For the first few hours after I found out that I was pregnant, I was super excited. We’d been trying for months and had just started talking with the doctor about fertility help. After all, I’m no spring chicken and there was all that vodka in my twenties and who knows what I’d managed to do to my eggs. Then, the excitement slowly melted away into a sort of constant fear. Part of it was imparted from my father-in-law, who happened to arrive from Italy the day we found out we were pregnant. It seemed only natural to tell him since he’d be staying here for a month (yes, one month, and you thought your in-laws crashed your party for too long) and he’d inevitably notice that I wasn’t drinking any wine. So we told him and he proceeded to tell me the 4,567 things that could go wrong ANY. FUCKING. MINUTE. Before long I was Googling anything and everything that could possibly harm my developing kiddo. I also developed a fear of speed bumps because every time we went over one he’d scream, “YOU’RE GOING TO GIVE HER A MISCARRIAGE,” or some variation of that. It didn’t take long before my excitement turned to anxiety and I started to ask myself, what business do we have making a human? I’m not blaming my father-in-law, I’m a naturally anxious person and it would have happened eventually, but he certainly sped up the process.
In the media, pregnancy is depicted with so much joy that there’s not a lot of room to talk about fear. But that’s definitely how I’d describe my pregnancy: Moments of excitement peppered with intense moments of fear. I spend every day afraid often about all kinds of things.
Last night our baby dresser/changing table arrived from WestElm and Francesco labored to put it together at ten p.m. after he’d finished his last meeting for the day. I was excited! Our first piece of baby furniture! Then this morning as I started filling it with things I imagined changing the baby there and panicked. In only twelve weeks, a tiny person would be lying there totally dependent on me. On us. OMG WHAT HAVE WE DONE!? Then I was distracted by two onesies that some neighbor kids made for us. One read, #EqualRights and the other, If Lost, Please Return to Coatsville (the name of our street). And I got excited again because I love these kids and our kid will grow up with them and how fun would it be to hang out with kids like them all the time? I’d be so into that. So being tasked with raising a human is terrifying but so are the things happening to my body.
On Monday I almost died in the bathroom. Sort of. I can no longer see my vagina but was determined to shave anyway and spent an eternity hacking away at the general vicinity of my lady garden when I suddenly felt kind of fuzzy. I turned off the water and started to dry off. Something was wrong, my vision got weird and darkened and I realized OMG I’M FAINTING! Just as my legs started to buckle I laid down on the bathroom tile, wet and naked, and panted while my vision returned. My doctor had told me at my last visit that my blood pressure was low and I could faint from it so lie down immediately the second you feel “off.” I called her when I felt normal enough to stand up and she told me to stay in bed all day, eat some soup, and drink tons of fluids. Then she was like, “have you felt the baby move?” And I realized I hadn’t been paying attention. “Why? Could something be wrong!?” I asked. I laid in bed the rest of the day waiting for the weird sensation of my baby karate chopping my bladder or playing circus in my uterus with a roll or a flip. Luckily, later that evening the baby woke up and went apeshit and I felt relieved.
There are so many things that happen to your body when you’re pregnant and the changes are out of your control and terrifying. One minute, you’re you and you just take care of you and that’s usually good enough. The next minute, your baby hijacks your body, cranks up your hormones, and everything just freaks out and you’re stuck in this shell that is doing unpleasant things to you and you can’t get away. It’s a whole thing. The other day I was trying to get dressed and couldn’t find anything that fit and I inexplicably burst into tears, sat down at my desk and bawled for a good half hour. Eventually, F came in and was like, “OMG WHAT IS WRONG!?” And I heaved, “Nooothing fiiiiits,” and he stood there kind of baffled and helpless and then tried to shove a sweater on my head while I bawled going, “this one will look cute! Wear this with tights or leggings! It’s okay!” Then remembered he’d been an asshole the night before and I was like, “get away! You’re mean!” in a possessed demon voice. Then he apologized for being mean and I put on the sweater and the tights and looked fine and everything was dandy. Mostly. He seemed kind of afraid the rest of the day as he should be. Then there are other moments where the changes in your body are kind of cool, like last night when the baby had hiccups and me and F were laughing about it or the other day when I rolled onto my back and you could literally see the outline of where the baby was laying (also very weird, but also hey baby!).
Then there are the other fears that I’ve written about here already, like the fear that my kid will grow up apathetic and uncaring about the world around them. That I’ll make a mistake and mess my kiddo up (inevitable but some fuck ups are bigger than others), or the fear that climate change will destroy the planet and I’ll have to raise my kid in a WATERWORLD situation and I HATE DEEP WATER. I worry that my history of PTSD, anxiety, and depression will impact my kid (according to my therapist it shouldn’t as long as they aren’t incredibly traumatized and they learn good coping skills), or that I’ll lose myself entirely and forget who I am.
I worry a lot about losing my identity and myself. Our society doesn’t allow women to be three-dimensional. Either you’re sexy and young or you’re a mom. You’re the whore or the virgin. Already people tell me exactly what my life will be like or who I’ll become based on their own personal experiences of motherhood, “just enjoy wearing makeup while you can!” I don’t like it. I don’t see any reason why I should have a baby and suddenly become a totally different person. Obviously, things have to change because having a kid is a big goddamn deal, but I don’t see why having a kid will suddenly make me really into baking and mini-vans for example (both of those things are fine but so far they haven’t been my thing). I think that women are told who they’re supposed to be as mothers and they become that person because they want to be viewed as “good parents” and sometimes that new identity is perfect for them and other times they get sad and mourn who they used to be. But I don’t think that’s how it has to be for kids to turn out okay. I think that motherhood looks different on everyone and it’s okay. You can be a sarcastic mom, or a mom who swears, or a mom who still loves stilettos and skin-tight dresses or fishnet stockings. Hell, my grandma wore leather pants until she was in her sixties and she looked amazing. Love doesn’t act or look one specific way. And really, unconditional love is a huge component in raising happy and healthy kids. I think. But then again, what do I know? Maybe I do need to throw out my Doc Martins and start saying things like, “holy cupboards,” for my kids to grow up normal although I doubt it.
While I sit here writing this piece about fear I’m also filled with a lot of love and gratitude. Throughout all of this new, scary, exciting stuff, I’ve been lucky to have incredible support from so many of my friends, none who expect me to candy-coat my experience. They’ve been there for me through all of my ups and downs and freak-outs without judgment and I can’t even put into words how much it means to me. I’m lucky to have so many kind and open-minded people in my life. And that’s who I want to be for others who need it. So, if you’re reading this and you’re pregnant and freaking out a little bit, you’re not alone. There are lots of us out here doing the same exact thing and it doesn’t mean you won’t be a great mom and it doesn’t mean you made a mistake. I think when you’re doing something as huge as bringing a whole person into the world it’s normal to be afraid.
Take a deep breath, you’ve got this.
6 thoughts on “This is What it’s Like to be Pregnant and Afraid”
Yes. All of this. I used to get faint in the shower too. Something about the standing and the heat maybe…be careful! And so much yes, the fear and anxiety. Ugh! Try not to listen to people’s scary birth stories (they all seem to want to share!) also the book “What to Expect When you are Expecting” is great, but don’t read the parts at the end which tells you all the things that can go wrong!! Don’t read it! I don’t know if this would help. Dr Phil used to have you ask yourself 5 questions…I can’t remember all five! Ha! Something like, is this true ( maybe for them but not for you) is it helpful (definitely not, making you more anxious) is it getting me what I want (no because my goal is to be calm and not fearful) etc. then you reject whatever anxiety inducing message you have just received. Everyone is different I know but this has helped me.
This is great advice, Janet! Thank you so much for sharing. So far I’ve been pretty good at dodging the fear-based stuff but definitely people love to try and tell me horror stories. I’m like, WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME THIS, KAREN?!
I don’t know if you have seen or heard or read anything about James Breakwell. He is on facebook, instagram etc etc. He wrote a couple books, a new one out now called Bare Minimum Parenting. He is really funny and will make you laugh. When you get overwhelmed maybe you should read a page or two of his book. 🙂 That is my plan. Ha ha!
I’ll check him out! Thanks Janet!
I just read this interview with James Breakwell and I was literally loling. One thing he said that really hit me. He said something about if our parents had pushed us around in a different brand of stroller how would our lives be different today… We obsess over so many things that don’t matter. It can seem so overwhelming in this climate of we have to be perfect and never screw up and every single decision we make is going to ruin our children’s lives… he is like a breath of fresh air. Plus he is funny and reminds me of you. https://www.jconline.com/story/opinion/columnists/dave-bangert/2018/11/08/bangert-james-breakwell-and-bare-minimum-parenting-principle/1924816002/?fbclid=IwAR2XSpnLp-uwNYFDFEjdYpvIOxel7bnDb1dQFroerLXbAr28Cbe4Bvn0j-0
I couldn’t agree more. I mean, my mom was an 80’s mom which meant, ya know, smoking in the car with the windows rolled up while I suffocated inside. And while I wouldn’t adopt that aspect of parenting, I really loved the freedom I had to be a kid growing up. Nowadays, kids can’t even breathe without their parents riding them. What happened to getting on your bike with your neighborhood crew and cruising?