“I’m having a baby!” Squeals and screams of excitement fill the air as the mother-to-be exclaims about her newly found discovery. Faces beam at the wonderful news and the story behind the pregnancy and how it was discovered unfolds. It is a common scenario among pregnant women and their friends, and I wish mine was likewise. There were semblances of it, but beneath the enthusiasm I tried to share when my friends learnt about my first pregnancy, I was battling emotional upheavals.
The initial discovery of the pregnancy was unsettling as inexperienced me had tested almost close to eleven at night, only to find that the second indicative line of the dip stick was not very vivid. Unsure as to whether it was a positive result, I was nervous as I tried to fall asleep after that. The next day, I requested for a test while my husband and I saw the company doctor for our health reports. The swiftness of it was a blur, as the doctor congratulated us on the pregnancy and wrote a few names for me to contact in my gynae search. He had no idea that my mind, and heart were in a whirl. When we finally saw a gynae a few weeks later, my first trimester was over.
As it turns out, I had fallen pregnant a mere three weeks into our marriage.
I was only beginning to make headway into some ambitious dreams at work. We had yet to find our own place, having squeezed into the three room flat that my mother-in-law and brother-in-law stayed in. There was a hint of relief that there was an explanation for the physical changes I had been experiencing. There were also several layers of fear, apprehension, inadequacy and disappointment. There was much that I had wanted to do with my husband after marriage, but with a baby and the even more urgent need to search for our home, my personal desires and dreams had to take a backseat.
I wish I can say that I resolved all of my emotional struggles by the time my son arrived, and I thought I did. But the transition of working full time to being a full time mum while working from home, as well as forsaking the role I had thoroughly enjoyed for the previous two years was too much for the 26 year old me. I was still naive about many things, my attempts to prepare for baby’s arrival right from the get-go did not sit well with my husband who was also trying to come to terms with being a father so soon in our marriage. What saved my sanity was probably the antenatal class that we signed up for at the hospital, and it opened the gates that enabled me to understand how much (or little) we knew and expected of the upcoming parenting roles we would soon take on. A little more of what helped me cope were:
1. Being free to feel not okay about being pregnant
I documented each month’s tummy growth with a smiling picture, while at the same time mourning internally that my body would never be the same again. I lamented to friends or in my journal of the emotional struggles I experienced, and the intense fears. I needed to be real about how I felt, and I think it was a necessary journey before I could embrace the life that was growing within me
2. Reading up as much as possible
Not just books and material about baby, I read about the marriage relationship as well. The months after I had my child were very stormy, as there were frequent disagreements as to how to deal with an infant. I felt isolated from the world, being one of the first few among friends to marry and have a child so early. What was the point of reading up then? It wasn’t so much about avoiding all those issues, as they were necessary in helping me to mature as a mother, a wife and a daughter-in-law. The reading helped to develop my beliefs and anchor me in how I wanted to raise my child and gave me a mental goal of how our family and marriage should look like. Rather than lament and complain that my reality was a far cry from my ideal, I learnt to see my lack and to work to improve on them and in our relationships.
3. Supportive friends and family who never gave up
My husband stood by me and we had very difficult, honest but necessary conversations about our marriage. My mother-in-law was very patient towards me when I was rude, tired, impatient and disrespectful. My friends and colleagues never ceased to point out how I was growing as a person and that they could see that I was settling into the role of being a mother. My spiritual anchor was, and is something I live by even today, and there is much to grow in at every point of motherhood.
If you are going through a pregnancy and are feeling apprehensive about it, do know that you are not alone.
Hormones aside, there is so much that a woman goes through during the pregnancy months and beyond, and I’m not just talking about the physical changes! I urge you to process the thoughts and fears as much as you can with your husband and friends, as it builds the foundations of the relationships and environment you will surround yourself and your child in, in future.
We finally found our home when my first son was 8 months old, and our marriage is very much a work in progress. We are expecting a third child a few months later, and if history is anything to go by, the first few months of having a baby may surface more issues in our marriage. I’m not keen about the latter, but I believe they are necessary processes. The important thing is not to run at the weaknesses of ourselves and each other, but to learn how to grow from them with much humility and love. After all, our children watch us and learn how to live through our lives.
By Ruth Mak