How are you feeling?
Throughout both of my pregnancies, I was asked this almost every day by somebody; on the train, at work, maybe in the queue at Boots while I was waiting for more Gaviscon. Right after ‘do you know what you’re having?’ (‘yes’ or ‘a baby’ being my go-tos) and ‘is this your first?’ (no) it would be ‘are you feeling well’?
Actually, I’m really tired, the toddler is running me ragged and I’ve got really bad nausea. In fact, do you mind moving away because the smell of your coffee is… never mind. I’ll move (probably via the loo).
I’m afraid that, for me, pregnancy wasn’t exactly what I’d call ‘fun’.
Oh, it was straightforward enough, save for the nausea, low iron and pelvic pain rendering me pretty immobile and getting me signed off of work the second time around, but I never suffered awful pregnancy complaints; no gestational diabetes, hyperemesis, no really scary complications. My babies were born healthy. But I really, really didn’t enjoy it.
That isn’t to say my pregnancies weren’t welcome.
My babies were desperately wanted and planned for. I very much wanted a family and it felt like it took forever to come about. But when it did, being with child… it was not enjoyable. And so, when people actually invited my opinion on the subject I found it difficult not to have a jolly good moan about it.
You should be grateful you know, some people can’t have children.
Well you knew what to expect – it’s your own fault!
Thanks so much for asking, I thought.
Once or twice, my hormones got the better of me and I had to make an excuse and leave, and I started wondering whether they had a point…
When asked about how my bump was treating me, should I nod my head and say fine through pursed lips?
Is that what they were expecting to hear? Is it bad form to complain when you are aching, when you are sick, when you are heavy and weary and plain old fed up of being pregnant, because some people aren’t that lucky?
How about when you know (more or less) what it’s going to be like, and then – shock horror – do it to yourself (well, not exactly but you know what I mean…) for a second (or subsequent) time? Should you suck it up, and take everything that pregnancy throws at you with a shrug and a forced smile?
I say no.
Some people sail through pregnancy, some don’t.
Just as some love the newborn stage and some hate it. I was pretty shamefully bad at both and yet, despite this, I really wanted a family; I knew I wanted children who were going to grow up close in age and even after I’d experienced it first hand and knew that I wasn’t, let’s say, ‘glowing’ in pregnancy, I also knew that both it and the newborn stage were temporary… Something that had to be endured so that I could achieve my end goal; the family that I will grow old surrounded by. They would be worth it, one day.
But right at that moment, everything sucked.
Feeling like your body has been taken over, peeing a hundred times at night, having a core temperature hotter than the sun, being unable to get in and out of bed without assistance, having the bladder control of a newly potty-trained toddler…. And it’s not like I could head to a pub and drown my sorrows in a vat of wine now could I?
Definitely, in my view, worthy of a cathartic whinge.
And what of those people that say you should feel lucky, feel blessed, that a baby is a gift and you shouldn’t complain?
There are, I discovered, enough of them about.
Exercise common sense, of course. Judge your audience. Don’t go complaining to your friend who’s trying to conceive; that’s just tactless. But if someone asks, then in my opinion it gives you free reign; complain away! It’s good, it gets it out – we wouldn’t want the good old pregnancy rage bubbling over would we?
Disagree with me?
Do try and remember that not everyone is the same. You, your wife, sister or friend may have sailed through pregnancy with no complaints, or hundreds of silent ones, but we are all different and every pregnancy experience is unique.
Do you wish more than anything that you were pregnant?
Bear in mind that, when you get there, it might not be how you expect it to be.
Of course, your problems may well be more significant, but someone out there is ALWAYS going to have a slightly worse deal.
That’s the way the world goes. It doesn’t mean that my problems are not valid, thank you. Besides, if no one ever complains, then we perpetuate that stereotype (or myth?) of the blooming pregnant lady, glowing her way through all three trimesters in her designer maternity clothes and running shoes. And then, when you’re pregnant and you’re thinking ‘hold on a moment, this is utter shit!’ because you’re tired and hormonal and feeling like a beached whale, then you already feel like you’re a failure before you’ve even earned the label of mother.
It’s OK to hate being pregnant.
I’m a year and a half in to being a mum of two now, and I can very much say that the aches and pains? They were worth it. Although I probably would have disagreed at 3am today when I was dealing with screaming toddlers, my little family is (mostly) a joy and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I might not be winning 100% of the time, but I’m not always failing.
I’ve created some awesome little people there if I do say so myself.
But I still remember, vividly, how rubbish pregnancy was; so much so that I will never, ever, do it again, and when I come across a pregnant woman, I always ask her how she’s feeling, really. And I will always listen, and I will never tell her to suck it up.