Telling the story of pregnancy is not as easy as it may seem, especially if I don’t want to sound negative, give advice, or upset the norms. I’m not an expert, a doctor, or an example, but I did go through this experience, and I’ve learned a lot through it. So please bear with me, I hope my experience might be of some use.
Here are the 9 things that I've learned throughout my 9 months of pregnancy:
1. Comparison is a party killer
I have learned not to compare myself to my mom when she was pregnant with me, to my best friend who had just given birth, to all the pregnant women in the movie “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” to my sister in law, who was as tough as hell —or so they say— to pregnant celebrities who look dashing at all times, or to any other woman who has been pregnant in history. I have learned that every woman is a unique individual, who has extremely unique emotions, and whose body most definitely would respond uniquely to the miracle of creation. I have learned that sometimes pain is psychological, not only physical, that pain — like everything else — is unique. Comparisons blur our view of what we’re feeling, whether it’s good or bad. In short, I have learned that comparisons either make us feel above people, or way below them, that no one is a reference when it comes to how you’re supposed to feel, and that it’s okay to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling.
2. Support is welcomed… But should not be expected
When I got pregnant, I expected people’s support. I stood in line at the grocery store expecting people to clear my way to the cashier (that does happen sometimes but it’s not the norm) I remember one time I was buying stuff at the local market, I got really tired so I grabbed the nearest chair and sat down, only to be yelled at by an old man saying that this is not a coffee shop. I expected to be understood by the company I was working for at the time, but that, of course, was pure imagination, especially in Egypt. In this country, you’re the employee who betrayed the company once you got pregnant; you’re the burden and the black sheep. A friend of mine got pregnant while she was still in college, she told her female professor that she might be skipping some lectures and asked her how she can make up for the attendance; the professor replied that this is not possible and that she should drop the course altogether! So yes, the best strategy is not to expect support; expectations might be disappointing.
3. In through one ear and out the other
I should have learned this a long time ago, considering our highly nosy society. However, I learned not to listen to all the negative comments throughout my pregnancy. To give you the back story, I didn’t look like I was pregnant at all until my fifth month of pregnancy, but by the end of my ninth month, I looked like a huge ball that could be rolled on the floor. I remember that a relative commented “Oh my God! Are you pregnant with a house lizard?!... (aka a Bors) in my fourth month, on the other hand, in my ninth month, a different relative commented that I looked like an eggplant! I used to get upset and asked how people could throw words of stone at an innocent pregnant woman, but then I learned to smile and ignore what they said. To comfort myself, I assumed that they might be saying that stuff with good intentions and later on; I even learned not to bother with intentions because I can just block what they say, nevertheless; this is a master’s talent.
4. Men don’t get it
They just don’t, so we might as well stop trying to make them understand. They don’t get pregnant, and they never will. They don’t even get all the hormonal imbalances that we, as women, are used to. That’s why they don’t understand what we go through, and they prefer to assume we’re crazy. Honestly, I’m perfectly fine with their assumption, as long as it’s in my favor. Come to think of it, an ice cream craving at 4 AM does sound crazy!
They don’t get the pain and frustration we go through. They don’t know that when we throw up, we have no hand over it; we can’t distract ourselves from it, it just happens! I have learned to accept these facts; so as not to frustrate myself even more.
An extra tip to all the men who don’t get it (because I have to get this off my chest), it’s okay if you don’t get it, it’s forgivable. But, it’s unforgivable to act upon it. You need to understand that you don’t understand and act upon that. You need to support all the pregnant women in your lives without acting like you’re spoiling them because you’re not, your support is the bare minimum when it comes to pregnancy!
5. It’s okay “not to” toughen up
Whoever promoted the idea that we have got to stay strong, suck it in, and act all tough should rot in hell. We watch those videos of pregnant women running, dancing, and working out like they have superpowers. We try to act like we’re “social media” tough, but we forget that we weren’t even this fit and tough before we were pregnant. When I got pregnant, I tried so hard not to show it when I was feeling sleepy, nauseous or simply exhausted. By the end of my pregnancy, I didn’t give a ****. I was too tired to fake being okay, and I promised myself not to ever fake it again because nothing is worth the extra effort we exert to hide our pain and vulnerability.
6. One cannot give in to one’s appetite
Because simply if I did, I would have gained double the weight that I gained. I would have eaten tons of chocolate, an enormous amount of ice cream, and endless meals of junk food. Instead, I learned to control my cravings and eat what’s healthy for the baby and myself. It was a great exercise for someone who never stuck to a diet. But when I realized that my baby’s health would be directly affected by what I ate, I was motivated enough to eat as healthy as I could. Challenging? Yes. But doable. I learned through my pregnancy that I’m fully capable of sticking to a diet, I learned that eating healthy is a decision and that those little everyday choices matter...
7. Google is your best friend
Egyptian women are going to offer you advice, whether you asked for it or not. These women want nothing but to help you out. My advice — because I’m an Egyptian woman —is to nod politely, thank them for their precious advice, and then go google it. I googled everything; what I’d be going through each trimester, how the baby was supposed to develop, everything I should buy to prepare for my new life. You can even google what you’re supposed to google!
8. Not all women are born with a tremendous motherly instinct
We were in a family gathering, I was in my ninth month of pregnancy, a couple of weeks before my estimated due date when one of my distant cousins asked me, “So, how are you feeling? Excited?” I froze for a second before replying, “nothing... I don’t feel anything.” She smiled and comforted me, saying that it was the same for her, then added that “once they put your baby between your arms, you will feel this indescribable, unconditional love towards this creature, love that you never thought you had in you.”
Here’s what my reality was like: When I gave birth, they put my son on my chest, and I thought to myself, “Who is this? And what should I do with him now?” I had just had major surgery, I was exhausted and all I needed was to sleep. And yet, I was expected to suddenly become a mother; I was expected to know why my baby was crying, why he’s not sleeping, whether he’s hungry, sleepy, or just being a baby. And I had no clue what to do. It was overwhelming, and I didn’t feel like a mom. All I felt was an extreme feeling of guilt; because I just wanted to sleep, and that made me a shitty mom.
I kept asking myself, “What did this baby do to deserve a mom who was incapable of loving him from the moment he was born?” But, you know what, I loved him. Slowly but surely, I took my steps to my unconditional love. Just like any relationship; at first, we were strangers, we took our time knowing each other, we were there for each other through every step of the way. Then, out of nowhere, I fell in love with this little creature. If you ask me about my motherly instincts, I’ll swear it’s still under construction.
I can tell now why he’s crying or why he's upset, only because I’m always with him. I know him, just like I know my mom, my husband, or my best friend. And now, he’s my bestest friend of all. I learned that not all women are born with the so-called motherly instinct, but we all can work on it, and fight hard to find it deep within...
9. This too shall pass
Did I miss anything? What lessons did you learn? Let us know in the comments!