• Chas

How Societal Expectations in Pregnancy Feed Mental Health Issues

Updated: Mar 8

Societal Expectations in Pregnancy…

We live in the digital age where social media is built into our days and all information, true or false, is just a click away…Especially in regards to pregnancy.

My husband and I knew we want to start trying to get pregnant in early 2018. We were both so excited to start a family and I was really looking forward to experiencing pregnancy. I knew no pregnancy was perfect and everyones experiences were different, but from what I saw on social media, most women felt amazing, loved every second of it, and have never felt so beautiful or strong. After seeing so many women wearing cute outfits and living their best lives with their bumps, I began to subconsciously expect that for myself.

First off, I would like to preface this… I am so thankful we are pregnant and my body is able to create life. I know not everyone is blessed in this area, and I wish I could change that for anyone who suffers from infertility or any other issue which hinders them from experiencing pregnancy.

When we did get pregnant, I found out incredibly early. I had about 2-3 weeks of really feeling no differences which only egged on these unrealistic thoughts that I would turn into a warrior princess for 9 months. Around 6 weeks I started to experience pretty debilitating nausea. It lasted all day and honestly nothing really helped except sleeping. I stayed in bed for about a month straight with a convenience store on my nightstand including Preggo Pops, ginger ale, crackers, hard candies, and tons of essential oils which I can no longer stand the smell of. Safe to say there was no warrior princess happening.

During that month in bed, I of course was all over Pinterest, creating boards of cute pregnancy outfits and prenatal workouts, because OBVIOUSLY I was going to be fierce. I rarely worked out before but since I’m pregnant now, working out will become life…wrong. As my pregnancy continued forward I became less and less confident in myself and my capabilities as an adult. This is big for me to say because it hinders me so deeply.  

There is so much information out there on pregnancy but a lot of it stems from the blogging world which sometimes can’t always be trusted. In addition to, there is so much about pregnancy that I don’t know. I’ve never been pregnant. The food monitoring, the cleaning product monitoring, the skincare product monitoring. Everything needs to be monitored and intentional which is new for me and honestly, getting a straight forward answer on the internet is hard. I can only call my OBGYN department so many times before they block my number!

Because of all the information out there, in addition to all the opposing views and lack of a User-Friendly Pregnancy Manual, my anxiety began to fester. Instead of feeling strong and powerful, I felt weak, incapable, and fragile. To be honest, I still do. Majorly. I was so convinced that I would be like these blogging moms we see all over Instagram. Eating tubs of ice cream with not a care in the world. Their hair perfectly waved, their makeup sitting perfectly, and wearing heels! HOW are you wearing heels? I can barely put pants on without almost falling over.

Once I started to show I got excited again. It began to feel real and I knew with each passing week more and more was going to start happening and changing, but not all change is “ideal” change. I began getting stretch marks, more than I ever thought I would (see a pattern?), I started to gain weight in my hips and butt (not in a good way like Kim K. or Beyonce), and my skin was going through a serious crisis (what up middle school). The expectation vs. reality scenario had never been so real and the pressure was overwhelming.

How These Expectations Create Deeper Mental Health Issues…

We all know social media can create or worsen depression and anxiety. We all play the comparison game to some degree. Now, sharing your pregnancy journey on social media is exciting, beautiful, and you're right, BUT, there needs to be more realism integrated and less “staged shots” being posted. Pregnancy is hard, and with society telling us how we should feel, look, act, and be during the 9 months is incredibly debilitating. So much so, that depression and anxiety has become one more added stress for me to deal with. Regularly, my depression and anxiety stems from a sense of not being in control in certain situations, lack of self-confidence, feeling unworthy, and fearful of the unknown future. In pregnancy, all of those are present and true, but now I feel like I am failing as a pregnant woman and wife because I don’t look, act, or feel how I apparently “should”.

  1. I don’t want to buy maternity clothes every week because they won’t fit the next, so majority of my clothes have made friends with my scissors. Waistbands be gone!

  2. I don’t feel beautiful right now. I feel big and my cellulite has taken on a new life. My makeup doesn’t want to sit on my skin the same way and I have texture appearing where ones beard might.

  3. I don’t feel strong. I feel incredibly weak because my mind is playing games with me every second of every day.

  4. I feel like I have failed because of everyone telling me how anxiety is bad for the baby, like it’s something I can truly control. There is no “on” or “off” switch people.

  5. I now waddle… Oh wait, I did that before too 🙂

It wasn’t until I started being honest about how I felt on social media that the floodgates opened and more and more women have shared their current or previous journey with me and can relate. It showed me just how deeply these issues run and how we need to be the ones to change it. One woman in particular who I started following closely about a year ago who I wish I could thank in person with a huge hug is Whitney Port and her YouTube series “I Love My Baby But…”.

She got so real about how she honestly hated being pregnant and it was extremely difficult for her. She was so relatable and so unapologetically honest. It was reassuring and helped me be OK sitting with the fact that hey, pregnancy isn’t for everyone BUT I love my little nugget more than anything already and I can not wait for this next chapter to begin.

It’s people like her and these other courageous mom’s who bluntly share their truth that make people like me who suffer from anxiety and depression feel better. I may be a basket case, but my child will be cute so I mean… there’s that!

Creating New Expectations…

I wasn’t going to write this post, talk about my anxiety and depression, or even hint at how this has been hard for me because I don’t want anyone to assume that I am ungrateful or taking this incredible journey for granted because I’m not. I think it's unbelievable what my body is physically doing to grow a human, but mentally it’s not so miraculous.

Mentally it’s exhausting. After hearing from different woman I felt inclined to share my journey because it’s needed. We need more real and honest experiences being shared. I want someone to read this and feel like they are not alone in how they are feeling. So, in order to create new pregnancy expectations in society we need to share ALL experiences. Not just the perfect world scenarios and we need to promote the not so perfect journeys. We have to create balance.

If you aren’t feeling your best in your pregnancy, please know that it’s normal. Try to fill your days to stay busy, as hard as it is, get out and do something that requires some physical activity, and make sure you are eliminating anything that makes you feel less than.

Now more than ever you need to fill your life with happiness and positivity as best as you can. Will you have a meltdown? Yes, probably many, but know that you are not alone and you are doing the best YOU CAN! You are powerful, amazing, and beautiful, regardless of how you feel.

How was your pregnancy? Was it easy? Hard? Did you feel amazing or less than? Share in the comments below and lets start to allow variety in what we see online.

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