My vagina physically aches & 5 other unedited, unfiltered, shitty pregnancy truths

Guest post by Andrea Waner
pregnancy truths
Pregasaurus shirt from FashionCrazyGirl

I feel like no one talks openly about how unbelievably hard it can be to be pregnant — about how physically and emotionally uncomfortable it can be.

Conversations and postings on social media are left to dance around the majesty of growing a human being. The first bump sightings. The funny cravings. The flutters of feet and sounds of a strong heartbeat. The other conversations, the ones that don’t fit into this socially constructed box of what’s normal and what’s not, are left for private text messages, worried phone calls, and fleeting moments between friends.

I’ve had the immense privilege to be friends with a few incredibly strong women who have lived this experience of motherhood. They take all of my baggage and concerns in stride when talking me off the ledge. I am forever grateful for their stories and insight. (When I regain the ability to bake without forgetting to add in key ingredients, I’ll be sure to thank them in calories and love.) But even these conversations cower in the corner of text messages and car rides.

The comfort level to talk about the dirt and grit of pregnancy publicly is almost non-existent. I find myself afraid to admit out loud to the things that I’m experiencing, the things that cross my mind while pregnant for fear that I am not “normal.” But not having these conversations in a public space is exhausting. It constantly leaves me feeling like I’m the odd-woman out. Like what I’m feeling — or rather, not feeling — is wrong. Like I’m screwing this up somehow or that something is wrong with me.

So today, I stand in solidarity with — what I suppose to be many — other women who can’t always talk about how amazing and magical it is to be pregnant. Who need to talk openly about shitty hormones and anxiety and crying over seemingly inconsequential things. Who need to talk candidly about the changes their bodies are going through. Who need to find solace in a simple conversation with a stranger that everything is going to be okay and that what they’re feeling is not wrong or abnormal.

In an effort to self-disclose and move toward a pregnancy culture where we can share our shit and bare our souls beyond the excitement of impending motherhood, I give you my current, unedited, unfiltered, list of pregnancy truths:

I feel like my body is betraying me

I’m constantly losing track of time, misplacing things, forgetting to do things, crying at minuscule things, and just overall not being able to KEEP. IT. TOGETHER.

This is a major shift for me. I’m used to being the one that has it under control, the one that other people come to when they need help or someone to talk to. I’m nowhere near being that person right now. And that’s a lot to accept and deal with.

I sweat all the time

The armpits of my shirts are ruined. I’m self-conscious that I smell, constantly.

My vagina physically aches

It’s like I’m being punched continually in the ladybits, or that I’ve had really aggressive sex for days on end.

My breasts are already quite large, so getting pregnant has only made them bigger

My boobs are too big to buy from a regular maternity store. I caved and finally had to buy a new bra because my previous one had caused bruising under my breasts and along my ribcage from my rapid growth.

Pregnant acid reflux feels like the devil is trying to crawl out of my chest daily

Having had a hiatal hernia for a number of years, acid reflux has always been an issue. I wake up throwing up stomach acid — which feels like fire, then because I’m trying to breathe normally and am coughing at the same time, I breathe said stomach acid into my lungs where it feels like my lungs are being torn apart every time I take a breath. I then feel like I have pneumonia for several days afterward.

All of the “what ifs” and panicked thoughts will consume you if you let them

I have wasted so much energy in the past few weeks worried about money. Whether I can be a good mother or not. What happens if I don’t love the baby when he arrives? What if I’m one of those mothers that drives their child into a lake? What if my partner leaves? What if my partner dies? What if I have to do this alone? What if I will never have an identity again? What if this is all I am? What if, what if, what if…

Pregnancy is not all ice cream and pickles and gender-reveal parties and nursery themes. It’s hard, grueling, physically and emotionally exhausting work, and the conversations surrounding those areas of discomfort need to leave the shadows. Let’s normalize these feelings and experiences and start breaking down the stigma around having anything but a pleasant pregnancy. A simple, “I’m here, I’m listening, I understand, you’re not alone” can make all the difference.

Let’s have the hard conversations out loud and in public. We owe it to each other.

Comments on My vagina physically aches & 5 other unedited, unfiltered, shitty pregnancy truths

  1. We NEED to talk more about the disgusting, horrible, painful and upsetting side of pregnancy, because until we do, the world will never see past this beautiful fairytale picture of the “perfect” pregnant woman, and those who suffer, like the many who commented on this post, will forever be dismissed as making it up, exaggerating, it not being that bad, or freaking out when something out of the ordinary happens, only to be told that yes, it’s perfectly natural.

    I’m 25 weeks pregnant. I’ve had hyperemsis, both with this baby and my first kid. That made me loose 3x dress sizes the first time, I don’t know how many I’ve lost this time because nothing fits properly anyway. Back ache, going from wanting to eat three plates full of food to barely being able to manage crackers. I’m exhausted by 8pm. I get daily headaches (I’m currently off work on rest.). I have pain in my hip, pain in my vaginal area like I’m repeatedly being punched by the hulk. I have days when all i can do is sob my heart out. I get hot so quickly, I sweat like I’ve run a marathon. The gas is unbelievable, both ends. I’ve been dismissed by friends and family when trying to explain just how rough pregnancy actually is on me. Never mind the unsolicited opinions on things like baby names, how we should have xyz thing for baby, that a baby can’t wear this that or the other color.

    The “comparison culture” of thinking it can’t be that bad, because you, your wife/sister/mother never had this or that needs to stop, because it’s not helping us. It’s not helping the poor soul who just wants a friendly ear to listen during a rough pregnancy, who just wants to have someone say “Yes, I do understand. Yes, I am here for you.”

    • It really annoyed me when people would give me “miracle” cures for vomiting. My favourite was that I needed to eat crackers first thing in the morning. I was actually seeing a dietician who had me off vegetables and carbs (both are filling but not calorie dense). Plus I wasn’t sick first thing in the morning. That was actually one time I could usually eat food so I needed to eat good food not crackers.

      Also my FIL had a hard time believing how sick I was even though my MIL was very sick when pregnant with my husband (that said it was 30 years ago). My MIL acted like me being sick was a badge of honour which I also didn’t appreciate.

      • Luckily the vomiting has only been bad one night this time so far. But last time even the emergency doctor didn’t take it seriously, I’d been vomiting so much my throat and stomach were both bleeding and he told me to go home and suck on an ice cube. If I’d had the energy I would have gone for him with his letter opener!

    • I haven’t been vomiting, but I’m low key nauseous ALL the time, and just don’t want to eat. I don’t know what to do!

      • Tell yours doctor and gets some meds. It’s the only thing that has helped me so far. I was one of the ‘lucky’ ones who got sick starting at 5 weeks (aka right around the time I found out and took the test! Yah!) also, eat lots of little snacks throughout the days.

  2. Vagina aches: Wear less underwear. My ob gave me this trick and it was the best goddamned thing I ever learned. At home, I just did NOT wear underwear and it helped so much. I hope it helps you, too!

  3. You are doing a great job Preggers! Keep it up.
    My Ob/Gyn just recently told me: There are two types of women who like being pregnant. Liars. And big fat liars.

    Things will change and all of the sudden your worst symptom will vanish only to be replaced by a new one 🙂 I thought I was prepared for it all, but then had horrible carpal tunnel on top of everything else. The drool! I had to change my pillow case every morning. And why didn’t anyone tell me how difficult it becomes to wipe your own ass?

  4. THIS. My pregnancy was TERRIBLE, and I felt like I had no one to complain to because I was supposed to be “happy!!” and the “miracle of birth!!”

  5. Not pregnant, but I have a question about the vagina pains.
    I have vaginal and vulvar pain, so I know getting pregnant itself will be a chore. I’ve been told by OB’s that having a baby can cure vulvar pain in some women. But from this post, could being pregnant make it worse? Anyone have experience being pregnant but having vulvar/vaginal pain? Has anyone been “cured” by having a baby?

    • First of all, see a physical therapist for the vag issues! Second, my PT says it’s about 50/50 on whether vag pain, valvovidinia, etc gets better or worse with pregnancy. But, there are things you can do with PT if it gets worse. So, there is hope.

      • It’s great to know that some people have experience in an area that has relatively little research. A 50-50 chance of getting better is definitely better than my current prospects. And isn’t exactly a consideration in having kids, but I like to be informed.
        I have had physical therapy and the pain is better, but not completely gone. I also went into thousands of dollars in debt to go for 2 months (because I would have to see a specialist). At this point I am focusing on the psychological aspects to my pain.

  6. This is a very important post.

    So many women go into pregnancy thinking it’s a walk in the park that will turn them into glossy haired, glowing angles. The reality is pregnancy is an energy intensive biological process that ends with a lot of blood and fluids, not really matching the image portrayed. Sure there are always upsides (baby!) but there are a LOT of risks involved that people just do not seem aware of because it is never spoken about. My mother by her own account had pretty easy pregnancies followed by uncomfortable births, the last one which resulted in my youngest sibling being born with a broken collar bone and hip damage with constant pain that will follow my mother around for life and she was not of an advanced maternal age when that happened either. I have a spinal injury so would be taking a massive risk if I ever decided to become pregnant (a risk I am not willing to take) but I still believe women, all women should be taught the realities of being pregnant, maternal death rates in their countries, maternal diabetes, injury, disability. We have good sex ed in Australia but it was still just “Sex happens like this, fertilization happens like this, baby grows like this, baby is born like this” no talk of complications or risks or even just the general side effects that come with all of the crazy hormones.

    • So true! Nobody mentions xyz can happen. I wish more countries would give you a full health check when you say you would like to start a family. Then at least they know what to watch out for. My friend is Chinese, I know there are many negative things that can be said about China but from what she has told me their maternity care is fantastic. They really look out for mother and infant.

  7. Thank you so much! I’m nearly 35 weeks and I really needed to read this right now. I HATE being pregnant and am constantly furious about how disappointed everyone seems to be in me for failing to be the perfect earth mother. Trying to share how I’m feeling with close friends and family has led to my feelings being dismissed, minimised or brushed aside totally.

    Aside from all the physical symptoms (vomiting up to 26 weeks, the hip pain, the drool, the gas, the heartburn, the sleeplessness, the sweating and all the rest) I have been having panic attacks. Every time I go into a baby shop I start to cry uncontrollably and hyperventilate. We don’t have a crib, a pram or any other baby equipment yet because I literally can’t manage to buy anything. I’ve had to send my mum, who lives in another country, to buy newborn clothes for me because I can’t do it. And now my antenatal classes have started and I keep crying uncontrollably in those too. I’m also terrified about labour and its aftermath, especially breastfeeding, because I go into panic when people I don’t know touch my body. But I’ve been repeatedly told ‘oh no, you won’t think about that at all when the time comes, you’ll be too focused on your baby’.

    • I’m sorry to hear that you’re having a tough time. Out of complete caring, I recommend that you line up a therapist or counselor to talk to. Mothers with histories of depression are more likely to have postpartum depression. So if you’re already having some symptoms (anxiety, panic attacks, crying) it could be an indicator that you’re at higher risk.

    • Hi spangles, I totally get you on baby gear! I had 3 miscarriages before I had lo. I only started getting things a few weeks before I had him.

      The idea of breastfeeding freaks me out too, I panic if a stranger touches me and sometimes I don’t even want people I know touching me. On top of that I’ve psoriasis on my boobs so that’s off putting too. Oh and I sat down and had a LONG talk where he totally talked me off a ledge on that subject. Besides the fact he wanted to do night feeds (I’m deadly serious) we looked at the differences between formula in a first world country compared to breast, and there isn’t one. Even our specialist told me the differences are so minute and there is zero long term difference between formula fed babies and breast fed. He said if I lined up a group of adults could you tell who was breast fed and who was formula fed? I laughed because I couldn’t.

      My point is you will not be less of a mother if you formula feed, don’t feel pressured into something you are not comfortable with. If anyone tries pressuring you into something you don’t want to do just say no. What is most important is that you are happy and baby is fed – how is irrelevant. My son is now two, he was formula fed, his speech is brilliant – he’s constantly surprising people with his intelligence. My niece was also formula fed, she’s a lawyer.

      • Thank you Jennie! I would love to be able to breast feed but I just don’t know if it will be possible and right now it feels like yet another thing which I can fail at & be disapproved of for. It has been very hard to discover that some of the most important supportive women in my life don’t understand my pregnancy issues at all – I feel like the rug has been totally pulled out from under my feet. I’m a sexual abuse survivor and so I do have issues about my body and control. Finding out about a counsellor is probably an excellent idea, if I don’t end up needing one then so much the better but prevention is better than cure.

        • Offbeat Home & Life

          Spangles left a reply to a comment by JennieWren on My vagina physically aches & 5 other unedited, unfiltered, shitty pregnancy truths:

          Spangles

          Thank you Jennie! I would love to be able to breast feed but I just don’t know if it will be possible and right now it feels like yet another thing which I can fail at & be disapproved of for. It has been very hard to discover that some of the most important supportive women in my life don’t understand my pregnancy issues at all – I feel like the rug has been totally pulled out from under my feet. I’m a sexual abuse survivor and so I do have issues about my body and control. Finding out about a counsellor is probably an excellent idea, if I don’t end up needing one then so much the better but prevention is better than cure.

          Reply to this email to reply to Spangles.

          Here’s a recap of this post and conversation:

          My vagina physically aches & 5 other unedited, unfiltered, shitty pregnancy truths was published on Sep 21st by Offbeat Editors.

          In an effort to self-disclose and move toward a pregnancy culture where we can share our shit and bare our souls beyond the excitement of impending motherhood, I give you my current, unedited, unfiltered, list of pregnancy truths.

          There were 99 comments previous to this. Here is this reply in context:

          Spangles

          Thank you so much! I’m nearly 35 weeks and I really needed to read this right now. I HATE being pregnant and am constantly furious about how disappointed everyone seems to be in me for failing to be the perfect earth mother. Trying to share how I’m feeling with close friends and family has led to my feelings being dismissed, minimised or brushed aside totally.

          Aside from all the physical symptoms (vomiting up to 26 weeks, the hip pain, the drool, the gas, the heartburn, the sleeplessness, the sweating and all the rest) I have been having panic attacks. Every time I go into a baby shop I start to cry uncontrollably and hyperventilate. We don’t have a crib, a pram or any other baby equipment yet because I literally can’t manage to buy anything. I’ve had to send my mum, who lives in another country, to buy newborn clothes for me because I can’t do it. And now my antenatal classes have started and I keep crying uncontrollably in those too. I’m also terrified about labour and its aftermath, especially breastfeeding, because I go into panic when people I don’t know touch my body. But I’ve been repeatedly told ‘oh no, you won’t think about that at all when the time comes, you’ll be too focused on your baby’.

          JennieWren

          Hi spangles, I totally get you on baby gear! I had 3 miscarriages before I had lo. I only started getting things a few weeks before I had him.

          The idea of breastfeeding freaks me out too, I panic if a stranger touches me and sometimes I don’t even want people I know touching me. On top of that I’ve psoriasis on my boobs so that’s off putting too. Oh and I sat down and had a LONG talk where he totally talked me off a ledge on that subject. Besides the fact he wanted to do night feeds (I’m deadly serious) we looked at the differences between formula in a first world country compared to breast, and there isn’t one. Even our specialist told me the differences are so minute and there is zero long term difference between formula fed babies and breast fed. He said if I lined up a group of adults could you tell who was breast fed and who was formula fed? I laughed because I couldn’t.

          My point is you will not be less of a mother if you formula feed, don’t feel pressured into something you are not comfortable with. If anyone tries pressuring you into something you don’t want to do just say no. What is most important is that you are happy and baby is fed – how is irrelevant. My son is now two, he was formula fed, his speech is brilliant – he’s constantly surprising people with his intelligence. My niece was also formula fed, she’s a lawyer.

          Spangles

          Thank you Jennie! I would love to be able to breast feed but I just don’t know if it will be possible and right now it feels like yet another thing which I can fail at & be disapproved of for. It has been very hard to discover that some of the most important supportive women in my life don’t understand my pregnancy issues at all – I feel like the rug has been totally pulled out from under my feet. I’m a sexual abuse survivor and so I do have issues about my body and control. Finding out about a counsellor is probably an excellent idea, if I don’t end up needing one then so much the better but prevention is better than cure.

          Reply to this email to reply to Spangles.

          To no longer receive other comments or replies in this discussion reply with the word ‘unsubscribe’.

          These guys keep us online:

          

          Sent from @offbeathome. Delivered by Postmatic.

        • Well the auto reply didn’t work well at all… Here is my actual reply :*) glad I checked now.

          Hi spangles, I had guessed you were a survivor but didn’t want to say anything. I have had similar issues. Even skin to skin was sometimes unnerving for me with lo and I’ve had counselling. Talking to someone is always a big help. Also telling your midwife and ob that you are a survivor will help a lot, they have protocols in place to make everything a little less stressful, they understand that for survivors this emotional time can be stressful. 

          I don’t understand why some people feel they have a say in these things. It’s the child’s parents who have a say. I think the irish attitude is different though, we don’t care how a baby is born once mother and child are healthy at the end. We don’t care if you breast or formula or combined feed once baby and mother are happy and healthy. One midwife tried to pressure me into breastfeed while I was in labour with thunderpants. The conversation went like this “would you not reconsider and at least try breastfeeding?” no “but have you looked at the research?” yes. I fed no1and will feed no2 formula  because that’s what works for me and oh, one of my favourite cousin breastfed both her kids and that’s what worked for her and her oh. There is no difference between our kids. They both get snotty noses, both have allergies & eczema (ain’t genetics grand) and are both very intelligent. 

           family are the hardest people to deal with because we let them away with behaviour that we wouldn’t accept from anyone else. They are the hardest ones to stand up to as well, but it is worth doing. From my own experience standing my ground completely changed my relationship with my family but for theabetter. Maybe counselling would help with that too, being assertive was the hardest life lesson I ever learned but I am happier for it. now when my family say things to me I remind myself what a counsellor taught me “would I take this if a stranger walked up and said it?” “would this behaviour be acceptable from a stranger?” if the answer is no then I slam on the breaks and tell them x is unacceptable and if it continues I’m picking up thunderpants and leaving. I will also put the brakes on a conversation If I sense it becoming manipulative, I will abruptly change the subject or just flat out say I’m not discussing x with you its none of your business/my decision is made etc. It took time but it worked.

          I would recommend the skeptical ob to read, I find her straight talking and she doesn’t hold back on the facts about birth statistics and feeding (she believes fed is best). I also like the what to expect when you’re expecting book and your baby week by week book for when baby is born (it’s full of don’t panic if x happens if y happens phone your doctor). 

          I hope you feel better soon and I’m only an email away if you need virtual hugs 🙂 

  8. this is so great!
    one of the things that I thought more people should talk about is how freaking hard having a new baby is. I feel like everyone talked about how it was a ~~big life change~~ but not about how difficult it was going to be.
    also, “fun” pregnancy things like bleeding gums, constipation, when the baby decides to have a party in your rib-cage and it HURTS, or the late night charley horses! or how sometimes, you stand up and farts just happen.

    • Both my mother and my sister have made serious changes to their dental health since having children. It’s definitely a health problem for pregnant women. I believe many dentists also recommend frequent checkups before, during, and after pregnancy, to prevent the most serious complications.

        • I’ve been told that it has to do with the change in hormone levels, along with changes in how the body absorbs/uses nutrients. Something about the microbiome in mothers mouths makes it a perfect envrionment for the bad buggies to flourish and cause cavities and gingivitis.
          Although it’s apparently a myth that calcium leeches from the mother’s teeth to support a growing baby (unless the mother’s calcium intake is severely deficient).

  9. I’m just a few weeks into my first ever pregnancy so I haven’t had many physical symptoms yet, but the emotional ones have been brutal.

    Every insecurity I’ve ever had is roaring to the surface. I waited so long and tried so hard to get pregnant and now here I am feeling really down instead of happy. Blank instead of excited. Self-hatred that I thought was gone is coming back. It is quite an emotional punch.

  10. This was wonderful to read. I’m 35 weeks and some change and the pain in the vagina/ hips and the constant popping in and out of joint sometimes brings me to tears. And everyone says, “That’s normal, don’t worry about it.” I am not worrying about it, I want to know if there is anything I can do to lessen it or outright stop it cause it sucks. But they don’t get that. And I get the same old, keep a pillow between your knees when you sleep, take tylenol, take a hot bath. I have been doing those things, thanks. Lol Thankfully there is the internet.

    Also, constipation, always being hungry, feeling like I stink directly after taking a shower, being perpetually damp because apparently I am one of the lucky ones that ooze lubrication. Yay. It’s 50 degrees and I am sweating and all my clothes feel too tight, but I know they fit the way they are supposed to. The perpetual low grade ache of my middle back because I have no abdominal control to speak of anymore. Walking into a store means I am huffing and puffing, lifting anything requires a tactical battle plan to make it happen.

    And then there are the tears. I cried over a Harry Potter tribute music video. I break down in the middle of the store because I can’t find the drink or food I want without high fructose corn syrup or other artificial sweeteners. The hormonal roller-coaster is very real over here.

    My first trimester I was always nauseous, but I was happy and mostly positive. Now, I just want to throw things and scream at my inability to do things I once found easy, like walking down a set of stairs to do laundry with a laundry bag. Or snuggling with my SO. I have so many pillows in the bed I feel like we are on different continents sometimes.

    I have miscarried before, and it has been hard to say anything to the people I know about all this, because they are all of the opinion I should just be thankful that I have made it this far with this one. I am thankful. I think a person can be thankful and still realize how much the current situation sucks at the same time.

    I have anxiety over labor, wondering if I will be strong enough to get this little life out of me, if I will be any good at breastfeeding, if I will be one of those overwhelmed moms who don’t know how to ask for help and just go crazy.

    Thankfully I have such a supportive significant other. Though we haven’t had much in the way of conversations about how to deal with what the twig calls us as parents. I am gender-fluid, I usually identify as androgynous, or more on the male end of the spectrum, and I feel like Mom might not be the right term. But I dunno. I guess I will cross that bridge when the twig starts making noise about speaking.

  11. I was so relieved to read the “what if” paragraph of this article. I was afraid I was the only one who worried about those things.

  12. Thank you! I’m due 10/31 and while I’ve been lucky to not have morning sickness, I’ve had round ligament pain from hell and huge amounts of fatigue. People look at me crazy, after asking me if I LOVE being pregnant, and I answer honestly, no. We planned and hoped for our baby and while I know how blessed we are and that I’m growing a miracle, I also feel like no one told me of the constant discomfort, difficulty breathing, and lady part pain. Thank you for taking the stigma out of being honest of how pregnancy can feel, in addition to all the “normal” health/emotional concerns. And to the unicorns that have the kind of pregnancy that gives them loads of energy and no best symptoms, consider yourself lucky.

  13. I have solutions! A prescription for a proton pump inhibitor is a godsend for heartburn that can’t be managed with OTC meds alone. The vaginal pain may be symphonie pubis dysfunction, which a pelvic floor physiotherapist can help you get sorted out.

  14. Thank you for this! I am 36 weeks pregnant, and very grateful to be so – my second round of fertility treatment was successful, following a biochemical pregnancy for the first. At the same time, it’s been a lot harder than I expected. I keep a mental tally of symptoms I haven’t experienced (no vomiting, just non-stop queasiness in the first trimester, no constipation so far, no hemorrhoids), which helps, but it’s still been tough. A lot of hip and back pain due to prior injuries, thankfully mostly manageable with the help of a great physical therapist. I never had that magical burst of second trimester energy. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes in August, despite my numbers being borderline, and I’m pretty resentful of what it has meant. (Testing my blood four times a day only for my numbers to be perfect 95% of the time, giving up even more things I like to eat and drink, hassle with the insurance company when I’m supposed to make a 25-day supply of test strips last 30 days, weekly doctor’s appointments instead of every other week so I was missing twice as much work, two non-stress tests every week.) It feels so unnecessary.

    The worst for me started a couple weeks ago: swollen legs. At first it was just my lower legs, and compression socks helped. Now I’m swollen up to my thighs. As if it wasn’t hard enough to get around at eight months pregnant, now I struggle to bend my knees because I’m so swollen. The doctor took me off work two weeks earlier than expected. Since I’m the breadwinner in my household, it’s a financial hit I wasn’t expecting.

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