When we talk about pregnancy, besides the cliche stuff like big tummies and food tantrums, several other nuances are practically related to the whole picture for the parents-to-be which are at times incomprehensible unless one goes through that phase. Every pregnancy is different and thus, can encompass varied scenarios and experiences. So let’s see how.
For new parents, pregnancy is a life-changing and exciting experience, and described at length by variegated physical and emotional dimensions. Certain women enjoy being pregnant and say they ‘don’t face any problems’. Others find the ‘feeling’ of pregnancy more challenging, either physically or emotionally or a combination of both. Some men also talk about their perceptions during their partner’s pregnancy as being something that they might never really comprehend.
Basic changes that women talk about are altering their diets, looking and feeling different, craving certain types of foods, and feeling fatigued and nauseated often. Some are taken aback by how exhausted they feel. Many experience physical pain or discomfort during pregnancy, including sciatica, restless legs syndrome, deep vein thrombosis, headaches, fluid retention, heightened sensitivity to smell and heat, and tender larger breasts. In twin pregnancy, commonly such women feel that their changes and discomforts double. A few of them love the physical experience of being pregnant and embrace their new shape. Others are ‘uncomfortable’ and claim to be under prepared for the physical characteristics of pregnancy once it befalls.
Often women struggle to accept the feeling of a ‘normal’ pregnancy because cumulatively the physical experience may be bad. Several women with more than one child say that their second or later pregnancies have been harder, particularly due to having to care for other children. Coping with nausea is stated to be harder when women had older children, experienced a lack of support, or when they had demanding or inflexible jobs. Some partners do help by providing practical support like cooking when wives are unwell during early pregnancy or even provide timely massages when they see their spouses in utter pain while carrying the child in womb.
The tangible and sensorial aspects of pregnancy are usually intertwined for many women. Some have described wondering if nausea was caused by anxiety or if it was the other way around. Others feel a sense of disconnection between being pregnant and their day-to-day lives. It is even common to have difficulty focusing in formal work meetings while feeling her baby ‘kick’ inside furiously. It’s an unforgettable experience and makes women often wonder at the marvel of the universe. A sense of vulnerability and responsibility for their unborn child is often related to, while others remember being awed at having a baby growing inside them. At times, pregnancy-related emotional ambivalence is often seen. A few also mention social expectations to be happy, positive and ‘glowing’ during pregnancy. Albeit, a lot of these expectations are solely based on social norms and don’t really do justice to how a woman may actually be feeling inside.
The novelty experience of a first pregnancy distracts the first time mothers from thinking about parenthood as a bigger picture. Pregnancy is a phase of approximately 9 months but the journey which entails thereon is something that all new parents should prepare for early on. Not just emotionally, but planning out financial aspects for the baby from the time of inception, to arrival to even few early years of growing up, the child’s reliability on parents is undeniable- a part which no responsible parents should evade.
Women who are used to being self-dependent can face a whole different set of issues, mostly emotional though. Those of whom are not used to accepting favors, asking help or being cut any slack in daily chores can feel somewhat inadequate as the pregnancy proceeds. A feeling of inefficiency can override the mindset and account to feeling rather depressed. The key to overcoming it is only to accept this ‘helplessness’ as a rather blessing and moving forth to nurture the child, concentrating on the positive aspects. Several women yearn for children and yet have none or very late. Those of whom are given this privilege should consider themselves blessed and never disregard it.
For those who conceive in stressful circumstances like after failure of contraception, out of wedlock or other dire situations like late pregnancies, poverty, etc., circumstances can be rather hard to cope. A number of people related emotional distress during pregnancy to past experiences of depression and anxiety, or childhood experiences. The journey to parenthood may not be all rosy in their cases, but sometimes the arrival of the child does solve half the problems. The sheer feeling of having brought a new life in this world is itself so overwhelming that all other pains are shoved aside, atleast for a little while.
A whole array of complications during pregnancy involving the mother’s health, the baby’s health, or both can further devastate the picture. These included ectopic pregnancy, bleeding, placental problems, ‘incompetent cervix’, gestational diabetes, severe nausea (hyperemesis gravidum), ovarian cysts, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia. The bar of emotional impact from these can range from just a simple inconvenience up to significant disdain. Such scenarios need to be dealt with attentively by both parents and their healthcare providers. Patience is the key to overcoming each situation by taking one day at a time.
All in all, giving necessary emotional and physical support, and financial assurance to a mother-to-be shall give her to a great extent the necessary contentment she shall need to safely and effectively usher the innocent new life in to this world. Being prepared with a practical plan for the journey after would also help a great deal, however dire the situation. Seeking out support groups wherever the need be and not shying away to ask help will definitely prove fruitful for the baby and family as a whole. In the long run, the better we get at understanding the pregnancy nuances, the better are our chances to raise and put forth a generation worthy of this world.
-Dr. Aafreen Kotadiya