When you think “pregnant woman” do you envision an angelic, glowing woman with a growing bump? How about the woman who, despite being pregnant, finds the energy to go to the gym, whip up a healthy breakfast, and, of course, post about it all on Instagram? It’s no wonder that your mind conjures up these images. Magazines, TV shows, and practically every other form of media paint a one-dimensional picture of pregnancy: blissful, magical, beautiful.
While pregnancy is a beautiful experience and can feel magical, this glamorized ideal doesn’t tell the whole story. When someone who has been trying to get pregnant finally does, they may expect that they’ll just love being pregnant. This isn’t always the case; pregnancy can be difficult and scary when you’ve gone through the emotional roller coaster of infertility.
With such an idealistic version of pregnancy all around, it’s not uncommon for women who get pregnant after infertility to feel confusion, guilt, and shame when pregnancy isn’t all they thought it would be. Here are some of the common (and very, very normal) emotions and challenges women who get pregnant after infertility go through, as well as some actionable tips you can take to prepare for your future pregnancy.
Balance the joy of pregnancy and the fear of loss
When you’re trying to conceive, there are 3 words that you would give anything to hear: “Congratulations, you’re pregnant!” You expect that, when you finally do hear them, you’ll be elated and consumed with joy. While this will most likely be your initial reaction, it’s common for women who have dealt with infertility to become anxious and fearful soon after receiving the good news.
The pain of infertility can leave you hesitant to feel too happy — in case something goes wrong. You may become overly cautious and worry that anything you do, from eating the “wrong” thing to having sex, could cause the pregnancy to end. On the other side, you may be worried about birth defects, preterm birth, any number of other issues you might encounter. While it’s healthy to be aware of any real possibilities, too much stress can be the cause of many problems and it can take the joy out of your pregnancy.
Here’s what you can do to balance joy and fear:
- Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have
- Find out if there are any problems that you are likely to encounter and identify what you can do to prepare for or prevent them
- Practice meditation and try to let go of the things you can’t control
- Talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you work through your fears
Manage feelings of shame for not loving pregnancy as much as you thought you would
You would happily trade hormone injections for morning sickness, a negative pregnancy test for swollen ankles, and all the heartache for the drained physical energy of pregnancy. But once you do get pregnant, you may realize that, while still part of a more joyful experience, pregnancy comes with its own set of challenges.
Many women who get pregnant after trying for months or years can feel a sense of guilt if they don’t love every single moment of their pregnancy. The reality is that nothing is joyful all of the time and all of the emotions you feel can exist together. You can feel grateful while also feeling frustrated at your changing, unpredictable body. You can feel relieved that your infertility struggles are over while also being moody and irritable thanks to the surge in hormones.
Shame often comes from believing that you “should” feel something or do something or be a certain way. When you don’t, it’s easy to beat yourself up and think that you’re doing something wrong because you don’t feel the way you believe that you should.
Here’s what you can do when you don’t love pregnancy as much as you thought you would (or should):
- Recognize that it’s ok if you don’t enjoy certain aspects of pregnancy
- Release any expectations you have of yourself or you think other people have of you
- Take your pregnancy one moment at a time
How to come to terms with the shift in your identity
Your identity is constantly shifting throughout each stage of your life. For a long time, you may have constructed your identity as a daughter, a friend, a wife, or a business woman. Those roles were a big part of your life and they were part of how you defined who you were.
Since realizing getting pregnant wouldn’t be easy, you assumed the identity of “woman struggling with infertility” and, more than likely, everything in your life fell into place around that. The support system you built, the activities you pursued, and the thoughts in your mind all helped to shape that identity. When you become pregnant after infertility, you’re shifting from “woman struggling with infertility” to “mother-to-be.”
This can feel scary in a lot of ways. You’re leaving behind the woman that you were for a period of time and learning to exist in an entirely new way, with a whole new set of hopes, and dreams, and worries. You may even find it hard to relate to the people who were once a critical part of your support system, especially if they were dealing with infertility alongside you.
Here are some ways you can shift into your “mother-to-be” role with more ease:
- Redefine your identity, not by the roles you play in other people’s lives (including your child’s), but by who you are instead
- Ask for support in the areas you need it, be that from friends, your partner, or a therapist
What to do when you got pregnant but someone else didn’t
Throughout your time trying to get pregnant, you’ve probably connected with other amazing women who were going through the same thing. These friendships carried you through hard times and you know that they’ll always play an important role in your life. But what happens when you get pregnant and someone close to you doesn’t? It can be difficult to navigate — you want to share your joy with them but, at the same time, you understand that the pain of watching someone else get pregnant is very real.
Most importantly, understand that you deserve to be happy. It’s okay for you to feel joy about your pregnancy. That being said, it’s not abnormal for someone who didn’t get pregnant to pull back from someone who did. That doesn’t mean they aren’t happy for you. They’re likely just attempting to deal with their own emotions around the situation and don’t want to make you feel bad.
Here’s what you can do when you get pregnant when your friend didn’t:
- Look for a new support system specifically for pregnant women or women who got pregnant after infertility
- Find common ground with your friends who are still dealing with infertility
- Be conscious of what you talk about when it comes to pregnancy when around those still struggling
- Treat them how you would want to be treated if the roles were reversed
Getting pregnant is one journey. Preparing for pregnancy after infertility is another one entirely. There is never one right answer and no two people will experience these journey’s in the same way. But at every step, there are ways you can cope, manage, and navigate both the pain and the joy. Remember, you’re not alone in this.