As I write this post, I am currently a couple of days past my estimated due date. Weeks ago I started getting the "I'm so sorry for you" looks and the comments about how miserable I must be at this point. My typical response is "No, actually I feel great!" People are always happy to hear that, if not a bit wary that I am not telling them the absolute truth.
But it is the truth. I have practically no pregnancy complaints. I feel healthy, strong, and comfortable for the most part. There are times, particularly in the evening, when I feel very "full" of baby and there is an occasional backache after I've walked my kids to and from school but none of these things amount to anything even close to misery.
Of course, several people have seen fit to explain to me in detail why I am not miserable and every other pregnant woman on the planet is. My general practitioner that I saw for a cough that I had a month ago complimented me on how well I carried the baby saying it looked like I was wearing a pregnancy pillow. Apparently I wasn't dragging my body around enough to look 36 weeks pregnant. When I explained to him that I felt wonderful, he said "Well of course. That's because pregnancy is easy for you. For a few women out there, pregnancy is just easy. For the rest, it is really, really difficult." Huh.
I've also been told it is because my babies tend to be on the small side, my first being 7lbs 4 oz and my second being 6lbs 9oz. Or because I haven't gained the amount of weight that women often gain. I assure you, I eat. Frequently and a lot but, no, I have not gained 40+ pounds like a lot of women do (there is NOTHING wrong with gaining that amount of weight by the way!). Of course I do remind them that I started with more "fluff" than those women who gain more. I've been told it is because I have a long torso or birthing hips (What are those anyway?). While some of those reasons account for a small amount of the reason why I continue to feel great, they are not THE reason.
So what is THE reason? I say attitude is everything. With my first, I had the long torso, the birthing hips, the less than average weight gain, the average sized baby, etc, etc, etc. but what I didn't have was a positive attitude towards pregnancy and my baby. I gave birth on my due date but I felt like I was at least 2 weeks late. I was itchy, achy, and...well...miserable! Looking back on it, I can't imagine being any other way. Every where I turned there was someone telling me that I was SUPPOSED to be miserable. Every person, from friends to family to strangers told me how miserable pregnancy was for them and how it must be miserable for me. And I bought it, just like every other pregnant woman, hook, line, and sinker.
With my second pregnancy, I was determined not to feel that anxious, miserable feeling again. I had seen a few women who truly enjoyed their pregnancy through to the end so I knew it was possible. I had also observed why it had been like that for them. It was a positive attitude and a positive connection with their baby that pulled them through.
With my second, I did affirmations every day, telling myself "I will be comfortable throughout my pregnancy, trusting that my body knows how to grow a baby." It worked! I birthed my second daughter 2 weeks past my due date, amidst pity-filled glances and outright declarations of what was surely a miserable experience. But it wasn't. I never once felt that "Get this baby out of me" feeling. I never once even had a complaint to deny to myself. I felt wonderful all the way through until I birthed my baby (and afterwards as well thanks to more affirmations.)
With this pregnancy, I didn't even feel the need to affirm anything to myself. I knew that pregnancy could be a wonderful experience. I also knew that this would likely be my last baby and therefore this pregnancy was something to cherish that much more. I also took a lot of time to get to know this baby. Seeing your baby as a person, not just a big belly, makes all the difference. Feeling her movements and reveling in each one is a huge part of what keeps me in a positive place.
I want to emphasize that I have not talked myself out of feeling anything negative, I just honestly haven't felt that way at all. It's not like I am curled up in a fetal position telling myself over and over "I am NOT miserable! I am NOT miserable!" I just simply am not miserable! I feel alive, deeply healthy, wonderfully energetic, and quite honestly sad that other women do not experience pregnancy the same way.
Something needs to change in our society. One thing is that pregnancy and babies need more respect. Pregnancy is seen as a means to an end. Babies are often seen as a burden, born to alter your life in an inherently negative way. Women are seen as weak and in need of saving from their own bodies. Indeed, most women think of pregnancy as something that their doctor or midwife will eventually need to "save" them from.
I don't blame a single woman out there for feeling this way. It is a part of our culture. We are surrounded by it. Just as most women have never heard a good birth story, possibly even less have heard a good pregnancy story. They just simply don't know that pregnancy can be wonderful from beginning to end. And they simply don't know that how they feel physically about their pregnancy is intimately connected to how they feel emotionally about it.
So what's a pregnant mama to do? It's not about moving mountains. The answers, as I have found them, are really quite simple. I believe that nearly all women, if they followed this simple plan, would have excellent experiences with their pregnancies. Here are some of my ideas:
- Eat frequently and as much as you want but keep it healthy. Your diet should consist of lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, proteins, and non-processed foods. If you are listening, your body will tell you exactly what to eat and you'll be surprised as how healthy its requests are most of the time.
- Walk, swim, or do some type of mild-moderate exercise several days a week. I walk my kids to and from school (which is me walking to and from and to and from). I do this about 3-4 times a week and it amounts to 3 miles each day.
- Focus on the positive. Instead of focusing on any negative aspect of your pregnancy, focus on what makes you feel good during pregnancy. Rather than focusing on a backache for instance, focus on your baby's movements. Take time to figure out what part is what on your baby and have fun guessing!
- Take time every day to bond with your baby. Play a game during your baby's active time where you press your belly a few times and wait for your baby to respond by pressing back. In time, your baby will initiate the game. No matter where I am, I always respond when my baby presses into me, even if only once.
- Talk to your baby about any pain you are having. Every once in a while, my babies would get themselves into a position that was not comfortable for me. They might be pushing up under my ribs or pressing on a hip bone in such a way that was truly not comfortable. It was so comforting to think that my baby did not want to hurt me and to simply vocalize to my baby that what they were doing was hurting. They always moved. Always. Imagine how this can change your view of birth!
- If you are feeling particularly negative or have had a previous negative pregnancy experience, do positive affirmations so you feel the opposite of what you felt last time. For myself, I didn't pick out the specifics of my "misery" from my first pregnancy. I decided to go with the general uncomfortableness feeling. I told myself before I ever got big enough to have that feeling again that I would be comfortable until the end of pregnancy. However, if there is something that you have experienced before that you particularly dread, try to turn it into a positive. Rather than saying "I will not have heartburn" say "My digestion works perfectly and I am comfortable no matter what I eat."
- Ignore negativity. People will say things to you that are negative about pregnancy. I never hold anyone accountable for their comments. They are based on their own experiences or the experiences of those around them. It is "socially appropriate" to commiserate with pregnant women. It's not their fault! But you don't have to take it on and you don't have to except it into your own being.
- Be the living example of positive pregnancy. I feel like it is part of my job to tell people how wonderful I do feel. I don't do it to make them feel bad for their own experiences or to spite them for their comments. I feel like I am educating them on the possibility that pregnancy could be wonderful to the very end. When someone says "Oh you poor thing! You must be miserable!" I simply say "Actually, no. Honestly, I feel wonderful and healthy. I love being pregnant." I've never had a bad reaction to that response.
- LOVE being pregnant! Most of us are only pregnant 2 or 3 times in our lives. It is something that over 50% of the population cannot achieve and we get to do it! We get to feel the baby move inside us. We get to feel the baby grow and develop. We GET to have these wonderful changes to our body that eventually lead to birthing a beautiful baby. We are the ones who experience all the hormone surges and the wonderful hormone driven bonding feelings. It is special! Treasure it!