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I Hated Being Pregnant—And That’s OK

Pregnant woman with head under pillow to illustrate

Many people think that pregnancy is a magical period in a person’s life. That just isn’t the case for everyone. Writer Sadiya Dendar shares why she hated being pregnant, and what that’s absolutely fine.

You’re always told what a magical time pregnancy is. How exciting it is to see your little one at your first ultrasound, and, a couple of months later, feeling their fluttery kicks. And oh, how you’ll glow.

So I was excited for this journey. I was excited to get a big belly and take prenatal classes and to experience it all. I wanted my kids to be close in age, and I wanted to baby-wear and get a stroller that would easily convert into a double. I wanted a cute little bassinet that would sit right next to my bed for six months, and then a beautiful ivory crib that the baby could use once they got a bit bigger. I wanted it all.

Until I got pregnant.

I thought it would take a couple of months to get pregnant, at the very least. Nope, just a couple of weeks after stopping the pill, I started feeling light-headed and exhausted and nauseated. So, so nauseated.

Knowing that my mom had suffered with morning sickness for the first few weeks with both of her pregnancies, I figured I’d be the same. But the morning sickness lasted all day. And all night. The faintest of smells would have me staggering to the nearest trash can.

And each day, well-meaning moms told me it would get better:

“Don’t worry, as soon as the first trimester is done, you’ll feel OK.”

“Just wait until 15 weeks, then you’ll be fine.”

“Twenty weeks is the magic number. Once you reach the halfway point, it’ll be totally different.”

No, no and no. As each of these milestones approached, I’d wait to feel better. But nothing changed. Instead, I felt more and more down.

I had no appetite. Strawberries would be OK for a bit—until I’d puke. Same with crackers. And everything else. The only thing that slightly quelled my nausea was ice cream and iced cappuccinos. My doctor didn’t care as long as I was eating something.

I moved back into my childhood bedroom with my parents so my mom could look after me. She did my laundry, made my bed, cooked things she thought I could stomach, brought me glasses of water, ginger ale and juice in an attempt to keep me hydrated.

Other than going to work, I mostly stopped leaving the house. I didn’t want to sit in a car, I didn’t want to have to pretend to smile and I didn’t want to have to speak to people. Especially when I received comments like, “You know, you’re not the first woman to be pregnant and you won’t be the last” and, “You should be grateful that you’re even able to have a baby” and, “It’s just mind over matter.”

I felt like I was failing at every turn.

Besides the nausea and pretty severe depression, I also experienced terrible anxiety that affected my ability to sleep. I’d lie awake all night, unable to stop my mind from spiralling. I was terrified of labour. I thought about finances. What would happen once my mat leave ended. My aging parents. Looming deadlines at work. And all of the things I couldn’t do.

My incredibly supportive family physician gave up her lunch breaks once a week to check in with me until I could get an appointment with a maternal mental health team. Initially I met with a social worker to discuss my progress, but I finally did get in with a psychiatrist just about a month before I was due. She decided things were bad enough to prescribe me antidepressants.

Nothing helped. And now I had something else to worry about: Because I had prenatal depression, I was at higher risk of developing postpartum depression. How would I function taking care of an infant when I couldn’t take care of myself?

It was truly the longest and most trying period of my life.

My husband encouraged me to go on short-term disability so I could lessen some of my stress. My OBGYN suggested the same. But I felt like work at least forced me out of bed each day. I would spend the weekends in bed feeling too tired and too nauseated to do much other than wander out to the deck a couple of times a day.

Because of other complications that I learned about in the third trimester, my doctor decided to induce me at 38 weeks. So I ended up taking maternity leave at 36 weeks to at least give myself a couple of weeks to sort things out.

Wrapping up work helped. I no longer had to worry about deadlines or responding to emails or dragging myself out of bed early for the long commute into the city. Perhaps what helped most of all was the extra time I got to spend with my niece who came over on the days my sister-in-law worked. She’d crawl into bed and snuggle up with me and stroke my face and tell me how much she loved me.

In the meantime, my mom did all the prep. She washed and ironed the baby clothes and packed them into a set of drawers. My husband, while he wasn’t working, going to buy me ice cream or installing the car seat, was trying to set up the nursery at home. We had decided we’d both stay with my parents for a few weeks after I gave birth for the extra set of hands, but he wanted our house to be ready, too, for whenever we returned home.

And I stressed about my induction and labour and how painful it would be and how early I could get an epidural and whether or not it would work. And what if I never felt OK again?

The day of my induction arrived and I had my phone close by waiting for a call from the hospital to let me know when they had a room free for me. The call finally came at 3pm. I had a bit of soup and we left.

Registering at the hospital felt strangely like checking into a hotel. We stood at the nurses desk and filled out forms and then were shown our room and told where to put my hospital bag. I was given a gown and told to change and lie down in bed until someone was ready to see me. It felt so surreal.

Most first time moms are in labour can expect to be in labour for 12-24 hours with their first baby—and often longer if you’re induced. But things progressed quickly. The contractions started and I was offered an epidural at 3cm. I wasn’t sure about taking it because I didn’t want it to wear off before delivery, but my husband said to get it and to see how it goes.

He was right. My entire labour and delivery lasted less than six hours. And the epidural worked like a charm. Unfortunately once I started pushing, the baby’s heart rate began dropping. The doctor quickly realized the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and used a vacuum to help deliver him a bit more quickly.

The second he was out, he was whisked away to get checked. I gave a big sigh and then I choked back tears. The doctor patted my leg and told me that the baby was going to be fine. I knew that. The real reason for my tears? I finally felt relief.

It was as if this dark shadow was lifted. The nausea was gone. I could smile again. I had things to say and I could laugh. My mom walked into the room and said she could tell I was back. My eyes once again had life.

Once we were transferred to a room, my husband asked me if I wanted to eat and I didn’t hesitate to ask for a bagel with cream cheese, a muffin and chocolate milk. Which I gulped down pretty enthusiastically as soon as he handed it over.

That night I couldn’t sleep but it wasn’t because of pain or anxiety or a screaming babe. I was just so happy to be normal again. And I was savouring every second of it. I enjoyed happiness, excitement and texting my friends. I quickly escaped the shell that I had been shut in for the last nine months. And I had a healthy little babe to snuggle with.

And that postpartum depression? It never appeared. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Sleep deprivation and nursing and never having a minute to shower is tough. But pregnancy was tougher and I was so happy to be on the other side of it.

a man carrying two children

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