I am 21 weeks pregnant.
My app informs me that baby is currently the size of a large banana, and in recent days I’ve begun to feel my fruity friend wriggle around inside me. It’s my favourite part of this whole experience. The little jabs throughout the day that remind me I’m (hopefully) about to be a mum.
But the rest of it? No thanks.
For centuries, women have been forced to swallow the line that pregnancy is this wonderful, beautiful, magical experience that wouldn’t be traded for the world. If they deviate from this cult-like position? Well, they’re clearly not cut out for the job.
But the truth is, pregnancy isn’t all that thrilling for a lot of us. Not least because of the horrendous physical symptoms that are associated with growing a small person, but also the psychological strain that so often accompanies these next 9 months.
For me, the latter has been truly challenging.
I found out I was pregnant at six weeks. But after a previous miscarriage two months prior, the news didn’t fill me with excitement as it should have done. It filled me with dread.
I told nobody except my partner and I made him swear he’d keep the secret too. For weeks I walked on eggshells, certain that at any moment this second pregnancy would be down the gurgler as well.
12 weeks is the time women are instructed to start letting the cat out of the bag because the rate of miscarriage drops considerably at this point. But for women who’ve undergone any kind of loss before this? 12 weeks is terrifyingly soon.
Despite my growing isolation, I wasn’t ready to bring anyone into the fold.
In a bid to deal with the myriad unanswered questions I had, I turned to online pregnancy forums. It consumed me. Any symptom I experienced that I felt might be ominous would have me reaching for the keyboard. The insights of other women- my faceless, nameless allies the globe over- would sometimes nullify me, but more often leave me feeling worse than ever.
Many of these women were just as desperate as me.
For weeks, I’d escape to the bathroom to check I wasn’t spotting at regular intervals throughout the day, while the slightest abdomen twinge would have me convinced it was all over.
In those early days I took pregnancy test upon pregnancy test to try and make the situation real. At some point I stopped, not because I felt confident, but because I was so sure I wasn’t pregnant that why bother forking out another $25 for a box of First Response?
My partner (bless his heart) would try to reassure me. Every day, he’d talk about the future with our bouncing baby at the forefront, and I’d wince and tell him to stop. I’d tell him nothing was certain and not to get his hopes up.
I was pregnant, but that didn’t mean a baby was actually on its way. I knew this all too well.
But by week 15, something shifted. The clouds begun to part and I felt at least somewhat calm again.
My bump had started to protrude, the scans all clear and I’d been told we’d be having a baby boy. We’d selected a name well before my pregnancy. And so there I was, with a more tangible sense of what this all could mean.
I still have fears about what could potentially go wrong, but I suspect this will never really leave me. Pregnancy fears will be followed by parenting fears- and I’ve heard that’s a whole other kettle of fish.
But despite my new, more hopeful resolve, I still feel thrown when people tell me how content I should be and how much I should be enjoying this experience.
Pregnancy isn’t easy. It’s a physical and psychological mess and it’s okay for us to view it like that. I’m not any less excited about the prospect of holding my baby and I’m pretty certain I’ll be no less of a mother because of it.
I’m just telling a different side.