What's going through your mind when you're pregnant?
December 18, 2011 10:16 AM   Subscribe

What's going through your mind when you're pregnant? A character I'm writing about is seven months along for the first time. Not having had the experience myself, I'm wondering if I'm on the right track with how she's feeling. How easy or hard is it for her to picture herself as a mom?

I'm guessing she doesn't yet fully get what other people are talking about when they describe the joys of motherhood, mother-baby bonding and so on, but I really don't know.

As far as imagining the future, is she helped at all by what she reads in books, by observing other people's kids or by looking at baby magazines? Are the things she's being told about how wonderful aspects of motherhood are going to be encouraging, incredible, off-putting? (I'm really interested in how she responds to all these "inputs." Following up on this, I'm curious how a pregnant woman responds to other people's descriptions of and/or images portraying what being a mom will be like.

Many thanks for your help.
posted by brynnwood to Human Relations (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you tell me more about the character, I can help more. There are as many different kinds of pregnant women as there are women who get pregnant. I had a substantial amount of experience with babies beforehand, for example, but never lived with one whereas someone else might have a lot of younger siblings, or have never met a baby before...
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:21 AM on December 18, 2011

For me personally, even while I was pregnant I felt a bond with my daughter. I also felt a connection to other mothers and especially other pregnant women, almost like we were part of a secret club that no one understood.

As for being prepared -- like your character I read every book, article, webforum I could to find something to help me, and even so I still felt so completely overwhelmed.

When it came to the women and people around me, I felt they were helpful, but very stressing. They always had a comment or concern. I also felt a bit jealous. No one seemed to really think of me as a person, everyone wanted to know about the baby.

That's only my expeirence, but I hope it adds to some insight.
posted by Danithegirl at 12:20 PM on December 18, 2011

This may sound odd but I dreamed about being possessed; I guess it was related to not being able to do certain things, eat or drink whatever I wanted to, etc. It is a strange feeling not fitting into certain clothes no matter how you try; it's different than just being too big for the clothes. You just can't squeeze that hard little lump like you might try if it was just that you'd gained weight. I also remember trying to squeeze between two pieces of furniture and couldn't fit. It's just an odd sensation of not having the right body awareness. Most of these feelings were strongest with the first pregnancy. After that I was more adjusted to the changes that were happening.
posted by tamitang at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2011

Not long after I learned I was pregnant I knew that I was a mother. I felt the presence of my child, made decisions and adjusted my life according to his needs, loved him, and was defined by others based in part on his existence. There was no need to try and imagine what life would be like when I would eventually be his parent: I was his parent from the moment of his conception.

Suggestions, observations and advice from other women mostly made me annoyed and uncomfortable. Pregnancy is such a common and varied experience that a lot of what people say about it is a projection of their own feelings, mostly their fears. They wanted to warn me that childbirth was so awful (for me it wasn't), that my body would never be the same (again no), or to attribute stuff I did to my pregnancy, and it was mostly just tiresome to be the target of so much well-meaning negativity.

I feel like the thing that gets overlooked so frequently in our cultural depictions of pregnancy is that a pregnant person is still herself, an individual with her own life, doing and thinking about things other than being pregnant most of the time. If you could address that in your story, like mention the pregnancy when it's relevant but not make it the entire focus of your character's existence, that would mean a lot to me as a formerly pregnant person.
posted by milk white peacock at 2:58 PM on December 18, 2011 [5 favorites]

I was helped very much by reading pregnancy books in the first two trimesters because I was always curious how the baby was developing each week. In the third trimester, the baby is mostly just getting bigger, so I didn't feel such a need to know what the baby was doing.

I was put off by a lot of baby websites and magazines, because they seemed so product-heavy. We planned on breastfeeding, co-sleeping, cloth-diapering and babywearing, so we didn't need a lot of the stuff being marketed to new parents and it annoyed me that they thought we needed so much stuff.

There's a strong undercurrent of "just you wait!" to a lot of people's descriptions of motherhood. As in, if we mentioned we wanted to cloth diaper our baby, we'd get a "Oh, I thought so too until I had my baby." I felt like we were constantly trying to defend our semi-anti-mainstream choices that weren't even that weird. It made me kind of sad pre-baby, and then vindicated post-baby when things ended up working out more or less how we imagined.

I agree with tamitang about lacking bodily awareness. I often knocked things over with my belly because I thought I was smaller than I actually was. It was weird not being able to squeeze between people on public transit to get a seat or even a better standing spot.

Also, I agree with Danithegirl about you being invisible. You're often seen as merely the vessel for the baby and you end up getting ignored. I had a lot of people (friends! family!) come over to visit, not say hi, and just start talking to my belly. Which was cute, I guess, but it always made me feel weird, as if someone ran up to you and started talking to your elbow. You're still a person when you're pregnant, first and foremost.
posted by meggan at 3:08 PM on December 18, 2011

First-time mom at 7 months: Thinks she's going to do everything right (whatever that means to her at the time). Really cranky about strangers wanting to make even the most innocent comment. Reads pregnancy books and websites and parenting magazines voraciously. Thinks an attractive nursery is necessary. If she's like I was, anyway.
posted by lakeroon at 3:16 PM on December 18, 2011

A friend told me that one of the most irritating things about being pregnant was that people would come up and touch her stomach without asking; she felt that normally if someone came up and rubbed her stomach it would easily be construed as way inappropriate, and she didn't see that it should be different when pregnant. I hadn't thought about it before, but I think I would be similarly irritated.
posted by Nattie at 3:43 PM on December 18, 2011

First time mom at 34 weeks now, so I guess that makes me about 7.5 months pregnant? (Every day I know the week/day I'm pregnant, but don't necessarily know what that means in months since pregnancy math is odd.)

Ok - you asked - here goes!

I agree with everything meggan said. Especially the "just you wait" attitude of parents. It makes me a bit concerned about what I've gotten myself into.

Personally, I'm a laid back and a worrywart, so that colors everything about my own pregnancy experience. (Laid back in that I'm almost unflappable; hard to fluster, most things don't annoy or anger me. I think of myself as operating on an extremely low emotional level - before pregnancy I very rarely felt any emotions (other than love and fear) strongly. I'm a worrier in that if I have long enough, I can generally work myself up to worry about almost every angle of a particular situation.) Pregnancy is the most serious thing I have ever done and I am very worried about life from here on out. A lot of conflicting emotions and experiences.

I've been surprised at how little my pregnancy experience has been like I was told it would be or saw depicted in the movies (i.e. very little nausea and it didn't start right away, and I haven't been overly hormonal, no pregnancy dreams, but then I have had all these less common pregnancy symptoms like pregnancy rhinitis (perpetually stuff nose - who knew?), pregnancy dysgeusia (terrible taste in my mouth for about 3 months), lots of food aversions during that time, low blood pressure (I had to go to the ER for it in the first trimester).

I have voraciously read anything I can get my hands on about what is going on with the baby each week. I'm fascinated; I can't get enough. Every week when the baby advances to the next week I update my whole family on what has supposedly happened with the baby that week and what is coming. I agree that now that the baby is much more obviously present, I don't feel the need to read as much.

Emotionally, I am extremely excited and hopeful and anxious (increasingly about labor and delivery; the baby's health (this has been constant throughout the pregnancy); and how our lives are going to change when we are parents (also constant throughout the pregnancy). I don't feel like a mother at all yet (and I sort of expected to have strong maternal feelings during pregnancy) although there have been a few scares and I have reacted viscerally each time - clearly on some level I do have maternal feelings toward this baby, but they are on a pretty deep level at this point and I do worry a bit that I won't ever develop strong maternal feelings for this baby (who I really want!). I have been very anxious about the baby's health. As we get closer to birth, I am somewhat less anxious about that (some big hurdles have been passed along the way) but getting more nervous about labor and delivery (something I hardly thought about at all in the early months). I'm nervous about my body not being my own for months/years (i.e. I want to breast feed, but if that works out the baby is going to be all wants and needs that only I can fulfill; ditto for my husband who will presumably want/need my body as well). I'm also nervous about my husband; I want to make sure his needs are being met (i.e. he sent me an article about how men want/need their wife to be their wife and not be transformed into only the role of the mother of their child). At the same time, I don't think I've ever felt as joyful as I have throughout the pregnancy; I'm just worried this joy will be short-lived.

People have become increasingly solicitous of me (strangers and family/friends) and it pleasantly surprises me each time because I still always think of myself as pregnant. (Which probably explains the fact that I bump into doors and counters more than I would like.) I feel utterly cherished by my husband (and close family) - more than ever before, and he is a loving guy -which is a beautiful and special feeling. Even though when I'm out and about I can almost forget I'm pregnant, when I'm at work or at home it's almost all I think about. It's getting increasingly hard to really focus on work because I'm going through my pregnancy to-do list or just thinking about the baby (good) or life after baby (usually anxious). I've been spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to maintain a happy, healthy home after the baby (my friends whose lives now entirely revolve around their babies worry me).

I worry that we made a decision to have a baby and it will ruin our lives. (If it aint broke....)

I almost don't dare really give in to baby daydreams because I'm so worried about the baby's health and about how parenting will change our lives, although the closer I get to birth the more I am daydreaming. I would like to just give myself wholeheartedly to daydreaming about the baby - that sounds enjoyable.

I've been mainly cheerful, except that recently my body has just recently become cumbersome (last two weeks) and I had some intense hip pain (fingers crossed it is almost gone!) that made it extremely uncomfortable to move around; I was walking very slowly (waddling really) and it bothered me much more than I would have thought. I have things to accomplish, and I couldn't really. And I felt like a quasi-invalid at work and around my friends - we all had to walk slowly because that was all I could manage. At that point, I was quite unhappy about how my body is not my own and is in the midst of a process over which I have little control. I expected to love being pregnant, and I have loved lots of parts of it, but have been a bit disgruntled about other parts (i.e. my body not being my own, the food aversions, the indignity of childbirth (no privacy!) and the immediate aftermath).

I've had two or three incidents where I started crying at something ridiculous (something on NPR's storycorps, for example) and simultaneously laughing out loud at the absurdity of it. In those moments I really felt possessed by my hormones more than I've ever felt before and I haven't liked that.

The baby moves a lot these days. Generally it's when I feel the baby kick that I have the strongest maternal feelings. I feel affectionate toward it in those moments.

I'm six weeks from my due date. At this point I'm still really hoping the baby stays in, although I hear eventually I'll likely get so uncomfortable I'll really want the baby out. I've been very concerned about premature birth from around week 20 on, and that is only just now starting to subside a bit. I would still like the baby to gestate until at least 38 weeks.
posted by n'muakolo at 4:38 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm in my first pregnancy at 35 weeks--as others have noted, pregnancy math is weird (40 weeks vs. 9 months--you do the math!), and I would guess most of us think of ourselves in terms of what week we're in, not what month.

I agree absolutely about not knowing the size and shape of my own body any more and bumping into things as a result, and absolutely about the whole being seen as merely a vehicle for the baby and not still a human being with her own vocation and preoccupations, not all of which are baby-related. (For example, I'm a librarian. These days at the reference desk, I'll be talking to a patron and helping them find something or do something on the computer, and I'll be totally focused on my role in that situation, using my brain to do one of the things it does best, and suddenly they'll switch from "and how do I make the font bigger?" or "do you have any other books on X?" to "When is your due date?" It totally catches me off guard, and they usually have to repeat the question a couple of times until it dawns on me that they're commenting on the fact that I'm pregnant. It's sort of sweet but mostly it's annoying--it's so RARE anymore that I am not super-conscious of the pregnancy that when I am able to get away from it it's jarring to be reminded about it all of a sudden. It's a little like being in the middle of a professional conversation and having someone then comment on the size of your breasts out of the blue.)

About a month ago I started having dreams where I actually had the baby--mostly worried dreams, about how, for instance, I didn't have a place for him to sleep yet.

A lot of pregnancy books/websites/magazines drive me crazy because I'm a single mother, and in the world of pregnancy literature, we are nearly nonexistent. Everyone in pregnancy books seems to be an upper-middle-class white heterosexual couple, probably married, and obsessed with gathering baby stuff. I'm white and reasonably well-off, but reading or looking at a lot of the stuff out there makes me feel alienated and like I'm in high school all over again. I put my mother in charge of acquiring all baby-related stuff, because not only could I not figure out what I needed, I couldn't--and can't--get myself interested in it. It all seems sort of beside the point of growing and having the baby, which is all I concentrate on.

But I do think about the baby himself a lot, especially when he's moving, as he does with great frequency. I often think about what it will be like to give birth, and what it will be like to see him for the first time. Sometimes I think further down the line about things I'll do with him when he's older. Sometimes I burst into tears thinking about it all and sometimes I burst into tears for no reason at all. I worry a lot.

I don't really know what your character's situation is, or if it's anything like mine, but if the above is of any help, here's something I wrote a few weeks back about what pregnancy has been like for me.
posted by newrambler at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm pregnant with my first baby, almost getting to 7 months. Right now and for about a month now, I've been getting all the "nesting" hormones, big time. We've painted the baby's room and bought all the necessary things. Lots of plans for more things to do in the following weeks to make the baby's room just right. Right around now, the baby's at the point where it's big enough to make some pretty strong movements, but not big enough to be so constrained so as not to be able to move freely, so I've been feeling some pretty impressive kicks and turns in there.

I haven't personally been feeling all motherly and bonding-with-my-child and such things, but I guess that's just my personality, not representative of anyone else during pregnancy or during this time period. I feel stupid talking to my baby, so I don't. We do have a name for the baby, though, and refer to him as that name more and more, and less as "the baby".

I'm ok with people talking about other pregnancies, or about being a parent or giving suggestions. Since the baby's not here yet, I know I can say thanks for the advice and then just do whatever I want later. Just please don't talk about pregnancy horror stories like miscarriages at 8 months and such things around me.

I'm starting to worry about how I'll feel in the following weeks, as I feel like my belly grows every day, and I can't imagine carrying much more weight around, even though I know I still have more than two months to go.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:52 PM on December 18, 2011

At seven months, I wasn't thinking about being a mother. Throughout this whole thing, it annoys me when people refer to me as a mom. I'm not yet. Taking care of a fetus is much easier than taking care of a child.

I'm due in 8 days and it's only in the last month or so that I've started spending serious time thinking about parenting. So much of what happens will depend on the kid's needs and personality that I don't see the point in trying to imagine or worry too much just yet.

As far as where I'm getting my ideas about parenting: The magazines irritate me and I no longer pick them up. They seem written for extremely stupid people. I haven't had any interest in parenting books as they seem too one-sided and dogmatic. As far as media images of mothers, I don't yet identify with them so they don't speak to me.

We (because my husband is just as involved in this becoming-a-parent thing) pay attention to our friends that parent in ways we think we might like to, both to know who to ask for advice, and to have mental pictures of happy families. When we think about what kind of parents we'll be, our biggest influence is our parents. We have lists of what did and didn't work and what we want to try to do and try to avoid with our kid.

I don't grok the motherhood / bonding thing. That doesn't bother me, though, as I figure it'll make sense soon enough. I like hearing people talk about what a deep bond they have with their kids, and we're looking forward to that experience. It's something to help keep me in a positive mindset through some of the less pleasant bits of being pregnant. I'm looking forward to sharing those bonds with my husband. When the kid wiggles, I get little hints of what that bond might feel like but I know that I don't really know it yet.

As far as the advice people give, it's very rarely off-putting. Very few people have been dogmatic about their choices, to the point it's amusing when it happens. Even the "scary stories" aren't scary to me, because I'd rather know what can happen and that it can have good endings or have a heads-up that I might need to take steps now to prevent something. I recognize that most people are telling me what they know out of love and concern, and that makes it easier to take. Very rarely have strangers felt the urge to tell me what to do, and I consider that very rude. Depending on my mood, I can be very rude back.

The one thing that does annoy me, advice wise, is when someone shakes their head mournfully and says "You have no idea how much your life is going to change." I know that, and that was the whole point for doing this. We're quite looking forward to seeing how things change.
posted by arabelladragon at 4:59 AM on December 19, 2011

I asked this question when I was seven months, so that was on my mind! I didn't read any books or message boards really, I was comfortable with my level of knowledge of the baby's and my needs.

So much of it is dependent on circumstance though - I lived alone in a tiny cottage in which the baby couldn't have her own room, and I was given pretty much everything she needed by friends so there was no 'nesting'. About three days after I asked that question I started having to go to the hospital for daily foetal heart monitoring, so in the evenings it was all I could do to feed myself before I went to bed. I was quite resentful of this, not towards my baby but towards my OB - my baby was so active I would know straight away if anything was wrong! But still I dutifully schlepped myself there every day, after work, and so I was exhausted in the evenings. Living alone I also talked to the baby a lot - don't know if I would've so much if there was someone else there. All of this would be different if the circumstances were different.

I find meggan's answer interesting, about the non-standard choices and receiving criticism for them. All that she outlines are totally normal where I am, so much also depends on the milieu. For ex I've never heard of 'babywearing' as a thing outside MeFi, yet three quarters of the babies I see in the high street are in slings, and I didn't think twice about using one (my daughter still doesn't have a pram at eight months). And breastfeeding is definitely the norm here - the maternity ward I was in is militantly breast only, so much so I felt sorry for women who couldn't or didn't want to. So what is an active choice and what is the default depends so much on the environment in which your character resides.
posted by goo at 4:45 PM on December 23, 2011

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