Today we are talking about what no one tells you about pregnancy. You always hear about the beautiful parts of pregnancy - the glow, the bump pictures, building your nursery. But we are going to talk about the not-so-beautiful parts.
We will discuss:
Episodes and Articles Mentioned:
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Special credit to Purple Planet Music for the background track, https://www.purple-planet.com
I know that I’ve been a bit quiet the past few months and it’s because I’ve been keeping quite a bit of a secret. If you follow me on Instagram ok TikTok, you are already in the loop. But for those who haven’t found me on there yet, I’m pregnant!
Somehow my husband knew this for weeks before I had a positive test. I had absolutely no idea. My hormones and cycle have been really off since discovering I have Hashimotos and Hypothyroidism, so my period coming late was actually a common occurrence. After a couple of weeks of him telling me I was pregnant and me brushing it off, I took a test to prove him wrong. And it turned out I was wrong!
We are so happy. And I’m super excited to be going through another pregnancy. Pregnancy is such a special and unique experience. I feel powerful creating a life inside of my body. And I feel connected every time I feel the baby move. But we always hear about the joys and beautiful parts of pregnancy right? The glow, the perfect bump pictures, the creative Instagram photoshoots.
And yet we rarely hear about some of the less beautiful and more challenging parts of pregnancy. Since I have already brought a beautiful little boy into this world, I wanted to share my experience with pregnant, twice. The things that I wished I had known about before I had gotten pregnant.
Knowledge is power. Power to control the fear, the anxiety, the shame from admitting that things aren’t always great. This is for all of you pregnant moms, those who want to be moms, those preparing to be moms, and even the partner trying to better understand what their pregnant partner is going through.
And hang out until the end of the article, where I share the things everyone will scare you about in pregnancy - that don’t end up being as bad as you hear. Plus, a bonus bit on what I wished I had been told about preparing for the postpartum period.
Loving Pregnancy - Or Not
We are going to start with the most common one - having moments where you don’t like pregnancy. No one loves pregnancy 100% of the time. It’s not a realistic expectation to have for anything in life, especially in pregnancy. Pregnancy is a very intense transitional season in your life. Everything is transitioning - your body, your home, your world. Anyone would struggle with that from time to time.
Unfortunately, all that we see about pregnancy on social media, tv, or in movies is just pure joy. A glowing mother loving this miraculous state of being. Those are highlight reels. Yes, there are so many beautiful parts of pregnancy. But there are also SO many challenges in that season of life.
Expecting to love pregnancy all of the time is just setting yourself up for failure. It’s setting you up to feel like there is something wrong with you. Or like you must not be a good mother if you aren’t loving pregnancy. As if loving pregnancy and loving your baby are mutually exclusive. Newsflash - they’re not. The sooner that you acknowledge that truth, the sooner you will release the shame and guilt.
Prenatal Mental Health
Prenatal depression and anxiety are real things. It’s not just postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. Your hormones start changing in your first trimester. And, as I mentioned a minute ago, you are experiencing a major life transition. There are so many new experiences, and challenges being introduced to you at this time. It’s not uncommon to struggle with mental health.
We all have mental health. And we all struggle with our mental health from time to time, even without a major life event such as pregnancy. There is no shame in it and absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about. You are not weak for needing help. In fact, you are actually incredibly strong for being able to acknowledge the issue and reach out for help.
So, speak to your prenatal care specialist. Let them know what you are experiencing. And find some comfort in knowing that they hear about this all of the time. Find a therapist that you can trust. Your mind, heart, and soul deserve that extra love and care right now.
Pregnancy Facts They Don't Tell You About Other People
Let's talk about the people surrounding you. And let’s be honest, people get weird. From the moment you start sharing your pregnancy with others, you might start to receive some unexpected responses. People might not be as excited or as happy for you as you had hoped or expected. Or they might just be downright negative.
Your Happiness is Their Heartbreak
For people who have been struggling to conceive, want to conceive, or who have suffered miscarriages, it can be challenging to see someone else get pregnant. Now, I’m going to ask you to take a step back and really put yourself in their shoes. Consider a time you really wanted something in life and maybe even had that taken away from you, only to watch someone else get that. Now times that by like a million. It is much more complex than simple jealousy.
Trust me when I say that their reaction has nothing to do with you. They might be very happy for you but are having a hard time showing it because they are processing some difficult emotions with this news. In some ways, they might need to grieve their loss or perceived “bad luck” before they can fully meet you in the joy and happiness you deserve. If you’ve both struggled with conceiving, it could also be additionally challenging to have someone who could relate to your sorrows to gain everything you ever wanted.
Give them time. Maybe even space. Lower your expectations for them right now. But don’t dismiss your feelings. Their feelings are absolutely valid and yours are too. Be sad, cry, get the anger out, whatever you need to do - just don’t direct it at them right now.
And ask yourself: What is it that you hoped you could get from them? Certainly, there is someone in your life who is willing and maybe already offering you that. Lean on them a little extra right now to fill that void.
People with Bad Vibes
Or maybe the issue is something else. There are a few types of bad vibes you might come across. Some will come from more experienced mothers and some will even come from other pregnant mothers. It’s unfortunate, really, because all of us mothers could be lifting one another up. And offering our support. But all too often you will see the exact opposite.
It feels like once you get pregnant, many experienced mothers start scaring you about all that is to come. This almost always starts out with them saying “just wait until…” referring to something that will get worse for you. And believe me, they always believe it will get worse. Keep in mind that these people are seeing parenthood through their own filter. Their negative experiences might be something incredibly positive for you!
And yes, some people just can’t help but be negative. You see this in all areas of life. It just seems to be intensified in motherhood because it is a deeply sensitive subject. All parents want to do their best and all parents feel some sense of nervousness or fear for what is to come. If you are constantly being told it just gets worse and worse, that not only dismisses any struggles you are currently having but is honestly just placing a really bleak outlook into your future.
I’m here to tell you that it gets better. Find people who can plant this message into your life. Because it does get better! Challenges will always come and go in life. There will always be some sense of struggle. But your love for your children will just grow deeper with each passing day and new experience.
Pregnancy Bump Buddies
And as for those pregnant mothers… It can be so amazing to go through pregnancy alongside someone else who is experiencing all of the same things that you are. And it can also be incredibly… not. If you are in any due date groups on Facebook, you’ll start to see a lot of the negative side to being in similar positions.
Competition starts to rise up. People get competitive over who is further along (cue the “just wait until…” statements”). They feel competitive over who feels the baby move first, what baby items you are buying, who has the worst pregnancy symptoms, everything. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. I don’t have time or energy for competition in relationships. I will find myself feeling defensive, wanting to justify my decisions or experience. When I shouldn’t need to.
A true friend will gladly accept and support any decision you make or experience you have. It needs to be about community over competition. If your relationship with them does not have that vibe, it’s only going to get worse as you enter motherhood. Comparisons and competition over a baby's milestones or growth are incredibly toxic. I’m talking all the red flags.
Speaking of red flags, let’s talk about mom-shaming. Because once you’re pregnant, you’ll likely start experiencing this awful and (unfortunately) very common behavior. It’s exactly like it sounds - moms being shamed. And you can very easily find yourself the target of mom-shaming, even if you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong as a parent.
In fact, you could do all of the things right and there will still be people mom-shaming you for your decisions. These people are commonly other moms who have chosen to do things differently. And are so set in the belief that their way of parenting is right, that no other parenting choice could possibly be right as well. Although, society as a whole is guilty of shaming moms daily.
You’ll learn the really heated topics - like how you choose to feed your baby or how you put your baby to sleep. And you’ll still see mom-shaming even with evidence-based research. I was mom-shamed from a complete stranger online. She told me that I’m a neglectful mother for following the American Academy of Dermatology's recommendation to bathe my baby a couple of times per week. Obviously, this is assuming my baby remains clean and smells lovely throughout the week. And that I’ve spot cleaned all of the important areas on him. Her argument was that babies should be bathed every day otherwise it’s neglectful.
Moms Supporting Moms
You’ll never be able to make everyone happy with your parenting choices. That’s because your parenting journey is unique to you and your child(ren). We all parent based on our own personal beliefs, childhood lessons, traumas, and our view of the world. It’s a beautiful thing to be different, as long as we are making safe choices and not putting our children in harm's way.
Moms don’t need more judgment. We get enough of that from the world. Moms need support, especially from other moms. No one understands motherhood better than someone who is actively living it. Can you imagine how amazing this world could be for mothers (especially new ones) if all of us mothers decided to support and lift one another up? And not spend our energy fighting, competing, or tearing each other down? We might actually expand our communities, which can only, in turn, provide more love and support for our children.
Building our community becomes even more important during pregnancy because a surprising amount of friendships end around this time. This might be due to any of the previous situations that I’ve just talked about. Or, because you’re entering a new chapter in life and they are simply not meant to go with you. And that’s ok! Sometimes friends are meant to come into our life only for certain seasons.
Being in different places in life can put a strain on any relationship. It can create a perceived distance between one another. And make it harder to relate to each other. Having your priorities shift as you enter into parenthood can also change the dynamic of your friendship. Were you going out a lot with them before? Maybe drinking? Things you can no longer do or no longer have the energy for? These are reasons friendships can fizzle out.
As for those friends who stick around regardless of their own place in life or how your dynamic has changed, they are rare gems. Appreciate them. Thank them. Support them in return. I’m lucky to have a handful of these friends. This is kind of crazy because I’m really one of the first moms in my friend group. However, they all respect and celebrate my new lifestyle. Whenever I find myself feeling down about any friendships I have lost, I make sure to pour into these true friendships. After I’ve acknowledged the very valid feeling of loss, of course.
Feeling Emotional During Pregnancy
There will be many valid emotions during pregnancy. And they will likely be intense, although that is not the case for all expecting mothers. Pregnancy is no joke though. And hormones can really mess with you. For me, it feels like every feeling or need is just heightened during pregnancy. There is intense hunger, intense fatigue, intense frustration, and intense fear. But also intense joy, intense love, intense bonding, and intense growth.
I like to think of myself as a very cool, calm, and collected type of person. But hormones really brought out an entirely new side of me. I would snap, lose my cool, or drastically feel my mood shift. At the drop of a hat. It felt completely out of my control. It helped me a lot to acknowledge the new feeling or reaction. And to remind myself why it was happening. Sometimes just knowing the reason for your mood can help keep it from controlling you too much.
Our emotions are messages. There is a hidden meaning behind them, much like dreams. Behind anger, there might be hurt. Or behind frustration, there might be unmet needs or fear. And behind sadness, there might be grief from expectations. Explore your emotions, ask what they are trying to tell you. It’s one of the best ways to know yourself better.
Vivid Dreams during Pregnancy
Another pregnancy fact they don’t tell you about is the dreams. I don’t typically remember my dreams, except for when I’m pregnant. When I was pregnant with my first son, I had dreams almost nightly about there being a spider in my bed. I could see it, I knew exactly where it was. And I’d wake up in a panic, absolutely convinced it was there. My husband would turn on the lights and tear apart the bed and never find this dream spider. Eventually, he caught on but would appease me by still looking. Because that’s just the kind of sweet man he is.
After having these nonstop spider dreams for months, I looked into the animal medicine behind spiders. I’m Native American. So I wholeheartedly believe in each animal carrying its own form of medicine or message for you. For spiders, it’s creativity. At this stage in my life, I was just beginning to water this Root and Rise seed. This podcast and blog were just a thought that kept nagging at me. Once I finally started creating Root and Rise, my dreams stopped. I haven’t dreamt of a spider again, and it’s been years.
Pregnancy dreams can be fascinating to interpret. There are a lot of hidden meanings and subconscious messages behind our dreams. I highly recommend you look into it if you haven’t already! Some of my other pregnancy dreams could easily be interpreted as my fear of generational trauma and those family members hurting my baby as I had been hurt. Or my internal struggle with my body image during pregnancy. While you can gain a lot of insight into your dreams, it’s important to remember that thoughts are just thoughts. Every dream, every fear, and every thought that you have will not come true. They are not facts.
Body Acceptance During Pregnancy
Going back to body image, I wrote about my battle with body image in my article on Body Acceptance During Pregnancy. One of the pregnancy facts they don’t tell you is that you may not love that beautiful baby belly you will grow. You might not be proud of it. And if you already struggled with body image before, this can be amplified during pregnancy.
It’s incredibly common to struggle with body image during pregnancy. Just scrolling through my newsfeed in any mothers' group on Facebook shows me that. Even though we know our bodies are meant to grow and it’s natural for this to happen, we still struggle to see it on our own bodies. Especially because society is constantly screaming at us that our bodies growing is a negative thing - but don’t even get me started on that.
It’s important to find ways to appreciate and love your body daily. I gave you all of my tips for that in my Body Acceptance During Pregnancy article, but some of the top ones I hope you leave with today are to compliment yourself every time you see a mirror. Don’t hide from it! Every time you go to the bathroom (and we know just how often we are doing that these days) find one thing you love about yourself in the mirror and compliment it. It also helps to use positive language when speaking about your body. And focus on the ways your body is doing good - not just looking good.
Body Changes in Pregnancy - Facts they don’t tell you
Beyond seeing your body grow, there will be many other changes that come along with it. Plenty of these will most likely be the top pregnancy facts that they don’t tell you. Because I certainly didn’t see any of it coming.
First of all, your vision changes. Hormone levels are mostly to thank for that. But the good news is that your insurance is likely to cover an additional vision test during pregnancy! Your insurance might also cover an extra dental appointment during pregnancy. That is because you can be more prone to cavities and gum disease at this time. At the very least, you might experience some bleeding and tender gums while flossing and brushing like I did. I was relieved to hear it was common during pregnancy and not just me.
Some Less Expected Body Changes
Some other common experiences might be having weird cravings. You probably already know that. But what about craving food that you hated before pregnancy? Or food that made you sick? I get migraines from pancakes and waffles and somehow during this pregnancy, I went through a phase where I wanted waffles so badly. So, I tested the waters a bit and ate some, thinking I could trust the craving, right? Wrong. I was down with a migraine for the next 24 hours. 10/10 don’t recommend giving in to cravings that you know will make you sick.
I also experienced a lot of restless leg syndrome. Which is super fun when you are already up fighting off that pregnancy insomnia. And finding it impossible to get comfortable now that you can’t lie on your back or your stomach. My stomach sleepers will really feel me on that one. Another super fun experience during pregnancy is the lightning crotch. It’s exactly what it sounds like. A quick, shooting pain in your lady bits.
And even more body changes during pregnancy
Swelling is another really uncomfortable part of pregnancy. I recommend finding some compression socks - cute, I know. And if you have access to warm enough salt water, go floating! I lived in Hawaii when I was pregnant with my first son and the ocean made me feel like a brand new woman. All of my aches and pains were relieved afterward. And if you don’t have access to an ocean, an Epsom salt bath or local saltwater soaking tub might be your best friend.
One really awesome pregnancy symptom that I am struggling with right now is shortness of breath. I am struggling to record the podcast episode to match this article without needing to stop and take more breaths. Coming straight from the March of Dimes, "In the first few weeks of pregnancy, a normal increase in the hormone progesterone causes you to breathe more often. This can look and feel like shortness of breath. This hormone expands your lung capacity, allowing your blood to carry large quantities of oxygen to your baby." And this will be the reason that just walking up a flight of stairs will have you getting winded. Or speaking for a long period of time, like I am currently.
More Pregnancy Fact’s They Don’t Tell You…
Or maybe they did, and you didn’t remember? I can’t talk about pregnancy without talking about "Pregnancy Brain". Which evolves into "Baby Brain". Before settling comfortably into "Momnesia". Pregnancy brain is a real thing. It’s not just all in your head. It makes us so forgetful that we can forget what we walked into a room for or even what we were saying mid-sentence.
The reason for this forgetfulness is that pregnancy is not only changing your body - but also your brain. The hormones in your brain are changing as they change in your body. And as for your loss of focus? Your brain is focusing on a lot of new things it has not before! Filling your brain with much-needed pregnancy facts, baby research, and parenting tips takes away space from some of the things that used to occupy your brain.
The Mental Load of Motherhood
I know that for me personally, the mental load of motherhood can be overwhelming. I talked about this a lot in my series on Becoming a Mother. More specifically, in the article The Challenges and Struggles of Motherhood. It’s one of the major pregnancy facts they don’t tell you. One that I didn’t find out until I was deep in a motherhood haze.
The mental load is trying to remember to schedule all of the different prenatal appointments, take your vitamins, and drink enough water. Plus the added tasks around the home, like baby proofing, completing your registry, packing your hospital bag, or researching where your baby is at developmentally. And while you may not actually be the person executing all of these tasks, you are most likely the one exerting energy and thought keeping up with all of them.
Now, these may seem like small or simple tasks to keep up with. But trust me when I tell you that they will quickly occupy a lot of your brain space. They will not leave much room for anything else. And that is the root of the famously foggy and jumbled “mom brain” for me. It will have me walking through my house saying “water, water, water” only to forget the second I get into the kitchen.
Every Pregnancy Is Different
While some pregnancy symptoms seem to be the same across the board, it’s important to remember that every pregnancy and every body is different. Both of my pregnancies have been drastically different. My first pregnancy was incredibly easy, at least physically. While I had no real symptoms, apart from fatigue, it wasn’t all a cakewalk. I spoke in my article on The Beginning of Root and Rise about how my birth mother and grandmother, who I called my Earth Mother, both passed away while I was pregnant. Emotionally, it was a very difficult pregnancy.
My current pregnancy has been the polar opposite. I have been struggling with extreme fatigue, nausea, food aversions, and cramping. This just goes to show you that one person can have different pregnancy experiences. And before you guess it might have something to do with the gender, both are boys. It’s just a wives tale that gender can play a role in symptoms
The Truth About Wives' Tales
Really, all wives' tales are just that - tales. So why do we continue to hear about them? Because there is a 50/50 chance of them being right. Which is pretty decent - statistically speaking. Decent enough to get 50% of people believing them. But I could make up any pregnancy fact without any evidence to prove it and still have the same odds.
Preparing for Birth
And now, let’s talk about one of the main points of focus for many soon-to-be moms, preparing for birth. You hear a lot about birth plans. How to make one, what to put on it, and who to give it to. But, birth doesn’t have a plan. I’m not saying that you should scrap planning altogether. A birth plan can be a wonderful way to set very clear expectations for your labor and delivery team.
What I am saying is not to be so set in that plan that you aren’t educated on alternative options. Yes, even the ones you want to avoid. Because what if that one thing you don’t want ends up being the one thing you need to get that baby out of you? You don’t want to be in that moment trying to understand what is happening, what the terminology means, or what to expect.
Fed is Best
This includes how to feed your baby. The first thing I want to say about feeding your baby is that how you feed your baby is far less important than the fact that you are feeding your baby. Fed is best. Period. There is a lot of mom-shaming going on directed at moms who choose not to or who cannot breastfeed. I was formula-fed and had no idea until I was 30. It has not impacted my life in any way.
For those who want to breastfeed, I have an article listing everything that has helped me with my breastfeeding journey, which I am now over 16 months into. You can check it out here: Everything You Should Know About Breastfeeding.
And, as always, please feel free to message me. I was so lost when it came to breastfeeding. My aunt gave me a phone number for her coworker who was currently breastfeeding to answer questions for me. Yes, a complete stranger helped me with one of the most sensitive topics. I’m happy to be that stranger for you - although I like to think of us more as friends.
While we are on the topic of birth. It’s important to know that all birth is natural. Calling an unmedicated, vaginal birth “natural” is, first of all, something I have done myself. No judgment here. But we are here to learn and grow, right? Calling those births “natural” perpetuates the idea that c-sections, medication, or any other medically necessary intervention are not “natural”. It shames the mothers who are choosing or having to experience those types of situations.
Birth is traumatic enough as it is. Tossing in the fact that birth may not go the way you have planned only to have others subtly imply your birth was unnatural can create a lot of grief and shame. Not a good combination for a newly postpartum mother. That postpartum period is already incredibly challenging - without those added factors. I’ll talk more about that at the end of this article - that’s actually part of that bonus bit I promised you.
You Will Never Be Prepared
All of this preparation talk is great. The research is great. But it’s also ok if you don’t feel prepared. You don't have to be. In fact, you will never actually be prepared. There are some things that you simply cannot learn from a book or a video - you need to actually experience it to know it. And every new child is its own new experience. You’ll never master it. I believe that we are always growing, changing, evolving, and cannot ever fully master anything. Including parenting.
While I cannot fully prepare you for everything that is to come, I can certainly try. I do have some really handy resources. Along my journey through pregnancy, birth, and into parenting, I have been keeping track of things that have helped me along the way. Like what items I actually used and loved from my registry (or wished I had added earlier) and everything that I packed in my hospital bag.
The Power of Self-Care
What you can do for yourself right now though, apart from going to see those lists, is some self-care. Getting into the habit of regular self-care now will make it easier to continue that habit once the baby is here. There will be a lot of factors that will make this challenging - lack of sleep, low energy, and mom guilt to name a few.
But self-care is crucial as a mother, especially in the beginning. The demands of a newborn are overwhelming. And overstimulating. You are constantly pouring into this little being. And you are needed outside of that baby as well. Your partner, your house, your family, your friends, your work, the list goes on. By pouring into all of these other cups, your cup is quickly drained.
You need to pour back into yourself. Dedicate time each day to do something just for you, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Tune into yourself and consider your needs at that moment. Self-care routines aren’t fixed. Our self-care needs are always evolving as we are. And self-care isn’t just painting your nails and using a face mask, although those absolutely are great ways to care for yourself.
Sometimes self-care looks more like taking a nap, exercising, or setting a boundary with a loved one. I have a Complete List of Self-Care Activities and Ideas. Bookmark it and look it over anytime you don’t know how to care for yourself.
Things that aren’t as bad as people make them out to be:
Keep in mind that all of these things that I just listed are my personal experience. It’s not to discredit some of the people who have complained about these topics. There are always good and bad stories with anything in life. I’m just here to give you some positive ones to reduce the fear a little bit.
What No One Tells You About Postpartum
In my experience and from what I see in the motherhood community, we all spend so much of our pregnancy focusing on the pregnancy, birth, and how to care for a newborn. All great things. But our focus is so limited to those topics, that our postpartum period, or fourth trimester, doesn’t get the attention that it deserves.
I have an entire article dedicated to The Postpartum Period because it truly is such a challenging and vulnerable time for so many of us. And postpartum care is really lacking, at least in the U.S. There will be regular appointments with loads of questions for your baby after birth- and rightfully so. But only one singular appointment around 6-8 weeks after birth for you.
The focus shifts so quickly from your body to your baby, and it can feel like we are left behind a bit after birth. We need to advocate for ourselves during this period. Our bodies just went through the trauma of childbirth and will continue to change as it’s healing. I have a list of all of the items that saved me during my postpartum period, and I’ll be real honest. A donut cushion was probably the most beneficial item that I found.
Pay Attention to your Body
How is it healing? Is sex painful after you are cleared for it? Are stitches healing? Some very common things might scare you, but it’s better to be prepared or to ask questions. An example is postpartum hair loss. It’s inevitable. Because your body doesn’t shed as much hair during pregnancy. This is why you usually end up with such amazing hair during pregnancy.
But it all has to even out in the long run. And that’s why you will have a period of time, usually around 4 months, where hair loss seems excessive. And there is no magic fix. Take your prenatal vitamins. Eat well. And it will pass. See your hairstylist, mine did color and cuts specific to hide and thinned out spots and make me feel more comfortable.
Mental Health Matters
And pay just as close attention to your mental health as your physical health. Are you feeling down or depressed? Do you feel anxious? Or angry? Are you having any scary thoughts? I struggled with all of those. It can be quickly brushed off as the “baby blues”. But when those “baby blues” last more than a couple of weeks, it can very easily and very sneakily turn into a whole range of postpartum mental health struggles.
If you experience this, first of all, I want you to know you are not alone. I’ve been there. Speak to your provider, I promise that you are not the only person to step into their office with those concerns. Find a therapist that you trust and feel comfortable talking with.
And find ways to care for you. I mentioned earlier in the article about all of the cups you are pouring into during the postpartum period. You can’t pour from an empty cup. Do some of the self-care activities in my Postpartum Self-Care article. Find a hobby - one that allows you to focus on something other than parenting or caring for someone else. You deserve it.
Well, friends, you’ve just heard all of the pregnancy facts they don’t tell you about.
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