This week is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. As someone who has never been pregnant, is not thinking about getting pregnant but does have some reservations about becoming pregnant, this is an important week to me and a week that deserves more attention than it receives.
While I am not at a place in my life where children are high up on my priority list, I am at an age where many of my friends are either already parents or are pregnant or trying. This means that whether I like it or not thoughts of pregnancy and parenthood creep into my consciousness from time to time. I know for certain that I am prepared for children right now both financially and more importantly mentally.
I have unresolved issues with my mental health that I would prefer to have addressed before I even begin to think about starting a family. In an ideal world, I would consider myself fully mentally healthy before embarking on that journey, although we all know that isn’t very likely.
It’s also something that is not overly realistic, things such as pregnancy often don’t work to a perfect schedule and sometimes things happen earlier than expected or take longer and different issues can pop up.
As someone who is particularly conscious of mental health and checking in with those I love, I will always make a point of asking my pregnant friends how they are doing and how
they are feeling. Oftentimes they will tell me that they are feeling bloated, frustrated, in pain.
It is also common for them to be open about feeling depressed or suffering from the surfacing of mental health struggles that they thought they had a handle on.
This is often followed by the admittance of feeling guilty that they are not loving every second of pregnancy, feeling guilty that people might think they don’t love their baby. I cannot fathom what a horrible, lonely feeling that must be.
We need to encourage open and honest discussions of what it is like to experience pregnancy. We need to accept the gruesome, painful, suck-y parts of pregnancy and know that it does not detract from the overall experience of parenthood, it is not an assessment of what kind of parent you will be.
We should be allowed to talk about the experiences that we have and help to make sure expectant mothers do not feel so alone at such a vulnerable time in their lives. The normalisation of seeing all different types of pregnant bodies on social media and in film and TV, every person experiencing pregnancy should be able to see others like them.
We need to move away from the idea that only a neat small bump is an acceptable pregnant body. We should acknowledge trans pregnant bodies, big pregnant bodies, stretch-marked bumps, tiny bumps, undefined bumps, and everything in between.
I make it clear to my friends that I have no rose-tinted glasses when it comes to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. I do not believe that pregnancy has to be this beautiful, perfect time in a woman’s life in which she feels like a fertility goddess.
I much prefer the idea that it is tough, gruelling, oftentimes painful and messy especially at the end. That women who are pregnant are warriors who are enduring pregnancy for the end goal of loving and raising their child.
We need to collectively support pregnant people, remind them that they are growing an entirely new person, entirely new organs, and limbs, all the while keeping their own body going and holding down jobs and looking after other children!
You do not have to feel great every single day, you do not have to enjoy having your organs squished around, or having your bones literally change shape. Not enjoying pregnancy does not equate to not loving your child.
To any pregnant people reading this, you are doing great! No matter how you are feeling you are smashing it! Keep on going, pregnancy is the journey, not the destination!