I’m sitting at 35 weeks today and my hips are numb from rolling from side to side trying to find a comfortable position to sleep. My feet have swollen to the point where I can’t wear any of my shoes except one pair of tennis shoes and my house slippers. There is a foot wedged under the right side of my rib cage, and don’t even get me started on morning sickness! I hear of these women who have had these sublime, serene pregnancies, and envy grows deep in my chest—or maybe that is heartburn from last night’s dinner still (I’m not sure!).
Women throughout the world are creating new life every second of the day, and though the joy remains in anticipation of meeting the new bundle and introducing him or her to the amazing world that awaits, it can be extremely difficult to bear the burden of motherhood.
Through my 30 years so far, I’ve always been known to be the positive one, the one with the best advice for other people, the uplifting motivator who people turn to in their darkest hours. But who do I turn to during my time of weakness? How did I grow to be so cynical? How is it that a life so small can change and impact my emotions and outlook on life so much?
Here are a few things to remember as we soldier on in solidarity, harnessing what strength we have left to just make it through the day:
1. Morning sickness is different for everyone.
I hear of women who have been fortunate enough to have not been sick even one time during their pregnancy, and all I can do is laugh. From week five to last night, I have been sick every single week of my pregnancy, sometimes every day during these weeks. Halfway through my second trimester, one woman-who-must-not-be-named said to me, “Are you sure there’s not something wrong with you if you are that sick all the time?” I started to doubt myself and my choices—was I doing something wrong? No. Sometimes women are just sick the entire time. It is such a hard burden to bear, when you feel trapped in your own house or job, and have to limit all of your activities because you are not sure when the next wave of nausea will strike. It’s ok to get sick, and be sick the entire time. It just means we are stronger, and handling more than some other women during this time. Three cheers for us!
2. Husbands/Partners will never fully grasp what you are going through.
I have tried endless times to get my husband to get on board with all that I have going on, to no avail. So many women that I’ve reached out to in support will tell me that to their mates, the baby didn’t exist until he or she was out of the womb. This can feel so alienating and frustrating! One of your supposed “biggest supporters” can have literally no idea what you are going through—why you don’t feel like cuddling because his touch makes you queasy, why no one thing can always be the cure for why you are sick, why each little thing that he doesn’t pick up on his own makes you resentful for having to bend over and pick it up on your own, etc. Blame it on anatomy, cultural discrepancies, whatever—it helps to know that you’re not the only one who feels this way, because you aren’t! Use your social media groups for moms, reach out to other pregnant friends, and for goodness sake, tell your husband to do his fair share of cleaning up after himself, if nothing more! They aren’t mind-readers after all.
3. Depression can be real during pregnancy, even if you are not a depressed person.
I feel as if sometimes I don’t recognize myself. I just weep and sob to no end, feeling sorry for myself and the loneliness that pregnancy has brought about in my life. Who is this person and what happened to the strong, independent woman who could tackle anything? She’s still in there, hidden behind mounds of hormones and days of sickness and isolation. She will come back again, and if you and I continue to count our blessings, we will find that she’s not so far away. Reading books about depression have helped me see that there can be circumstances that create depression in our lives that are completely out of our control. These same tools offered to people who experience depression on a daily basis are certainly applicable to pregnant women experiencing depression. And, it’s OK to cry and be sad, as long as you know where to place the emotions, and know that thankfully, this too shall pass.
4. There is a light at the end of the tunnel!
And a bright one … some might even say the brightest light we can behold in this earthly place—the light of a child. As I near the end of this long road, and the nesting is taking hold, though I feel as big as a barn, I know that my prize is just around the corner. All this suffering, all the loneliness, all the doubt I have fostered during this near-year will be over, and I will be holding on to the greatest gift of all—my firstborn son. Surely I know that with his arrival there will be a multitude of new challenges and emotions. But I will have made it through one of the most difficult times of my life, and come out stronger for it. It gives me strength to keep fighting and looking forward to the end of that tunnel to see the light ahead.
Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself or to others that being pregnant isn’t all it was cracked up to be. Maybe you aren’t glowing. Maybe you aren’t happily picking out new baby furniture every day, and maybe putting together the 200-piece crib didn’t bring a tear of joy, but one of frustration to your eye. But honey—you did it. You made it! And through all of that grit you put forth, you will see the reward in the end. And it will be worth it.