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Here at The Empowered Mama, we are all for helping women feel strong and well, empowered, throughout their pregnancy and birth experiences. Sometimes, that means sharing the not so glamorous side of pregnancy, and admitting that for some women, it’s just not all rainbows and sunshine. While I was incredibly grateful for my pregnancies, and I love my children to bits, I did not cope with pregnancy very well. To be completely honest, there were a whole heap of things I hated about being pregnant.
For a long time, I felt guilty about this and I didn’t share these feelings with other women, mostly out of shame and embarrassment. I mean, pregnancy is what women ‘do’ right? Why was I struggling so much? Why couldn’t I just get into the swing of it?
During my second pregnancy, I decided I wasn’t going to be so quiet about it. I was going to own my feelings, and share more of the struggles with other women. The response was incredible. It turns out I wasn’t alone. Many women struggle with pregnancy.
Knowing this helped me feel more empowered, it made me feel like less of a ‘failure’ and more ‘normal’. And it made me feel like it was okay for me to not love every minute of my pregnancy. Just because I didn’t enjoy it, didn’t mean that I wasn’t grateful for it.
So here are some of the hardest parts and the things I hated about being pregnant (even the trivial ones). This post isn’t meant to be all about the negatives, but it is meant to be like a big hug for anyone out there who is feeling the same.
1 – The Whole ‘Life-Threatening Illness’ Situation
Morning sickness? I wish… oh no, I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which I’ve heard described an allergic reaction to being pregnant where your body refuses to allow you to eat or drink anything without throwing it back up, as well as vomiting in excess of 20+ times a day (on a good day…). Imagine your worst hangover ever… but not knowing if it will ever end.
The thing is, it’s not just about being sick. It’s not something a few dry crackers and ginger ale will fix. By the time I was 20 weeks pregnant in my second pregnancy, I had taken over 1300 doses of medication just to keep my body functioning.
Because, when you’re so sick you can’t keep even water down, your body starts to shut down. There have been a number of women who have been left with ICU admissions because their Hyperemesis was so bad. Nasogastric tubes, PICC lines, copious amounts of fluids, medications, TPN, lipids, all just to keep you alive and baby thriving.
Hyperemesis robs you of your happiness during pregnancy. It makes you feel like your body is failing, it puts you at significant risk of perinatal depression and anxiety, early pregnancy termination, and ongoing medical complications. There’s no happy, healthy, pregnancy glow… just sweat and vomit and a serious lack of understanding from a lot of medical authorities. But that’s a whole other article for another day…
2 – Not Recognising My Body Anymore
Your body changes a lot during pregnancy, it’s not a surprise. But I remember standing in front of the mirror one day feeling like I was totally separate from my body, like I didn’t recognise the person in the mirror. My boobs were no longer ‘mine’, they were big and my areolas were dark and huge, my stomach was stretched and looked alien, my face was sunken from lack of sleep and being so unwell. I didn’t feel like ‘me’.
Prior to getting pregnant, I had been quite healthy and fit, going to the gym regularly, being very active and eating really well. It was definitely a massive hurdle for me to overcome.
3 – Having To Buy Maternity Clothes
I have to admit, initially, I was pretty darn excited about buying maternity clothes. I mean, any excuse to buy new clothes, right? That was until I actually went shopping for them and found they caused more frustration than anything else.
The sizes were weird, that sat in the most awkward ways and don’t even get me started on the price!
I decided I was better off buying clothes one size too big and just running with that. And yoga pants. Because yoga pants are amazing.
4 – Being So Tired, But Not Being Able To Sleep
It’s like this insane torture. You’re so cripplingly tired, exhausted to the core. Can barely keep your eyes open, can’t get off the lounge, zero motivation kind of tired. But as soon as you lay your head down to sleep it’s like you’re wide awake and every possible problem in the world needs to be solved in your head right this moment.
Then as you get later into pregnancy, you can’t sleep because literally every position you lay in is uncomfortable. I’m a big tummy sleeper, which is impossible when your boobs a ginormous and hurt and you have a large pregnant belly. Seriously wish I had bought this pregnancy ‘pillow’.
5 – All The People Wanting To Give Advice
As soon as that bump starts to show, it’s like an instant ‘give me advice’ sign starts flashing above your head… whether you want it to or not. And while most of the time, people generally have good intentions, it can still be quite frustrating and overwhelming.
Everyone has their own opinion on what is right during pregnancy, birth and the newborn phase (actually, all of parenting). But just because it is right for one person, doesn’t mean it is right for everyone. And just because it was right 20 years ago, doesn’t mean it is right now.
This was particularly frustrating when explaining that I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum and people would respond with various ways to ‘fix’ it, from ginger ale to crackers to sea bands – all the while saying they never had to take medication because they just ‘pushed through’. It’s like telling someone who cut their arm off to just put a band aid on it.
6 – Being Told I Should Just Be Grateful
I loved that I was pregnant, I didn’t love being pregnant. But somewhere along the line, saying that you don’t love being pregnant or saying that you’re struggling is like some sort of taboo. Like we aren’t allowed to say it because it can offend people.
I understand, and I don’t want to offend or upset those who have difficulties falling pregnant or those who have suffered loss. I know the devastating feeling of a miscarriage and I know the heartache of having difficulties falling pregnant.
But these are real feelings of hurt for me too. When I would dream of being pregnant I always imagined it would be this happy and exciting time, filled with love and light and full of the energy that new life brings. But it wasn’t anything like that, and I had to grieve the ‘perfect pregnancy’ that I lost.
I didn’t need people to tell me that I should be grateful or to think about all the women who couldn’t get pregnant. I needed someone to hold my hand, put their arm around my shoulders and say ‘this shit is hard, you’ve got this.’
7 – Not Being Able To Relax With A Glass Of Wine
I love wine as much as the next person, but I’ve never been a big drinker. I’ve always been able to just have a glass here or there and going without has never been an issue. But there were a few times throughout my pregnancy when all I wanted to do was sit with a glass of wine, a jar of Nutella and watch a good movie. It seems so trivial, but pregnancy cravings are real.
8 – Heartburn and Drinking Gaviscon From The Bottle
As soon as the Hyperemesis subsided and I was actually able to keep food down, the heartburn kicked it. I’m not talking a little burning reflux, I’m talking waking in the middle of the night, seriously crying kind of heartburn.
Gaviscon soon became my best friend. I would drink it straight from the bottle and would start to panic if my supply was too low and I could possibly run out. I barely left the house without a bottle of this with me.
9 – Leaking From All Area’s Of My Body
Who knew there were so many ways to ‘leak’? Thankfully, I’ve never had pelvic floor issues, so even during the height of my vomiting I didn’t pee myself (I’ll take that as a win, thank you!) but there’s the sweating, excess mucous production, peeing all the time and the crying. Oh so much crying. I cried over a tomato sauce commercial. For real.
10 – The Insane Constipation
During pregnancy, your body stores more blood in your pelvic region in order to do what it needs to do pregnancy wise. This, for some people, can cause a few constipation issues. However, when you add to that severe dehydration from Hyperemesis as well as anti-emetics (to stop vomiting) that cause constipation too, it’s a recipe for disaster.
After 10 days of not pooping there’s a whole lot of pain involved.
11 – Not Being Able To Cuddle With My Husband
I love cuddles. It makes me feel connected to my husband and I’m just a general cuddly person. In my first trimester, I couldn’t stand being touched because it made me throw up. All I wanted was to cuddle with my husband and cuddle with my son but it was just not possible. Having to tell your 3 year old son you can’t cuddle because Mummy is too sick is heartbreaking.
Then, as I got bigger, cuddling became uncomfortable. I couldn’t get quite close enough and I just felt like I missed that connection. Sometimes it’s these little things that are the most difficult to deal with.
12 – Not Being Able To Keep Up With My Son (Second Pregnancy)
My pregnancy with my daughter hit me really hard. My son was 3 years old and full of energy and excitement and I couldn’t keep up with him. He went from having a Mum who would run around and kick a ball with him and go on walks to a Mum who slept for 18 hours a day and couldn’t move off the lounge.
Things did get better as my pregnancy moved along, we were able to dance around together more, but I couldn’t lift him like I was able to previously and months of being so sick meant my muscles had deteriorated and my energy was gone.
13 – Never Being Alone
Sometimes this was a nice thing, but sometimes it became quite overwhelming. I remember when my son was born and he was in NICU, I would go to bed at night feeling very empty and alone without him. I loved always having him with me and having that connection. I figured it would be the same with my daughter but for some reason, it wasn’t the case.
She moved around a lot. Like, A LOT. She was so strong my husband could feel her moving and kicking from 16 weeks. I went from really valuing my alone time, to feeling like I could never just be. It was a major mental hurdle for me that never really kicked in during my first pregnancy, but one I really struggled with the second time around.
14 – The Waddle and The Swollen Feet
I keep saying it, but my second pregnancy was SO different to my first. During my first pregnancy, I never had any swelling or any issues with mobility. During my second pregnancy, I had the waddle down pat and there were days where my feet were so sore and so huge I had pitting oedema!
I remember one day we had gone to the beach for an escape and spent the day walking around. It felt amazing to be out in the fresh air, moving about. Then I got home and my feet had ballooned! It was like a reminder that this pregnancy controlled my body and there was nothing I could do about it.
15 – The Super Enhanced Sense Of Smell
Women talk about pregnancy enhancing their sense of smell normally but add Hyperemesis to that and it’s a whole new beast. I could tell you what the neighbours two houses down were having for dinner some nights, it was that full on. I couldn’t cook because I couldn’t stand the smell of the food, things I loved previously made me want to hurl and then there are the smells that still to this day make me throw up instantly. If I even get the slightest whiff of basil or Earl Grey tea I will vomit immediately.
But it didn’t stop at food. I couldn’t handle the smell of my husband, which was previously one of the most amazing smells on earth. Washing my hair was like a sensory overload and perfumes would give me an instant headache.
Thankfully, since having my babies my sense of smell has settled back down, my husband smells amazing again, but I still can’t be around basil or Earl Grey tea!
I know this list makes me sound like all I have done is complain about my pregnancy, but the reality is, for some women pregnancy is really tough. We need to acknowledge that, we need to make these women feel like they aren’t alone and that it’s okay to ask for help and we need to listen to them. We need to empower women through the good and the bad.