For many women, pregnancy feels powerful. After all, you're making another human. That’s an amazing feat of strength on your body's part.
Pregnancy can also be delightful and exciting. Your friends and loved ones will shower you with happiness and blessings. You’ll happily dream of the bright future your baby will have.
You may flutter around children stores, picking out clothes, furniture, and all the baby-related things you’ll want and need while you wait to give birth to a tiny, adorable, beautiful poop factory.
But for all of its joyfulness, pregnancy is also difficult and complex. Some women find pregnancy to be very hard.
What pregnancy really feels like
I can’t take credit for admitting that pregnancy is hard. Susan Magee, author of “The Pregnancy Countdown Book” imparted that revelation. Her book guided me through pregnancy.
Specifically, she wrote, "I’m going to tell you something about pregnancy that I wish someone had told me flat out, straight up, and early on: Pregnancy is wonderful, joyful, and miraculous. But it’s also hard work. Yes, pregnancy is hard work."
Physical changes during pregnancy
When I was carrying my now 1-year-old son, I experienced what many would call an "easy" first trimester. Even so, during that time I:
- had tender breasts
- had a nauseous stomach
- was irritable
- felt general malaise
But I didn't throw up. Nor was I in a lot of pain. I was just constantly cranky.
Everything went downhill during my second trimester, though. I was tired all the time, even if I got eight hours of sleep.
I also peed a lot. I already had an overactive bladder to start with, but during pregnancy, I went running for the bathroom every 10 minutes, if not less. I couldn't leave the house without using the restroom at least five times, even if nothing came out of me.
The constant need to urinate brought on by pregnancy affected my personal and professional life. For example, I missed out on a workshop I really wanted to attend because I wasn't able to find a bathroom within the 30 minutes between leaving my apartment and reaching the train station. I ended up turning around and heading back home to avoid disaster.
It was this close call that caused me to buy incontinence pads to wear while I traveled because I became so worried that I would pee myself in public.
Note: If you were previously healthy, frequent urination during pregnancy shouldn’t impact your personal or professional life. If it does, see your doctor so they can diagnose the problem.
Third trimester pregnancy symptoms
The physical symptoms got worse during my third trimester. My legs hurt every second of the day. I couldn't walk up the stairs without getting winded and my thighs burning. I had to change up my commute so I could have access to escalators and elevators. This is a common complaint I've heard from other mothers and pregnant women.
My body felt more discomfort and more cramps with each inch that my belly grew. If I walked for an extended period of time, I would feel the pain in my legs for days.
Those were just part of the physical changes.
Emotional changes during pregnancy
Emotionally, pregnancy threw me into a whirlwind. I cried much more than I normally would. I became increasingly anxious. I worried about:
- being a bad mother
- not being able to provide enough security and love
- working and going to school during those nine months
I became more cautious about what I did and what I said, of the places I would go, and how long I would stay there.
On the flipside, I felt more magical. With each passing day, I became more eager to meet my son. I kept my hands on my belly, always protecting him. I would put my hands on my belly for weeks after giving birth.
There was pep in my slow, lumbering step. And I had a glow, according to my family. I was a bit of a contradiction: As overwhelmed as I felt, I was also happy.
Maybe it was because the journey was ending and I would soon "get my body back," as they say.
Reaching the pregnancy finish line
Labor itself was an experience, to say the least. I had awful back spasms and pains for two weeks prior to giving birth. I had to be induced because I missed my due date.
During labor, my son wouldn't descend, so I had an emergency cesarean delivery. Saying I was scared would be an understatement. I was terrified. The cesarean was my first-ever surgical procedure. And I was afraid of the worst.
Luckily, I gave birth to a healthy, chubby, vibrant baby boy. I thought he sounded like a cat when he first cried in the doctor's arms. That moment made every single, painful second of pregnancy worth it.
The lesson, really, is that pregnancy is hard. It's hard in different ways for different people. Some symptoms are universal. You’ll feel physical pain. You might have constipation. You’ll feel discomfort. But how you handle these symptoms will depend on you and your body.
More importantly, don't be afraid to say pregnancy is hard. It doesn't make your love for your baby any less present and real. It just means you recognize what your body is experiencing while going through this intense process. And it is an intense process. You don't have to love it. You could even dislike it. But you shouldn't feel ashamed for how you feel about it.
Pregnancy is hard work, and it's OK to admit that.