These two words can evoke a range of emotions in people from shock to fear to excitement and everything in between.
As the reality of being pregnant sinks in, you will start to consider what the next steps might be for you and this could include considering termination, adoption or seeing the pregnancy through. These decisions are yours to make and each person’s decision will depend on their own individual circumstances. If you want to talk to a professional about your choices you can speak with your GP, and trusted friend or a counsellor/ psychologist who specialises in the perinatal period.
If you decide to continue with the pregnancy you might experience a range of strong and sometimes contradictory emotions. If you have been longing to fall pregnant for some time you might feel joy and fear. If you lost pregnancies in the past you might feel excitement and anxiety. If the pregnancy was unplanned you could feel shock but also elation. While these emotions seem at odds with each other it is very common to have two or more feelings at once which can be confusing and sometimes off-putting. You are also likely to have a big surge in emotions as the pregnancy progresses and your hormones change. All of this is very normal!
Pregnancy also signals major changes in your body that are uncomfortable at times and also very public! Along with a growing belly, pregnant women might experience aches and pains, difficulty sleeping, skin discoloration, weight gain, morning sickness, changes to the size of breasts and feet, varicose veins, bleeding gums, stretch marks, sore boobs and overheating (to name a few). While most mainstream media will have you believe that it is a time when women are just ‘glowing’, for many women they feel uncomfortable and grieve the loss of their old body.
People will also comment- “oh you’re so big!”, “are you having twins?”, “I was much bigger at 24 weeks!”, “when are you due?” ….. and the list could go on. Some people might feel that a pregnant woman’s’ belly is public property, able to be touched without permission. The very obvious nature of pregnancy can be incredibly distressing for some women especially those who have pre-existing body image issues, women who are especially private or those who have had experiences of abuse (especially if people feel they are allowed to touch her belly).
The pregnancy can also symbolise other significant changes for the women- possibly losing job opportunities, having to pause study or career progression and a change in status within their community. These changes might cause some level of grief for the mother-to-be even if it is a longed-for pregnancy.
Here are some tips for managing these challenges during pregnancy:
- Try to label and feel ALL the feelings. Negative ones, hard ones, contradictory ones- nothing is off limits. If we can label them, feel them and express them as they happen it can help to process them. If we repress feelings or push them away, they have a habit of popping out when we least expect them!
- Take care of your physical needs. If you can rest and help your body during the changes then you should take those opportunities. Seek medical care if you have pains or physical problems that are concerning to you.
- Consider creating a simple one-line statement that you can use when people over-step the mark when it comes to your physical changes. Perhaps you could say “thanks for your comments but I would prefer you kept them to yourself” or, “oh thanks – my pregnancy is going well and both the baby and I are healthy”.
- Think about how you can honour and celebrate those things that you have been able to do before the pregnancy and speak with someone you trust about your sadness at having to let some things go as a result of the pregnancy.
These short tips are just a few things that might help during the very challenging parts of pregnancy. One of the hardest parts can be that everyone might assume that you are “over the moon” about the pregnancy, when in reality, some days don’t feel that joyful. Being able to normalise this with other mums or talking to people who have been going through a similar experience will be invaluable.