I wanted to talk just a bit about some topics that I feel like people don’t really address when it comes to being pregnant.
To start, let me just say, I’m extremely excited and blessed to be having a baby! I don’t want any of what I’m about to say to imply that I’m not. However, I do think there are some things that seem to happen once you announce your pregnancy that people just accept as normal and don’t ever address. I wanted to talk a bit about them so that if other women out there feel the same, they can find some comfort and solidarity.
As soon as you find out you’re expecting, you basically lose control over your body. Try as you might, you can no longer control what you want to eat, when you need to go to the bathroom, what clothes you can wear and how your body grows. Suddenly, you’re at the mercy of all the hormones pulsing through your veins and all you can really do is resolve to be at peace with it. For me, this was extremely unnerving! No part of normal life with my physical body was under my control anymore. I could be fine one minute and throwing up the next so outings beyond the safety of my own house became anxiety ridden. I would be walking through the grocery store and out of nowhere be doubled over in ligament pain akin to a ruptured appendix. I’d order a salad for lunch and when it arrived, be nearly in tears because the smell of the menu item that delighted my brain ten minutes ago is suddenly making my stomach turn. It was suddenly all out of my hands and the only thing I could really do was grin and bear it.
Not only do you lose control over your physical being, the process suddenly seems to be everyone else’s business. People will outright ask you how much weight you’ve gained, if your clothes still fit, if you feel huge yet, if you cry for no reason, what you’re strangest cravings are, if you use the bathroom more, if you’re cramping, if your breasts are sore… The list literally never ends. Suddenly, your physical body becomes everyone else’s business. And maybe there’s some concern behind it, but for the most part, you’re weight gain and difficulties have simply become topics for dinner conversation. I get it. There’s obviously a huge change happening and people are going to notice, but your body goes from being an object to being the core of who you are.
After I announced I was pregnant, I found that every single time someone asked me “How are you?”, they weren’t really asking about me anymore. They were asking about my body. Suddenly, how I was doing as a person was obsolete. People didn’t care about my work, home life or emotions. Instead, they wanted an in depth analysis of what was happening to my body on a daily basis. Now, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to ask how someone is doing physically. But when it’s something that you’ve lost complete control of and already spend hours a day focused on, it can be really difficult to be the only topic of conversation again and again. While I love that I’m having a baby, I don’t think I was prepared to just give up my entire self in exchange for discussing all the physical changes in my body.
I’m not sure about other moms out there, but for me, this whole process is unnerving for two reasons. One, I feel as though pregnant women are suddenly looked on as objects that can be poked, analyzed and compared rather than people. Second, I fear what will happen once the baby arrives if all I’ve been for the last 9 months is an object to be openly and freely discussed. I feel the focus will shift to pouring attention and love into this tiny being which again, there’s nothing wrong with, but if we’re treating women as physical beings, they’re going to get used to it. And by the time their children arrive, they’re going to lose all sense of identity. It seems that as soon as the test comes up positive, you’re viewed as “Mom” and that’s it, and “Mom” is just a vehicle for baby.
Along the same vein, I do feel there’s a lot of critical eyes when it comes to how you view your pregnancy. Unless you’re smiling all the time and laughing at all the growing pains and uncomfortable moments, you’re not perceived as a good mom. When the reality is, pregnancy is a huge change that is often painful and uncomfortable. The assumption is that if you’re not enjoying your pregnancy, you’re not going to enjoy being a mom. If I even make a small comment about how difficult it’s been, the reaction is often, “Well, prepare yourself! It just gets worse once they arrive!” or “Oh, but I thought you were excited about having a baby?” To the first, I’m not sure how that’s supposed to help me. And to the second, I’m not sure how my struggle with crippling ligament pain and headaches means that I’m not excited that I’m having a baby. The truth is this: pregnancy is difficult. It really is, and as important as it is to be positive and have a good attitude throughout, some days are a real struggle to get through and just because a person doesn’t enjoy those days doesn’t mean they’re ill prepared or that they’re not excited for their baby!
The last thing I wanted to mention was that it seems as women lose their identities to their pregnancy, they seem to lose all privacy in the process. Very personal questions about your relationship with your husband come up and suggestions for what you should and shouldn’t name your child and comments about how you should parent your impending children are acceptable. Suddenly, your life is supposed to be open books available for any tweaking from readers. It’s not just limited to close friends and family- random strangers will ask the boldest questions that sometimes catch me so off guard, I just want to pretend like I didn’t hear them and walk away. Let’s be honest, we don’t know what we’re doing. And the real truth is, no one ever does when they start.
So if you have a pregnant lady in your life, remember to be gracious. Remember that they are more than a physical state. They are still living their normal lives that were at one point interesting enough to sustain your relationship. All of those facets of their lives still exist and they still want to talk about them. They’re probably exhausted from their own thoughts about the changes happening in their body. Give them a break and ask them about the book they’re reading or the party they went to over the weekend. Those things still matter. Those things still make up the person who you’ve known and loved for years before they began to carry a child. Remind them that they’re still a person. They will be a mom soon, but they are still their own interesting person. A person who isn’t summed up by changes in their body or another human being growing inside of them.
Until next time!