Advice/help coping with pregnancy ambivalence
March 15, 2016 5:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for advice/resources/reading materials/words of wisdom/comfort for dealing with the many negative feelings I'm experiencing towards this pregnancy.

The pregnancy was consciously chosen, not an accident. But it was very much an intellectual decision- I/we decided that offspring was something I/we definitely wanted in the long term, that the timing was appropriate for having one, and that therefore I would go off birth control.

Emotionally... well.

It feels like so many of the resources online are aimed at or written to an audience that really wanted a baby.

So. I don't. I want a kid with my husband, and a pregnancy and a baby are the things I need to get through to have the kid eventually, a few years down the road.

I do not feel excitement, I feel dread, and reading perky websites telling me excitedly about how happy I am (should be) makes me want to throw up.

Here are the issues:

1. I have a visceral body horror about the whole process of pregnancy. If I could, I'd grow the baby in a pod. I know the more graphic horrors don't all definitely occur to everyone (even if some are universal), but at the end of the day I'm still in a kind of shocked disbelief that people consider this process normal (or miraculous) instead of horrific and barbaric.

2. I'm feeling tremendously resentful about how much of the process is something I have to carry. My husband is amazingly supportive, and yet I still feel angry that it's all on me- the huge physical transitions, the hormones, the pain, the recovery, and the greater than lion's share of the very early responsibility (I'm sure it will equalize later down the road)

3. I don't think it helps that I still haven't sorted out my feeling of resentment about this being this constantly enforced societal expectation. Yes, yes, I chose to have the baby, but on some level it never really felt like a choice, because it would be so scandalous and shocking if I didn't, and conversely, it's just such a given that I will.

4. My support system situation is... not great. My husband, when around, is amazing, definitely a full co-parent. But certain circumstances mean it is very possible that either in late pregnancy or after the birth (or, hell, possibly during the actual labor) he may, for reasons very much out of his control, not be around/available. At all. For between a month to half a year. This... was not a known thing when we made the decision about timing. We won't know one way or the other whether it's happening till much later, so it's sort of just hanging over our heads.

My parents are on another continent (I'm sure my mom will fly in, though), and I don't have close friends in the city I live in.

5. I'm seriously concerned about the possibility of pre- and post- partum depression. I feel tremendously emotionally vulnerable just thinking about the birth, even now.

6. I don't know how I'm going to handle the process of recovering after pregnancy and, in particular (mostly for reasons described in point 4) I'm really concerned about being lonely, confined in the house with a baby all day. I have a very flexible work situation that allows working at home, and since childcare is very expensive for infants that may end up being the choice I take, but I'm concerned, because I have a confirmed track record of becoming depressed when lonely, and the reason I don't work from home now is I absolutely need the social framework work provides.

7. I am not a baby person. As mentioned above, I like kids. I'm really concerned about bonding emotionally with the kid. I'm scared of feeling jealous when my husband (inevitably) falls madly in love with the baby. I'm scared of feeling really furious/resentful/worse when the baby is constantly crying or keeping me awake. I'm scared of the sleep deprivation and of it making me into a nasty person. (I really, really wish I could just skip ahead to, like, a few years down the road...) We have a strong, happy marriage, otherwise I wouldn't have even considered pregnancy, but at the same time, I'm terrified of the ways a child could potentially damage our relationship that I haven't anticipated (I've tried to prepare whenever possible for what I could anticipate...)

8. I don't handle major transitions so well. I had a lot of difficulty with my engagement, as well, but I managed to find resources that affirmed my ambivalence and right to mourn my unattached self (and now, of course, I'm very happy I wen through with it). I'm really craving similar things for birth, things focused more on helping me through my emotional process, rather than just "here's what you should eat, buaahaha be prepared for no sleep, gosh golly aren't you just so excited!!!111!!!1111".

what i'm interested in hearing:
from people who struggled with any similar issues to mine / any negative feelings regarding pregnancy in general-- any resources that helped or advice you can share, or anything soothing/comforting you think might help. Recovering from PPD. Anything that will help me accept my own negative emotions. Guidance for going through the mourning process for my pre-child self. Books that will resonate with someone in my position. A step-by-step plan for taking care of yourself emotionally before and after the birth, including how to manage babycare and not going insane simultaneously. etc.

what I'm not really interested in hearing:
any comfort which boils down to: I was happy/had an easy time, and therefore you'll be fine. Please no. It will just make me cry.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
You need to find a therapist now, and one who won't try to fix you but will just give you an outlet to vent your rage, which is VERY not socially acceptable and the social expectations around pregnancy are THE WORST if you aren't enjoying the process. (I had a nurse scold me for not being "happy enough" about being pregnant when I was vomiting 30 times a day and just wanted to die FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUU.) This will also be a person who can help keep an eye on you for PPD. It will help a lot to have someone unequivocally on your side, backstopping you on the possibility of depression, and letting you safely vent all those socially-unacceptable feelings.

My pregnancies are miserable, so the process FILLS me with rage and resentment that I have to go through this, and I mostly sit hating every moment of it. And some people get this, or at least allow you space for it; other people just insist how joyful it really is or whatever and can't accept (and even find threatening!) that you think the whole process sucks. Like, I can have done this on purpose and still hate every fucking moment of it.

I think a moms group, often findable through your hospital, might be helpful to you in terms of social connection and support. Maybe not a FIRST time moms club since those tend to involve a lot of self-congratulation about the miracle of life; one with a mix of n00bs and old hands who are a bit more relaxed might be more your thing. I would also do some research now on baby nurses and nannies and post-partum doulas, just so you have some contingency plans in case your husband is away; having at least some half-formed Plans B helps me relax a little.

Human reproduction IS wretchedly mammalian, shockingly so, and I was not really prepared to suddenly be an animal like that, and repetition of the process did not improve that part of it. It's just kinda gross no matter what, and unfortunately the only way out is through. I did find it made me more relaxed about human body grossness in general, which I guess is a benefit, but not one that made the whole process "worth" it, or made me feel any better about doing it again. (Which I did do again. But it remained gross.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:03 AM on March 15, 2016 [27 favorites]

I never wanted kids. Never. Ever. No thank you. I liked them well enough, and adored my nieces and nephews. Just never saw myself as someone's mom.

I found myself unexpectedly and very much WHATTHEHELL pregnant about two years into my marriage. We talked about it, a lot. I was so, so ambivalent about the whole thing. He was, surprisingly, very excited about the prospect. For Reasons, I decided to continue the pregnancy.

I HATED being pregnant. I was sick. So, so sick. And clinically depressed. I would wake up crying. Not, like, wake up and then start crying. I would be sobbing in my sleep and that would wake me up. It was terrible. I started therapy and that helped tremendously, just not being judged and listened to. My husband was very supportive, too.

And then our son was born. I can't say I immediately felt this everlasting, wonderful love for him, but the second I held him, I knew I would kill anyone who tried to hurt him. The first six weeks were really difficult but then things got a little easier, and then a little easier still...and then he smiled. Oh my god. I think ALL of my mothering switches were turned on at that instant. And he turned into a super cute toddler and holy crap, I wanted another one. Life wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, mind you. I struggled with depression and anxiety and got help for that, and our son struggled with various developmental, social, and depressive stuff, too, and we got help for that. Mostly, though, I know we made the right decision.

I went from never ever wanting kids to ultimately having two (and also having two miscarriages), and I cannot literally imagine my life without them. They're 18 and almost 16 now and they're SO COOL. I love being a part of their lives.

But my advice to you is to get yourself a therapist. If the first one seems judgey, get another one. Keep looking til you find someone who won't judge, who will listen impartially, and who will help you work through your feelings. I think therapy saved our lives when I was pregnant. I really do.
posted by cooker girl at 6:07 AM on March 15, 2016 [14 favorites]

I have not been pregnant but I have read Barbara Almond's book The Monster Within, which is about maternal ambivalence.

What you're feeling is normal but not socially accepted. The cult/mythology of motherhood is strong. Expectations for maternal 'perfection' continue to grow harder to meet, while the bar is continuously raised.

Almond strongly suggests therapy and I think it would be a good idea for you, with the caveat that you need to pick the right therapist, so don't give up if the first one or two (or 4!) practitioners you see aren't the right fit. And feel free to offer to email them what you wrote here, and see how they respond.

My advice for seeking therapy is to decide what success looks like, and how you will measure it. Ideally your therapist helps in that process. But I'm wary of any therapist who can't help me visualize the place I'm trying to get my brain and my behavior to be. (And SMART goals often loved by management are really helpful too)
posted by bilabial at 6:13 AM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Yeah pregnancy is super gross and totally unfair along gender lines. The vile elements are then compounded by being buried in pastel pink packaging that does not at all engage with that reality. There is a lot of silencing taboo at work here.

You need to talk to a therapist or your doctor about these feelings now. While not uncommon, you are at risk and need help. Nothing is 'wrong' with you, but considering the limitations of your support network, you do need to put this on a professional's radar.
posted by French Fry at 6:35 AM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

This might not be encouraging? But pregnancy and my kids' baby/ toddler years were hellish nightmares that I just suffered through. I was miserably depressed and lonely. It got better when they were older. Now it's okay! Yay?

My babies and pregnancies were notably terrible; hopefully yours will not be as challenging so you get a little more space to yourself.

Things I would do differently if through some hellish time warp I had to do it again:

I wouldn't have worried about doing everything right; I would let the baby have the pacifier as much as he wanted, let them rock in a swing 24/7 if it made them happy, just hold them when they cried and I was falling-down tired instead of making it my life's goal to make them happy.

I would've gotten child care. Being broke, the dad and I alternated work schedules to avoid paying for child care; it made us miserable. I generally feel that babies are best off spending 90% of their time with their families, but I was not best off spending that much time with my baby, and I sacrificed too much.

I would've worked harder to get to know other parents from the beginning. I tried, but was kicked out of a hospital run parenting "support" group because my baby never stopped crying and they found it annoying, and that was so demoralizing that I gave up. It was better when I moved and found new friends. It was hard work but so worth it.
posted by metasarah at 6:40 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

nthing therapy. Absolutely. You need somebody you feel safe talking to about these not-societally-sanctioned feelings. It would be ideal if you could find a friend or group of friends who were going through something similar, but there's no "dreading being a mom's group" and you posted this anonymously, so it doesn't seem like you're about to go public with your feelings about pregnancy. Maybe you could find some online resources, some sort of online support group? I wish I could be more specific, but like you, the only resources I know about are the "OMG yay I'm pregnant!" ones like BabyCenter.

Tell your OB early that while you want the baby, you're having negative feelings and anxiety about the pregnancy. (If you don't think your OB is open to hearing this, it would be best if you could find a more supportive OB.) I also tend to withdraw, and had major depressive episodes with both pregnancies where I kept thinking how everything would be so much better if I would just get hit by a bus. So if you can let your OB know to check on you, that could help.

Also, I wonder if you're at all into any kind of mindfulness practice, yoga, meditation, etc., or if you'd be open to trying this. Because I think it would help if you weren't worried about everything at the same time. Like "will I bond with the baby" and "how will I feel"... you can't predict that, or do anything to change it, so maybe you could practice letting it go. It's possible you won't bond with the baby, it's possible you totally will, but it's easy to get fixated on the worst possibilities and get upset over them.

As for caring for yourself emotionally before and after the birth: Ask for and accept help. Practice a few "yay, can't wait for the baby" phrases that you can automatically say back to people who expect you to have feelings that you don't. Remember that all of this will pass.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:41 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I found that having a midwife instead of an OBGYN helped address the emotional aspects of the pregnancy that I was going through. The OBGYN in my experience was all about "OK, let's get you on track" for the assembly line, where the midwife would sit and talk to me and ask how I was and offer tea in her comfy furnished office. This helped me retain my own self.

Change is hard and frustrating and a lifetime of putting yourself first makes days where the kid needs to come first really a struggle, mentally. And the body changes - even in my mostly-easy pregnancy - are definitely visceral and mentally unexpected.

(FWIW, I had a HUGE identity crisis when I got engaged, such that I was bawling out in the hall during a New Years Eve celebration. I can understand that!)
posted by jillithd at 6:42 AM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I had two miserable pregnancies so I can totally feel you on not being super excited.

Not only is post- partum depression a thing, but depression during pregnancy is thing. I would talk to a doctor. I took SSRI's throughout both of my pregnancies. (although in my case I just continued to take the drug I was already on)

Hopefully you aren't taking everyone's suggestion to see a doctor or therapist as saying you should medicate your feelings away. You are allowed to have your feelings, but the extra hormones that go along with pregnancy tend to make everything feel a little worse.

One thing that I can definitely say is that you shouldn't view your maternity leave as being stuck home alone with the baby. If you're up to it, go out. I went shopping a lot, to the bookstore, coffee store, museums, music in the park etc. Babies are highly portable at that size and usually happy to go along with whatever you want to do.
posted by MadMadam at 6:43 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Based on the folks I know, these feelings are not at all strange, but they're not given enough air in our society, so they're hard to even articulate. A lot of the process is totally outside the experiences you've had so far in your life, and society gives almost no outlets for allowing someone to say "you know, I'm not convinced that this is going to be worth it." People who get really into the magic of it all feel a little "protests too much" to me. I regularly tell people that you don't have to enjoy every step of the process to be a good parent, because people never friggin' HEAR that beyond "lol no sleep". Your linking of these feelings to getting married is astute; I felt exactly the same way about societal expectations when I was getting married.

I found the book Mother Nature pretty helpful in stripping away the unhelpful bits of expectation. A therapist right now would be a great thing; I really regret not seeking one out during that phase of my life. I found generalized mom's groups super unhelpful, but my local La Leche League group worked well for me (partly because the conversation had a particular topic we could come back to, partly because people often came to that group because they were having a problem, so that some of the negative parts of parenthood were more visible.)

Long distance friends are not quite as helpful as ones who can hold the baby while you cry in the shower for a few minutes, but anyone who can listen, whose opinion you can trust, and who is ballsy enough to say "that's a normal feeling, and it totally sucks" or "no, actually, I think you need to talk to someone because I'm worried about you" would be great. (And FYI if you live anywhere near me, I am happy to come over and hold the baby while you cry in the shower.)

> I'm really concerned about bonding emotionally with the kid.

Speaking as someone who literally got through the first year by regularly pretending that she was a childcare robot (outing myself as the friend who wrote that), I will say that there is no timeframe in which this needs to happen, and no timeframe in which you need to be 100% bonded all the time. It's okay to slide a rung or two down Maslow's Hierarchy for a little while.
posted by tchemgrrl at 7:08 AM on March 15, 2016 [6 favorites]

I haaaaaaated being pregnant. It sucked, I never want to do it again. Maternity leave kind of sucked, too, from the sleep deprivation, the isolation, the boredom, and loneliness. Also, no one told me that breastfeeding might be really hard. It look about six weeks for everything to fall into place. It helped a lot to hear from other people that I wasn't a weirdo for feeling that way. I really liked this mom blog for her honesty and the way she somehow puts into words what a lot of moms feel but have trouble expressing.

If you are able to swing childcare and want to go back to work, I highly recommend doing that. Our kid went into full time daycare at 10 weeks and I was so happy to get back to work. He's a smart, fun, awesome kid now and being in daycare gave him other kids to interact with and learn from, and other adults to love him and teach him things I never would have thought of. It very much was not letting someone else raise our kid, he is a product of my husband and I to like a ridiculous degree.

I was very scared of post-partum depression, too, but every doctor appointment I had after the birth checked on how I was doing mentally and my family would check in with very obvious "how are you doing" questions. I felt like people were looking out for me and on the alert for any signs of depression. In retrospect, I wasn't completely honest about how hard a time I was having, and the sleep deprivation made me not at all myself, but there was also a surge of adrenaline and hormones that kept me going. I should have asked for help, though. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

If we were to do it again (ha ha, no), three things I would do: 1) Let go of all the worries and trying to do everything "right," (like other people said above) and 2) hire a night nurse/nanny for a couple of nights here and there, just to take the edge off and get one freaking night of sleep once in a while, and 3) therapy.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 7:12 AM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I wasn't horrified about pregnancy until I actually got pregnant. I was surprised by how much it felt like being invaded by a parasite. I was horrified the first time I looked in the mirror and saw the newly-prominent blue veins at my temples. The first time I felt the baby move inside me, it was honestly kind of creepy. And I was scared about all the new responsibility and the loss of freedom. Of course I was, and of course you are! I very much wanted to get pregnant and had to go through IVF to accomplish it and I still found myself hating being pregnant (while at the same time feeling incredibly lucky finally to be pregnant.) Lots of people hate being pregnant. When my sister-in-law was pregnant, she had a book called Pregnancy Sucks.

I wasn't particularly looking forward to the baby part, either. I was never a baby person. I thought all the pee and poop and spit-up and drool sounded pretty gross. So I was surprised when it turned out that I loved the baby stage! I had always thought it was odd that human babies were so much less cute than puppies or kittens. But it turned out that my baby was the cutest thing I had ever seen in my life, much cuter than any puppy or kitten. The smell of her head! The weight of her floppy little body against my chest! Her smile! And all that gross stuff? It turned out not to feel gross at all. It was nothing, I didn't even care about it.

There were some very difficult, horrible things about having a new baby, absolutely. But the baby herself was wonderful. I had imagined feeling a lot of resentment toward her when she woke me up in the middle of the night or she started crying and wouldn't stop. But I never did. (And she didn't ever just cry inconsolably for no reason, as I had imagined she would. I know there are babies that do, but mine didn't, thank god.)

I don't know if I have any great advice, other than just to let yourself feel what you feel, recognizing that your feelings are all completely reasonable, given the situation. And maybe try to feel some hope that parts of the whole thing will turn out to be better than expected. If you don't feel any happiness at all mixed in with the unhappiness, maybe the therapy suggestion isn't a bad one.

And I'll just mention that I ended up with two kids, who are now 13 and 10, and I'm really, really glad to have them. (Everyone says that, of course, but in my case I really mean it.) They definitely make my life better and more fun.
posted by Redstart at 7:14 AM on March 15, 2016 [5 favorites]

Just to second MadMadam, you don't have to be confined at home with baby- with my son I go on really long walks, to get coffee, to the library, to the cinema's baby screenings, to the museum, on the bus, shopping etc etc. He really enjoys being out and he sleeps better. It doesn't really matter what you do with a small baby so it doesn't need to be baby focused stuff.

Also, it doesn't work this way for everyone, but I have close to zero interest in anyone elses baby, I didn't go and coo when people bought their babies into the office. It was a completely different experience with my son just because you get to watch him experience brand new stuff all the time.

Finally, there's nothing wrong with doing whatever you need to do to get through the day. I BAWLED the first time I gave my son a dummy. One of the best decisions I ever fucking made and looking back I'm baffled at what a big deal I thought it was.
posted by threetwentytwo at 7:40 AM on March 15, 2016

Yeah. nthing therapy, but really do shop around. We did therapy when my wife got pregnant, (I'm the more ambivalent parent, so even though it was couples therapy, it was more directed at my shit) and our therapist was pretty terrible. Shop around; try to find someone that specializes in postpartum stuff, because alot of it will transfer to prepartum stuff, but wont' be highly advertised.

I was kid's primary caretaker during the first year, mostly because during that year, I was woefully under and unemployed. Our kid was really difficult for a whole host of reasons so when I ended up getting a job working for a dumb little foodie store, we ended up putting kid in daycare like three days a week or something, and it cost so much that I effectively made like $1.50 an hour. It was the best decision ever. I don't really do kids well, but I really don't do babies well.

Working, even that crap job was the best safety line I had. It was worth making almost no money to rig that up. Since you don't have access to an awesome support system (neither did we) it could really be worth taking the financial hit, especially in those 6 months your husband might not be available. Take your full maternity leave if you can, and then after that hire the help you can (daycare, babysitters, whatever). If it's one day a week, its one day a week, if you need 5 days a week in the office to feel sane, and you can afford it; do it. Don't apologize to anyone and don't be afraid to make zero money, or put significant savings on hold for a couple years.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:41 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

NThing speaking to a therapist. But also don't be afraid to speak to your OB. As an OB resident I can't tell you number of times I have heard this from people (even couples who have struggled with infertility like Redstart above). We won't be shocked, it's a very normal feeling. And if your provider (midwife, ob, therapist, doula, acupuncturist, whathaveyou) rejects this or blows it off, then you know to shop around and find someone more realistic and compassionate.
posted by eglenner at 8:20 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

Therapy. Absolutely.

Comfort. Clearly you're not alone. Nearly everyone I know who has been pregnant did not enjoy the process. At. All.

Practical. Look into getting a Doula for your birth plan and for after giving birth. A Doula is an experienced woman (or I suppose dude, but mostly women) who can be with you during the birth and help you with the baby afterwards. The Doula will teach you how to nurse (if that's what you choose) and to bathe and will guide you through the mother stuff in the last weeks of pregnancy and the first weeks of motherhood. If you can afford it, get a baby nurse so that you can be well rested and not feel so imposed upon.

Call all your relatives and tell them what you need. Not so much now, but in the first weeks of motherhood. Hire a cleaner, send the laundry out to fluff and fold, organize folks to bring you food. Find out who delivers meals and groceries. Do as little as possible!

The good news is that you can put the baby in infant day care if you decide that it's right for you and your family. Some people may judge you, but fuck them, you like what you like and you are who you are. Note: My mother liked being home with my sister and I when we were wee, but was MOST unhappy once we started school. So she went back to work. Caught shit on the regular about it because it was in the dark ages and everyone's mom stayed home. She was a MUCH happier person for having done it her way.

So do pregnancy your way, birth your way and motherhood your way. It's what women in my and my Mom's generation fought for.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:31 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't handle major transitions so well. I had a lot of difficulty with my engagement, as well, but I managed to find resources that affirmed my ambivalence and right to mourn my unattached self (and now, of course, I'm very happy I wen through with it). I'm really craving similar things for birth, things focused more on helping me through my emotional process, rather than just "here's what you should eat, buaahaha be prepared for no sleep, gosh golly aren't you just so excited!!!111!!!1111".

I'm very happy about being pregnant and this still REALLY resonated with me; it's a huge change and that's terrifying and upsetting. One of the things that's really helping me is making the conscious choice to spend as much quality time with my husband now as a way of acknowledging that it'll be different later and that I'm losing something (the life we have together as it is now), even if I'm making the choice to make a big change and am ultimately glad about it.

I find taking things in steps also really helps me, and that can be something as silly as looking at the expiration dates on food items I buy and being like "by the time these marshmallows expire, I will have a baby" or, relatedly, "these Rice Krispies will expire halfway between now and when I have a baby". It's really helping me break up this huge, scary experience into more manageable chunks and incorporate the idea of "baby" into my day to day thinking which helps me move from denial to acceptance.

Also, you are not alone! There are SO MANY people who feel the same. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you for feeling this way and that it's really normal even if you aren't encouraged to talk about it. If there's anything I can do, please let me know.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:38 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wish I could give you a huge hug right now.

I have a two year old and a 5 day old. I had, and have, exactly the same feelings about pregnancy and babies. The process is shit, the expectations are shit, the societal pressure is shit. I resented my husband for not having to go through any of the physical, outrageous changes that happened to my body, both during pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding afterwards.

I was a miserable person when my daughter was a baby and I love it now that she's a kid. So much that we went for number two as quickly as possible to, I kid you not, get the fucking pregnancy and newborn phase out of the way ASAP.

This might be unpopular advice, but what has made a night and day difference for me this time around is... choosing not to breast feed. Nursing my son was a challenge from the start, as it was with my daughter, and instead of persevering for months in misery I just quit. Never has such a weight been lifted from my shoulders before. The fact that I will have my body and independence back has, psychologically, made an enormous difference in both my physical recovery and my attitude.

Which is to say: I hear you. It sucks. It's okay to not love pregnancy, it's okay to not love newborns, it's okay to not love breastfeeding. You are entitled to feel everything you feel and don't let ANYONE tell you otherwise.

I am writing this with my little son asleep on my chest, snuggling, satisfied from his bottle. It's night and day from the tears and frustration and pain of nursing my daughter, and then failing and pumping for months, and not feeling like my own person. You might love nursing, but if you don't I promise you the alternative is just fine for baby.

Again, big big hugs from this internet stranger/mom. You are not alone.
posted by lydhre at 8:38 AM on March 15, 2016 [17 favorites]

Ignore this if it's not right for you, but the alphamom pregnancy calendar was by far my favorite of the pregnancy tracking calendars because it acknowledges the indignities loud and clear and humorously.

It's ok to feel ambivalent during pregnancy. You're turning your life upside down. You'd be insane not to feel some trepidation! You're absolutely allowed to mourn a major reduction in your freedom! But, the flip side (down the road a bit) is that I've developed a renewed appreciation for some aspects of life that had gotten pretty mundane - history and legos and kites and space and the human body and parks and evening walks and hamburgers and tiny sprouts in the garden. I have a lot less time and a lot more chores, but damn, the world's a cool place.

Also, after the baby comes: it's REALLY REALLY hard to suddenly be at the beck and call of an incoherent screaming blob! Even if you love said blob and really wanted to have it! I have this visceral memory from when my first child was a week old, screaming in the pack and play, and i was sitting on the couch with my husband sobbing, DEAR GOD PLEASE CAN WE PLEASE JUST PUT IT IN A BOX AND SEND IT BACK? It takes time for your pool of patience to grow enough to accommodate a baby. But you will get there.

Once you get to the point where the kid starts learning new things, that's a whole amazing process that I think you'll genuinely enjoy, because it tickles the intellectual bone. And once your kid is a kid? Kids are awesome. I have a little nerd who loves legos and star wars and snap circuits and making stupid puns. I have a littler firecracker who has boundless enthusiasm for life, when she's not bossing you around at the top of her lungs and putting her dad in time-out. They're very different and also very similar and reflect all the best and worst parts of my husband's and my personalities.

There's a lot of hard times during pregnancy and in the beginning. Just try to remember, it gets better. It gets better. It gets better. In the meantime, muster whatever help you can. Don't be afraid to put your baby into childcare if you need to - maternity leave was the pits for me and I felt so much better once I went back to work. We found a lovely home daycare where our kids were cared for for the first 3 years of their lives - stable, loving caregiver, other kids to play with, mixed age group - it was great. And absolutely see a therapist - I think trying to develop tools to deal with some of this fear and uncertainty would be really helpful.

Hang in there! You're not alone. Feeling like you're alone is definitely a problem, though. MeMail if you need to vent!
posted by telepanda at 8:52 AM on March 15, 2016 [7 favorites]

I am with you. I posted a lot (mostly under the username Madamina) about fear and waiting, and BOY did I feel it. And I love my kid, but it has been very difficult without a lot of in-person support beyond my husband. I have also had many long chats with another friend who has had a lot of difficulties adjusting to motherhood, due to hating pregnancy as well as PPD and a not-great situation.

If you would like to chat, completely without judgment, please feel free to MeMail me. It's okay to be nervous and worry; there are big, scary things ahead. Those are things worth worrying about.

But there are better days ahead.
posted by St. Hubbins at 9:25 AM on March 15, 2016

At my son's first birthday party, a college friend gave me the best piece of wisdom I've ever gotten about parenting. Her kids are three years and one year and one day older than my son. I hadn't ever met her kids before that day because they were two states away, and I'd never seen her in Mom mode. They had just moved back the week before the party, and boy, she had it together. She said to me, the day after her daughter's second birthday: "I've always loved my kids, but I didn't actually like them until they were two years old." And I sniffled back, "Really?!" Because that first year was hard and I felt so guilty for not liking it and not wanting to deal with a baby. I love mid kid more each year and wouldn't go back, even if some stuff has gotten much, much harder and I still despair a bit.

Some things will be easier for you -- do not feel guilty, because some things will be harder. Do not compare! You will not be the perfect parent. You will be the best parent you can be, and you will fubar it at some point but you will do better then next day. There is a big, big gap between imperfect and neglectful or abusive. The best advice I picked up from a parent blogger was that I don't have to feel patient with my son; if I can fake patient and behave patiently and keep it together, that's good enough.

As for PPD, make sure you get some sleep. I did not. I should have spent one night a month at a hotel or a (kidless) friend's house and just gotten nine or ten good hours of sleep. The lack of sleep did give me mild PPD, which I didn't realize until he slept through the night and I woke up feeling able to handle everything.

ALSO: When your three-year-old asks, "Mommy, why will you be X on your birthday?" DO NOT SAY "BECAUSE I HAVEN'T DIED YET." THIS IS VERY STUPID even if it makes pinpointing a source of the kid's anxiety in later years very easy.
posted by JawnBigboote at 9:42 AM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

Girl! No wonder you feel ambivalent! Your husband might not be there for the birth? (Or even it sounds like the first few months of the baby's life?) That sounds dreadful, and incredibly stressful, not to mention the other stuff you mentioned.

I am telling you that it's totally OK to not be a "baby person," even if it's your own baby. A lot of people aren't baby people but they are really excellent at parenting toddlers (something I personally suck at, and a stage I am so glad to be done with) or elementary school aged kids or teenagers or whatever. Of course, your kid has to go through infancy first, but you don't have to love it or even like it. My son's infancy was terrible on me and now he's 4 and he's great.

Here's what I would do: Find a counselor who specializes in PPD. There's also such a thing as antepartum depression (depression during pregnancy). Get yourself set up now so you don't have to make the huge effort after birth.

Join a support group of other mothers to be. Some of them will feel like you do and it will be helpful to talk with them. Even if most of them are perky and cheerful there is bound to be at least one who's feeling similar. You might find this online, as well. Start with your ob and ask if he/she has any recommendations for a counselor/therapist and local support groups.

What can you hire out to make your life easier or better? Can you afford a professional cleaner? Can you afford a night nurse? Have you thought about hiring a doula for when you give birth? What about a part-time helper during your maternity leave - someone to make sure you're ok, who can make dinners for you, do some laundry, take the baby so you can rest. Whatever you can afford to throw at this, I would do it and not look back.

I'm sorry this is so stressful for you. I think it's good that you're thinking ahead on this and it was good that you reached out here for help.
posted by sutel at 9:50 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did not particularly enjoy most of being pregnant even though I had an easy pregnancy. It is really freaking weird. And uncomfortable. I found a lot more people who were happy to talk about that after we had the babies, fwiw....I think on some level people are afraid they will jinx it or something by complaining. But it is VERY normal not to enjoy pregnancy and to mourn the loss of what you had previously.

Prepartum depression is a big thing, I nth the recommendations to find some counseling now. I went to a fantastic person after my daughter's birth (my PPD manifested as horrific anxiety, which is very common) who specialized in dealing with pre and post partum issues - definitely recommend that if you can find someone. My midwife recommended this person so reaching out to your OB or midwife would be a place to start. Also seconding the rec for a good doula - especially given that your husband may not be able to be there - ours was worth her weight in gold.

I think the two things that helped me the most were talking to my friends who were already moms, and a new mothers' group. I was fortunate to find one I really clicked with and one where people felt comfortable opening up, but I tried a few before finding that one. I also joined a prenatal group for couples due at the same time - that was helpful to some extent but less than the new mother group. I know people who found online groups with women around the same due date and that was a lifesaver - maybe you can find one to click with? The one thing I wish I had done more of: make time/space for myself - to exercise, do my hobbies, etc. For various (good & bad) reasons that has been very hard for us to do and it's definitely been a mistake not to have prioritized that. My friends who have done that seem to be a little better off.

It does get easier over time. You'll have some things that are harder than you think and some that end up not phasing you in the least or that will be easy with your kiddo. Mine? Not a great sleeper unless she's attached to me, but she's nursed like a champ since day 2 or so, and I've had zero trouble breastfeeding.

I wish I could give you a hug!
posted by john_snow at 10:07 AM on March 15, 2016

Man, I wish I had been this articulate about all of this when I was at the same stage as you. People have said such great things already, I just wanted to reiterate that you're really not alone. Feel free to memail me. Maybe if you posted an anon email address through the mods, you could have even more people to talk to.

One part of your post that sticks out to me that hasn't been answered much in the comments I read is the childcare thing: unless by flexible you actually mean you don't have to work many hours, I would urge you to find childcare, for your own sanity, if at all possible. I telecommute, and my kids went to childcare basically asap so I could work and also, honestly, so I could be alone for some part of my day.
posted by freezer cake at 10:22 AM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

Just want to add my voice to the chorus saying - you are not alone in having these feelings. I am pregnant right now, and I also feel that I made a very intellectual choice to have a baby (i.e. I have to get through this part to get to what I want, which is children with my husband). The child is very wanted, but I don't care for babies in general and also have had / am having a lot of feelings about wishing I could just skip a few years ahead. Before I got pregnant, I assumed I would feel mostly indifferent to the process and possibly happy about it. Turns out - I really, really do not enjoy it. Even though my pregnancy is (mostly) uneventful, I hate a lot of aspects of it.

I would absolutely start with your doctor and/or a therapist. However, here are some kind of coping strategies that have helped me and might help you also.

- I'm not usually a journaling type person, but I have been weirdly helped by writing a long-form kind of diary/letter to the baby (which I probably won't ever give to her). I am pretty frank in writing down what's going on with my body and my head and how I feel about it. I think it helps because it encourages me to visualize the baby as a person years in the future, that I address directly.

- Oh my god, find some mental method for handling the societal reaction. This is by far my least favorite part. People are so condescending and intrusive and weird to pregnant women (I know the vast majority mean well, but ugh). I've had luck with deflecting questions back to the asker - most people will happily talk about their own pregnancies or their sister/cousin/whatever. I also change the subject a lot. I have developed a very Zen-like smile-and-nod. If you have a choice, I honestly wish that I had waited to tell my work until later in the pregnancy, just to minimize the amount of time I have to handle people making small talk about whether I feel nauseous or not.

- This is hard to explain, but I have really tried to re-frame most of this experience through an objective, almost sociological lens. For example - I keep mental track of how many people ask me the sex of the baby as one of the first two questions when they find out I'm pregnant (about 90% in case you were wondering) and think about what that says about our society. If something strange happens to my body I think, "how interesting that symptom X is happening. I wonder what medical reason there is for this? I wonder how women coped with this in X era?" and perhaps do a little research about it. I try to remember that very smart and interesting scientists/doctors consider pregnancy and infancy a worthy topic of study - I really enjoyed Nicholas Day's book Baby Meets World as a good general introduction to this topic. Basically, I try to treat it like any topic I might be interested in but not passionate about...kind of like someone has given me an assignment.

I really do feel a lot of empathy for what you write in your post and am working through some of the same things. If you ever want to talk / vent about it, just send me a memail.
posted by cpatterson at 10:27 AM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

The days are long but the years are short.

I didn't like to talk about pregnancy at all. I wore baggy clothes and spent my time in the company of men at work. I got to talk about other things for nine months. The time passes.

For the early childhood years, I always liked this visualization. For simplicity's sake, let's pretend you and your child have sixty years together (entirely plausible if you are in your late 20s, adjust as necessary). Draw the years on the clock. The early childhood years from 0-5 pass in 1 hour. The infant year passes in 12 minutes. This gives you 11 hours of time together as mother and child once the child is old enough to enter school, be independent in the basic activities of daily living, and have some coherent views on the world. The vast majority of your child's life is spent in the company of a kid, teen, and adult.

It is perfectly valid to get pregnant to have a kid, and despise the entire infancy and early childhood. I didn't care for infancy and toddlerhood at all. I was extremely grateful to go to work, grateful to stop breastfeeding, grateful for the meds that got me through post partum depression, grateful for my daughter to grow, grateful for the passage of time.

I loved my baby and toddler, but didn't feel jealous or resentful at all of the others in my life that loved her too and showed unwavering support. I felt jealous and resentful of other mothers that seemed to have an easier time of it, and definitely felt feelings of failure when I didn't demonstrate sufficient competency in breastfeeding or other maternal instincts. Again, I went back to work and achieved elsewhere. Your child will not need you for long, if you look at your clock in 3-4 hours you will need to have enough interests to sustain a full life on your own. It's so much easier to do this if you maintain your outside connections through early childhood. It's OK to get help, in your case through childcare.

My daughter is 9 now and she has been an absolute delight from age 5 onwards. The early years are all a blur that has faded to the back of memory. It passes, and faster than you think when you are in the thick of it. Hang in there.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:11 AM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to say that I empathize so you are certainly not the only person who has felt this way. I'm almost 27 weeks. I used to be a pretty active person and now I'm tired all the time. My reasons for getting pregnant now are similar to yours - I did some of the big things I wanted to do before getting pregnant and I'm 33 so better get busy. I feel like if I could push this off for several years without consequence, that's what I'd rather do. I cried the other day because thinking about breastfeeding sounds kind of awful and I don't think I'll like it but I'd feel guilty not trying it. Holding other people's babies makes me feel anxious. I've been okay with the way my body is changing but I'd totally prefer to be the size I was pre-pregnancy.

The societal expectations thing is a weird one. Now people ask me "how are you *feeling?!?!!*" and I feel like I'm supposed to have an interesting answer. I also have this weird "pregnant people aren't supposed to do x" that rears its head occasionally but, since I'm punchy, I'm usually like, f that noise. Pregnant ladies can't do a 5K? Watch me. But then once in a while, I'll do something and think, there's actually a reason pregnant ladies don't do that.

This probably sounds dumb but you know what I miss? Hanging out drinking at a bar. Sure, I can sip a soda but it just feels lame ordering a third Diet Coke. Part of me feels like I should be social now because it will be harder once she hatches.

And I think that word is the word to watch out for. I've tried to release myself from telling myself "I should go to prenatal yoga or eat kale instead of grilled cheese or clean my condo instead of taking a nap." Being pregnant is hard. If I need to deal with that by letting some non-mission critical things in my life slide right now, so be it. I got an email yesterday saying I can't volunteer somewhere anymore because I haven't been putting in enough hours. Part of me wants to push back because I love this place but another part of me thinks, there's just not room for that in my life right now and that's okay. And not telling myself how I should be pregnant extends to how I feel. I should be ecstatic? Yeah, well, right now I'm kind of indifferent and tired and freaked out and that'll have to do.

I'm sorry I don't have anything brilliant to add but you're not alone. A thing I'm definitely looking into is a postpartum doula to hold my hand while I try to figure this thing out. Maybe that'd be helpful for you too.
posted by kat518 at 11:32 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Couple suggestions (in addition to the therapy, which is a definitely good idea):

1) Find a new moms group. It took me too long to get into one of these - I wish I'd started at one earlier. Mine was not chipper in tone - new mothers in real life are generally some combo of exhausted, hormonal, anxious, overwhelmed and lonely. The resources and idea-sharing aspect is great, as is the "get out of the house" structure. Another part of it that is great is that you can get help/advice/support with the stuff you're struggling with but also you get to GIVE help/advice/support with the stuff that you're doing well with or you've figured out. You get to be both needy but also a superstar at certain things. When you're alone, you tend to be focused on the things that are difficult, and you tend to be really focused on your own experience. It can be good to hear other people's experiences and struggles too, as it puts yours into perspective.

2) Invest in help, particularly during that early infancy phase. Post-partum doula is a thing - they help overnight, just bring the baby into you for nursing. This will help you get some sleep, and the doula may be good at helping your baby get into a nighttime rhythm. I think if you're going to be alone during this time, this will be really really helpful. Even more so than a house cleaner or whatever, because the house can just be dirty and you can order take out food, but you need to sleep at least sometimes. Also maybe think about finding someone to help out around the house a few hours at a time once a week. This could be a local teenager - someone who can do some dishes or hold the baby while you order groceries online or something. It doesn't have to be long or intensive childcare - sometimes I just needed someone to change the sheets or transfer the laundry downstairs or go to Target for a few things. These things would sort of build up.

3) Try to remember that nothing about this experience will be exactly how you think it will or should be, and it goes by really fast. Try to work through some of this mountain of anticipatory dread you seem to be holding onto. Hormones, sleep deprivation and babies are very powerful things - they can bring you down and lift you up and rearrange your whole self more than you can imagine. One difference between pre-baby and post-baby life is that your life is chopped up into much smaller pieces - for quite a long time, a legitimate phase for you and for the baby is like 40 hours long max. I haven't had the baby as long as I knew I was pregnant, but the pregnancy feels like several lifetimes ago. My child isn't yet 6 months old and early infancy feels like a lifetime ago. This can be really destabilizing because it is so different from your pre-baby/pre-pregnancy adult life - the autonomy and control over your life you are used to will not be there. The priorities and the person you think you are, you may not be through all of this experience. Try to be open to the idea that some of this experience will bring you actual joy, and some of it will be harder than you can imagine, some of it will be easier or at least more instinctive/natural than you imagine and something you think you do or don't want or need, you will or will not want or need. A therapist should be able to help with this.

4) If nothing is joyful, definitely seek help. I know a lot of people who had trouble self-diagnosing pre- or post-partum depression or anxiety. Because the flipside of "everyone" talking goo-goo about how "hashtag-blessed" they are, is "everyone" talking about how awful everything is because people like to complain, so people say to themselves "Yeah yeah, I'm tired. Babies are hard. I'm not a baby person, I guess." when really they are depressed. If you are finding no joy in the experience, if the gloom does not let up, I think that's a real warning sign of PPD, and you should get help for yourself and for your baby. Because you deserve to find a way to enjoy at least portions of this experience.
posted by vunder at 11:33 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Your feelings are normal. I wish someone had told me that, because I felt very alone and confused. I hated being pregnant. PPD is a bitch and zoloft saved my sanity. Even though the second pregnancy was planned, I was incredibly ambivalent about it and didn't tell anybody but family and a couple close friends until after the birth.

My kids are now 8 & 6 and awesome and delightful (most of the time). I don't regret having them.

Feel free to memail me if you'd like to talk.
posted by belladonna at 11:34 AM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hire in-house help, pre- and post- pregnancy, if you can afford it. There are several options - doulas, nannies, au-pairs, etc... find someone you get along with well.

In my last pregnancy I had engaged a Doula who provides pre-natal support, birth support, lactation consulting, and post-partum care, even overnight care if I needed it. As often as I wanted, or as little. My family's not in-town and I was pregnant with twins, hubby works rotating night/day shifts... but it was going to be a huge reassurance about getting help and not having to be all by myself.... with twins... she would have been great, but we lost the babies. Part of the doula thing is that they're there for YOU, YOUR support. Whatever YOU need. You are getting stressed and tired - they will do whatever you need. Take baby so you can have a long bath/sleep, or clean and go grocery shopping, be someone to talk to, or baby sit while you go out.
posted by lizbunny at 11:48 AM on March 15, 2016

Adding on to the chorus - I'm going through my first pregnancy (27 weeks), and I have these feelings too. I think kids are awesome, and I love being around them, but I'm pretty meh on babies and have a burning hatred for pregnancy.

1) Yes, body horror. I had fucking vomit-hiccups. Maybe you'll sail through (fingers crossed!), maybe you'll have a physically/emotionally horrible time. (See the recent What do you wish people had warned you about? thread.) It's sort of a crapshoot. Just keep repeating to yourself that pregnancy is a means to an end, and that there will be an end. Just like there's an end to babyhood, and eventually you get a kid. I had some days where I just kept repeating this idea to myself. Do whatever you can to make your experience better - for me, this was getting a professional 90-minute prenatal massage every two weeks, and not feeling a bit guilty about ordering four different meals for delivery in order to find one that I could get down. If you can afford to throw money at this to make yourself feel better, it is the best way to spend money.

2) Nthing therapy, and potentially, a support group. If you happen to be in the Bay Area, UCSF has an excellent program for women who are having a tough time during or after pregnancy. I didn't have a lot of success talking about my feelings with my husband because - as supportive as he is - he doesn't really get how much it sucks, and how jealous I am of him for not having to deal with all of this, and getting to pretty much live his regular life when I'm throwing up all the time and unable to enjoy my usual physical activities or eating out with friends, or whatever. If you guys have good lines of communication, DO tell him what you need him to do or say, if you aren't getting what you need. For example, it sucked that I needed to spell out "you need to come into the bathroom and hold my hair when I'm throwing up", but he just thought that I'd prefer for him to try to act like it was normal, and not make a big deal by bringing attention to me throwing up on the regular. That's what he would have liked, but I like to be, well, babied when I'm feeling sick. After I told him exactly what I wanted, he did it, and I felt better.

3) Therapy would help with this as well. As I think the responses in this thread show, it's really not an uncommon feeling, even if it's not spoken about much. Another online resource is the forums at AltDotLife, which is populated by a lot of smart, educated women talking about pregnancy and motherhood. The forum is starting to die as the main group drifts away, but there's a lot of good old threads you can read where women talk about their issues with pregnancy and grappling with societal expectations. And if you post a new thread about dealing with this (or bump an old thread), I promise to come out of lurkerhood to post too.

4) Beyond therapy, get yourself a doula for labor. Even if you end up with your husband there, having someone experienced to help you with labor beyond the typical medical care is shown to lead to much, much better physical and mental outcomes (there's a section on this in the metafilter favorite, Expecting Better). Many doulas offer their services on a sliding pay scale or for free for those women who can't afford to pay, so even if you don't have much of a budget for this, you still may be able to get help. And then line up a postpartum doula to help you with baby care (and breastfeeding and light tasks around the household) if you can afford it. And a housecleaning service, if that will help. Again, one of the best things to throw money at, if you can at all.

5) Bring this up to your medical care (OB or midwife) RIGHT NOW, and find a new care provider if they don't immediately start throwing resources at you to help. I started bawling at the start of one of my appointments when my OB asked "So how are you feeling today?", and I had an appointment with the psychologist who specializes in prenatal and postnatal depression within four days.

6 - 8) I think others have offered better advice than I can, since I haven't been there yet, but I nth the fact that you are not alone in these feelings.

Other general thoughts: let yourself cry a lot, if that's what you're feeling like doing. It's okay. Take gentle care of yourself - naps, walks in the sun, massage, baths, petting a dog, nice candles, whatever food sounds great to you at this moment, journaling your thoughts, etc. Don't feel bad about taking care of yourself during this time, and doing whatever you need to do. If you get hit hard with pregnancy nausea/fatigue, and your husband doesn't get it, drag him to a medical care appointment, and have the doctor/nurse lecture him on how you're creating a spine and kidneys right now, and he can do all the chores (this was not necessary with my husband, but can be with some). Even though my husband understood intellectually that my body was working hard, he sometimes got irritated about all of the housework that he needed to pick up, or all of the food waste that was happening because I would order food that I then couldn't eat - which is understandable, he's human too, you know? Talk about it beforehand, and remind him that a lot of this is out of your control when he's feeling frustrated, and make sure he has coping mechanisms too, and ways to think through fatherhood. I think for a lot of guys it's not quite "real" during the first tri, since you aren't showing, and becomes more and more real as things progress, which sometimes freaks them out. A babymoon on a warm beach (Hawaii) was nice for both of us to regroup during the second tri.

Randomly, I've taken a lot of comfort in planning out a customized baby quilt with a seller on Etsy and in researching and creating a baby registry, which I wouldn't have expected, since I'm not really someone who enjoys shopping. I don't even care if people (or I) buy some of these things - I just like knowing that I'm sure of, say, the best baby stroller for my particular lifestyle and budget, and I had it listed down somewhere.

I've also found the sociological-ish intellectualizing of the whole pregnancy/motherhood process that cpatterson describes really helpful. Yeah, this isn't a fun process, but it's a pretty interesting human experience, overall. Like, food aversions and how they change over time - it's weird, when you think about being an adult with set food preference, and then, suddenly you wake up one day and coffee now smells BAD, instead of smelling like the nectar of gods. My baby always starts moving around about 15 minutes after I have a Mexican coke (sugar + caffeine = wheeee!) - that sort of cause and effect is pretty cool. So, basically, maybe try distancing yourself by viewing it as a scientific experiment of sorts, and thinking about how society treats pregnant women and the conventions we have about it. For example, I've found that most people in San Francisco don't really acknowledge my pregnancy, and it's interesting to think about why that is (not a lot of kids/families in the parts of the city I hang out in, mostly young tech-y people without experience with kids (?), wanting to be non-biased about gender/sex to the point where they don't acknowledge a "female" thing (?), etc.). It seems like the 20-something men most likely to acknowledge pregnancy (often with congratulations as I'm just walking around) here have signifiers that I associate with lower income/working class - why is that? Thinking about these things can be fun.

Reading a bunch of books on pregnancy (I really liked Making Babies - the Science of Pregnancy, but avoid if you can't stand hearing about potential ways things can go wrong in pregnancy) helped me get a mental handle on what was happening to me, which then helped me emotionally, as well. The Mayo Clinic Guide to a Healthy Pregnancy is no-nonsense, "here's what's happening now" book as well that avoids all of the "aren't you EXCITED ABOUT BEING PREGNANT!" talk. Finally, I found Great with Child - Letters to a Young Mother to be a good read. The author definitely enjoys being a mother, but she doesn't sugarcoat some of the ambiguities to motherhood or pregnancy. I found myself feeling significantly better about being pregnant after reading it, even though I thought that the sentimentality would irritate me at first. Also a good book to have your husband read.

I've also started listening to the archives of the Pregtastic podcast - sometimes, honestly, it's a bit of hate-listening, since most of the women on it are So Excited About Being Pregnant and Sorta Dumb About It, but it's been... useful, I guess, to just hear a lot of voices talking about pregnancy and newborn care, and a lot of the guest speakers offer good information about, say, baby sign language, or gear for breastfeeding, or whatever. There are other podcasts (see this thread) that talk more directly about the ambiguities and tough parts about pregnancy and motherhood.

Get your far-flung friends on a group chat (or individual chat), and let them know that you need to vent. I also found my mother (surprisingly, for my relationship with her) to be a very great venting source.

Feel free to memail me. Honestly, it sounds like there's enough people feeling this way that we could get a pretty good support group going online.
posted by Jaclyn at 12:04 PM on March 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I wish I had time to write you the post I really want to, but I have to be quick. You sound like me on so many fronts and I just want to nth what everyone else is saying.

Therapist now- I worked with mine throughout the pregnancy and afterwards and I think having that relationship was key.

Doula- Definitely. I am not a crunchy hippy mom but I wouldn't trade my Doula for the world. Knowing that someone in that room had done this before was awesome. Knowing I didn't have to worry about my husband's reaction to things- also awesome.

Get past 3 months- just tell yourself you can handle everything and anything for the first 3 months, things will be different, maybe not amazing, but different. Then another 3 months and at 6 months, wow so much different again. Now at a year I can't even remember what 3 months was like.

I am separated from many of my mom friends and we chat constantly on Google Hangouts. I can't tell you how many times I literally cried my heart out to a close friend (who was also a new mom) over Google Hangouts in those early days.

I am not a baby person, never was, still am not.
posted by ridiculous at 12:20 PM on March 15, 2016

I really appreciated this Dear Sugar episode. I'm ambivalent about pregnancy and motherhood, and hearing these letters and discussion was a breath of fresh air. Nthing a therapist...I wish my mom had had one so that she didn't feel so alone in not enjoying kids or motherhood. My own therapy has helped me realize that wanting a family, and not going gaga over babies/kids/motherhood are absolutely not incompatible.
posted by gollie at 12:25 PM on March 15, 2016

Such a lot of good advice and stories above.
I'm another person who just hated pregnancy and felt unhappy and helpless during all 9 months, two times.
First of all, for me, it ended when the babies were born. With no. 1 right away, with no. 2 after 8-12 hours (I don't remember exactly, she is 17 now). I was not a baby or a children person, but it just felt very simple to me when it became real. For the life of me, I can't see anything "real" about being pregnant, and I saw all the Alien movies during the first pregnancy because that was how I felt.
Some tips, in random order:
- I did not read any books or blogs after realizing they stressed me out and scared me
- I ignored all the people who felt they had the right to tell me what to do, including my family who shouted at me for not loving pregnancy
- I did eventually attend a pre-birth yoga-ish class, where I met the people who eventually became my mothers' group after we'd all had our babies and went back for post-natal yoga-ish stuff. They were great, un-judgemental, and our teacher was amazing. Go for an adult, experienced teacher who has seen hundreds of pregnant women. Apart from class, we went out walking, to museums, to each other, to the swimming pool, to the cinema and lot's of other stuff together. We all had our normal bodies back after three months, mainly because of the walking.
- with my husband, I attended a class at the hospital, which he found disgusting (so don't include your husband if he has a squeamish imagination), but I found inspiring: the basic point was that for tens of thousands of years, women have given birth in the bush, with only their family to help, and they have survived and their children grew up to live. So you can do it. Don't misunderstand this - I appreciate all the technology and medicine and it was life-saving when my first baby was in breach position, but it removed my fear of being a mother. Every time there was an issue, I'd think to myself, what if I was in the bush? and it worked for me. I felt competent and grateful that I was not in the bush, and I succeeded.
- I brought my baby with me to work for the first months (they sleep a lot in the beginning), and when that became impossible, I got her into infant care. I have no regrets - if I had stayed home, I would have become depressed and a bad mother. Same with no. 2. Both my girls claim I am the best mother on the globe and though both have needed me to be more present in their early teens, which I then was, they have never complained about daycare which they both enjoyed. (I get bored when playing with small children - daycare is much better than me).
posted by mumimor at 1:03 PM on March 15, 2016 [3 favorites]

I skimmed the above and didn't see this mentioned, so practical advice from an expat mom is to start interviewing and hire a doula ASAP, preferably one that does post-partum care. My doula was a scientist and excited but not perky - it was great because she knew me, it took the pressure off to be excited (she could grin at the nurse and be excited for me!), could advocate for me, hang out during early labour, was in the labour room with me (continuity of care and all that). This might really relieve some of the stress around your husband being maybe not around (and if he is around an extra pair of hands when you don't have family around is worth it!), and especially if they do post partum care that would be great. You might also look into lining up a mother's helper nanny type if funds allow. We hired a student from the local doula college.

Transitions by William Bridges (? On phone, close enough if you google that it will come up) is about handling change and actually uses a new mom as an example.

If you're in Sydney and want to get coffee let me know!

(Signed, an expat working mom who's happy with her only child and likes being part of a family but fails to meet a lot of societal expectations!)
posted by jrobin276 at 4:49 PM on March 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

You definitely need a doula. If cost is an issue, there are doula students looking to gain experience who might be a good bet for you.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:37 PM on March 15, 2016

Mod note: From the OP:
I actually set up an anonymous email with the question - then forgot to add that email to the question (whoops):

I'd just like to thank everyone who answered, it is really helpful to read the responses and I'm crying but in a good way right now.
posted by taz (staff) at 11:34 PM on March 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I just wanted to assure you that just because pregnancy hormones make you feel depressed doesn't mean postpartum hormones will. I had a really emotionally intense, sometimes-miserable pregnancy and had read that this made me more prone to PPD. But actually, I experienced something closer to what my husband called "postpartum elation." Breastfeeding hormones just agreed with me really fucking well and I was more zen and centered at that time in my life than I've ever been pre-puberty.

I agree that midwifery care and/or a doula might be helpful. If you're planning to breastfeed, I'd get lactation professionals you like now, because breastfeeding failure is a big risk factor for PPD. And I'm going to be frank: your husband may or may not disappear for up to a year during your pregnancy or child's first year of life? Is there any way this could not happen? Because that kind of isolation without other help is terrible for new moms. Short of that, find a mom's group as soon as you're able to get out of the house. You will feel ridiculous and hate some of the women. That's okay.

Women were not meant to have and care for babies in isolation. You might like the book After Birth by Elisa Albert, which is about exactly this. We're supposed to have large communities of co-nursing women who will help us through the early days of breastfeeding and sleep deprivation. But most women don't have that. It's awful.

I started my pregnancy terrified of the bodily processes of childbirth, too. I still don't like most of our narrative around childbearing, but my reasons have changed. Everything is so . . . pink bow and showery. The truth is, the bodily processes are fascinating from a hormonal and physical standpoint. So my vagina and belly are a little looser now and I have hemorrhoids. I created a person and then birthed it and then fed it solely from my body for six months. Some women create people and then have c-sections and formula feed them, which are lifesaving miracles of science. Women aren't beautiful flowers. Our bodies are made to shift and secrete and be in flux through adulthood. Birth puts us in touch with that, which is so scary, but this is how every person was made. That's amazing. Why do we ignore that, as a society? I have no idea. But I do know this: women are warriors, and our babies are talismans of our strength.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:23 AM on March 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Just popping in to say that my own mother got pregnant with twins by accident, never having wanted kids, dislikes babies, had a horrific birth and pregnancy, never enjoyed having two babies, and cheerfully admits her life only got bearable after my sister and I started being able to have meaningful conversations and stopped screaming all day and night. We all have a great relationship now and I remember my childhood as very happy and loving. Being shit and miserable about the pregnancy and infancy part does not mean you're gonna be a shitty parent. Just do what you need to do to get through those years. For my mom that was keeping a bottle of vodka in the freezer for after she'd put us down to sleep.
posted by mymbleth at 2:52 AM on March 16, 2016

A baby doesn't have to take over your life and turn you into an isolated and depressed slob. My experience has been completely different, i didn't breastfeed or baby wear, or co sleep... And I have showered everyday, invested in comfortable clothes I feel good in, seen my friends- and all around just felt very in control... I sleep trained at 4 months, trained him to nap in his cot so I can recharge my batteries at the same time... Had him with babysitters at 6 months so that he could get to know other people and we could go on some dates.... So yeah, it's not all spit up, tears and sweatpants.
posted by catspajammies at 3:15 AM on March 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

I wanted to let you know: this is very common! I am a midwife and have had countless patients with similar feelings and worries as you. (I've also had lots of friends with similar experiences). You may also notice that these feelings change in character over the course of your pregnancy, and/or if the situation with your partner changes. Uncertainty on whether your partner will be present for the birth or first six months of your baby's life is huge.

I agree you should look into counseling/therapy so you can have an objective person to bounce things off of. I'd also encourage you to discuss these feelings with your provider (if you feel comfortable), as s/he may have some local resources for you. A mom's group or other prenatal support (yoga, swimming, mom's lunch group, etc.) would also be great. Doulas can also be great if you find one you like; some even offer cheap or free services if finances are a concern for you. I would also recommend staying away from Facebook/Instagram/etc. If your feeds are filled with dewy baby photos and well-lit breastfeeding shots, it can be really shaming and discouraging if you're already feeling down and worried. (And it presents a pretty biased and narrow picture of life with babies!)

Your story reminds me of a good friend, a very rational person who had a very wanted pregnancy. It was a hard pregnancy and her baby was not easy (fussy, feeding issues, sleeping issues, strong willed, etc.). She thought, and still thinks, babies are bizarre and needy creatures, and did have a hard time with infancy, but she loves her daughter just the same. They are both doing great, if tired, and I really appreciate my friend's honesty in being open with her struggles in pregnancy and parenthood.

I could say a lot more, but a lot has already been said! I'm sorry that you have to go through this, especially since I think our society places too high an emphasis on what we think pregnancy/motherhood/parenting should be (glowing maternal bliss and natural instinct) versus what it really is: a major life change with a good amount of learning and uncertainty. I think that if you can arm yourself with support now, that will help to better prepare you for labor, birth, and parenting. Wishing you well, and please feel free to memail me.
posted by stillmoving at 3:55 AM on March 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Came back to add that many women find online groups helpful, too, for both happy and stressed pregnancy support. (e.g., Mumsnet, babycenter, etc.) A quick google search tells me there are many women chatting about being unhappy in pregnancy and other pregnancy/relationship/body struggles. Sometimes just having a couple others to share experiences can be helpful.
posted by stillmoving at 3:59 AM on March 16, 2016

Just wanted to say that my husband had to head overseas for a month or so when our second baby was two weeks old. Like you, we found this out only after I was pregnant, and for a while it wasn't clear if he would be able to be present at the birth.

And... it was fine. I'm not saying, yes, go ahead and plan to do it that way, but it was far from a disaster. My mom was here for a bunch of the time, which was really helpful for dealing with our older son, but as for me and the baby... well, in those early weeks, a lot of the time I just wanted to hang out in bed nursing and watching Netflix on my iPad mini. Change a diaper every now and then. If I wanted to go out, I did. But my husband's presence didn't really make much difference for that. This has changed as the baby has gotten older (he's four months now); especially as I'm harried getting out the door in the morning for work, having that other set of hands is very helpful.

(Also, husband and baby haven't had any trouble bonding even though husband was gone during that early period... now that the baby smiles and laughs he makes it very easy for adults to like him.)
posted by wyzewoman at 11:32 AM on March 16, 2016

I wanted to ask, since you can work from home, would it be possible to go with your husband wherever he may be going? Or if that isn't possible, moving close to a support network of yours for the first one to six months? This might be the time to live near Mom or your best friends for a while.
posted by Margalo Epps at 5:14 PM on March 16, 2016

I just re read your question and my answer might at first seem like the comfort you didn't want (the I was fine, so you'll be fine stuff) I just wanted to encourage you to question some of your assumptions about the ways that a baby will impact on your life. I also want to add that I am also an expat in a country where I don't speak the language well or have many friends, and my mother passed away some years ago, so I wanted to share more as an anecdote that despite not having a standard support network, it's possible you will get a nice hand of cards when it comes to this baby... And you might meet some really lovely other mums. I really am rooting for you!
posted by catspajammies at 2:03 AM on March 17, 2016

Just wanted to validate you and your concerns- all so normal, even though you're right, there's not really a good container in this culture to express how HARD pregnancy, childbirth, and infancy really is. It is just plain HARD. Even when you're feeling good, and in love, and happy- there a moments of overwhelm and exhaustion that really make you question all of it.

Also, American way of motherhood is really weird, and often sentimentalizes motherhood in this strange way that I found NOT very helpful. I read Naomi Wolf's book Misconceptions a a couple months ago, & it was the first thing I'd read about the whole ordeal which explored the darker side of motherhood in a way that felt empowering / validating to me (warning: the book is REALLY triggering, in many ways, and it may not resonate for everyone, but it did for me with a 6-month old.)

Also, at 8.5 months, I feel like I've really rounded a corner with my baby girl. The Spring weather is helping a lot, and just her growing independence/fascination with the world is truly delightful to see - we are out every day and I can genuinely say, we are having a lot of fun.

But, yes, do seek out support- especially for the first few months. DO NOT TRY TO GO AT IT ALONE! If your husband is not around, or family not in picture, definitely seek out SOMEONE - a mother's helpful, a nanny, therapist, a gym & other mothers who can help. I find that people want to help, but sometimes don't know how to offer, and it's hard to ask when you feel so vulnerable at first. If you have the financial resources, use them to take care of you and baby.
posted by Rocket26 at 7:18 AM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

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