The yin and yang of being pregnant is that it’s a journey so intimately personal, yet unavoidably public. It’s a time in your life when you know people are watching you, observing how you’re handling all the changes being hurled your way. Am I being graceful enough? Real enough? Cute enough? Do people expect me to be excited even though I really just feel like crap as I try to survive the first trimester? Am I overdoing the joy and gratefulness and excitement and becoming that smug pregnant woman parodied in this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJRzBpFjJS8 ? It really is quite funny if you haven’t seen it.
They say women compare themselves a lot. This is certainly true in pregnancy. We feel guilty because we weren’t as sick as someone else, or minimize our own experiences in light of someone else’s more extreme scenario, a reminder to just be thankful for what we have. Being thankful is certainly important, but it’s also important to own your own experiences – regardless of how they stack up to those around you. My good times are mine and my bad times are mine, and they are real and valid, and shape who I am. They don’t merit apology or explanation, they just are what they are. To me, just embracing that fact is empowering. Though I admit it’s easier said than done.
The only “right answer” here is to own your own experience – whatever is real to you. I remember feeling constantly nauseous in the early weeks, and getting texts from well-meaning friends saying things like “I hope you are feeling AWESOME!!!” Well, what if I’m not feeling awesome? Do you want to hear how I’m really feeling, or just the good stuff? On the flip side, I’ve had an overall pretty great second trimester, but don’t always feel comfortable shouting from the rooftops, “I’m feeling AWESOME!!!” especially when I have pregnant friends who are not feeling so amazing. I guess there’s a balancing act between being honest and sympathetic.
If I had to choose one word to describe pregnancy, for me, it would be empowering. It’s shown me I can do hard things. Now, there have certainly been other choice words that have come to mind during moments of pain, hugging the toilet, and not sleeping – but without those struggles I also wouldn’t feel as strong for surviving them. Pregnancy has proven to me that I can endure new and foreign transformations, and that while I can’t always control what happens to me and my body, I can choose how I respond to it. Most days I feel somewhere in between this:
And that’s okay.
At the risk of sounding smug, I really wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I know it’s helping to mold me into a better, stronger, more compassionate, capable woman, and I’m up for the challenge. That’s the inner identity part. As for the outer identity, I’m one of those women who actually really LIKES the weight gain and the growing baby bump and filling out my maternity clothes – I am proud of my pregnant shape and embrace it, yet I respect that is not how all pregnant women feel. I also haven’t hit the third trimester yet, so we’ll see if I start singing a different tune. 🙂