As I slogged through my first trimester, battling a mix of nausea, exhaustion or acne/rash at all moments, everyone told me ‘hang on ‘til the second trimester; it all gets better.’
By the time I hit week 14 and nothing was better, I was sure it was just a b.s. phrase to placate us poor women, and I started wondering: Who are these flowing, glowing pregnant women whose bodies flourish while they nourish this little soul inside them?
I had taken to [affectionately] calling my little one a ‘vampire baby’, because it felt like she was sucking the life out of me. Reading the What to Expect book just made me more nauseous. It seemed like pregnancy was one miserable symptom after another, culminating in an uncontrollable, frightening and painful situation known as birth.
And my OB said I should create a Birth Plan? My only plan for birth was to request a c-section, so I wouldn’t have to endure some traumatic 3-day labor like every other woman I’d heard about.
I couldn’t even think about birth without breaking into tears. Flashing through my mind were images of women, screaming and helpless on their backs (with needles in their spines!), while doctors stuck their fingers inside them, and nurses yelled ‘Push!’ Compared to that, a c-section seemed like a calm relief.
But then, things changed. And no, I’m not talking about my hormones, my belly and my appetite. Those changed daily… eh, hourly. No, I’m talking about my fear.
Just so I’m clear, I was excited to be pregnant. But I dreaded it at the same time. My body would surely be ruined, my relationship with my husband would change, and soon an infant would be sucking all of my free time… along with my nipples.
I didn’t understand the magical amazingness of pregnancy and birth that some (lucky, lucky) women experience right away. But I still tried to.
I went to prenatal yoga classes, and cried each time the instructor discussed how to open your body to deliver the little soul who’s made her home inside you. She reminded us to thank our babies and our bodies, and I cried more, thinking, how can I be thankful for my nausea-ridden body that’s exhausted all the time, and a brain that’s scared of childbirth? What’s wrong with me? Where’s my womanhood? Why wasn’t I more like my mother, who had delivered 6 babies, all with no epidurals?
But tears and fear and all, I pressed on. I didn’t want to, but I learned everything I could about my pregnancy, labor and delivery, testing and exploring what sounded manageable to me. And I landed on sites like Giving Birth Naturally and Positive Birth Stories, while reading other mama’s experiences on the Bump, and What to Expect.
I forced myself to watch some natural births that involved mothers delivering on their hands and knees, or in the water, instead of on their backs. I listened to the sounds of labor, and learned its stages. I started to understand the power of birth. It wasn’t just about pushing out a baby. It was about pushing myself past my anxiety, and into acceptance.
I drove my husband and mom and friends crazy spouting anxieties, theories and ideas about how to deliver this little baby.
Incredibly, as time passed, and with my newly-acquired knowledge, I birthed a new attitude. Feelings I’d never thought I’d feel. I felt grateful. Thankful that my body could grow a healthy baby girl I’d created with my husband.
And as my appetite came crawling back, and a tiny bump appeared at my waistline, I started to feel awe. Sure, I was panicky about my weight gain and the map of blue veins all over my torso, but I had new respect for my expanded stomach and my swollen breasts and every other part of me that would be responsible for bringing my baby into the world. ‘I am strong,’ I told my body. ‘I’m going to do this, and do it well.’
My fatigue lessened, and I started to view labor and delivery as my next major physical challenge. I ran, swam and danced, knowing that a healthy, conditioned body contributes to a healthy delivery. I started to savor stretching and strength-building, thanks to the pregnancy hormones that make joints and muscles more limber and flexible to prepare the body for growth and delivery.
I loved identifying and isolating the muscles I’d use to support my growing belly, and later, deliver the baby. Birth wasn’t something to be scared of. It was an opportunity to test my endurance, and grow from the experience.
With my growing appreciation of the power of the female body came my increasing appetite for sex. ‘Doesn’t it turn you on that my body has the power to grow the life we made?’ I asked my husband, who was just glad I wasn’t curled in a miserable ball of nausea anymore.
I felt vibrant, alive and empowered. By week 20, I was able to embrace my pregnancy, and experience the magic that grows alongside the life inside of you. And believe me, I am the last person who would use a phrase like ‘experience the magic’.
It’s not like I turned some corner, and started puking rainbows. I still have aches and nausea and raging hormones, and of course, anxiety about how this new person will fit into our lives. I still stress about maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and I still freak out when I step on a scale.
But acknowledging my fears, allowing myself to cry in prenatal yoga or panic with my friends, and exploring things I refused to think about for years built a platform for change.
Knocking down my wall of resistance to phrases I’d previously dismissed as ‘cheesy’, like ‘empowering birth’ and ‘embracing your motherhood’ and ‘opening your body’ has, well, opened my mind and self to positive changes.
I trust my body, and my feminine instinct, which I will listen to during labor and delivery. And I know all will not go as planned, but I trust myself to handle those changes. This is my rite of passage to motherhood, and I hope this essay encourages you to find yours.
Love to all of you.
This post is written by our guest blogger, Amber Petrovich. Thank you, Amber, for sharing your thoughts.