Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images
When it comes to pregnancy, women usually fall into one of two camps: Those who loooove the experience (and have the bump photos to prove it) and those who spend every minute counting down the minutes to labor.
Singer Fergie recently made her feelings on the matter clear, telling Allure magazine that she enjoyed being pregnant. “Especially when my belly popped,” she said. “The rounder it got, the more fun it was.”
There are plenty of reasons to relish pregnancy: Conceiving a child with the person you love, anticipating a future family, indulging in delicious food, and marveling in the fascinating bodily changes that occur. And for many women, being pregnant provides an opportunity to live in stretchy clothes and break from strict beauty routines.
For others — myself included — pregnancy is more complicated. For the record, I had a very healthy pregnancy — I ate well, exercised daily, and aside from an emotional meltdown over a box of quinoa that my husband didn’t cook correctly, I mostly kept my mood swings in check. However, practically-speaking, I hated the experience. Not being naturally thin, I’ve always struggled to keep my weight down (chalk it up to vanity, as a result of a chubby childhood), and I was miserable having to avoid alcohol and sushi, and being plagued by constant nasal congestion, heartburn, and sleepless nights. There were also emotional factors at play. Everywhere I went, I was the center of attention with sales clerks asking to rub my stomach and friends reminding me to “Enjoy sleep now!” Although I was very excited to meet my new baby and tried to keep my focus on his arrival, I found myself secretly resenting my husband for his boundless energy and ability to digest spicy food.
Photo by Elise Sole. 5 months pregnant, already psyched for labor.
People would say, “Enjoy this time! Pregnancy is beautiful,” and I would stare back blankly, unable to relate, and feeling a twinge of jealousy that I couldn’t revel in this miracle of life.
It turns out, I am not alone in my aversion to pregnancy. A quick search online yields pages of message boards full of women confessing variations of the same sentiment: “I hate being pregnant.”
What’s going on?
“Some women don’t enjoy pregnancy due to the weight gain, but the issue often runs deeper than vanity,” Bethany Marshall, PhD, a Beverly Hills based psychotherapist, tells Yahoo Parenting. “Rounder, fuller bodies go against society’s script for female beauty and some women subconsciously fear that a bigger body means they’re no longer desirable to their partners or the world.” Science substantiates these fears. One study published by the American Psychological Association found that male infidelity rises during pregnancy (even if he is satisfied with the relationship) due in part to the changes that occur when their partner is expecting.
Pregnancy has also been elevated to mythical proportions in Hollywood and “real life.” Not every pregnant woman emits a “glow,” has “chic maternity style,” or posts time-lapse videos of her baby bump. Regardless, there’s an expectation for women to fully subscribe to the pregnancy experience and it’s easy to feel like an outsider if you simply view it as a means to an end.
And for women who have had trouble conceiving, suffer from postpartum depression (yes, it can occur during pregnancy), struggle with the transition to impending motherhood, or are otherwise operating on nonstop hormonal highs and lows, it’s easy to understand why pregnancy can feel disappointing.
There is also a subset of women who are literally repulsed by pregnant bodies. For these women, who often have a history of mental illness or abuse, or have a negative associations with childbirth or pregnancy, their fears can be converted into physical disgust, says Marshall.
The good news about pregnancy? It has a shelf life. And for those who love it that much, they can do it all over again.