Not Feeling the Glow?

How to cope when you don't love being pregnant


Suzanne Kerns has just finished her first trimester, a time she’d always thought would be radiantly happy. Instead, the 28-year-old psychology student from Columbia, S.C., finds herself feeling sick, tired and blue. “I wanted so much for it to be a happy time but it’s not,” she says. What has made it particularly difficult, Kerns adds, is other people’s enthusiasm. “Friends get so excited when you tell them the news, but you don’t respond the same way—after all, you have just finished throwing up,” she says. “It produces so much guilt.” This conflict between joyful expectation and the unpleasant day-to-day symptoms of pregnancy is common, says Elizabeth Robbins, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Birmingham, Mich. “A woman may have been active before pregnancy, and now she has nausea and discomfort. And to top it off, she’s had to change her lifestyle,” she says. “It’s hard for her to talk about it because she feels guilty for having negative thoughts.” Women who are pregnant for the first time are especially vulnerable to such inner turmoil because they have no point of reference, says Terry Patterson, Ed.D., a family psychologist and professor of counseling psychology at the University of San Francisco. “It’s common to wonder: Am I the only one this is happening to?”

Find people who will listen>Robbins advises establishing a network of support early in pregnancy that consists of family, friends and other pregnant women with whom information, advice and feelings can be safely shared. It can take some effort to find the right people to share your feelings with, but it’s important to persist. “It might take more than one attempt to find a friend or doctor who won’t minimize your concerns, but don’t give up,” Robbins says. “Having another person acknowledge that it’s a difficult time and understand your feelings can be a real lifesaver.” Margret Della Maggiore knows this firsthand. The 30-year-old former dancer from San Jose, Calif., had just moved to be closer to her husband’s family when she found out she was pregnant. Suffering from morning sickness and chronic fatigue, Della Maggiore didn’t know her in-laws well enough to talk to them about her discomfort, and she had no friends nearby. She tried talking to her husband but says his response was that she was being lazy. By her third trimester, when she had grown far beyond her former size- body and was suffering from insomnia and a severe itchy rash that covered her body, Della Maggiore began to resent her baby, and she blamed her husband for getting her pregnant. Looking back, she remembers those nine months as “the absolute worst time of my life.” Della Maggiore decided she needed help. She began seeing a therapist, and her physician put her on anti-anxiety medication. “If it wasn’t for all that, I’m sure I would have had the baby prematurely,” she says.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help> Many pregnant women think they don’t have a right to ask for help for their discomforts. Nina Hernandez, 32, of Los Angeles downplayed the severity of her migraines when she mentioned them to her doctor, and she was dismissive about the fainting spells and nausea she was experiencing. “I just thought, ‘Well, everybody goes through this. Legions have done this before me, and many more will follow. What right do I have to complain?’” When she began experiencing discomfort in her lower abdomen, Hernandez decided to tell her doctor. “He told me it was caused by the weight of the baby on my pelvis and that it was perfectly normal, which really put my mind at ease,” she says. “He reassured me that nothing was wrong.” You don’t have to be a martyr for your baby. If any of your pregnancy symptoms are painful, tell your doctor. “A healthy and happy mother is what’s crucial to the development of a baby,” Robbins says. “And rest assured that doctors won’t prescribe anything that is harmful to your baby.”

Focus on your baby>A few reminders can help you keep your perspective and look forward to the happiness that’s to come: Focus on the positive Kerns and her husband have developed games to help her through the difficult times: They talk about their favorite memories from childhood and enjoy the anticipation of creating them for their baby. They also imagine what kind of personality and looks their baby will have. “We try to look at things both forward and backward,” she says. Get a glance of what’s to come Kerns has found that the most effective tactic is to visit moms with new babies. “It’s been really helpful to see them and hear them say it was all worth it,” she says. Educate your partner Inform your spouse about the physical and emotional difficulties that may arise in pregnancy so he is prepared to support you if they occur. “If you feel isolated, it increases stress and the physical symptoms become worse,” Patterson says. Go easy on yourself If you find yourself wishing you weren’t pregnant, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a bad mother. As Patterson says: “It’s not a sign of disturbance unless it persists.”

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Whether it’s caused by physical symptoms run amok or another factor, many women suffer from the blues during pregnancy. Here are a few resources to help you if you’re feeling down.

> Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression, by Shoshana S. Bennett and Pec Indman (Moodswings Press, 2003)

> Shouldn’t I Be Happy? Emotional Problems of Pregnant and Postpartum Women, by Shaila Misri, M.D. (Free Press, 2002) > The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Guide: Safe, Quick and Easy Relief From the Discomforts of Pregnancy & Postpartum, by Sherry L.M. Jimenez, R.N. (Avery Penguin Putnam, 1992) > prenatalhealth/9179.html