I was in a pretty awful funk during my first trimester of pregnancy. I had morning sickness that lasted 18 hours a day. I was very aware of my newly impregnated hormonal and body changes but still could not manage to pull myself out of it. I was disappointed in my feelings and behavior and began emotionally beating myself up daily because I wasn’t living up to the ideals I preset for my pregnant self. I’d completely fallen off my normal wellness routine. Every habit that solidified the zen-like experience I had planned for went right out of the window. I wasn’t blending fruit and veggie smoothies anymore. I stopped working out. I had not engaged in any inspirational activities in weeks, and I had meditated only once since learning of my pregnancy. I felt sad, didn’t want to leave my bed, had to force myself to eat, and didn’t put the same amount of effort into getting dressed as I did before. I said, “What in the hell is going on?!”
I thought pregnancy was supposed to make me feel ethereal and take my spirit to new heights. I thought I was going to float like a Goddess of the Wild and All Things Natural. Where was my pregnancy glow? I didn’t get my glow until I was well into my second trimester. That’s when I realized that I had fallen for the soon-to-be mommy myths and subconsciously felt pressure from myself, family, friends, and the world. Everyone has opinions, including women who have never been pregnant, about what women should do, how women should act, and what women should look like during pregnancy. I remember dragging my horrid self out of bed to meet up with some of my girlfriends on a dark and rainy Saturday, and being reminded of how out-of-character I was long after that day had passed. I remember telling myself, “See. You should have said yes to yourself, and stayed home.”
After assessing the mental, physical, and emotional states I was in, I decided to stop putting myself down and wait it out. I knew my prenatal blues would not last, and had high hopes for my second and third trimesters. I made the decision to take the pressure off myself, and thankfully things began moving in a better direction when my first trimester ended.
Once my second trimester began, I felt myself slowly finding my way back to me. I began to recover some of my energy, and I felt and looked better. With the help of my husband, I was getting back on track! He started blending my fruit and vegetable smoothies every morning, cooking dinner every night, doing all the grocery shopping, washing the clothes, and even packing my lunch for work. I started to feel balanced, grounded, and even dived into pregnancy yoga. I knew that I still had progress to make, especially since I was pregnant during winter and was still experiencing the blues from the dark, cold weather.
I started thinking a lot about my expectations for birth and postnatal care, including breastfeeding. My goal is to have an at-home water birth without an epidural, surrounded by candles and earth sounds or classical music. After reading an article (I can’t remember what publication) about failed water-birth attempts, I knew that I needed to be a bit more realistic. What if my cervix doesn’t dilate at the rate it should? What if the umbilical is causing a decreased flow of oxygen to my baby? If I go into labor shock, would if I make it to the hospital in time? Would my baby be under stress and have a decrease in heart rate? There are so many “what ifs” to consider, so I want to be prepared for a number of circumstances without the pressure to follow through on what I want and not what I need.
What about breastfeeding? I know that women who breastfeed consider it bonding time, they tend to drop their baby weight quicker, and baby usually has a healthier life. Like most species on the planet, newborn babies drink their own mother’s milk. My original goal was to breastfeed for at least a year, but after reading the article I mentioned earlier, I will simply do the best that I can. One woman said that no ointment or cream could cure her cracked and bloody areola. A very close friend of mine told me that her nipples hurt so badly, she thought one had fallen off in her sleep. We laughed hysterically but I also freaked out! Some women don’t produce enough milk to sufficiently feed their baby. Some women stop producing milk altogether. Some women can no longer stand the discomfort from their sore nipples. I don’t know what category I’ll fall into, so it comes down to, whatever happens, happens.
I feel that women feed into prenatal myths because we see snapshots of pregnant women’s experiences online, in popular magazines, and on television. I see more flower-bathed bellies than the moments where we are dragging ourselves to the bathroom or throwing our plates of food away because it causes instant nausea. It’s a relief to admit that pregnancy isn’t always magical unicorns floating over sugar-coated rainbows from start to finish. It’s exhausting, emotional, and one of the greatest learning opportunities for any woman.