What You Don't Expect When You're Expecting
Well, you’re pregnant. You’re healthy, the baby is healthy. Your family is ecstatic.
You go through the morning sickness, the nursery planning, the daydreams with your friends about what your kiddo is going to be like and look like.
As the months go by, friends and acquaintances alike begin make it a point to tell you about their horror stories from birth, and well-intentioned strangers will begin to put their hands on the baby bump that is no longer hiding.
“You’re glowing!” They will gush.
“Are you going to find out what it is?”
“Do you have names picked out?”
All of the well-meaning advice that you didn’t ask for will start to flow.
Welcome to pregnancy.
Photo by Nynne Schrøder on Unsplash
Fear & Anxiety
What we don’t often talk about is how scary this time can be. The unknown of pregnancy can be super intimidating, regardless of whether you’ve had a history of difficulty getting (or staying) pregnant, or this is the first time you’ve ever seen a plus sign on your pregnancy test.
There’s literally a life growing inside of you, and this isn’t any kind of sci-fi trick.
Most women go through a whole gamut of emotions during pregnancy - some can be written off to hormone changes, but a lot of them are really normal.
And if you aren’t feeling bubbly and seeing sunshine and rainbows everywhere you go while you’re pregnant because of how excited you feel about this joyous occasion - trust me, you aren’t alone.
It is still often fairly taboo to talk about pregnancy as the terrifying transition that it can be. There can be a sense of loss - of identity, of your own individual life, and just your overall independence. And while everyone is wrapped up in excitement, voicing those feelings can feel extremely difficult because, if nothing else, it seems as though no one has the desire to hear them.
But holding those negative feelings in can lead to them compounding into intense guilt and shame.
One thing that can really help during this time, especially if you’re already struggling with some negative emotions, is determining who your supports are. Not the ones that have nominated themselves to be your support through it, but the ones that you have chosen.
Sometimes, there is a baby brigade that volunteers themselves to give you all of the advice, buy all of the things, and arrange for everything - regardless of what you actually feel that you want or need. This could be a mother-in-law that is intensely excited about a new grandchild, a friend who has a differing values from you when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth - or anyone else, really, that doesn’t take into account how you are feeling and what you want during this time.
Unless you really want someone to take over those things and give you all of that advice for better or worse, those may not be your people. Just because someone forces their way into the circle doesn’t mean that you have to keep them there. And when we look closely, this actually happens pretty often when babies are involved.
Somewhat early on, it’s important for you (and your partner) to sit down and think about what is important to you. Birth planning, baby showers, medical plans, family involvement - all of these things are new and warrant a discussion to make sure you are on the same page.
From that point, being clear about how you both feel, and what you both need throughout this time, will allow you to set boundaries with those that may not be on the same page - and allow you to support each other along the way.
Ask for Help
Once you’ve decided who your supports are (and aren’t), it’s super important to be able to ask for help. Let’s face it, pregnancy has lots of rules - what you can and can’t eat, how much you can lift, the exercise you can and can’t do - so much.
But having supportive people that are on the same page as you and your partner will make a huge difference when something that seems little becomes big in your own mind, and may make the difference between your ability to ask for the support that you need.
It’s Your Kid
Here’s the lesson to learn early: people are going to have allllllll kind of opinions on how you should do everything having to do with this baby - starting now. Your pregnancy, your birth story, your feeding choices, tummy time, cosleeping, babywearing, getting a nanny, your schooling choices - down to the very last detail.
But regardless of the ever-present “them” - you can make those choices for yourself. Even though you have never done this before. Even though you will second-guess yourself. Even though sometimes you’ll wish you had done something different.
Because every single one of “them” has messed up along the way, too. Even if they somehow forget to tell you those stories.
And your kid? That baby is going to be fine if you love him. Or her. Even if you name them something ridiculous that your mom can’t stand. And even if you choose to have birth in a hospital (or at home!).
Just love that little thing and do your best to take care of yourself and your family in the way that feels right for you, and you’re doing just fine.
Need more support than what a blog post can give you? Reach out! You can schedule directly with me using my online scheduler (linked right here!) or by emailing me at email@example.com.
Brooke Williams, MA, LPC, is a licensed professional counselor serving South Carolina. You can read more about her here.