Ambivalence is normal too
Alana is 13 weeks pregnant with twins. It's her first pregnancy and a planned one yet she's caught by surprise - not just because she's having two babies, but because she's feeling ambivalent about becoming a mother. She always thought she'd feel excited about being pregnant, but that's not how she feels at all. It's not that she's sad or upset about it. She just feels kind of...meh. Alana wants to know if this is normal though she suspects not many women feel this way.
Alana, not only is it normal to not feel excited during your first trimester, it's extremely common. I get letters like yours all the time. Many midwives, mothers and "old wives" label pregnancy's three trimesters, "dreary, cheery and weary." There's room for lots of overlap and regression too so don't think it's abnormal that you're in your second trimester and still feeling "blah." Don't be surprised if next week you feel on top of the world, then the week after that, you're down in the dumps. Pregnancy's unpredictable like that.
Your body is changing rapidly, your hormones are all over the place, you're tired, you're nervous, you're worried (Is everything normal? Am I past the miscarriage stage?), and you're growing a couple brains in your belly. It would be abnormal if you didn't feel a little ambivalence.
Girls grow up dreaming that pregnancy is going to be one of the biggest highpoints in their lives. The reality is many women just plain old don't feel good, especially during the early months. Some women have good weeks and bad weeks, right up to their due dates and their physical and mental wellbeing might flip back and forth on an hourly basis between feeling happy and feeling crappy.
Plus, no matter how welcome that baby is, there's no getting around the fact that having a baby changes everything. I think this fact sometimes hits women who are really happy with their pre-pregnancy lives, careers, marriages, families, etc, even more than other women. Women wonder, will I still be happy? Will there still be room for my love life, for fun, friends, work...for me, once the baby comes? The answer to all those questions is a resounding, "yes!" It's just going to take a while to adjust, that's all.
The second trimester is the "cheery" one because most women are over the hormonal-morning-sickness-funk of the first trimester. The baby (babies) start kicking, your body looks pregnant (not just heavy) and your energy level returns to more or less normal. There's also the extra-added-bonus-plus of a surging sex drive that kicks a lot of pregnant women into the feel-good zone.
But what if you don't feel cheery? Is that normal? Yep! Normal. There really are no hard-set templates for how you'll feel during pregnancy. It's a smash-up of hormones, body changes, life stressors, and health factors that impact each woman uniquely. Even different pregnancies can feel entirely different to the same mother. She might feel great with her first, lousy with her second, thrilled with her third, and resigned with her fourth. Or, she might be one of those lucky women who feel on top of the world each and every time. Like I said: pregnancy is unpredictable.
Are you normal? Absolutely. Will you love your babies? Guaranteed! Will you also feel weepy, irritable, giddy, silly and sad? Every one of those emotions and about a hundred more are absolutely par for the course. You're going through an extreme experience like nothing you've ever been through before. You need a lot of emotions for that. Most people operate within a very narrow range of feelings. They do happy, sad, mad, guilty, fear, disgust, and surprise. But that's just the starter-pack. There's also: curious, anxious, joyful, shame, regret, confusion, resentment, delight, thrilled, excitement and more. We don't even have names for all the emotions we're capable of feeling.
I suspect, Alana, that you'll be feeling more upbeat within the next few weeks. If you're not, that's still normal. At what point should you worry? Worry isn't one of our more useful emotions. While some times it's an indicator that you need to make a few changes, most of the time worry is like an annoying mosquito buzzing around our brains and messing us up.
If you feel your mood sinking, you're overwhelmed, sad, or think you're going to hurt yourself, those are signs of depression and then you can worry. Post partum depression gets a lot of attention, but some women experience depression during pregnancy itself. Tell your partner and family. Talk to your midwife or doctor. Then, go find a therapist, a doula and a grandmother and get all kinds of support, insight and information about the range of experiences and emotions you're feeling. If that's not enough, you might be among those few women who need more advanced support like antidepressants. Frankly, Alana, I don't think you need to worry about that at all and I suspect you don't fall into this group. Just give it time, get some rest, do kind things for yourself every day and expect good things to happen soon.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and five children. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
This Fit Pregnancy blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to replace medical advice from your physician. Before initiating any exercise program, diet or treatment provided by Fit Pregnancy, you should seek medical advice from your primary caregiver.