Pregnancy comes with quite a lot of misconceptions. Often there is an expectation of how you are supposed to feel and things you should do while a little dude or dudette takes up home in your uterus. You should be happy, excited and glowing. You should be mother earth and enjoy every minute of the experience. Well, no, not exactly. We’re not reproducing machines, all latched on to the same programme, downloading the same software and experiencing the same thing. We’re real women, with real emotions, issues and problems. Pregnancy is not a walk in the park. For some, it’s a dredge through quicksand. So here are my seven things you don’t have to do while pregnant.
1 – You don’t have to glow
“You’re looking great” – “Pregnancy suits you” – “You ‘re glowing”
These are not phrases I hear when I’m pregnant. These nine months are difficult and it shows on my face, in my body and with every step I take. I suffer the normal pregnancy pains plus a few more complicationsand horrendous morning sickness. I know other women suffer much worse than I do and have much more right to complain than little old me, but I do not wear pregnancy well. I don’t enjoy the experience and I count down the days to when I will have my normal body and movement back.
Needless to say, I do not glow. What I hear is, “Oh you look much better than the last time I saw you” which, I’ll be honest, doesn’t mean much and probably says more about my effort to add a bit of make-up and nothing about how I’m actually feeling.
The pregnancy glow abandoned me at about 12 weeks. My skin is spotty and my hair is limp. My back is aching so I’m already hobbling when I walk and with every step up the stairs, I’m groaning. That glow so many women seem to have is not one of my pregnancy symptoms. Unless you call the faint shine from pregnancy sweat a glow.
So, no, you don’t have to glow. You don’t have to walk around with a growing bump and a glowing complexion. You don’t have to feel the weight of unbridled love and happiness with every new kick. You don’t have to look like you’re enjoying this experience. Pregnancy is hard and it can show easier than any hormonal glow.
2 – You don’t have to get mauled by every stranger on the bus
You really don’t! Your bump is your body. End off. Slap those hands away. Give them that hard stare. Say no, or use bad language, it’s absolutely up to you. Your body, your baby.
In saying that, getting a seat on the bus is always necessary! See my post about Would You Give Up Your Seat for a Pregnant Woman?
3 – You don’t have to pretend that you’re ready for baby
Having a baby, especially you’re first, is a daunting experience. Your life changes in ways you genuinely can’t comprehend. The transition period is huge and much harder than what you will ever read or be told from well-meaning friends. Everyone’s life is different and the changes are unique to you, so often listening to others can steer you in the wrong direction.
I’ll admit, I was one of those women who forgot to think about what it would be like when baby arrived. I read up about labour breathing techniques (which was pointless since I ended up having an Emergency C Section), how your body reacts once baby is born, but that was pretty much it. I was going with the flow, or rather I was in the moment. I couldn’t see past the 40 weeks. Eventually when we brought A home, the realisation of how quickly and dramatically life was changing hit me but I also didn’t know how to deal with it.
I did not have my head together but I made out that we did.
We were stocked up on nappies, wipes and clothes. We had the baby’s room decorated and ready three months before she was due to arrive. Oh, I looked like I was ready but I wasn’t, not mentally. And that’s ok because it made adjusting to life with A that little bit easier. I had very little expectation of what life would be like. I didn’t force myself to do things one way or another. We let A guide us and guide us she did. She had her own succinct little timetable. Down to the minute, she would let us know when she wanted to be fed. She told us when it was naptime or playtime.
Babies have a way of telling you exactly what they need and all they want is for you to listen. You don’t have to pretend that you’re ready for all of this because, truth be told, you won’t ever really be ready. Going from one to none, or two to three, it’s always different.
You may not have your stuff together, but you will. Baby will make sure of that.
4 – You don’t have to be happy
There is a general misconception that when you become pregnant you should be happy. This isn’t the case for many, and hearing congratulations can be a hard word to bear. Pregnancy brings with it stress, uncertainty, fear, apprehension, confusion, and in some cases depression. Prenatal Depression is a very real condition but little is said about it.
Talk to your GP if you’re feeling in any way upset, worried, or depressed during your pregnancy. You don’t have to be alone if you’re feeling monumental pressure or anxiety. The support is there, from your doctor, your midwives and your partner.
5 – You don’t have to listen to unsolicited advice
Everyone, and I do mean everyone, will have some sort of advice for you. Whether it is about how to look after yourself, caring for baby or the old-time favourite “sleep when the baby sleeps.” Everyone will share their tuppence with you. Yes, they have all been there before. They understand to some degree what you’re going through but everyone’s life is different. You can’t compare one persons routine to someone else’s.
Every baby is different. Comparisons are pointless and hearing “our baby did this, that and the other” can be detrimental to your confidence as a parent. My advice (cheeky) is to ignore it and trust your own instincts.
Unsolicited advice can be difficult to swallow especially when you are getting a constant barrage of it from every corner. Eventually, I think, you learn to politely agree, nod and instantly forget. It’s a skill really. It will get to a stage when you will block the advice out because it can become overbearing.
The worse thing about unsolicited advice is that it can make you doubt yourself which is the last thing anyone needs.
As a parent, you know what is best for your child.
6 – You don’t have to love being pregnant
If you’re like me, you hate it. I think its possible that there are women who revel in being pregnant and others who can’t wait for the nine months to be over. I’m definitely on the hating side of the gate. I find it uncomfortable, restricting, long and tedious. I suffer sickness, headaches, complications and pains. Yes, I know a million other women do too and fly through pregnancy with grace and dignity. Well, I don’t and I make no apologies for disliking pregnancy so much. I will tell anyone and everyone how difficult I find it.
So, no, you don’t have to love being pregnant. You will enjoy the scans, seeing your baby do somersaults on the screen, hearing the heartbeat and feeling those kicks. You will love the fact that you are creating a tiny human being and count down to the days you get to hold that little baby. But if you don’t enjoy the pains, the tiredness, the awkwardness, the tightness in your chest and every other pregnancy complaint you can think of then that’s perfectly ok. And it’s perfectly ok to say it out loud also!
7 – You don’t have to be alone
You may be the one suffering all of the symptoms, making friends with the toilet for the millionth time, and feeling every tiny hiccup and somersault but you’re not alone. Your partner, your mother, your sister, the midwives are all there to help you along. Nine months normally feels like a short time but when you’re pregnant the days and nights drag on as your ligaments stretch and your baby happily cosies up inside you. If you need help, ask for it. Whether it’s a cup of tea, a foot rest or help with running a bath, remember you’re not alone.
I find pregnancy so hard. I’m not sure I could manage without the help of my family and friends. B’s Aunt P was my saviour when I suffered the subchorionic haematoma and came to our house at an ungodly hour to help me. My sister is my go to when I’m struggling or worrying. With four kids she’s been there and done that so any tiny niggle I’m not sure about I give her a call. My Mum and Dad are my sanctuary if I’m sick and need to leave work early but can’t get home. A cup of tea, a blanket and cuddle on their couch and I’m happy (I know that makes me sound like I’m four but you always need you’re Mammy when you’re sick).
Momma Bear, you’re not alone, remember that.