How do you know you can mentally deal with pregnancy?
June 22, 2005 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Here's my question - how do women know that they'll be able to DEAL with being pregnant?

I sometimes think I want to be pregnant and have kids some day. But I worry that I'll get pregnant and then be so squicked out from having another being moving around in my body that I'll go crazy. Like, literally crazy. Do hormones just squash that feeling, or do some women go beserk with the feeling of being pregnant? Has anyone here hated pregnancy? I want honesty!

I get that the end result makes it worth it, and that in retrospect it isn't that bad.

I try to ask this of people but they act like I'm crazy already for even asking or that they'd be traitors to their children if they say they wouldn't go through it again.
posted by agregoli to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not trying to be snarky, but....

...they don't.

I really think this is the only answer. One never knows how one will be able to deal with the major events in life -- going to school, having sex for the first time, getting married, getting pregnant, raising a teenager, aging, losing a loved one, etc. -- until one lives through it. That's life. You can listen to other people's stories, and they ARE helpful. But those people aren't you. So they can only tell you how they felt.

I'm not a woman, but some women I know covet the "end result" to such a degree that they're willing to go through anything to achieve it. They know this before going into it. Some women, and my wife is one, are totally turned off by the idea of being pregnant -- so much so that they won't even consider it (which is fine with me -- I'm okay being childless or adopting). If you're not one of these extremes, then surely it's just one of life's risks, which you decide to take or not.

One thing you do know. Zillions of women have lived through it to tell the tale.
posted by grumblebee at 11:22 AM on June 22, 2005

Heather Hamilton AKA Dooce went crazy. She writes very articulately about her experiences. But she loves her baby very much and often says that she did the right thing.
posted by librarina at 11:44 AM on June 22, 2005

Response by poster: Right, I know that.

I phrased my first question poorly then. I'm looking I guess for like-mindedness on this. Does anyone say "Yay, I'm going to get pregnant!" get pregnant and then realize that they're on the brink of a mental collapse from having a person inside them? How do you deal with having a kid inside you? Everyone describes it as purely exciting, wonderous, etc. But is that really true for everyone, or is it just the "party line" so to speak? No one wants to admit, I bet, that being pregnant for some people is just awful, and I'm mostly wondering if beyond the physical problems that can crop up, do some people have mental problems as well?
posted by agregoli at 11:47 AM on June 22, 2005

If it's any consolation, it takes a long time - months - before you can actually feel the baby inside you, so one has time, perhaps, to get comfortable with the idea emotionally before it manifests itself physically.
posted by SashaPT at 11:58 AM on June 22, 2005

I know plenty of people who have had awful experiences with being pregnant: 6 months confined to a bed, intense pain from the baby sitting on the spinal nerve, etc etc. But these are all physical issues. I've never once heard anyone say they were mentally disturbed by the idea of feeling of a baby in them. Lots of grumbling about not being able to sleep, being tired, baby kicking, general annoyances, that kind of stuff. So, I don't think there's a party line about pregnancy being all sugar and spice and picnics. But the situation you're describing I've never encountered. Maybe a talk with your gyno about this? She/He could probably give you their experiences with large numbers of people having gone through it.
posted by spicynuts at 12:00 PM on June 22, 2005

Response by poster: See, I question whether it's anything anyone would share though - who wants to tell anyone that they are freaked the fuck out about having a baby inside them? Physical complaints, sure, people expect those. But general freakedoutedness? Not about having the kid, but about having it INSIDE you?
posted by agregoli at 12:02 PM on June 22, 2005

I believe that it is one of the most natural things that can happen to humanity, and we are just "built" for this experience, both mentally and physically (with a few people being exceptions, of course). Being a man who watched my wife suffer through childbirth, then never speak bad of the experience afterwards, that I think it is more freakish to take a big dump than it is to have a "baby inside you", but we all do that everyday, so that is not weird. I hope I was able to enlighten your day! Spock out.
posted by cincidog at 12:11 PM on June 22, 2005

I have very very close friends that have been pregnant. They tell me about mucus plugs, what kind of puke came up during morning sickness, what types of food their baby's shit resembles. Previous to that they've told me about sex with their boyfriends, how their father abused them, etc etc. The fact that they would be squicked out by a baby inside them is not something that they'd be afraid to tell me. I on the other hand am very disturbed by the fact of actually being able to see a baby move in a woman's stomach. WEIRD. However, every woman I've observed this in has been laughing and giggling while it happened, so, you don't fake that. I'm obviously not saying I've known every pregnant woman who's walked the earth.

I do think though that talking to a gyno/ob about this, or anyone who delivers babies or takes care of moms during pregnancies might help you tremendously.

Trust me, if I knew that a 9 pound living thing was going to come out of ANY part of me, I'd be scared too and need to talk to someone.
posted by spicynuts at 12:13 PM on June 22, 2005

Being pregnant can be awful in some respects, what with the morning sickness, the weight gain, the sleeplessness, various aches and pains. I think that a few things help to mitigate the physical discomfort (this coming from someone who gave birth 3 weeks ago and is very glad to no longer be pregnant):

-- Hopefully, if you get pregnant, you really want a baby. So with that perspective, any Alien-like squickiness you might anticipate having this little being growing inside you often (I imagine) gets offset by the excitement of interacting with this new life for the first time. I actually found I missed the sensation of feeling the baby move.

-- Sometime around the second trimester, I believe, your body starts pumping out happy hormones, quite possibly to keep us from that sort of despair that you logically anticipate. Both my second trimesters had me very happy and contented - not at all my normal mood - which I attributed to Nature's prozac.

-- Most people are really fucking nice to you when you're pregnant. Their enthusiasm can be contagious.

-- It wasn't until the middle of the third trimester that I felt completely sick of being pregnant, which was good because it offset the dread of giving birth. By that point, the frustration of not being able to move freely, drink, sleep, or go for more that 15 minutes with peeing made me want my body back - not the figure necessarily (although that would be nice) but the identity of something other than an incubator.

Finally, I don't think there is some sort of conspiracy to convince women that breeding is fun so much as there is a human weakness for faulty memories. If I really think about my pregnancies, I remember mood swings, crying jags, and exhaustion that threatened to overwhelm me on certain days, and on this last one, I went on anti-depressants, primarily so I wouldn't traumatize my existing child. But since our experiences live primarily in our memories of them, I think my maternal impulses temper any lingering angst - which in turn skews my narrative somewhat.
posted by bibliowench at 12:13 PM on June 22, 2005

I've never once heard anyone say they were mentally disturbed by the idea of feeling of a baby in them.

among people I know, primarily childless, it is a common thought. And I have talked to people who've gone through pregnancy about the essential weirdness of it. It can also be thought of as kind of fascinating, of course, and the alien pod aspect isn't necessarily negative... in a very real sense the baby is part of you in the beginning - and you're okay having organs inside you, right? (don't think too much about it!)

I think if you can get yourself used to the idea of going for it, and you want the outcome enough, then you do adapt. We're capable of dealing with a lot more than we expect. It's like that whole "you're so strong to have gone through cancer" thing - sure you're strong: not like there's any choice!

If you give too much thought to anything, it can seem pretty bizarre. The key is just accepting that that's how it is, and finding it "interesting" if not "beautiful."
posted by mdn at 12:14 PM on June 22, 2005

It's the closest thing to real magic that you'll ever do -- much cooler than just pulling a rabbit out of a hat. For one thing, a hat's a little bigger. So weird, but good.
posted by pracowity at 12:14 PM on June 22, 2005

Well I personally find the idea so freaky as to be sure I'm not gonna do it, like grumblebee's wife. I'm lucky that I don't want children anyway, I can see where that would cause internal tension. Years ago, a co-worker shared that her friend (ok, this is already third hand) underwent counseling during her pregnancy because she was squicked about actually giving birth - couldn't get her head around having something come out of her, etc. So I think it does happen, sure.
posted by rainbaby at 12:15 PM on June 22, 2005

I have to agree with grumblebee on this one. I don't think you'll really know how you'll handle things like pregnancy, birth and dealing with all the requisite demands (biological, emotional, financial) until you're in the midst of the cycle.

We are conditioned, as women, to keep pretty quiet when we don't enjoy pregnancy or our children. However, pregnancy can easily be an unsettling event in a person's life. Additionally people seem to believe a fairy tale that all mothers immediately bond with their children. For some women, they do fall in love with their children immediately. For others, they don't. They may feel great apathy, resentment, confusing, or even dislike of their child. These women are afraid to speak of their feelings because people will judge them harshly. Hopefully, they will come to bond with and love the child. My point here is that not everyone feels the same thing and you have no way of knowing how you're going to react.

If you listen carefully, you will find women who say they would never get pregnant again. While I have not heard of women being having a breakdown because someone was inside them, there are women who do become emotionally unbalanced while pregnant. I used to remember the term for this. It is something like peri-partum depression. The change in horomones can definitely cause behavior changes which are undesired.

Personally, I enjoyed most of my pregnancy. Despite the physical discomforts, I thought it very exciting to feel my son move within me. My husband and I tried for nearly two years to have him. Maybe I was just thankful it was happening.

I remember when it came time to give birth, I had some very strong aversions to some practices. I really wanted to avoid a c-section, an enema, or being shaved. I was grossed out by the concept of these. I had to have all three done. I was constipated early on and they had to use an enema to solve that so we could move forward with the birth. After pushing for about 5 hours, there was nothing more I could do and my doc said it was time for a c-section. So, I ended up being shaved (not as bad as I had made it in my head) and my son was delivered by c-section.

My doc commented that she had expected me to break down when they told me I'd have to have a c-section. I didn't. I was content knowing that we had tried everything to avoid the c-section and that he was not in any danger.

No matter what, if you decide you just can not bear the idea of getting pregnant, don't do it. Nothing says you have to have a child. If you choose to have a child, nothing says you have to give birth.
posted by onhazier at 12:20 PM on June 22, 2005 [2 favorites]

As others have said, it takes a while before you can feel the baby moving, about four-five months. Up to then, it's very abstract. You think, "this is weird, some cells in my body will be a person someday", but you don't really believe it will happen until you feel it moving. It's very strange, but not in a bad way. I genuinely felt nothing but love for my baby, even as an abstract concept. Just don't watch Alien while you're pregnant. I was sitting on the sofa at about seven months and my son flipped over in my stomach. My husband happened to be watching and saw the little heel trace all the way across my belly. Both of our reactions was somewhere between "Awwww" and "Whaaa?".
It's a very strange process, but because you are genetically programmed to love your offspring, it just isn't that scary.
posted by slimslowslider at 12:27 PM on June 22, 2005

If the hormones/instincts didn't brainwash us into putting up with all the weirdness, our species wouldn't exist. Chalk it up to evolution.
posted by matildaben at 12:51 PM on June 22, 2005

The anxiety is natural, and nothing to worry about. Evolution engineered women to get and be pregnant easily and successfully. It did not, however, engineer women to choose to be pregnant or agonize for months and years about the choice, but once you're pregnant, the chemicals kick in -- you're very likely to be just fine.

Of all the mismatches between biology and modern technology / society, this has to be one of the softer ones, since it is actually like to leave you better off (since you can time your pregnancies and avoid them altogether if that's ultimately your preference). Everytime you seem some sad person staggering along on a hot day under their 400 pounds -- then you can see the really cruel mismatch between what technology makes possible and what biology makes advisable.
posted by MattD at 12:52 PM on June 22, 2005

It's bad but it's worth it doesn't quite cover what goes on a lot of the time. Use your favorite search engine and look up "labor amnesia". I was not at all a Shiny Happy Miracle of Life Pregnant Woman, and it definitely happened to me.
posted by gnomeloaf at 1:13 PM on June 22, 2005

I've got 4 children and I can honestly say that I was blissfully goofily happy during my first 3 pregnancies. I loved the feeling of being pregnant and carrying a baby inside me.

However, with my last baby, I really was skeeved out when he first moved. He didn't seem to kick and roll so much as quickly scrabble around and it just gave me chills. That lasted about a week or so and then he began to move like the other kids did. I haven't got a clue why he did that.

btw, for clarification-my first 3 were all "surprise" pregnancies and in my early to mid 20's. My last baby was planned, worked for and in my late 30's.
posted by hollygoheavy at 1:26 PM on June 22, 2005

I didn't like being pregnant at all - but I have two kids, so I did manage to get through it twice. Forget that glowing stuff - I was huge and miserable and, in my first one, I had pregnant ACNE, which, given that I was only 18 anyway, really made me look horrifically trailer park. The smell of beer and cigarettes and coffee made me throw up, which made me feel alienated from my very pro beer/cigarettes/black coffee basic self, and instead I wanted weird food: straight malt vinegar, pastrami sandwiches, borscht, chocolate ice cream - and then they made me throw up. And maternity clothes are hideous. Both my kids moved around constantly in utero, too, which can be really uncomfortable and even painful and yes, somewhat squicky in that "there is an alien thing in my belly omg i'm gonna die" way. I do know what you mean. I'm not easily squicked out for the most part but I felt that way a little now and then - mostly during the first pregnancy. The second one was easier all the way through. So, the very short answer to your question is: it's a crapshoot. You have no way of knowing how you'll respond. I thought I would be Ms. Earth Mama Glowing Goddess Incarnate - and I wasn't. At all.

HOWEVER. It was also extremely interesting, very cool, and your hormones make you zonk out and not worry about it - or, really, much of anything. Pregnancy is very zen. I actually got very mellow for most of it and deeply involved in odd projects like jigsaw puzzles, collages and reading my way through every 1930s British murder mystery - it became much easier for me to zone out and do small repetitive craft-y things. Odd, but there you go. And it bears repeating: it's worth it, it's really worth it. Or at least it was for me.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:31 PM on June 22, 2005

So basically, you're asking if having a fetus is kind of like having Alien growing in you, and if childbirth is going to be as horrifying as that tentacled mouth-thing bursting through John Hurt's chest...

My guess: it isn't, much.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:34 PM on June 22, 2005


Your feelings are your feelings and, therefore, okay. If your feelings are preventing you from doing something you absolutely want to do, then you may want to contact someone who will talk through this with you.

As omhazier pointed out, peripartum depression (also known as perinatal depression) does exist and is more common than people think (different studies suggest that between 10-80% of pregnant women suffer from some degree of pernatal depression). But women ARE programmed to NOT talk about it, express dismay, etc because of guilt ("I should be happy") or fear of social disapproval. Which is really unhealthy. So much so that I have tried to think of a forum where pre-pregnant and pregnant women could safely talk about their anxieties and "squicked-out-ness" without the fear of being judged. I've even known a woman (someone who really wanted to be pregnant and who was actively trying) who expressed panic when confronted with that little plus sign on the pregnancy test. It is a big change for your body, your life, your relationships...everything. For many people, it is an incredibly rewarding change after all is said and done. But don't feel badly if you have any reservations. Lots of people do, even if they don't express them.
posted by jeanmari at 1:49 PM on June 22, 2005

Response by poster: So basically, you're asking if having a fetus is kind of like having Alien growing in you, and if childbirth is going to be as horrifying as that tentacled mouth-thing bursting through John Hurt's chest...

My guess: it isn't, much.
posted by five fresh fish

No, not what I'm asking. And I didn't ask for your "guess."
Helpful answers, please!

Thanks particularly for your honesty, mygothlaundry (great name!). I am liking the answers on this question, although I've heard some of them before (particularly the "baby doesn't move right away so you get used to it before it happens" thing). I, too, wish there was a forum where women could talk about this honestly - I just want to explore all the permutations and feelings about the idea of being pregnant before I ever decide to plunge in - my reservations are showing, and I'm comfortable with that. It's a huge undertaking, and a huge decision!
posted by agregoli at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2005

I was never weirded out by the thought of a tiny person growing inside me. I think part of why is because it was really hard to get my head around it.

Yeah, yeah, I'm gaining weight, I feel tired, I puke at smells I don't like, and I get why... but there's something about it that's incomprehensible. I knew intellectually that I was pregnant and all that I would go through, but it was difficult to grasp that a real, live, tiny person was growing inside of me.

It become more real to me the first time I heard the heartbeat at my doctor's office (both the bigger boom boom of my heart and the little pitter patter of her tiny heart). And then even moreso when I went for an ultrasound and I could see for myself tiny fingers and toes and the curve of her lips... the technology is really amazing.

Emotionally, I found being pregnant a bit of a roller coaster. There were days where it was exciting, and I was happy because there was lots to look forward to, and the attention from other people was nice. And there were days when I didn't want the attention, or it just. plain. HURT, and I felt ill, and I was terrified of what was to come and I was soooo tired.

Being pregnant comes on gradually though. You're several months pregnant before you feel the baby kicking or anything like that. Becoming a parent sort of happens in an instant. That culture shock is much more extreme in my experience.

How do women know they'll be able to handle it? I agree with grumblebee 100% - you just don't know. But as with any other life changing event you just do it, because you have to and/or you want to. Sometimes it's great, and sometimes you're just trying to survive it. But you will survive it. Plan to have lots of resources to support you. Take care of yourself. Call on friends and family to take care of you. Pamper yourself. See a therapist if you need to. Take medication if you need to. But survive.

And truthfully? I found the first 6 months or so of mothering exponentially more difficult than being pregnant. That was the part that made me think I might go crazy. There were some dark days then.

I am deliberately open about this because too many people are hesitant to talk about the parts of it that suck, and thinking you're the only one who feels that way just increases the isolation and the difficultly of dealing with those emotions.

There are some people who get all huffy when I talk about mothering as something other than beautiful and wonderful and terrific. And there are parts of it that ARE beautiful and wonderful and terrific. But becoming a parent (and I think especially a breastfeeding Mom) turns you inside out and redefines you and sucks your energy from you and it's always thankless, sometimes demoralizing, often exhuasting, can be isolating etc etc. It's normal to take a while to adjust to all this, and sometimes it's difficult. Sometimes it's VERY difficult. Women who are feeling like this need to know that they are not alone, and they need people to help them

I would agree that overall the amazing and wonderful parts outweigh the shitty parts and yes I do plan to do it again. But I would never want to discount how miserable parts of parenting can be. How I resented all that demands placed on me. How sometimes I wished I could just be a woman again instead of a Mom. How sometimes I cried and cried because I couldn't make this baby magically happy and I was the Mom, dammit, and isn't the Mom supposed to be the cure all? How sometimes I was incredibly lonely. I wish there was more honesty about this.

In my experience it is worth it. I can't describe the elation I felt when my two year old wrapped her tiny arms around my neck and said "Love you mommy, you're da best!" Or the satisfaction of seeing her doing things I've taught her. Or the pride to see her boldly attacking a task she's never tried before. It's rewarding. Challenging exhausting enthralling amazing hilarious hair-greying. So long as you are ready to drag yourself through some difficult times. So long as you want to do that. Worthy things never come without asking something of you. Feeling like it's asking a lot of you, resenting the demands - these things don't make you a bad mother, or mean that you don't love your kids.
posted by raedyn at 2:21 PM on June 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

There's been a lot of good answers on this thread. I would like to build on the answers discussing the naturalness of childbirth and the fact that every mother on this planet has gone through the process. If you find those thoughts reassuring, I would suggest that you get in touch with a midwife who is more likely than a knife-wielding, worst-case-scenario fearing surgeon (by this, I mean an obstetrician) to focus on, and help you to focus on, the naturalness of pregnancy and childbirth.

My wife (mother of 2) found her midwives very reassuring in many respects, including this one.
posted by hhc5 at 2:36 PM on June 22, 2005

Response by poster: I would indeed probably go the midwife route as I'm terrified of hospitals. So much medicalizing of childbirth, when it's such a natural process.

I would quibble with the language here:

There's been a lot of good answers on this thread. I would like to build on the answers discussing the naturalness of childbirth and the fact that every mother on this planet has gone through the process.

Only because my definition of "mother" also includes adoptive moms and many of them haven't gone through childbirth.

But I hear ya too!
posted by agregoli at 2:43 PM on June 22, 2005

I absolutely hated (my planned and very much wanted)pregnancy. Hated it. In fact, I referred to it as "the infestation." Have a living creature moving inside me did indeed feel weird (especially in the latter stages when you could actually SEE an elbow or foot poking out of your stomach). However strange it felt, though, every little kick and flip was reassuring because it meant the baby was OK--and that's what got me through.

I agree with raedyn though that it's the first six months that are the hardest. There were many, many times when I didn't know how I'd make it through the day. It is, by far, the hardest thing I've ever done.

And just for the record--I am a big fan of the medicalization of pregnancy. It never seemed all that natural to me. It seemed painful and scary and dangerous and being in a hospital hepped up on painkillers was the right way to give birth for me.

Everyone has to choose what's right for them.
posted by jrossi4r at 6:57 PM on June 22, 2005

I'd like to second the comment about midwives, they do seem more positive and open, although I went the inbetween route-a midwife at a hospital. If you are scared of hospital, I recommend you do what we did. WE enrolled in a infant CPR class, while pregnant, that was offered through the local hospital and got to meet some of the maternity staff. They also gave us a tour of the maternity wing. That reassured me, just to see the place and visualize what it was going to be like. I suppose that's a little way down the line though...
posted by slimslowslider at 10:42 PM on June 22, 2005

I am completely grossed out by the idea of growing a person inside of me, then expelling and interacting with it. I love kids but I don't see me ever being okay with being pregnant. Pregnant women sorta spook me too (self link sorry!) . So yeah, I feel ya driver.
posted by mrs.pants at 12:26 PM on June 23, 2005

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