I’ve never enjoyed being pregnant. I’ve known a lot of women who do. They feel good and healthy, and love the kicks and are wonderfully amazed at each new stage and step of the way. Their biggest complaint is at 39 weeks when it’s a “little harder to sleep”.
I stare at women like this in utter bafflement. As a doula, I meet many many pregnant women. I encounter many types of pregnancies, labors and personalities. As a doula I meet women in a very unique time in their lives.
And as a doula, I will admit to all of you that I hate being pregnant. Literally, when I think of being pregnant, a feeling of dread comes over me.
Long before I ever was pregnant with Harper I always assumed I would love being pregnant. I would enjoy all the movement and embrace all the changes. And then I got pregnant. And quickly learned I did not like it. Needless to say, I was really disappointed. I had hyperemesis until about 16-18 weeks and was on medication [and the same has been true for each of my pregnancies], my sacrum and pelvis throb for the majority of the second and third trimester [yes, I go to the chiropractor, do yoga and lots of strengthening exercises to help stabilize and support which helps] but I just have a general feeling of ickyness that lasts until my babies decide to be born which each time have been over a week past their due dates [and yes, I know it’s an estimated date].
I made it through 41+ weeks of pregnancy and she was born. I had so many expectations and hopes of what I thought that moment would be like when I saw her for the first time. They put her on my chest and I remember pulling my head back and almost arching my back because this goobery creature who was wiggling on my chest was a complete stranger to me and in my personal space. My arms stayed at my side, I didn’t reach out and touch her. The only emotion I really remember feeling was relief that it was finally over. I looked to John for his reaction, like a little kid who looks at her parents when she falls to make sure this isn’t worth being upset over. But seriously, who is this?
I thought I would know her. I thought my heart would burst with love. And when neither happened, the disappointment was instantaneously so deep I felt as though that hurt more than giving birth to her.
Breastfeeding was a struggle. I should have taken a class or at least read a book. I was exceedingly unprepared. And truthfully I didn’t go into it with a conquering attitude. I hated it. I was committed, but hated it. I only held her when she needed to eat. I had family or John hold her while she was content and sleeping. I just got a fussy baby who gnawed at my nipples and made me cringe in pain.
It wasn’t until Harper was 2 days old that John realized the huge mistake we had been making and he urged me to hold her most of the time. And when John urges he gets his way. 😉 I shrugged and agreed, completely indifferent to mostly anything that first week of her life. She would open her eyes and look at me, she would move and everything felt to unfamiliar to me. I was bewildered by her.
That first day of holding her was rather miserable. I just wanted to disconnect from her and do something else, anything else, knowing she would need to eat soon and I’d have to be back anyway. I had thoughts in my head of documentaries where scientists observe animals in the wild and sometimes you hear them say “this tiger wasn’t a good mother and the babies didn’t thrive” and I thought to myself, that’s me! I was sick about it. Days had gone by, and nothing in my heart had changed. I physically felt terrible and even worse in my heart.
As the days went on, breastfeeding got a little bit easier, we were getting better at it and I was healing from cracked nipples that had happened the first day of her life. Her cry wasn’t so alarming to me. I would talk to her sometimes, instead of just staring at her. It sounds really pitiful, I know.
One night, one week after she was born, while sitting in the same orange chair I had barely moved from since her birth, John brought her to me after changing her diaper. I had the boppy on my lap and she was in a pale yellow noah’s ark onesie. Nothing about the moment was remarkable and maybe it was the way she moved or a squeak she made, but I held her up so I could see her face. She stretched her arms beside her ears and made a scrunchy baby face. It made me giggle and in that same moment I whispered, for the first time, “oh Harper, I love you.”
It shocked me. My eyes went wide and I looked over at John, who was so solidly and easily smiling at me, and simply said, as if I couldn’t believe it; “I do. I do love her.”
Then I looked back at my daughter, began to cry and hugged her little body and said “we are gonna be ok! We are gonna make it!” Breastfeeding was still a huge challenge, the lack of sleep didn’t change. The bewildered clueless moments stayed the same- it was me, it was my heart that had changed and blossomed and that made the difference.
It wasn’t the moment where everything got easier. It was the moment where I knew I could do this. It was the moment I knew I wasn’t broken. I was so sure something was wrong me. I am so certain now there is not.
Three out of three times now I have felt no love or connection to the babies growing inside me. They seem to be an unattainable idea, a wiggly thing that hurts my pelvis and makes me have to pee 10 times a night.
But I love my kids. I am crazy about them. Like Julie-Andrews-spinning-on-the-hill-singing-a-song-at-the-top-of-her-lungs crazy about them. I learned a lot about the immediate postpartum time with my daughter and I didn’t make the same mistake with my son. Yes, those first days were much, much better, but I still had to get to know him. It still took some time to fall in love with him.
Yep pregnancy is hard. But I know I’ll get through it. And I know I will fall in love so hard it’ll be like getting flattened out by Von Miller.
I can be happily jealous of my mommas who see their babies and immediately weep with joy while shouting “I love you! I love you!” It wasn’t my experience and that’s alright. The experience I had with my daughter, from hyperemesis, to labor, to birth, to feeling disconnected, to hating breastfeeding is something that shaped who I am.
I believe it has made me a better doula going through those things. Ultimately, I believe it made me a doula. I don’t think I would have ever considered helping other women if I had had an easy experience. When I commiserate with mommas it comes from a real place of empathy and understanding and when I encourage them it comes from a place of knowing, knowing it will be alright.
They’re gonna be ok. And they’re gonna make it.