Pregnancy is supposed to be a blissful time when women glow in the joyful anticipation of their new arrival. At least, that's what we're led to believe from movies and TV shows. For many moms-to-be, those 9 months are anything but idyllic.
We asked a group of moms to share what they disliked about pregnancy, and what got them through the most difficult parts.
Stephanie Iraggi: Learning to Ask for Help
My first pregnancy overall wasn't too bad — some annoyances, but overall it went well. The second time was much different. I had 24/7 nausea for the first trimester. And unlike my first pregnancy, I couldn't rest. (Chasing a 2-year-old doesn't allow for much sitting down.) So I was continually exhausted. I also had shooting pains due to loose hip and pelvic joints that made it impossible to get comfortable. In addition to the constant physical pain, my mental health took a nosedive. The baby kicks were sweet, and I was excited to meet my new little one. But I was VERY ready to be done with the pregnancy part.
For the nausea, I tried ginger and seasickness bracelets, but they didn't do much for me. What made the most difference was getting as much sleep as I could and eating constantly. Carbs were about all that would stay down, so I lived with a bag of potato chips and a jar of chocolate peanut butter by my side. Physical therapy helped some with the joint pain, and I started counseling, too. However, what made the biggest impact was simple: asking for (and accepting) help. Trying to be superwoman backfired. I got the most relief when I allowed my wonderful husband, family, and friends to come around me and support me.
My oldest is now a 5-year-old future CEO, and my youngest is a 2-year-old ninja. Being pregnant was one of the most difficult things I've done, but I wouldn't trade the results for anything in the world.
Crystal Martin: Too Much Time Alone
During my first pregnancy, I had pretty run-of-the mill symptoms — a little bit of morning sickness the first trimester and fatigue in the third trimester. When my second pregnancy was anything but typical, I was caught off-guard.
For the first 4 weeks, I was fine. Then the morning sickness hit. I had an aversion to every kind of food, even water. I would throw up water. I lost weight throughout my first trimester. Then I got to the second trimester and I was even sicker. I threw up every day, at all times of the day. None of the anti-nausea medicines I tried worked. Eventually I had to be hospitalized to get IV nutrients.
I also think I was depressed because I was spending so much time alone at home. My husband was working and my son was at school. Luckily, there were two other moms in my church group who were pregnant as well, so we really bonded. I could communicate with them about my experience, and they regularly checked up on me. I had a friend who, like me, had hyperemesis [severe nausea] during her pregnancy. She was a great help and resource.
I thought, "I hate being pregnant" numerous times during that pregnancy. It's the reason why I don’t want any more children. The risk of that happening again is enough for me to say, “I think I’m done.”
Samantha Radford: Fear of Motherhood
As an only child, my only experience with babies was having acquaintances hand their infants to me. Inevitably, any baby I held cried in my arms. I assumed I was bad with kids.
My husband wanted to have children, but I wasn't so sure. I was focused on my career.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I was terrified. I thought, "What if I don't love this baby? What if I'm a bad parent?"
It didn't help that I had extreme nausea during my pregnancy. They call it "morning sickness," but I was sick all day. I lost 10 pounds before I ever started to gain weight.
The fear of motherhood didn't let up. It was there right up through labor. When the nurse told me it was time to push, I exclaimed, "I can't have a baby, I don't like babies!" But when my daughter was born, I fell in love.
I settled into new motherhood and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it — so much so that I now have four children. Knowing how much I loved my first child made it easier. I learned how to manage my pregnancy nausea (eating protein instead of just carbs helped) and I got therapy to help with anxiety.
I now have two beautiful girls and two beautiful boys, and I'm so happy with our family.
Krista Vollack-Bubp: Not Feeling the Joy
I was happy about the idea of being pregnant. I just didn't like being pregnant. As soon as I found out that I was pregnant, it was almost as if I had this alien life form inside me. I didn't feel like myself.
Then the morning sickness kicked in, and it wasn't just in the morning. I felt sick from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed. For 5 weeks, all I could eat were saltine crackers and chicken broth. Everything else turned my stomach. Once I got into my second trimester, I was uncomfortable all the time. My body felt crowded.
There are so many expectations about becoming a parent, and especially a mom. You're supposed to be joyful. You're supposed to be this perfect parent-to-be. I never felt glowing, excited, or elated, like the pregnant women in books and movies. I thought there must be something wrong with me because I didn't have those feelings.
At a certain point, I finally accepted that what I was feeling wouldn't last forever. It was going to be fine, and the outcome would be this healthy baby. I think that if more of us were willing to say, "Pregnancy is not always an amazing experience," it would make it less challenging for other new moms to feel the way that I did.
Corritta Lewis: I Didn’t Recognize Myself
I had always wanted kids, but I never wanted to be pregnant. After my wife tried fertility treatments and didn't conceive, I offered to do it to be a team player. When I got the pregnancy test result, to tell you that I was in denial is an understatement. When my wife and I realized my water had broken, my doctor told us to get to the hospital (4 weeks early), and I sat in the shower for almost an hour. In the middle of labor, I wanted to go home. My mind just couldn't comprehend the fact that I was having a baby.
The pregnancy weight gain was really hard on me. When I was in the Army, I used to work out twice a day. I was in great shape. Looking at myself when I was pregnant felt like I was looking at a stranger. I didn't recognize myself. I have maybe five pictures from my entire pregnancy because I didn't look like myself.
My hips were already tight going into my pregnancy from weightlifting, and my baby was sitting so low that all that extra weight was right on my hips. By around my fifth month, I could no longer sleep in our bed because I couldn't climb into it. I had to sleep on the couch. That took an emotional toll on me, because my wife was the only person I had, and I couldn't be with her.
I also had constant nausea throughout my pregnancy. I never threw up, but I was always nauseated. My wife is half Korean, and she uses a lot of ginger in her cooking. I drank about four cups of ginger tea a day. That helped a lot, but it never completely went away. Taking walks also helped me feel better during that time. I'd walk three or four times a day, and twice before bed.
Looking back, I feel bad that I didn't enjoy my pregnancy. I still have still some guilt, but now I can say without question that my son is one of the best things to happen to me. He's amazing. Having him now makes me look back and feel like it was absolutely worth it.
Myriam Steinberg: Managing Complications
I knew in my 30s that I wanted to have a child, but I got caught up with work. At 40, I finally decided that it was time to start trying to have a baby on my own. What I thought would be an easy journey turned out to be the opposite.
I started with intrauterine insemination (IUI). I got pregnant, but lost the baby. It took multiple tries of IUI and in vitro fertilization (IVF), four pregnancy losses, a switch to donor eggs, and 4½ years before I became pregnant with twins.
My pregnancy was anything but easy. In my first trimester, I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. That's like a giant blood clot in the uterus. I was bleeding a lot, which was extremely stressful. For weeks, I lived in fear that I would lose my babies.
Twin A's water broke at 18 weeks into my pregnancy. I went on bedrest at home for 7 weeks, and then in the hospital for 8 weeks. My doctors and other health care providers at the hospital wanted me to terminate twin A to give his sister a chance. I was shocked — not that they give me the option to terminate, but that they pressured me to do it. I said, "No, I'm keeping the baby." I was really angry and frustrated.
My friends and family were there to support me through those difficult weeks, which helped. I also had support from my OB/GYN and midwife team. I did acupuncture to deal with my anxiety. And I created a safe mental space for myself where I wasn't overly excited about the pregnancy, but still hopeful and optimistic for a happy ending.
The twins were born at 32 weeks — 2 months early. My daughter just needed to feed and grow, but my son had to spend 2 months in the NICU because his lungs were underdeveloped. I couldn't hold him for the first 10 days of his life.
My twins are 2 now, and healthy. I definitely don't regret having them, although I never want to be pregnant again. The whole experience made me realize that just because you're pregnant, it's not a given that you're going to have an easy time of it.
Kelley Kitley: Living With Gestational Diabetes
I think there's a perception that pregnancy is a beautiful time when moms-to-be can start to bond with their baby. That wasn't my experience.
I developed gestational diabetes during two of my pregnancies. If I went too long without eating, I'd get dizzy. And if I didn't eat the right combination of foods, my blood sugar would spike and I'd feel out of it. I had to give myself shots of insulin, exercise, and eat right, which added yet another layer of stress to my pregnancies.
One of the few things I did appreciate about pregnancy was that it allowed me to eat more sweets and not be so hyper-focused on diet. With gestational diabetes, I had to watch every bite. I made sure I didn't eat too many carbs, got enough protein, and ate lots of fruits and vegetables. It's probably the way I ought to be eating, but when I had no choice, it felt more restrictive.
Sleep was another issue. In the beginning of my pregnancy, I slept a ton. That changed as my belly grew. The bigger I got, the more I tossed and turned at night. The lack of sleep affected my mood, my diet, and my ability to stay motivated. Because I wasn't sleeping well during the night, I gave myself permission to rest after work and sleep when I could, so it wasn't an ongoing frustration.
I have four children, so obviously I didn't let my difficult pregnancies stop me from conceiving again. I discovered the importance of cognitive restructuring — knowing that pregnancy doesn't last forever. It's only a short amount of time. When I met my kids, I didn't regret a single moment of the 9 months it took to get each one of them here.