Lessons From My Pregnancy
2019 was a year of resounding YES for me. And all of it has led to this moment here, as I sit and feel the baby kicking in my belly, reminding me of how quickly and incredibly life can evolve. What I really want to share with you is my experience of being pregnant and how I feel it has fundamentally changed who I am. But I can’t ignore the lead up to getting pregnant which began last January when my partner asked me to marry him.
Marriage wasn’t something we had planned. In fact, we had talked about it quite a bit and decided that it wasn’t for us. I felt really content with it and that’s why I couldn’t believe when he proposed. There was something about that moment that meant so much more than I had imagined. It was actually in the act of proposing marriage that I found the most meaning and incredible vulnerability. It’s really there that you’re laying it all out on the line. I remember being blown away by how strange it was to feel this intense nervousness between us. Something that after 7 years in a relationship, you seldom feel anymore. It sent such a shock through me and helped me to better understand what is so powerful about marriage and that kind of committed partnership. I said yes.
From there, we embraced a journey of continually checking in with ourselves and what we wanted for a wedding of some kind. The process of saying no to others in order to say a clearer yes to what we actually wanted was stressful at times, but really strengthening for our relationship. Adam and I are never shy to question the status quo, so it was a process of chipping away at what may have been expected of us or wanted by others, to get closer to what it was that would truly make us happy. We landed on the idea of having our ceremony at city hall with just our immediate family, and then renting a private room at a restaurant for dinner. Although it was challenging and sometimes painful to think that we weren’t including friends and extended family, the intimacy of that day and sharing our vows in front of the people there, was moving in a way that I had never thought possible. From this, I learned that you won’t ever regret doing something when it is completely aligned with your values. It was such a huge lesson in tapping into our own desires and questioning the ways in which things are modelled for us.
Then somewhere in the mix of the summer, we decided to try to get pregnant. It was always our unwritten plan that we would start trying in the Fall of last year, but after so much saying yes and really listening to what we wanted, we couldn’t find any reason to wait. Of course you find yourself thinking there could be a better time financially or what-have-you, but in so many heart to hearts we kept coming back to the fact that there are people everywhere raising beautiful, healthy children with so much less. If we felt prepared emotionally and knew we could create a stable and secure home, that was enough.
30 days later, I’m taking a pregnancy test in the early morning and you guessed it…positive. The initial feeling was a rising of both joy and fear all messily entangled within me. Absolute joy about the news that I am going to be a mom, something I’ve wanted and wished for since I was a little girl. And fear that holy shit there’s a baby in me and it’s going to have to come out! This was just the beginning of the ever winding road of emotions that pregnancy has taken me on.
We found out that I was pregnant in June and for the next 3 months I was sick as a dog — going to bed at around 7pm each night and greeting the day with vomiting over the toilet. Because I had tracked my cycle so closely, we found out that I was pregnant when I was only 4 weeks along. The space between finding out and eventually getting sick was an uncomfortable limbo that I hadn’t expected. It’s a weird headspace because you’re basically just relying on a pee stick as proof that you’re pregnant. But other than that, you don’t feel pregnant. And you’re not really telling anyone yet, so you keep it bottled up. The days drag on with the secret. And then my mind started playing tricks on me or I would read something negative online and would begin to think that maybe I wasn’t pregnant at all. I had many days where I experienced some anxiety over maybe having miscarried without knowing it or fearing that the tests had been wrong. It was the day before I got sick for the first time that I was airing these fears to Adam.
The next day I was puking and he was like “Do you still think you aren’t pregnant?”
The first trimester was an isolating time. It was difficult to go from being someone who exercised all the time with enthusiasm, to someone who would choose to stay in bed on a sunny summer day. I felt frustrated and out of character. I also felt myself spiralling into some shame around what I was eating. Or more like what I wasn’t eating. Gone were the days that I happily drank a green smoothie, ate a fresh salad, and chose my meals based on nutritional value. At that point I was consuming food based solely on whether or not I could stomach it. The guilt I felt around the food and exercise part of my life was such a great wake up call in highlighting the pressure that I put on myself to be at my best 100% of the time. What I realized was that yes it would be great to eat as well as I could, but the stress I was creating for myself over just eating what I could manage, was equally, if not more, detrimental to my physical and mental health. I owe so much to pregnancy for teaching me this. ‘Listen to your body’ has taken on it’s most potent and real form within my life. I took it really slow over the summer — swimming when I felt up to it, doing a short workout video at home once in awhile, or just going for an easy walk. I ate lots of meals that involved bread and just settled into what the first trimester wanted to be.
And as I navigated my new mindset around listening to my body, I also experienced such incredible highs. Seeing the baby on ultrasound for the first time. Watching them wiggle and move with so much energy. Hearing their heartbeat. Watching Adam’s reaction to every new thing we encountered. Witnessing all of it has brought me such intense love for this life I get to live. It’s so much of why I have chosen to go deeply inward during the journey, sharing very little in a public way. It felt great to step back from working as much as I was and from keeping up with anything that made me feel over-extended. It’s been liberating to put myself first and accept the help of others in a way that I never have before.
In so many other ways, pregnancy is such a trip. In speaking with many women about it, it’s crazy how the experience of being pregnant has changed over time. The access that we have to each other and information is both a blessing and a curse. But honestly, for me, mostly a curse. I’ve learned to really censor what I read and search for (most of the time). Instead, I try to go to my midwives directly and get my information there. If you’re heading into pregnancy, I would warn you of the tracking apps that are out there and the forums that they provide. For me, it’s too much of a roller coaster to log on and come across someone’s negative experience. I just find myself feeling more fragile than usual, and the forums that perpetuate fear are something I intentionally avoid. It also contradicts much of what I’m focussing on during my pregnancy — one of which is hypnobirthing. Surrounding myself with good thoughts and feeding my confidence is more of what I’m seeking and initiating.
The inner journey and physical experience of pregnancy is incredible. Like I mentioned earlier, my ability to tune in and listen to what my body needs is sharper than it’s ever been. Feeling the baby kick has got to be one of the greatest things a human gets to experience. I have fallen so in love with our little bean and didn’t expect to have this kind of connection before birth. Sometimes it’s so visceral that I’m brought to tears, especially now that I can feel their little body so clearly in my womb and the weight of them as I move. The biggest lesson in pregnancy has been to surrender. Surrendering to the process, to my body’s intelligence, and to all of the newness that I have very little control over. The times that have felt most fearful have been when I’m resisting, not surrendering. When I’m worrying about not doing enough, not knowing enough, or feeling frustrated with bodily changes. The fear comes when I lose touch with the faith that I’ve found in surrendering. Maybe having faith and surrendering are the same or maybe they’re separate. Either way, the combination of the two is magic to this process.
Lastly I’ll say that many people like to remind us of all the sleep we won’t be getting and of all the challenges we’re bound to face as new parents. Don’t worry, I understand that this is true. But I’m also adamant to not focus on that. This may be the end of life as we know it, but what about the start of a life we’re incredibly excited for? A new elevation of love that is incomprehensible until it’s happening to you. That’s what we’re ready to focus on. Our midwife put it so beautifully to us early on in my pregnancy. She said: ‘The early stages with a newborn is like falling in love. Lots of people find themselves in the throws of a new romance, staying up all night, talking or having sex until the early morning hours. And do those people complain of being sleep deprived? No. The early stages of getting up to care for your baby, functioning on little sleep, and being completely fixated on this gorgeous little human is just like falling madly in love.’
So much of this journey has involved deconstructing and reshaping my mindset so that it can better support my pregnancy, labour, and new parenthood. Those of you who know me know that I’m a researcher and a lover of information that will optimize any experience. I’d love to share the resources that I’ve turned to both for physical and mental support — a thriving pregnancy kit of sorts. I’m happily going on early mat leave at 36 weeks and will be putting this together for you and anyone in your life who may be expecting. So please stay tuned!