The Vagenda

I Know It’s Not Socially Acceptable but I’m Really, Really Not Enjoying Being Pregnant

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…and all the pregnancy propaganda around is making it worse

Last November I found out I was pregnant. I have been married for 5 years and I am nearly 32. My husband and I had talked about babies and both said how important it was to us but neither of us felt an urgent rush. We were enjoying “being adults” and, for the first time in our lives, having a bit of disposable income. There were whimsical nights of unprotected loved-up madness that we obviously knew could lead to a baby and, I suppose, in my mind was the idea: well, we’re both employed, we own a house – it wouldn’t be a disaster…. I certainly would prefer to have a happy accident than become obsessed with when I was ovulating’. And yet, bizarrely, on same the day that my beloved grandmother finally died after an awful, prolonged battle with cancer, I realised that my painfully engorged breasts were actually telling me something important.

I didn’t think ‘hooray’ and I didn’t think ‘Yessss!’ and punch the air. My first thought was ‘Fuck.’ My second was, ‘if I had an abortion would I be able to keep it a secret?’ My husband’s reaction was impassive as he watched me panic. Neither of us had thought it would actually happen.

I booked an appointment with a doctor to talk through options and, in the meantime, thought about options. My husband very much took the stance: ‘it’s your decision, I’ll support you either way.’ Supportive but useless. I wanted him to say: ‘please keep the baby it means everything to me’ OR ‘ please don’t keep the baby, we’re not ready.’ But he didn’t. My hormones starting charging and my imagination went mad. I imagined the baby’s life. I felt guilty about its existence. I envisaged a little version of my husband running around and it was a nice thought. I rationalised that if I ended this baby’s life and then couldn’t fall pregnant again I would be inconsolable so we might as well just get on with it.

The support and care from all the midwives has been amazing. Our families and friends are ridiculously excited. There have been incredible moments for us, like when we had the first scan and realised our baby really existed. The look on my husband’s face when he first felt it kick is something I will remember forever. He has been amazing. He reads the baby a story every night, he sings it songs on the guitar. We have made a beautiful nursery for our baby, full of tiny clothes and apparatus to ensure that every one of its physical needs are met. It should all be happy days.

However, on the whole – and maybe it’s because I am not one of those women who have dreamed of being a mother all her life – I have found pregnancy physically and emotionally somewhere between very hard and totally traumatic. I can’t do all the things that I love anymore, like surfing and running. I have been extremely anaemic from the start and therefore, whilst I have luckily avoided all sickness and cravings, I have been utterly exhausted and needy. My skin, which has always been a victim of psoriasis, has hit an all time low. My breasts and bump are covered in bright red, angry flaky scales. The extra weight I have gained (that I just don’t like) is putting huge pressure on my thigh arteries causing very sharp pains and a lot of cramping in my calves and lower back, especially at night-time. I resent having to pee three times a night and I hate the fact that I can’t walk up a hill without nearly fainting.  I feel like people all around me, lots of whom I have never spoken to before, feel the need to tell me how well I look (I don’t), how “tidy” my bump is, how wonderful it is to be pregnant, how excited I must be and how good it is that I am managing to drag myself into work despite feeling rough most of the time. When I tell them how I actually am they look on sympathetically and say ‘it will all be worth it in the end.’

I am bombarded by social messages of how good, right and enjoyable it is to be pregnant: ‘blooming’ ‘radiant’ ‘natural’ ‘happy’. Everywhere there are pictures of celebrity Mums who have a lot more time to rest and be pampered than us “real life” Mums-to-be who are madly working for as long as we can to save up for an inevitable penniless life that awaits post birth. Unlike the social messages I get, all I feel is ‘vulnerable,’ ‘needy’ and ‘terrified.’ I am not OK with how my body has changed and I am resentful that I don’t feel well and energetic like I used to. I hate people telling me how worth it it will be in the end because I don’t always believe them. How can they know this?

In a few weeks’ time my already badly transformed, disfigured and battered body, will be either sliced or ripped open during hours of excruciating pain. Rather than have any time to physically and mentally recover from this traumatic ordeal I will be expected to chain myself to the baby by my breasts feeding it on demand every two hours like a bridled dairy cow. My vagina or/and abdomen will be transformed beyond recognition and I am supposed to be OK with that because my baby’s arrival makes 4 weeks of heavy bleeding and an inability to pee without wincing all worthwhile.

It terrifies me to think that, unlike all the messages I get from social media, I won’t just suddenly magically love my baby because I am supposed to. What if it’s not ‘all worth it in the end’?

It relieves me to be able to say this ‘out-loud’ and I am sure there must be other women who have found pregnancy less than enjoyable but on the main part, expressing opinions like these which demonstrate my failures as a natural super earth mother are just clearly not socially acceptable.

- Anon

18 thoughts on “I Know It’s Not Socially Acceptable but I’m Really, Really Not Enjoying Being Pregnant

  1. Yeah, being pregnant is pretty rubbish. I felt similarly ambivalent to you when I was pregnant nearly 2 years ago, I think it’s totally normal to feel like you might have done something stupid, but no-one ever admits to it. For me, any ambivalence disappeared once I’d pushed my baby out and realised she is brilliant. I never thought I would love her quite as much as I do – although this is a massive cliche it is true for all the other mothers I’ve been able to have frank conversations with. If anything, I think it makes you able to cope with the really hard stuff better if you’re not expecting it all to be rosy. Good luck, it is so worth it.

  2. I was actually thinking about writing something like this myself!

    I’m nearly 5 months pregnant and while I’m really excited about growing a family and all the responsibilities that come with being the guardian of a new person, I just don’t like BEING pregnant.

    I’ve been sick, exhausted and permanently need to pee. It’s no fun, but the worst part for me has been the belly-staring and touching, uninvited comments about my changing body and disapproving remarks about my choices re: continuing to go jogging, having the occasional drink, being vegetarian, lifting anything, refusal to have a baby shower… You get the picture.

    My partner has learned how to become more ‘supportive’, but only after a period of thinking I was being lazy and taking advantage of him on those days I literally couldn’t get out of bed… (sigh) Seeing the first scan and my growing body has forced him to come to terms with the reality.

    Plus I’m living in a country where birth is totally medicalised and I’ll be fighting til the bitter end for the kind of birth I want.

    I try to talk frankly with people about my experience and feelings, but very few people actually seem to empathise and instead default to the old “it’s all worth it in the end!” Of course, I know it’s worth it, otherwise I wouldn’t be in this situation, but for me, that comment minimises what I am experiencing.

    Something I have found really helpful in all this craziness is to practise mindfulness, listen to positive affirmations and learn about hypnobirthing techniques.

  3. I fell pregnant unexpectedly at 20. My now husband was happy but probably hadn’t really thought it would happen so wasn’t really prepared, and is from a culture where children and pregnancies are women’s business that men are affectedly ignorant about.

    I had unbearable morning sickness, which lasted for months, then got fat (oh joy), heartburn, back pain, fainting spells, needing to go to the loo all the time. All those ‘joys’ that being told you’re ‘glowing’ didn’t do much to make up for. And on the whole I disliked the experience. My body felt unpleasantly cow-like and animal and I prefer it being a one person occupancy space. I also got sick of how people always want to ask about it. I was polite but it’s a boring subject to go over day in day out for nine months.

    But in the end, it’s not so bad. At least we live in places where dying or being permanently ‘damaged’ are very remote possibilities, and where almost all children survive. And the main thing about pregnancy is it ends. It’s an unpleasant (IMO) but transient state that isn’t really worth worrying about too much. Relax, eat a good diet and don’t worry too much. It’s not like a medical condition you can never get rid of, and in the end there’s a baby.

  4. Being pregnant is at best exhausting, and most of the time far worse than that. One of the reasons that no one wants to talk about it is because societal acceptance of the realities of pregnancy would demand huge changes to the usual demand that women shut up and get on with their reproductive duty, quit whinging, work harder than ever until five minutes before giving birth, and then accept discrimination for their rest of their careers because it was their selfish ‘lifestyle choice’ to have children even though for their (male) partners it was an admirable badge of masculinity, responsibility and adulthood and they should be promoted faster and paid more as fathers…

    If pregnancy is a lovely, relaxing time where a woman ‘glows’ and ‘blooms’ with new life, it’s much easier to go on characterising it as the self-indulgence of the misogynists’ straw-woman, the ‘yummy mummy’.

  5. I can completely identify with your feelings. I felt exactly the same when I was pregnant a few years ago and I felt miserable pretty much the whole time. Every time someone else got excited for me or talked to me about how wonderful it was I would plaster on a fake smile, fight back the tears and then descend further into despair. I never told anyone how I felt except my baby’s father and consequently it was a terribly lonely 9 months. I felt so guilty all the time and was depressed by how whenever I saw a baby I didn’t feel anything (I’d never been a baby orientated woman). All the propaganda meant I felt I had to fake it. I wish I’d had the courage to be more honest but I didn’t have it in me. On the plus side, after the birth I felt like I was back to normal (almost) and not being pregnant anymore felt great. I didn’t love the baby straight away, I just focussed on the practicalities on looking after him and love came over time through taking care of him. I also think my very low expectations helped make the reality actually no where near as difficult or unpleasant as I feared. Thanks for starting the conversation about how not all women want babies and have magic baby hormones.

  6. I wanted kids, and to be a mom, for as long as I could remember. I had two relatively easy pregnancies, all things considered, and was healthy throughout both. Both resulted in healthy babies after relatively quick and problem-free deliveries.

    And I HATED being pregnant, both times. Which is about what I expected. I’d never looked forward to being pregnant, or even to having babies, really. I’ve always liked kids better once they could talk. So the fact that I loathed being pregnant–being exhausted all the time, being sensitive to smells, feeling awkward and huge, having a parasite who seemed to delight in kicking and punching me–wasn’t a surprise to me. The pleasant surprise was that I did, in fact, love my babies right away, even though mothering tiny infants is undeniably difficult. (But I was still greatly relieved to give birth both times, and much happier when my girls started talking.)

      • I really feel almost exactly as you did. I, too, have wanted children/a family, but am not looking forward to the infant and baby phase, HATE everything about being pregnant, and don’t really connect with children until they are able to speak (around 4 years and older). The fact that I don’t want to be depended on 24/7 by an infant makes feel selfish and unnatural, but that’s just how I feel. Hearing you all on here makes me feel less alone. So, thank you for your honesty.

  7. I was fortunate when I was pregnant in 2013/14 that I knew a couple of other people who were also pregnant or very new parents. There is nothing more cathartic when you are feeling like absolute shit getting a friend/group of women together and talking pregnancy stories. Yeah there are occasionally women who want to one up about how their pregnancy was infinitely worse or they had their kid in the dark ages when there weren’t all the advantages there are now blah blah. But mostly everyone wants to open up – you have a mutual bitch fest and any older mums present give you some perspective. As much as I HATED people saying it at the time – 9 months is very little time in the grand scheme of things.

    I will say one last thing. I had two days in hospital after my son was born. 48 hours with 3 hours sleep after an accidentally natural birth with no pain killers. A screaming baby I had no idea how to look after. Massively unhelpful nurses and midwifes once the baby was born and the health visitors around here are a joke. (luckily my family and friends are great). I got home when he was 2 days old and cried and cried thinking I had made the worst mistake of my life. Now he’s 13 months and yeah sometimes life still sucks ass (mental health issues ftw), but believe those people who tell you that it will all be worth it.

  8. I don’t really know where this pressure to enjoy your pregnancy is coming from. There’s mention of social media here, I must be either not paying attention or I fail at media in general. I’m currently 5 months pregnant and have no trouble voicing the crappy aspects of it and don’t feel at all pressured to hide any of this. Like many, I’m tired all the time, I had to give up activities I enjoyed (I was training to walk 100 km in one day and had to cut down my walks from 50-70 Km per week to 23. I’m nervous about the future and have all the other fun psychological issues some women get (see miscarriage/deformity nightmares) while pregnant. I also had a return of diabetes after managing to beat it with weight loss and exercise (Type 2 diabetic) previously thanks to all the fun hormones that course through our bodies while incubating. I suppose the one thing the writer doesn’t mention is the influence of other mothers. I find their advice and sympathetic ear extremely helpful and my office environment is full of them, along with a great mum and aunts who are near me. I guess if that’s not something you have, then what you see online or through other media must seem like the only authoritative voice on the subject.

  9. I’m absolutely totally with you on this. I hated being pregnant so much I adopted my second child. Pregnancy is horrible. It’s uncomfortable, painful, exhausting and annoying. Worst of all for me was the assumptions other people made about me. People that didn’t know me, I mean complete strangers. People who did not even know my name would tell me that as soon as I had the baby I’d change my mind about going back to work (I didn’t, my husband became our stay-at-home parent exactly as we’d always planned), I’d love the baby instantly (I didn’t, it took time, and I can recall where I was sitting and the feeling of love flowing through me when it did happen) and that I’d forget about the difficulties of throwing up for seven months solid, itching all over my body and being unable to lie down comfortably (no, none of it forgotten, I can still recall it all far too clearly).
    For the first time in my more than 30 years other women (it mostly was) seemed to think it was perfectly fine to tell me exactly how I felt, would feel and should feel. I felt mostly like telling them to F off! And only one person made the mistake of touching my bump without asking; I know it’s not right, but she stopped when I reciprocated by touching her breast.
    I chose to be pregnant and if I could go back I wouldn’t change it because I love my child and I wouldn’t change him. But I wouldn’t do it again. I didn’t. I adopted the second. And that’s a long process and not for the weak hearted, but so much more pleasant than pregnancy.
    I can’t offer you anything that will help with the pregnancy except to say, you’re not the only one who feels like this. But if I can offer just one tiny bit of advice, it’s talk to someone you know who has had a positive experience of giving birth. Because that’s the bit I did love. I was lucky that for me, that bit was textbook. Water birth, the right people there, no complications, no drugs. Lovely and really quite easy (if inevitably painful) And I started off terrified of the giving birth bit and convinced I wanted a caesarian, but I talked it through with someone I trusted who’d had a positive experience and I changed my mind. I’d do that again tomorrow but pregnancy? No thanks.

  10. I do not think it was worth it. My body was ruined, I had to have surgeries later in life to repair what was done to me by forcing an almost 9 lb child through my body. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids. But it comes at a huge cost; mentally, emotionally and physically. And worse yet, it seems as though expressing this honestly makes me a monster. You WILL loose pieces yourself, your goals, your passions, and the things that once made you happy because there is no longer money or time. It seems as though your entire self becomes nothing more than a functional enabler for you kids’ success.

    I can almost hear people cringing at what I say and calling me cold. As I said, I love my kids and do not express these things to them. I have learned from them and I am sure they have changed me for the better in many ways. I do however, regret having children and the things it has cost me. The social expectations alone are too much to live up to, and it will always disproportionately fall on me because I am the one who “gave birth” therefor there must be something wrong with me if I prefer not being a mom.

    Another reason I wish I was born a man.

  11. My friend is pregnant for the first time and recently her husband asked what I was like when I was pregnant. Before I could say anything my husband shouted out “angry”, which was probably pretty accurate.

    I found it really hard to function normally while pregnant and just wanting to sleep. I remember having a work meeting at 36 weeks where I just couldn’t sit still because the baby was getting so big and restricting my breathing.

    Don’t worry if you don’t love the baby at first, it will grow on you. I kind of fell in love with both of mine over a few weeks. Just remember, every day you don’t maim or kill it you have done a good job. Mine are 4 and 7 now and seem to be fully functioning, slightly crazy people.

  12. I’m so with you.
    Don’t get me wrong having kids is one of the best things you can do in life, but this constructed myth about how pregnancy is a magical time is complete guff.
    What the hell is magical about hands so swollen with fluids they hurt for example?

    No. Pregnancy is a burden and anyone who ‘envies’ it doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

  13. I’m absolutely with you. All of it. To outsiders I had an easy pregnancy – a colleague said I ‘breezed through it’. She has no idea about the 2 hours spent in Sainsburys toilets with agonising constipation, the twice daily injections I had to give myself, the (record) 12 times a night weeing, the raging heartburn that meant I lived on jelly because it was the only thing that didn’t hurt for hours afterwards.

    I also found breastfeeding horribly claustrophobic, but because it was easy for me, I felt I should keep going (for 8 months in the end). Meant that after birth (which was a massive relief), the good feelings didn’t really carry on. I didn’t have PND, but I wasn’t happy.

    She’s 13 months old now, and lush.

    I want another one, for how they are after 6 months old, to give my daughter the sibling relationship option, to complete our family, but I just can’t be pregnant again.

  14. Couldn’t agree more – even when a very much wanted pregnancy or pregnancy that has followed miscarriage/infertility – it still feels like a massive load of crap a lot of the time, and we often feel a superstitious need to say “but I’m glad I’m pregnant” lest nature punish our ungratefulness and take our babies off us…

    I don’t feel like myself, I can’t do/eat/drink half the things I used to enjoy and have felt like I’m recovering from the flu with a dose of food poisoning for 4 months. I’m behind in my work, the thought of going to a friend’s birthday party fills me with dread as (night-owl though I normally am) I now crave my bed at 8.30.

    Added to this the mind-fuck of sometimes good friends telling you that everything about your personality, beliefs, views on work and even the way you’ve decorated my house will completely change overnight in 5 months.

    Some people find it fun – I do not. We need to stop fetishising motherhood and admit that if the physical/mental symptoms of a lot of pregnancies were not of pregnancy but of some illness you would probably get signed off work for 9 months.

  15. I completely agree with you. Being pregnant sucks. I dislike it already at the beginning of the 4th month, and I suspect that it will become worse and worse. First, I cannot eat what I like: bloody steaks, blue cheese, dry meat. I cannot drink alcohol, no nice craft beer tasting for me, no champagne, even no cider. I even cannot eat a lot at all, and I even don’t have the option of being hungry. It is either not hungry, or sick.

    I hate that I can hardly wear anything because of how sensitive my breasts are, and how my belly grows and all pants are uncomfortable. And I know I shouldn’t buy new clothes, because I will grow out of them in two-three weeks. I look fat and feel fat, but I have actually lost 2 kilograms. How can it be?

    I hate that I cannot fall asleep for an hour because my body feels so clumsy and painful at times. And when I do, I wake up at 4 a.m. because I need to pee. I hate that I am out of breath constantly and cannot go bouldering, because it is dangerous for this little guy\gal inside of me.

    I can’t stand that I get so irritable. I can’t stand that I cannot control myself. It feels like my boss is a jerk who only seeks to push my buttons, but when I look at all situations critically, I realise that there is nothing criminal about his behaviour. And he even does not show much of this typical male egocentric behaviour you often see in bosses. I cannot control my fears and negative thoughts. I sometimes cry in the night because I feel miserable, but I even don’t know why.

    The worst part is that my mom keeps telling me that taking care of the baby is my most important and basically the only job that I have right now. “You do not understand it now, but you will see it later” tells she. But I want to work as hard and efficient as I used to, I am trying to get a new job at a great company, where I will definitely earn more, get to meet and work with great creative people and be valued and listened to. But it terrifies me that I will have to tell them “I am pregnant” sooner or later and that they will probably think very badly of me, because I go into maternity leave only 3-4 months after I was hired.

    Thank God I am not thinking about the future with the baby: how I don’t know how to feed it, how to wash it, how to put him to sleep if he cries, what to do if he is sick, and so on. I strongly believe in all kind of educational material, it has been helpful so far.

    All in all, I am condoled by the idea that pregnancy is not forever.

    My husband is amazing, he helps me, he listens to my complaints and tolerates my tears and fits of temper. But I can hardly think without pain through what I am putting him. I wish we could enjoy life together, not tolerate it together. But it is definitely better together.

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