Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Pregnancy is gritty and dirty - it's okay to talk about it.

I feel like no one talks openly about how unbelievably hard  it can be to be pregnant. About how physically and emotionally uncomfortable it can be. 

Conversations and postings on social media are left to dance around the majesticness of growing a human being. The first bump sightings. The funny cravings. The flutters of feet and sounds of a strong heartbeat. The other conversations, the ones that don’t fit into this socially constructed box of what’s normal and what’s not, are left for private text messages, worried phone calls, and fleeting moments between friends. Not having these conversations in a public space is exhausting. It constantly leaves me, feeling like I’m the odd-woman out. Like what I’m feeling - or rather, not feeling - is wrong. Like I’m screwing this up somehow or that something is wrong with me.  

So today, I stand in solidarity with, what I guess are many, other women who can’t always talk about how amazing and magical it is to be pregnant. Who need to talk openly about shitty hormones and anxiety and crying over seemingly inconsequential things. Who need to talk candidly about the changes their bodies are going through and how all their underwear is too tight and their boobs are too big to buy from a regular maternity store. Who need to find solace in a simple conversation with a stranger that everything is going to be okay and that what they’re feeling is not wrong or abnormal. 

I’m almost 26 weeks pregnant with my first child, a boy, and absolutely have not loved being pregnant. My worries, fears, hang ups, aches, and anecdotes are, more often than not, met with blank stares and comments pushing me to power through and forget about right now, that it will all be worth it in the end. While that sentiment initially brought waves of comfort that all of these feelings, changes, and experiences were temporary - it can get old after awhile. Sometimes you just want the opportunity be pissed off, vent, cry it out, and start over. 

I’ve had the immense privilege to be friends with a few select, incredibly strong women who have lived this experience of motherhood and take all of my baggage and concerns in stride when talking me off the ledge. I am forever grateful for their stories and insight. (When I get the ability back to bake without forgetting to add in key ingredients, I’ll be sure to thank them in calories and love. ) But even these conversations are cowered in the corner of text messages and car rides. The comfort level to talk about the dirt and grit of pregnancy publicly is almost non-existent. I find myself afraid to admit out loud to the things that I’m experiencing, the things that cross my mind while pregnant for fear that I am not “normal.” So, I avoid it altogether and instead wait until it’s too heavy to carry, and call or text a friend out of complete desperation and urgency. 

In an effort to self-disclose and move toward a pregnancy culture where we can share our shit and bare our souls beyond the excitement of impending motherhood, I give you my current, unedited, unfiltered, list of pregnancy truths:

I feel like my body is betraying me. I’m constantly losing track of time, misplacing things, forgetting to do things, crying at miniscule things, and just overall not being able to KEEP. IT. TOGETHER. This is a major shift for me. I’m used to being the one that has it under control, the one that other people come to when they need help or someone to talk to. I’m nowhere near being that person right now. And that’s a lot to accept and deal with. 

I sweat all the time. The armpits of my shirts are ruined. I’m self-conscious that I smell, constantly.

My vagina physically aches - like I’ve been punched continually in the ladybits or that I’ve had really aggressive sex for days on end. 

My breasts are already quite large, so getting pregnant has only made them worse. I caved and finally had to buy a new bra because my previous one had caused bruising under my breasts and along my ribcage from rapid growth. 

Having had a hiatal hernia for a number of years, acid reflux has always been an issue. Pregnant acid reflux feels like the devil is trying to crawl out of my chest daily. I wake up throwing up stomach acid - which feels like fire, then because I’m trying to breathe normally and am coughing at the same time, I breathe said stomach acid into my lungs where it feels like my lungs are being torn apart every time I take a breath. I then feel like I have pneumonia for several days afterward. 

All of the “what ifs” and panicked thoughts into the future will consume you if you let them. I have wasted so much energy in the past few weeks worried about money, whether I can be a good mother or not, what happens if I don’t love the baby when he arrives, what if I’m one of those mothers that drives their child into a lake, what if my partner leaves, what if my partner dies, what if I have to do this alone, what if I will never have an identity again, what if this is all I am? What if, what if, what if. 

Maybe this is just for me, but maybe it is for other pregnant women who need to hear it too, but either way it needs to be said. Pregnancy is not all ice cream and pickles and gender reveal parties and nursery themes. It’s hard, grueling, physically and emotionally exhausting work, and the conversations surrounding those areas of discomfort need to leave the shadows.  Let’s normalize these feelings and experiences, and start breaking down the stigma around having anything but a pleasant pregnancy. A simple, “I’m here. I’m listening. I understand. You’re not alone.” can make all the difference. Let’s have the hard conversations out loud and in public.We owe it to each other.