As my pregnancy winds down, the discomfort increases. At my last prenatal appointment I mentioned the increase discomfort since my last full term pregnancy wasn’t even close to being this uncomfortable. My midwife nodded knowingly. She agreed that being four years older the second time and having a little one to care for absolutely creates new issues and discomforts.
What she did not do was judge me. She let me complain quietly. Nodding her head in agreement or at the very least, in sympathy. She didn’t remind me of my blessings. She didn’t rub in the fact that I repeatedly said that I would give and go through anything for another child. She just listened. She reassured me that it was very typical. She just let me talk. This seemingly small act had a huge impact on me.
Most people around me know our story. They were by our sides during our multiple heartbreaks. They saw me slip into a depression and struggle with what I presumed to be our fate. They also witnessed our hard decision to stop trying to conceive. They saw my husband and I slowly come to terms with our only child status and eventually embrace our tiny family.
They were there when we announced our surprise baby. They held their breath with us as we waited to see that itty-bitty heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. They exhaled along with us at our 11-week scan, when we saw a healthy baby. They have been there and we are eternally grateful.
Most have been so supportive. SO supportive. But, there have been a few people who have unintentionally said some less than supportive things, disguised as support.
Sometimes, I need to complain. I need to sit down with someone I am close to and whine. Pregnancy is TOUGH. Yes, it is amazing and miraculous and beautiful but it is also painful and uncomfortable and hot. It is queasy and achy and exhausting. Even though the life inside of me is an enormous blessing and will never be taken for granted, the process of growing her is taking a toll on my mid-30’s body.
I am in my third trimester now, about a month away from meeting this little squirming person we created. And you know what? I hurt. Physically. Sometimes, when asked how I am feeling, I may mention the sleepless nights and searing back pain. It does not make me less grateful.
All the gratitude and blessings in the world still do not make 20 plus weeks of extreme nausea any more bearable. It doesn’t take away the discomfort of 15 weeks of pre-term contractions. It doesn’t make sciatic pain or pelvic separation any more enjoyable.
What I do not need is another well-meaning person to say, “Yeah but it’ll all be worth it!” Or, “Just remember what a blessing this is!” Or, “Be grateful you get to go through it, you thought you never would.”
These words may have all of the good intentions behind them that the world can hold but it does not make them sting any less. Ever been in pain and exhausted and not sure if you’ll make it to the end of the day without collapsing in a weepy pile only to be told to count your blessings? It is a super guilt inducing feeling and it is not something I want to be feeling.
What I need is more nods of understanding. More sympathetic ears. Maybe even an “I have been there” belly rub.
I spend 90% of my time counting those blessings. I talk about them, I write about them, I take photos of them, and I breathe them in. The people who try to remind me of them inadvertently make me sad. They should know how grateful I am. It is insulting, frustrating and hurtful.
It has led me to not share how I really feel. I fear coming across as taking for granted the very dream I held onto for so long. So, instead, I focus on the good and let the guilt over the less-than-stellar build. And build. And build. Until I end up crying myself to sleep, wondering if I really am just ungrateful. Maybe if I could muster more gratitude, the discomfort and pain would be more bearable.
One look at any drug store aisle of analgesics and the answer is clear. There is no bottle labeled, “count your blessings as needed for pain.” I am not ungrateful I am human. I am a human growing another human while caring for a small human. It is ok to complain sometimes. It is ok to admit moments of weakness. It is all part of my truth and I cannot deny that or let it make me feel guilty any longer.
I would have loved to have a picture perfect pregnancy. One with no swelling, little to no pain. One where I glowed for 9 months while our miracle baby grew inside my belly. But that isn’t real life. Well, maybe for some, but not for me. All-day morning sickness and crazy Braxton Hicks contractions are my reality. Swollen fingers and expanding feet are what is happening. I may be glowing but that is mostly because today is 80 and it is supposed to be sweater weather.
All of this is totally ok. It is perfect because in the end, I will have my second daughter. I will get to hold her and look at her and eventually the memories of the pain and discomfort will fade. They will never fully disappear though, as they shouldn’t. The memory of them will perfectly balance out the immense feeling of gratitude that will wash over me as I lay eyes on our new baby.
So, if you hear me say I am sore, haven’t slept in days, or feel so nauseous I might scream, please do not remind me to count my blessings. You can rest assured that I have counted and recounted them. I have talked about them, written about them, photographed them, and breathed them in. No, I do not need to be reminded of all I have to be grateful for. What I do need is to be allowed to express my feelings, my truth, without fear of guilt or judgment. I need a sympathetic ear and a smile.
A donut and belly rub wouldn’t hurt either.