Having a baby is one of the single greatest life-changing events someone can experience. Every day, there are thousands of women who are praying for that positive pregnancy test, waiting to experience the miracle of growing a child, giving birth, and getting to have a baby of their own.
I 100% fell into this category when I started trying to get pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were lucky enough (and shocked) to get pregnant the first month we started trying. To this day, I can remember the feeling of elation, anticipation, and pure joy when I saw that plus sign appear on my pregnancy test. I had visions of admiring my growing belly and basking in the pregnancy glow I often heard others mention.
I was, however, totally unprepared for some of the ugly truths of pregnancy and having a baby that so conveniently were never mentioned amongst my mom friends. As I experienced these and tried to talk about them, it seemed as if they were taboo topics, and talking about them automatically meant you were ungrateful for this little miracle growing inside of you.
I realized it was time we all looked behind the curtain and really talked about some of the not-so-pretty parts of having a child.
1. The first trimester SUCKS
Morning sickness is a lie. It’s all day sickness. It’s all night sickness. It’s vomiting everything you ate and then continuing to dry heave because your body has started a mutiny and is rebelling against you. In these first 12 weeks, you’re sick, food is the enemy, and you’re exhausted. ALL THE TIME. Understandably so – your body is literally growing another human, and this adjustment takes lots of energy, but it still SUCKS. These horrific symptoms usually subside by the second trimester, but those first 12-15 weeks are brutal. *Spoiler Alert* For many women, these same symptoms resurface during the third trimester, except you also get up every few hours at night because you need to pee. So yay for that.
*Note: If you are one of those women who say, “My first trimester was amazing! I felt great and I didn’t throw up once!” just keep it to yourself. When those of us who are puking our guts out every day hear you say that, it takes every ounce of the little energy we have not to punch you in the face in our hormone-induced rage.*
2. You could get sciatic nerve pain during pregnancy
Although I didn’t experience it in my first pregnancy, sciatic nerve pain hit me hard when I was pregnant with my daughter. One day out of nowhere, this horrific pain shot down from my lower back all through my left leg. I was going through a high-risk pregnancy with a chance of early labor, so I immediately panicked. I did the opposite of what you are supposed to do: I Google Searched my symptoms. Thankfully, this time my search results did not end with a diagnosis of death, and described what I was feeling as sciatic nerve pain. I called my OB/GYN (thankfully rational thinking resumed in my brain at this point), who confirmed that was what I was experiencing. I learned there was nothing I could do to predict when it would hit, and the best thing to do was “ride it out.” Ride. It. Out?! Thanks Becky. I’ll just “ride out” the pain that literally cripples me and makes me want to saw my leg off. Great advice.
3. Adjusting to your new post-baby body is HARD
I get it. My body is this super amazing badass vessel that created life and I should be proud of every stretch mark and wear it as a badge of honor. News flash: I’m a human being, and getting to that point takes time. I am currently 5 months postpartum, and every week my body continues to change as it heals from birth. Don’t listen to the lies society tells you. You can’t “get your body back” after having a baby. Even if you lose all your pregnancy weight, your body will never be the same. Although I am on a journey to realizing that is okay, I want the freedom to be able to say, “I’m not comfortable in my own skin yet. My body is still changing and that’s a new and difficult experience for me.”
4. You’re going to lose your hair, and it’s awful
Around the middle of the second trimester, I noticed that my hair looked amazing. It was thicker and healthier than it had ever been. I was so excited because I thought this would be a permanent change with my hair. Oh, how naïve and wrong I was. About 12-14 weeks after birth, all that beautiful hair you grew during pregnancy starts to fall out. Logically, it makes sense. When you’re pregnant, you’re producing all these hormones that strengthen your hair and keep it from falling out. However, as humans, we are naturally supposed to shed hair every day. As your hormones begin to balance out after birth, your hair starts to make up for all the shedding that didn’t take place for 9 months. These rational facts didn’t stop me from absolutely panicking and checking my head for bald spots as I literally threw away what seemed like clumps of my hair. The silver lining for the women reading this who are about to restock their supply of condoms: I had two babies in two years, so my poor hair has been through the ringer, BUT I’m not bald. I have more baby hairs around the base of my neck and my forehead, but in time, those will grow out.
5. Most people won’t say the right thing
This is probably the most difficult part of being pregnant and having a baby. If you do find the courage to speak up when you’re experiencing any not-so-pretty symptoms, most people will absolutely say the wrong thing. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, “it will be SO worth it in the end!” or “Oh but do you know how many women wish they were pregnant? You should remember how lucky you are!” Thanks Karen, I totally couldn’t figure that out for myself or reframe the situation on my own. Now, not only am I vomiting, losing my hair, and trying not to saw my leg off, but I also feel like a terrible person for trying to vent my frustrations and share my struggles. Here’s the thing: I know I am so lucky to have two beautiful babies. I also know there were SO MANY wonderful and positive things about being pregnant and having a baby, like feeling them move inside of me for the first time, or holding them in my arms for the first time and wondering how part of my heart and soul could leave my body, but that does not mean that I didn’t also have moments where I struggled. Sometimes all I needed to hear was, “That really sucks.” I didn’t want to feel guilty for struggling. I didn’t want to feel ashamed for not accepting my new body right away. I wanted to feel heard. I wanted to feel understood.
For all you mamas-to-be and new mamas out there: I see you. I see you struggling internally but putting on a brave face. I want you to know that you can hate certain parts of being pregnant and having a baby, and still love the fact that you are pregnant or have a child. Those feelings aren’t mutually exclusive.
Know that it’s okay to vent about the struggles and treasure the wonderful moments. It doesn’t make you any less of an amazing mom, and it doesn’t make you any less of a super woman. It just makes you human.