is. But more than that pregnancy is hard work. Every person’s pregnancy experience and story is different. What is the best nine months of one person’s life could very well be the most challenging for another. The beauty is in respecting the journey and loving the end result: your baby. Please don’t feel guilty or sad if like me you’re not loving your pregnancy journey. It doesn’t make you a heartless monster or ill-fit for parenthood. It simply means you’re ready for the next step: A bright, beautiful and hopefully heartburn-free future with your new child.