The Guilt of Pregnancy.
One of the things most commonly associated with pregnancy, along with cravings, morning sickness, and the growing belly – is the roller coaster of emotions that pregnancy brings. I was expecting to become more emotional and a little more weepy (both of which have happened), but I have also been surprised by some of the other emotions I have experienced in the past four months.
I expected to feel overly emotional – crying at commercials, sobbing through birth stories, and tearing up often for no reason (check, check, check!). I was also prepared to feel a little more irritable and more easily annoyed. Considering we’ve also thrown a cross-country move into the mix, I’ve done my best to keep my cool.
But there have been other emotions heightened by pregnancy that I wasn’t really expecting. Things like intense fear and worry, overwhelming gratitude, and perhaps most surprisingly – guilt.
I have found that my pregnancy guilt has come mostly in two forms…
1. Guilt that I was able to get pregnant.
I have shared my journey to getting pregnant here before, so you already know that it wasn’t a walk in the park for me. But even so, I can’t help but feel guilty that despite my year-long wait, I never had to resort to fertility treatments, artificial hormones, and all of the emotional strain that comes with the struggle. For whatever reason, my body seemed to simply find it’s way back to it’s natural cycle.
Prior to getting pregnant, I shared my struggles with a few close friends, some of whom were struggling with similar issues. When the time came to share my news, I felt uncomfortable and guilty telling them that my story would soon have a happy ending. Everyone I told reacted with nothing but love and support for me and Casey. But just as I had feared, I also felt some people start to pull away.
I can’t say that I blame them. I know how hard it was for me to hear of other’s pregnancies while I was still having 60+ day cycles with no end or solution in sight. I felt the same way – jealous, angry, and resentful. But having struggled myself, and knowing how deeply it hurt to learn of each new pregnancy that wasn’t mine, it made me sick with guilt to think I was causing that feeling in others.
I don’t think there is any way to avoid these feelings on either side. But because getting pregnant was not easy for me, I try very hard to be sensitive to others and not assume anything about anyone’s fertility or plans. I never ask couples if they plan to have kids, because I remember how tough that question was for me. And I never ask friends with fertility struggles how their treatments are going – when they are ready to talk, they know I am there to either celebrate or cry together.
I feel so incredibly blessed to have been given the opportunity to grow a life inside of me. And to be honest, I am thankful for the year-long wait and worries that I endured, as it has made me realize that pregnancy truly is a miracle not to be taken for granted. And for those reasons, I struggle with the other side of guilt…
2. Guilt that my pregnancy is far from perfect.
As someone who builds her life and career around fitness, nutrition, and health, I have always thought that I would be my most healthy self while pregnant. I quickly learned that it is one thing to read/talk/learn about pregnancy, and it is an entirely different thing to physically experience it.
The first two weeks after finding out I was pregnant, I tracked my protein intake, gobbled down greens, and ran on the treadmill.
And then the sickness hit, and left me feeling humbled and helpless. It turns out I was not quite the superhero pregnant woman I thought I would be – instead I was throwing up every few hours, keeping down around 500 calories a day (all bagels), and exercise involved moving from the bedroom to the bathroom.
Even now that I am feeling better, I have found that my body is entirely new, and can’t do all the things I had hoped it would do through pregnancy. I’ve had to readjust my expectations for exercise, and come to terms with the fact that my appetite is much more limited than it used to be.
Even though I know that this is all normal, I still feel guilty. Guilty for not running, when I know others have run through their entire pregnancies (and that many had high expectations for me to do the same). Guilty for not eating salads and greens, when I know how good they are for me and for the baby. Guilty for not being able to offer my baby the perfect environment, after being so blessed to finally be able to conceive.
So what does one do with all this guilt? I am considering it to be one of my first lessons in parenting. For as much as I wanted my pregnancy to be perfect, it isn’t. And looking back, it was silly for me to ever think that it would be, as I am by no means perfect myself.
Pregnancy isn’t perfect, and parenting won’t be perfect. I am going to question my decisions. I am going to feel like I have failed at times. I am going to make mistakes.
With all of the additional emotions (that I imagine will) come with parenting, I don’t need to continue to bog myself down with unnecessary guilt. There is no reason to feel bad that I was able to get pregnant. Instead, I will continue to simply feel forever grateful for the gift inside of me. And I’m going to stop worrying about what I should be doing, and focus instead on what feels right.
I wished for so long to be pregnant and now that it’s finally here, I’m going to do my best to relax and enjoy it, ignore the guilt, and cherish the experience.
Calling Cincinnati friends/readers/bloggers! If anyone is interested in getting together for some frozen yogurt on Saturday afternoon – send me an email – emilybmalone @ gmail.com