What an odd world we live in. For a society that demands transparency and craves honesty, we can certainly be intolerant and downright cruel when people give it.
Such was my experience recently when I dared to admit that, due to both extreme physical symptoms and emotional struggles, I was not finding much bliss in my current pregnancy. Granted, this admission was made anonymously to a group of internet strangers, and we all know that online forums are overrun by horrid trolls. Nonetheless, I let their disdain and belittlement weave themselves into my already gowing self-doubt and became more overwhelmed by my anxiety.
A few months later, thanks to a decrease in my awful pregnancy symptoms and the help of a therapist I finally decided to see, I have found myself on emotionally stable ground. It is from this stable place that I am able to see two things very clearly. The first is that you should never listen to internet strangers, and the second — and most important — is that I had every right to feel the way I felt, and my emotions, feelings, and reactions were in no way a reflection of any one else’s experience.
Let’s start from the beginning: There’s this antiquated notion that pregnancy somehow protects a woman from any emotional distress; that she is so ensconced in her fertile bliss and new motherhood that she is oblivious to anything but the joy this new life brings her. Anything less than euphoria or any suggestion of a sliver of discontent or inconvenience will earn her the title of “ungrateful” or even “selfish.” (Trust me, I know.)
While my first pregnancy was a dream, until recently, my current pregnancy had been a waking nightmare. The months I spent managing constant nausea and violent vomiting episodes at all hours (thanks to hyperemesis), plummeting blood pressure, acute migraine, dehydration severe enough to warrant an ER visit, debilitating exhaustion (all while existing on gummy vitamins, Phenergan, around 400 calories on a “good” day), and taking care of a toddler full-time have been some of the most challenging of my life.
I share this not to garner sympathy, but rather to give some perspective because until recently my own was completely warped.
Physical affliction lends itself very well to emotional anguish. And I was in the throes of it. My physical symptoms manifested emotional ones, and before long, the reins on my emotional well-being began slipping from my grasp. (Let me tell you how fun it is to have a 2 a.m. anxiety attack on the bathroom floor while cycling between uncontrollable vomiting and crying.)
There were times — many more than I’d like to admit — when pregnancy felt less like a blessing and more like a burden. Are those words uncomfortable to read? Imagine being the one feeling them.
And here’s the really important thing I need to reiterate right now: My feelings are not a reflection of your experience. And yours are not a reflection of mine.
I know how lucky I am to be pregnant. I do. I know women who feel like they have a hole in their heart because of infertility issues. I used to be one them. I have felt the pain of infertility and the sorrow of miscarriage, and I stand with all those women still suffering and hold so much space for them.
Pregnancy is a blessing. It truly is. And I am so grateful to be given the privilege of growing life for a second time. But it’s also a very long, hard, emotional, confusing, crazy, physical, demanding journey — no two of which are alike.
There were times when the guilt I felt for feeling burdened was more overpowering than my nausea, and those negative feelings compounded and intensified exponentially until they were no longer under my control, which resulted in more than one of the aforementioned anxiety attacks.
I never want another woman to feel that way. So hear me when I say this: It is okay to feel what you are feeling. It is okay to admit your fears, your insecurities, your anxieties, your frustrations, your doubts, your physical miseries, and your emotional struggles.
We are complex individuals who have the ability to experience an entire range of conflicting feelings simultaneously. So it is entirely possible to feel both overwhelming joy and overwhelming dread at the same time. These feelings are not wrong. They are not bad. They are just feelings, and they are valid.
Experiencing them does not make you ungrateful. It does not make you selfish. It does not mean that your children are less loved or are unwanted. None of them — not the physical symptoms, emotional distress, anxiety, fear, dread, or the expression of these feelings — make you less of a mother.
It’s okay if you find yourself not feeling #soblessed or you’re so consumed by the physical symptoms and discomforts of pregnancy that you can’t find the enthusiasm or energy to enjoy it, because eventually, you will. Even if it’s for only the briefest of moments, like that very first soft kick, or seeing your baby dance around on an ultrasound, or feeling their tiny, unceasing hiccups at 4 a.m., you’ll find your moments of bliss.
And you will begin to feel #soblessed, even if it’s the non-hip, non-hashtaged, good old-fashioned deep, prayerful gratitude version.
As women and mothers, it is healthy, if not imperative, to open up and be honest about our experiences. For being the biggest club on earth which knows no discrimination against age, race, and socioeconomic or political class, motherhood can be cripplingly isolating.
So let’s be better at listening. Let’s be better at empathizing. I make this promise to my fellow mothers: I will never judge you and will hold as much space for you for as long as you need me to.
As for me, my nausea and vomiting spells have tapered off, and I’m currently enjoying second-trimester bliss. I can’t take my hand off my bump or stop anticipating flutters. I am cherishing every kick and dreaming of tiny pink toes and sweet newborn yawns.
While still very real, my anxieties about the impending sleep deprivation and meeting the needs of two children in completely different stages of life have taken a backseat to my realization that I am currently crushing motherhood (and so are you) and my confidence that I will figure it all out over again — because I will.
We mothers always do.
This post first appeared on Scary Mommy