Lifestyle

Ask Elaine: Why don’t I feel happy about being pregnant?

Hi Elaine: I’m in desperate need of some support right now. My husband and I have been trying to have a baby for seven years, and just as we were to embark on an egg retrieval process this month, we found out that I am pregnant. Everything we ever wanted is happening all on its own (all according to God’s plan). Yet I’m finding myself paralyzed in anxiety and fear about the changes to come. I’m worried about losing the career that I worked so hard to get and being counted out now because I am an expecting mom.

I was not anticipating these feelings to be so heavy and daunting but they are and now I find myself paralyzed rather than joyful. Got any advice? How do I shift my boss babe mind-set into this new season and trust the timing of God’s plan? I’m praying a lot but I lay awake at night and worry. I’m feeling very lost and embarrassed to speak out loud about what I wrote here.

— Pregnant and Paralyzed By Fear

Pregnant and Paralyzed By Fear: You are not alone. At this exact time last year, I was curled in a ball at 3 a.m., stuck in a similar pregnancy-induced doom spiral. Those feelings you are describing — being frozen in fear, isolated and riddled with anxiety — are as normal a reaction to pregnancy as the excitement and joy you are expected to experience. It’s just that no one talks about this part. That you and your husband have been trying to have this baby for so many years probably compounds the issue. Adjusting to new realities is a process that takes time.

It isn’t your fault that you weren’t expecting the grief to be so heavy. Narratives about the physical implications of pregnancy abound. We can mentally prepare for the morning sickness and weird cravings, but no one talks about the identity crisis that comes up around pregnancy. Yet it is just as common, if not more common, than morning sickness. No one tells you how hard it is to sleep knowing your entire life and identity are about to change. The silence is what keeps us all thinking we are the only ones feeling this way. And so, the shame cycle continues.

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Thank you for interrupting that cycle by opening up this dialogue around an all-too-common but invisible mixed bag of emotions that many new parents — especially working moms — feel. Know this burden is not yours to carry alone — it is shared by generations of working women whose lives and careers have sustained the inevitable impact of motherhood.

These fears are not just a figment of your imagination; they are informed by a very real disparity. On average, working moms earn 58 cents for every dollar working dads earn. And that gap is even wider for moms of color.

No matter how hard we keep leaning in while being stretched from every angle inside a swollen body, the facts remain: Until the world catches up to our aspirations of equality, working mothers will continue to be uniquely vulnerable to a broken health-care system, the lack of affordable child care, and fundamentally flawed paid-leave policies that favor single, working men in every measurable way. With the chips stacked against working moms, it’s hard to imagine how an already-full life could adequately accommodate the added responsibility that comes with these crushing realities.

Ask Elaine: I got my dream job, but it’s not what I want anymore

I don’t have all the answers, but what I can say is this: Just as your body expands and contracts to accommodate the big changes to come, so does your life. Sometimes the contractions are the most painful part — and I don’t mean the labor pains we hear about all the time. There will be parts of your world that will necessarily shrink, filtering out what is no longer helpful, healthy or sustainable when growing new life inside. But it will expand again, with a newfound perspective.

While at moments it may feel like you are grieving the loss of your life as you know it, trust that you are in bloom. They say when you give birth to a baby, you also give birth to a new you. So expect to be introduced to new parts of yourself that may shift your current definition of success. While motherhood is the greatest sacrifice, allow for the possibility that what you gain will far outweigh anything you will ever give up. Remember: A temporary stall in career growth doesn’t have to stunt your long-term career goals. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

In the meantime, don’t bottle up your feelings. And please stop judging yourself for having them. When I forced myself out of my own self-imposed prison of silence during a difficult pregnancy, because the anguish was overwhelming and I couldn’t go on pretending everything was okay, three things happened: 1. The suffocating weight of my anxiety lost some of its power over me once I realized I wasn’t alone in it. 2. I was able to access more of the joy, gratitude and awe surrounding this transformational life experience. 3. It freed up space to allow me to game-plan for the support I needed.

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Until you’re ready to invite your own trusted support system in to help you carry some of this emotional weight you’re holding, I wanted you to hear from other dynamic working moms who have been where you are and can help navigate what’s ahead:

“I promise a new perspective awaits on the other side of your anxiety. Once the baby comes we gain access to a whole new world of lived experience. Trust that you will discover a new rhythm that makes this pivot feel more like a beginning than an end. In the meantime, return to your ‘why’ for wanting to start a family in the first place. Ground yourself in deep gratitude for a body that listened to and delivered on your wishes. Choose to view this as a beautiful intervention.” — Chloe Louvouezo, author and mom of a 6-year-old

“I told myself I owed it to my daughter to show her that I could be a whole person with a career and side hustles and friends and dreams and be a good mom. I only set that intention because I, too, had that fear of needing to sacrifice one part of my life for another. The idea of ‘giving up’ being a Boss Babe™️ because you’re a mom is a real fear. But you can still be a ‘boss babe’ with a baby if that’s what you want. So many do!” — Michele Foss-Snowden, PhD, professor and mom of a 3-year-old

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