Things No One Tells You About Being Pregnant
When you start to consider having children, a set of expectations forms in your mind, be it shaped by pinterest, anecdotes, or society in general. For me, one of the hardest parts of pregnancy is the set of unexpected nuances that swung my way. I’m not just talking about symptoms you hadn’t heard of before – although there are many of those! – I mean the emotional toll, the social struggles, and the anxiety that accompanies it all. Sure, it’s a magical time, the miracle of life, et cetera. It’s also an ever-changing alteration of everything you’ve ever known.
Loss of identity
Very quickly into my pregnancy, I started to feel like I was a big yellow bus, and everyone was concerned with only the child on the bus. This is a silly analogy, of course, but it felt like the only thing anyone wanted to talk about was my fetus. This began early on, when the entire ordeal seemed surreal to me. Of course, I wanted to talk about my child, but not constantly. I found that I was regularly reminding myself that I was still a person, a nurse, a friend, and a wife. The world around me seemed to see me as only an incubator.
When I moved to Atlanta, where introductions are followed by full-body hugs, I formed a reputation for not being a “touchy-feely” type of person. This reputation completely dissipated into the ether when I announced my pregnancy. Before I had even started to show, people were rubbing my belly. The first time it happened, I was sure to let her know that she was rubbing displaced organs and a hard-earned pizza belly. Unfortunately, this happens several times a day. It always seems to be people that I don’t know or particularly like, as well. These are people who will never meet my son, but feel like they have a right to touch me. Don’t get me wrong - I know people like to share in the joy of pregnancy, but I maintain that consent is extremely important. My least liked colleagues have touched my stomach more than my best friends have, and this bothers me. Please, always ask permission before putting your hands on someone.
Body image expectations
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am overweight. I have been for my entire adult life to varying degrees. At this point, I am still in the second trimester, but I have heard confidence shattering comments such as “Why haven’t you had that baby yet?” (Um, because he doesn’t have fully functioning organs and would die if I did, maybe?) and “You look so much farther along than 24 weeks. I would put you at 32 weeks. You’re just so big!” (Thanks, coworker I see once every few months.) It’s as though everyone has forgotten that I was round-bellied before conceiving. As if getting more planet-like by the day doesn’t do enough damage to my self-esteem, adding hurtful comments from people who presume the right to judge my habitus can be downright crushing.
Loss of control
A system-wide loss of control seems to occur at the halfway point in gestating. You have the aforementioned lack of control over being touched or barraged with rude comments, but I also felt a frequent loss of control over my own emotions. On more than one occasion, my laughter turned into full-body sobs for absolutely no reason. Anger overtook me for silly reasons, mostly directed at my wonderful and tolerant saint of a husband. There are even days where my hands are swollen and I lose a degree of dexterity. I am the type of person who needs to have control over at least some aspects of my life, but lately I feel like I don't have any control.
I don’t particularly like being pregnant. I feel guilty even typing that, but it's true. I love my son, and I can't wait to meet him, but the nearly year-long act of growing him has been trying (and I still have a few more months to go!) I don't plan on ever being pregnant again, so I'm trying to enjoy the little things - his kicking is the neatest - but more than anything, I feel anxious about his arrival and guilty about not loving pregnancy. We recently found out that our son is very small in utero, most likely a side effect of my heart medication. I have been wracking my brain trying to decide if I should stop taking the medication, an act which might also be harmful to both he and I. I feel guilty for needing the medication, and can't help but wonder if there are other causes. The irrational lizard part of my brain thinks back to that one sip of beer I had at 19 weeks, or my diet and what it could be lacking. Even writing this, I feel guilty for complaining about nuances when less than a year ago, my doctor and I believed that I was infertile, and I should be overjoyed to be able to experience even the weird and off-putting parts of pregnancy.
Loss of autonomy
Immediately after telling my charge nurse I was pregnant (he was the first to know, as I wandered out of the bathroom in a daze with a positive test, wondering if I was supposed to keep something that had pee on it) he started offering to do things for me. This was a kind gesture, and was expressed by almost all of my colleagues. I found myself saying “Thank you, but I can do it” repeatedly. After a few months, I gave in and allowed them to do the more physically demanding parts of my job, like moving and turning coma patients. After a few more months, even, I found that I NEEDED the help. If I drop something, it's a five step and three minute process to pick it up. I can no longer run to a code blue, and I found out the hard way that doing chest compressions did not make Little Dude very happy. This has been a hard adjustment for me, as I have been relatively independent since adolescence. I am extremely grateful for the colleagues who have helped me adjust.
I suppose I had always imagined pregnancy as a lovely, but mostly normal part of life. I realize now that it is more aptly described as "an evolution." I am a pokemon, and this is only my second form (I'd probably be Clefairy; she's round, pink, and cute.) I know that in the end, dealing with strangers touching me, unwarranted and rude comments from mild acquaintances, and spontaneous sobbing sessions will all be a distant memory and a worthwhile annoyance. I just have to remind myself to be adaptable, while being firm in my resolutions. In the meantime, I can enjoy Little Dude's internal somersaults, planning parenthood with my husband, and sharing my dreams for the child with those I love the most.