Confession: I hated being pregnant. HATED it. I have always been fascinated by pregnancy, and before I got pregnant for the first time, I was certain that I would love it. I just knew I would be one of those women who had an almost spiritual connection to my unborn child. I imagined myself dreamily stroking my belly as I felt him move and marvel at the miracle of life. Boy, was I wrong!
With baby #1, I was nauseous all day, every day, until about 24 weeks. I was completely exhausted. I got skin tags by the dozen. I was so bloated I started wearing maternity clothes by 10 weeks. My joints ached constantly, especially my hips and knees. I would bolt wake in the middle of the night, my calves gripped in excruciating cramps. Strangest of all, my rib cage expanded almost six inches!
I thought things would improve in the second trimester because I would start feeling the baby move. I was sure that it would lift my spirits, and I would be reminded of how beautiful pregnancy truly is. Wrong again.
At first, the movements were entertaining. But, as he got bigger, and I got increasingly uncomfortable, a more troubling feeling arose. I felt resentful. This was my body, but I couldn't control even one thing about what was happening to me. I couldn't stop the nausea, the skin tags, my aching joints or my painful calves. And I couldn't stop the movement of this invader in my abdomen.
I felt like a terrible person. My baby wasn't even born yet, and already, I was a horrible mother. When I tried talking to friends about it, they were shocked at my feelings, and I felt even worse. Finally, I spoke to an older friend. She is a mother, a grandmother, and has worked professionally with scores of pregnant women. Surely, she could tell me I wasn't crazy.
That conversation changed my life. With the utmost compassion, she said, "Some mothers feel connected to their unborn children in an almost spiritual way. They love their babies before they even see them. Other mothers are visual learners. They don't love their unborn children any less than the spiritual mothers. They just have to see their child when he's born before they feel that motherly love." I was instantly relieved! This made total sense to me, a visual learner. And she was right. The moment Max was born and I looked into his squishy little face, I was in love.
I think our society does a disservice to pregnant women when we put them in a box and make assumptions about how they should or should not feel. All pregnancies are different. Even the same woman can feel differently, both physically and emotionally, from one pregnancy to the next. Will you do something for me? Let's agree, here and now, that we will treat pregnant women with the love, compassion, and gentleness they deserve. Let's simply and truly listen when they share their feelings. Then, respond in a loving, nonjudgmental way. I think it's the least we can do. After all, they are vessels of our world's most precious treasure: the next generation.