I’ve just entered week seven of pregnancy and I’ve already had six ultrasound scans, what feels like several litres of blood taken for testing, a huge pile of forms and other bits of paperwork and a “Mutterpass” to boot. A Mutterpass is a document (looks like a small book) which I have to carry around with me at all times. It contains my name, blood group, immunity status, weight chart, general health info as well as everything possible about Geekling, down to the last millimitre.
My family-in-law have had a few parties recently, and it has been noted that I didn’t drink alcohol. My brother-in-law is now constantly teasing my husband and making comments about my “shape.” I’m not showing yet, but I must admit my teeny-tiny boobs have seriously grown over the last week or so. But the idea that I’m being watched: what I eat, my body shape… it just makes me uncomfortable.
Whilst I understand that this curiosity is normal, and that the doctors are doing their best to look after Geekling, I’ve started to feel very… well… not “me.” You know, the girl who likes to bake far too many cakes, who loves to geek out on the sofa with a few episodes of Doctor Who, the teacher who loves to get down on the floor with kids and go on school trips, the geocacher, the London girl living in the German countryside who suffers from wanderlust… where did she go? Is she gone for good? Am I just a “vessel” now?
How do/did you cope with this feeling — how do/did you remain true to yourself when pregnant?
Comments on I’m pregnant and feeling lost — Am I just a “vessel” now?
I am right there with you! I’m 10 weeks tomorrow and feeling very much the same way.
One thing that surprised me is how self-conscious about my body I’ve become. I am a bit overweight but am not usually very self-conscious at all. Now, though, I feel like I’m much more on display – everyone is looking at my belly area even though I’m not showing yet. So the flab that is there is feeling a little more exposed than normal. It’s weird. I’m usually super confident – even about stuff like that (thanks to burlesque and dance).
Also, people seem to assume that I don’t want to have fun and do things now. WTF? I may not want to stay up till 3am, but I still want to hang out and watch movies (and Doctor Who!!) and stuff! Blerg.
I think it’s all the worse when no one around you has kids – I think part of it is that people just don’t know how to act. Which is silly, but I think it’s true.
Thank you for sending in your question and thank you to the offbeat editors for posting this!! I’m now 8 weeks with my first and I’m starting to feel the same. Like I’m losing myself and becoming just a vessel. How do you get people to not treat you differently? I still want to be me, but it starting to feel like I’m being erased and I’m only a mom to Stormageddon (what we call the zygote) now. Thank you so much for posting this!! Seriously has been on my mind lately.
I totally understand!
I never saw myself as a mother and never wanted my own kids, although I work with them, so I had a huge personality crisis when i actually WANTED to get pregnant (I am due in 2 weeks ;0) )
And suddenly I was just a baby-vessel. Everyone was like “How are you and the baby”, and my mother would start every phone conversation with “How is the future mother?”. Um…good. Now ask me about my job or something, mum..
They eventually got the hint that I had to get used to the pregnancy in my own time, but I still sometimes feel just the way you do. Especially now with only 2 weeks away. “Oh, you must just love it, waiting for the baby and looking at the baby stuff”.
No, actually I miss going to work (but I am exited for the baby, don’t get me wrong).
Can’t really give you any advice, just that I know how you feel.
Out of curiosity, you don’t have to reveal any medical history: I have never hear of a “mutterpass”, do all pregnant women in your contry have to carry one all the time?
I’m an Army wife and when we’re pregnant we have to carry a “mutterpass” at all times too – though for us they’re called “Pregnancy Passports”. It sounds like the same exact thing, though: documenting your weight, the baby’s heart rate, your blood pressure, etc. I kind of like it, because now I can look back and compare this pregnancy with my last one.
None of the things you listed were things you cannot still do now that you’re pregnant. ESPECIALLY the cake baking and the Doctor Who marathons. I myself am in week 35 and I’ve had at least 3 Doctor Who marathons during my pregnancy. Carve out some time every week and devote it to doing something you feel is 100% you.
That said, I totally understand how you’re feeling. I’m a musician and my usual M.O. is spending 3-4 nights a week at various bars and open mics with friends. I haven’t seen my friends in weeks. The other day I texted one friend and realized I hadn’t talked to him in a month. But tonight I’m tabling at a big women’s music festival in the town where I live. So I’ll be out in the community, talking to the people who get me.
my suggestion is that you get used to it. the you that used to be around is done. the new you includes a secondary identity (okay, for some, it’s their primary one) called “mother” – and from here until that kid walks out of your house and moves into its own, people are going to have all sorts of pestering and advice on how you should do things, what you should eat, why you should work harder at getting the baby weight off, blah blah blah blah…
oh, and once you actually start showing? dear god, just wait… EVERYONE’S gonna have something to say, and some will even try to stick their hands on you.
Hmm, I get the point but I disagree. I don’t think you do need to get used to it. If you’re a fully developed person who has lots of exciting aspects to your identity, then gettin pregnant just adds a strand to that. Having a child is awesome but he doesn’t supercede who I am. He is a person in his own right and so am I. I really lost it a bit being pregnant… Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but I really struggled with the idea that a decision to breed suddenly gave people the impression that I was now public property… It’s not ok to constantly comment on my size or tell me what I should or shouldn’t be eating/doing.
If it helps, I used to give people a short spell where we could talk baby stuff but then I’d just change the subject. And every time it went back to pregnancy or baby stuff, I’d change the subject again. It’s hard in the first trimester because you’re still trying to hide it, but it gets easier to manage after the announcement.
I am different now that I have a child, but that’s something about being influenced by a cool new person in your life; but I’m still the same geek I was before. :0)
Agreed. I was also going to recommend trying to quickly wrap up conversations about the pregnancy you don’t want to have and move on to a different subject. When I was pregnant I didn’t really get why everyone wanted to talk to me about it. Often, there wasn’t much to say. Certainly nothing I hadn’t said or heard a million times already. But then some of my friends got pregnant and I felt the excitement behind wanting to talk to them about it. So I’d just say, “I’m so excited for you!” and leave it at that. Sometimes if someone is persistent about talking about it you can try to understand their motive. I realized that some of my friends wanted to talk about it because they were worried that I wasn’t myself anymore (childless friends, obvs) and so I was able to reassure them.
“Getting use to it” doesn’t mean that you have to agree with it. It just means not getting agitated or having identity crises over people not acknowledging your whole self and just relating to you as a mother. It IS going to happen and it continues for a great while, what’s the point in letting it get to you all the time?
I too started to feel this way, especially with severe morning sickness, fatigue and some other health issues that seemed to turn just a normal bodily function (pregnancy) Into a medical event that needed decisions made all the time.
I felt like a grumpy vessel, like I wanted to sleep all the time, because it was the only time I wasn’t puking. I hated that all people asked about when they saw me was the pregnancy, and I would think “WHAT ABOUT ME??”
It does get better, but it never really goes away. It’s the first shift in an identity change that is coming down the pike for you. You will change a little when becoming a parent, we all do. This is the first taste of it, I think. You will get back to yourself, but maybe the “yourself” you get back to is a little different than before. I think that’s ok too.
I agree, there are some things that just are different. And that’s okay, even if it’s a change that can be tough to navigate.
Having a highly medicalized pregnancy (ugh) and carrying a fetus that was claimed as communal (my pregnancy was a bright spot for our extended family in a dark time) were really stressful. And made me feel like a vessel, just as the OP said.
When I started to exert more of my own will, I felt more like myself. If a test/scan was important for making a decision, okay. If it was just to “see how things are going in there,” then I politely declined or deferred the test/scan. If people I only knew a little bit would ask anything more than the generally conversational questions about my pregnancy – or worse, would start rattling off some silly myths related to pregnancy – I would ask similarly probing questions about their medical conditions. It felt rude, but it got the subject changed away from gas/bleeding/etc. If I needed some non-pregnancy talk, I’d invite friends out for drinks (non-alcoholic for me) and offer to buy a round if they promised we’d talk about politics/television/not-pregnancy things.
Oh, and the pregnancy books I read were more pop-science and social science, and less of the “What to Expect” genre. It was a lot less ooey-gooey and felt both informative and stimulating… and it gave me some things to discuss about when pregnancy chit chat came up and I didn’t want to talk about my own experience of throwing up all the time.
Practicing being myself + pregnant was a HUGE help for me when it turned out my little came into the world in a highly medicalized situation, parenting decisions that seemed useful to me were openly scrutinized by others, and I started to feel like I was losing myself in this new role.
I LOVE being my little’s mom! But I still love the other things about myself, too. And I’m different than I was before I had him, but I think because of the months I spent self-consciously navigating the publicness 0f pregnancy and parenthood (esp. motherhood), I feel like the ways in which I’m different suit me very nicely now, like an upgrade to Me 2.0.
Dee, would you mind sharing some of the titles of the pregnancy books you read? Those sound far more interesting than the standard fare!
David Bainbridge’s _Making Babies_ is interesting, as is Jena Pincott’s _Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?_ and Annie Paul Murphy’s _Origins_.
I also really liked Sandra Steingraber’s _Having Faith_, but a lot of the book is discussing the prevalence of environmental toxins and their potential effects on fetal development, so it’s not a “comfortable” book to read while pregnant.
Rana posted my favorite two before I got back here: Origins (Paul) and Chocolate Lovers (Pincott) were good. Also, “Sanctioning Pregnancy” (Gross & Pattison). And my go-to for month-to-month pregnancy information was the “Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth” edition.
I know how you feel. I have been practicing a variety of sports for over 20 years now – but when I got pregnant, most people assumed that I would just naturally want to stop because of the pregnancy and that I would want to do “what’s best for the baby.” Well, I didn’t – I boxed up until the end (which from what I am told, looks pretty funny), practiced my karate kata till the end, went hiking, went climbing, went to the gym, the whole nine yards. I figured out that people largely do not know how to treat a pregnant woman, so they kind of fall back on what they “think” you want. I think in most cases, people take their cues from you. I felt a lot better after I could actually SAY to people “try to treat me exactly the same as before.” I understand that many people love the idea that pregnancy is a transformative, all-encompassing thing for a lot of women – and maybe it is. But not always. And sometimes, let’s be frank, pregnancy blows. There were times I wanted nothing more than to NOT be reminded of my pregnancy and just be treated like I was for the previous 27 years. I think the medical stuff if often a necessary evil – the doctors and staff are doing their jobs, and they do everything to try to ensure good health. However, that doesn’t mean you need to consent to everything. People in general are a bit different, because their concern is often misplaced. I am a huge fan of being upfront and just saying, “Today, can we please not talk about the baby/fetus/whatever you call it? I just want to converse with you about other things.” And I often found that people found that to be a relief, since they often felt obligated to make “pregnancy talk” with me. I needed to be my own advocate in this situation and make sure that the attorney, mountaineer, sensei, wife, all that stuff – didn’t get lost. But it was on me to re-assert them. My best advice would be to do things you want to do! It is not wrong to sometimes not want to think about the baby and just do what you did before – and it’s okay to let others know that. If they have a problem with that, well, that doesn’t make them very good friends or supporters – and they’re probably not the kind of friends you need around you right now!
First off, your husband needs to tell your BIL to MYOB…pregnant or not, your shape is not his to comment on. Second, you’ve had an extraordinary number of ultrasound scans (why?) and hopefully that will settle down. There should be a lot less testing once the pregnancy is established. Third, who says you have to carry your Mutterpass “at all times”? Surely taking it to medical appointments will do.
There is absolutely no reason why you can’t bake too many cakes, get down on the floor with the kids and watch Doctor Who. There are many many ways to have a healthy pregnancy. Really there aren’t that many things pregnant women shouldn’t do; learn what they are, get some maternity wear that reflects your style, and then live your normal life.
I wanted to step in real fast and say that the post author is under zero obligation to tell us why she’s had numerous medical scans/why she has to carry her Mutterpass at all times. That’s totally personal information. If she WANTS to, cool — but since it wasn’t included originally, the issue doesn’t need to be pressed.
Oh, for heaven’s sake. Of course the OP has no obligation to tell us more than she wants to. Why would anyone think she does?
My RHETORICAL question (why?) was meant to emphasise that the number of scans the OP, who doesn’t allude to any complications in her pregnancy, mentions is unusual. But really I was pointing out that when the frequency of testing slows, she might feel better. And I — a medical professional, admittedly not in Germany — can think of no valid medical reason any woman would have to carry complete documentation of her pregnancy (or any other medical condition, frankly) “at all times”. The details of her pregnancy aside, it’s no wonder it feels like it’s subsuming her when from her post it sounds like her Mutterpass feels like a badge. Or a millstone.
If I’m out of line to suggest that the OP should have answers to those questions, well, so be it.
I totally didn’t mean to start drama – in the past other post authors have felt pressured to divulge medical info they didn’t want to share, and as a mom of a child with a huuuuuge medical history, I’m really sensitive to the issue. I spend a not insignificant amount of time reminding well meaning people they don’t automatically have rights to my kid’s info.
I do agree that she absolutely should know why she’s had the scans, and I get where your question is coming from now.
Fair enough. I’m a relatively infrequent visitor here and not familiar with that history. But there is an easy way to avoid the questions: simply include words to the effect that “there are issues and I don’t want to discuss them”; that way readers know that there is a reason for any outside-of-normal situation you are describing. And then ignore any questions that don’t respect that.
Let’s leave it there.
In answer to your question (which I want to answer! Honest!), the answer is simply I don’t know. I don’t mind the scans that much as I’m interested in seeing Geekling doing his/her thing, but I sometimes wonder about the rest of the stuff.
I was really excited about getting my Mutterpass as it made the pregnancy feel real. The carrying it around stuff is quite frustrating though, especially as it contains such personal information. Not just birthday and whatnot, but my blood group, immunity status, detailed (health) history as well as blood count, weight, urine test results and then everything about Geekling. The Pass works a bit like a medi-alert; should there be a problem or an emergency, or I need to visit a different doctor (i.e. not my gynaecologist), all the info is there.
I’m now back at work for our school’s holiday club, but my colleagues don’t yet know that I’m pregnant. The head knows I am (I told him as he will have to plan me out at some point next year), but he isn’t there at the moment. The local school authorities are quite strict about pregnant teachers and I believe that, should something happen to me at school, the school’s insurance won’t cover me if I don’t have my Pass on me. Not sure how true that is (it seems to be a new guideline), but it’s not worth the risk.
I would super encourage you to push back with your doctor about the number of scans/appointments. I’m 14 weeks and I have had a single ultrasound. And that one was pretty optional. I’m going to have one other one, assuming everything’s going well. There’s a strong tendency to do lots and lots of tests to make sure everything’s going well, but the truth is that, at least at the point you’re at, if something is going to go wrong, there’s really not much you can do about it. 7 weeks is so early! I didn’t even see my doctor until I was 8 weeks, and that was the absolute earliest that he would see me.
As far as keeping your identity, I totally hear you on that one. I was on the worse end of morning sickness. I didn’t have to be hospitalized, but I was proscribed Zofran and probably would have been hospitalized if I hadn’t had access to it. I’m starting to feel better now. I think the key is to continue doing the things that you feel comfortable doing and keep talking about them. I love hiking and kayaking and swimming in the lake and lifting heavy weights, aka lots of things that pregnant women aren’t supposed to do. I also work in a lab, and I have gotten so much crap about that. Learn how to shut down the judgey comments. “I’ve done my research and this is safer than driving,” is a good way to do that. And make sure that you talk about things other than baby stuff. I definitely catch myself and my husband talking excessively about my pregnancy because we’re so freaking excited about it. So that’s something else to be aware of.
Make plans with people to do fun things that you’re used to doing! Host a cake-eating and Doctor Who watching party! Go on a trip! You can travel safely up until close to the end of pregnancy! We’re going on a road trip this weekend, car camping in a couple weeks, and on a cruise to Alaska in a month and a half. And know that, if you’ve started feeling sick, it DOES pass for most women. I honestly didn’t realize how awful morning sickness could be, and thought it would never end. But I’m feeling so much better every day.
Congratulations, and good luck!
I had my last baby in Germany and it is general practice to have an ultra sound at every appt. They measure the baby and check the heartbeat. After getting used to the differences, I quite looked forward to seeing the baby every month. If you have any questions about having a baby in Germany I can help you out.
I have never lived in Germany and I had never heard of a Mutterpass until reading this post, so I Googled it. Here is a piece explaining about them (In English!) for anyone who is also curious.
BIL has been told to clear off, but sadly that has just made things worse. And although I’m still not showing (I’m now week 9), my boobs are really massive.
It is a requirement to carry the Mutterpass at all times (well, in your handbag at least) as, if there’s an emergency, all the information they need is there. It’s a bit like carrying a medi-alert card, I guess.
As for the crazy amount of scans… I don’t know. I’ve had 7 now with another one coming up on Monday. One was an emergency scan (I suddenly had strong pains in my lower abdomen) but the others weren’t. I was only 3 weeks in when I found out that I was pregnant, so they wanted to ‘keep an eye on me’ up until the all-important 6 week scan. The six week scan is a milestone here because they’re looking for a heartbeat. Once they’ve found it, they give you your Mutterpass and a bunch of blood tests.
I know I can do this stuff, it’s more the problem that I feel so downright awful (my morning sickness lasts all day) and I spend a silly amount of time in bed. I’ve been looking at maternity wear but I’m too scared to buy anything until week 12!
Too bad your BIL is being a jerk, that’s not helpful. I hear you with the boob thing; that happened to me too. It was sort of fascinating — were they ever going to stop? — but they did get in the way. I coped by buying one beautiful and supportive bra in each size on the way up. I got to wear them on the way down, too.
It’s a lot of scans. If you find them reassuring, great; if you don’t, it is entirely reasonable to ask which ones are truly necessary, and whether the information they are gathering will affect the outcome of your pregnancy. As for the morning sickness, that’s no fun at all. It does pass — or at least lessen — for most of us. It might be worth asking your doctor what treatment is available. IMHO it is sexist and outdated to assume that women must suffer through early pregnancy.
Honestly, if your brother in law has been told to back off and hasn’t, can you just… stay away from him for a while? He’s passing personal remarks about something that is absolutely none of his business, and that is incredibly rude and is making you uncomfortable. To me, that means just don’t see him for a while. He’ll either get the message or you can go back to seeing him when you feel more comfortable in yourself/your pregnancy.
I guess I didn’t make myself clear… sorry! The comments aren’t being made directly TO me, but to my husband. They work together in the same office (family business), so for my other half it’s pretty hard to avoid.
It’s weird though; normally I don’t really care if someone makes a remark about me (well, to a point), but this really grates. Hmpf.
Ah, that’s complicated 🙁
Can you ask your husband nicely to stop telling you about his brother’s comments for a while? Explain that you understand that he can’t stop his brother from making them but it’s making you unhappy so for a while you just don’t want to know?
In my opinion (as a fellow all day “morning” sickness sufferer), it really gets better after the first trimester (for most women!). I am pregnant with my second baby now, but at least for me, once my belly started to grow and look like a pregnant belly, I felt a lot better about myself. I feel so so so gross and not like myself at all first trimester, but then the constant nausea and vomiting goes away and you feel more like a human being finally. It feels easier to get excited about the little person taking over your body, and I like being able to tell people that I’m pregnant, so they can cut me a little slack when I need it. It is the start of this process of sharing your life with another human (one you helped create-cool!), and it is definitely difficult and weird and surreal at times.
That said, you can still enjoy all of your fun hobbies and interests- whatever you feel comfortable with! My guy and I did lots of traveling/eating at fun restaurants/going to concerts while I was pregnant and it was still just the two of us, and I’m so glad we did 🙂 I hope things get easier from here on out for you!
Ugh, my morning sickness also lasted all day. I second Frances– definitely ask about medication. At one point, I was taking doxylamine, vitamin B6, Zofran, and wearing an accupressure band. And still getting sick. It’s so hard, and, I’m not gonna lie, there were definitely points where I was questioning whether it was worth it. First trimester sucks so hard. I slept an absurd amount and spent so many days just laying around and watching television. But, now into my second trimester, I do feel like I’ve emerged the other side with a renewed appreciation for my energy levels and ability to eat foods other than crackers and fruit.
But, in the mean time, take it super easy on yourself. I feel like there’s a tendency to expect women to just power through morning sickness/first trimester exhaustion, but I think that’s silly. If you can, get your husband to take on more chores and treat yourself kindly. If all you can do is sit around and eat ice cream, then sit around and eat ice cream! Obviously, it’s not feasible for most women to not go to work during the first trimester, but talking to your boss may be helpful. Mine let me work from home a lot, which was amazing. I didn’t have to expend my energy on commuting and could just focus on getting my stuff done.
I don’t know have an answer for you, but I share your concerns. Every time I call, the first question out of the mouth of my (loved and adored and been waiting for grandchildren for years) mother is “how is my grandbaby” not “how was your week,” or “hello, thanks for calling”- I understand how you’re feeling. To top it off, my doctor prohibited ALL versions of the sport that I’ve played semi-professionally for 17 years. Not only while pregnant, but for 3 months post partum too. She heard once about someone who got hurt, so recommended I take up swimming or yoga. I don’t know how to swim, and I’m not particularly interested in learning while feeling chubby and sluggish and altogether awkward.
I don’t really believe her prohibition on my sport: there is commercially available maternity gear for one thing, and I know a bunch of other women whose doctors said nothing more than “be careful”, so I’m debating whether to just go do what I want and hope she doesn’t ask, or to tell her that I’m doing what I want to in contradiction to her advice.
Dunno what to do about my mom, i think the right answer for me is to try not to take it personally.
From one sports fiend to another – yeah,your doctor is probably misinformed. I was very, very lucky in that I managed to find an ob/gyn who works with expecting athletes all the time and who is knowledgable about pregnancy and sports. He explained that there is very, very little that is off-limits to the pregnant body – our bodies are designed for impact, after all. He gave me the greenlight to continue boxing (including sparring) through my first trimester – he explained how a developing human is well-shielded from impact inside the womb in the first few months and even direct blows aren’t cause for worry (unless they are delivered by Mike Tyson). So I trusted him on that.
It’s not usually personal with most doctors – but since pregnancy isn’t a time that a lot of women are raring to go in sports, most doctors don’t encounter it and thus, aren’t truly informed. If you know other athlete moms, some of them might have a recommendation for a doctor who is more athlete-friendly and knowledgable. There is also a great deal of info online, but that needs to be taken with a grain of salt.
I loved swimming while pregnant. Even just being IN a lake or pool, standing, hanging out, made me feel lighter and less like an elephant. My belly floated which took pressure off of my uncomfortable insides and my body as a whole. May not work for you, but it REALLY helped for me.
And totally do what you feel comfortable with regardless of her advice. Unless she has a medical reason why YOU personally shouldn’t do it, your comfort on the subject rules. Making a generalization because ‘I heard once’ is not really applicable to your pregnancy.
My MD is also a bit skeptical, to say the least, of my choices for physical activity. At 24 weeks I just stopped doing CrossFit (with a lot of modifications) this week mainly because my membership expired and I don’t know that this is a great time to sign into another contract. I stopped running early, at about 16 weeks, because my hips were just too sore but I’m still rock climbing (top rope only, in a full body harness). The first couple months of my pregnancy were pretty rough, but I firmly believe that being physically active gave me something other than growing a human to focus on and kept some normalcy in my life!
My husband has been incredibly supportive of me keeping up with the activities I love to do, but I’m getting a lot of flak from other family and some of my coworkers. I keep telling people “I’m pregnant, not broken!” but it seems a lot of people have this idea that as soon as you have a belly you need to be wrapped in bubble wrap. So frustrating! Can you imaging what would have happened thousands of years ago if our ancestors had said “sorry hun, you’ve got to chase down dinner by yourself for the next little while, I’m in a delicate state!” I know my body. It may not feel like MY body some days, but I’ll listen to it and keep moving it in ways that make me feel good!
Ugh, that sucks. I’m into powerlifting, and I’m so lucky that my doctor is also a lifter. He rolled his eyes when I mentioned the restrictions I’d read against pregnant women lifting more than 40 lbs (or even 20! I deadlift 10 times that). That said, my doctor also cautioned against dyeing my hair, which is an outdated recommendation, and I showed up to my last appointment with bright pink locks, worrying what he would say. He didn’t even mention it. Maybe you could get a letter from a coach or trainer in your sport who’s worked with pregnant women? Or agree to work with one, at least once or twice, to get some guidelines?
Thank you for posting this – I can’t wait to see other responses to this one!
At nine weeks (ish) with all day nausea and soooo much fatigue I’m struggling to keep up with what I used to do – the main thing I’ve found is to be realistic about what I expect to be able to do in a day. If I feel like crap, maybe the dishes don’t get done until the next day and maybe I need to start adding a bit onto the turnaround time I give to clients for custom made things, but I can sit and watch a movie with my husband and friends or go out for the day with my family.
Make time to do at least a couple of things each week that you enjoy, just for you – I know I intend to, certainly whilst I figure this stuff out.
I reckon such a shift in identity is tough, but it’s not a total change – you’re still you, you’ll still enjoy the same things, you may just need to adjust the way you do some things whilst you adapt to that.
Sigh. I’m 28 weeks pregnant, and I felt the EXACT same way you do. To be honest, that feeling hasn’t really gone away for me, and I’m not sure if I have any helpful advice whatsoever. I do know that initially, while there is a big rush of tests and medical procedures and things that basically make you feel like a walking chart instead of a person, it DOES slow down in the second trimester. I promise. Now that I’m in the third, I’m longing for those times again, frankly – the once a month appointment with the quick chat with my midwife and out the door. Sigh.
Something that drives me batty for some reason is everyone asking me, “How are you feeling?” It makes me feel as if the only thing of interest about me at the moment is my health, and the fact that I’m feeling good and I don’t have a laundry list of complaints makes it even more awkward. I’m not a delicate flower, I’m doing fine, thanks very much.
I’ve done a lot of receding back into my little cocoon with my husband, honestly. He’s the only one who makes me feel normal, doesn’t treat me any differently whatsoever. He knows if I need help, I will ask, and he only takes joy in the fact that we’re having a child rather than fussing over me endlessly. I recommend lots of together time – after all, it is the end of the “just the two of us” era, and it’s worth celebrating and making somewhat sacred. There will be so much time for family and friends after the baby comes. Pregnancy is your time to focus on yourself, your own body, and the things that bring you joy.
Wow – I totally know what you mean. I am 6 weeks into my second pregnancy and I have to say that the decision to have the second was a lot harder for me than it was for the first. Not because I was unsure about wanting to bring another awesome child into this world with my husband or about my daughter being an amazing big sister. I know as a family unit, adding another is only going to make our lives better (after s/he starts sleeping thru the night that is *s*). My decision was hard because I am now acutely aware of how motherhood changes other’s perception of me. I feel like a good portion of my first pregnancy and her early life has been spent in bewilderment, with me just coming home and telling my husband “I am the same person I was before – I just have more responsibility now…that’s all. Why is that so hard to understand?”
I could regale you with all the stories that have left me feeling disconnected from my pre-child life, but I don’t really think that is necessary. All I can really say is that this journey has been one of the most difficult in my life, but it has also been one of the best decisions I have ever made. You can’t change the way you are treated by others, but you can choose how you react to it. I hope your partner is as supportive as mine – it makes a huge difference. Life will never be the same, but there will come a time when you don’t feel like only a vessel or caregiver. Good luck! Have fun watching Dr. Who and geocaching with your little one in the future!
I’ll be completely honest with you. That feeling doesn’t really go away. It didn’t the entire time I was pregnant. It definitely didn’t while I was breastfeeding and trying to lose the baby weight. And then once I weaned my daughter and lost the baby weight, I still don’t feel like myself and sometimes, I still feel “watched,” mostly over my parenting. While I feel more like my old self now, over a year later, I’m a completely different person than who I used to be. Becoming a parent changes your life and your identity, sometimes in ways you don’t want to be changed.
That being said, I try to make time for myself and my interests now, which helps me feel more like “me.” I reserve time in the evenings to watch my shows and on the weekends to indulge in my own hobbies and get time to myself. And as a geek, I try to involve my daughter in as much of my geekery as I can, something I know I can do more and more as she gets older.
Ask for support and help to get pieces of your old self back. You lose so much of your free time as a parent, and the only way you get it back is if you ask people to watch your kid so you can do things for yourself. And if people are making you uncomfortable–family, friends, doctors–tell them. One of the things I hated most about pregnancy in particular is that everyone treated me like I was frail and helpless, and sometimes like I was a lab rat. Sometimes you just have to be blunt with people and tell them you don’t like being treated that way.
But also, embrace the changes and the person you’re becoming. Your life will never be the same again, and while it’s okay to grieve the things you’re losing, you’re going to experience so much amazing stuff and the person you’ll become will be amazing, too. Be open to the things coming your way. 🙂 Good luck, and congratulations!
I didn’t feel like a vessel during my pregnancy, and I think that has a lot to do with how my care provider and my partner treated me. I had a midwife and I felt as though my health was primary to her. *I* was the one going to appointments. *I* was the one that was present. My son was important, but she trusted my body to grow a baby. Most of my appointments were dedicated to me – did I feel alright? Was I feeling faint? Anemic? How was my blood pressure? She really centered on MY health and I think that helped me keep my sense of self intact. She treated me like a person. I had one ultrasound to confirm the pregnancy, and another to find out the sex and check development. I also didn’t have any complications, and I do not mean to judge anyone who gets more medical attention than I did. If you can safely tone down the doctor stuff, that might help. My care provider had a huge impact on how I viewed my pregnancy and my birth, and from what I heard that’s pretty common. Doctors need to look after YOU, too.
I would also like to say that absolutely nothing you mentioned needs to stop now that you’re pregnant, and certainly not after you give birth! (unless you have very strict rules based on your personal health, but even then, there is nothing stopping you from geeking out over the Doctor. <3) Bake your cakes. And then eat half, because guess what? You're pregnant and you get to do that. Go geocaching – the exercise will be great for you! Travel, and know that your baby is getting to experience all the joy you get from these things from inside you. A happy mom means a happy baby.
People are watching you – and the best thing you can do to stop that is to not change who you are and what you're doing. If they get too nosy, change the subject. It doesn't even have to be subtle – the bolder you are, the more likely they are to get the message that you don't want to talk about it.
You sound like you're a responsible, super interesting, smart, adventurous person. None of that has to change. YOU don't have to change. You sound like you're going to be the coolest mother ever. I wish I were that cool!
I guess that, having not been in your shoes, it's hard to give good advice. But I think that having trust in myself and my body to grow a baby without intervention (in large part due to my care provider), made me more willing to keep doing things that I loved – baking, visiting friends, walking to the library, spending time outdoors, eating pretty much whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted – without being concerned about the little one inside of me.
I hope this helps you, and know that being a parent doesn't overwrite who you are now. <3 Only you know your limits when it comes to your health during pregnancy, but trust your body.
((WOW super long comment sorry not sorry))
I felt exactly the same way during the first trimester and to a lesser degree during the rest of pregnancy, and was really shocked by it. I expected pregnancy to feel like me-plus-a-baby, and instead I couldn’t physically do things I usually did and also everyone was treating me super differently.
The two things that helped the most were ranting a ton to people I trusted, and listening to my body to figure out my “new normal”. I needed to sleep 14 hours a night and sometimes an extra 15 minute nap in my car in the afternoon–okay, gotta do it. Everything gave me heartburn–right, switching to six small meals a day. Hip started hurting–here we go to the chiropractor right now today, no procrastinating.
Also, it’s NOT forever. My postpartum body is absolutely different than my pre-baby body, but almost immediately after giving birth I felt like ME again. Me with some extra weight and tears and a huge hormone crash, but no longer a vessel.
Other people have made really good comments, so I am going to stick to just “Germany” stuff.
I have no idea what your medical situation is — nor am I asking — but I know from living there for a long time and watching friends both American and German having babies there that the German norm is to do LOADS more ultrasounds than is typical in the US — every check up! — and also to mandate the Mutterpass. But some women I know didn’t bother with the Mutterpass unless traveling or until the end (I say this not knowing your medical situation, and assuming — perhaps wrong — that this is just the German recommendation — the German stereotype about bureaucracy and paperwork is, alas, rooted in a bit of truth!), and were also able to negotiate fewer ultrasounds (again, I say this not knowing your situation). So, it is possible that if you are uncomfortable with some of this, you might be able to work around it.
I also just wanted to say that I empathize with you being away from home and pregnant — and also presumably (though I don’t know for sure) doing medical check ups in your non-native language. It can be hard! To some extent, some parts of German culture also fetishize the “mother” in ways more essentialist and biological than in the US (though it certainly happens here too!) — though I don’t know what it is like in the UK, which might do the same. But, if you aren’t used to thinking of yourself or about motherhood in that way, that can also be hard.
Good luck to you — and if you wish, ask Stephanie to put you in touch with me. Depending on where you are in the German countryside, I might have a friend I can set you up with as a buddy!
Hooray! Oh it’s so great to hear from someone who knows the strange ways Germany works in.
They really do fawn over mums to be – not so surprising when you consider that the birth rate here is shockingly low. Even lingerie stores advertise their sales with the slogan ‘Because Germany needs babies’! What I’m really worried about is that German doctors have a habit of guiding pregnant women almost too much and then leave her on her own once she’s given birth. That really scares me.
I don’t mind the scans as I’m fascinated to see what Geekling is doing in there, but the whole package does make you feel like you’re being watched all the time.
Working in a primary school seems to put me in a ‘fragile – don’t touch’ category here. My blood will be screened more often, plus I have to go to a completely different doctor who will decide my working hours or if I need a ‘work ban’ (‘Beschäftigungsverbot). If they opt to ‘ban’ me (no, really… the ‘verbot’ part does mean ban), I can’t argue with it. That’s me out of school.
My (German) husband does come along to all the appointments which really helps. I can speak German, but it’s good to have him there just in case I miss something.
I’m in Thuringia, by the way 😀
I just wanted to say “ditto” on all the comments made above about Germany – I’ve witnessed that too. I have also been shocked and saddened to see the extent of a certain … for lack of a better word… guilt culture around mothers. Mothers were made to feel tremendously guilty for all kinds of things – not staying home with their children, not wanting so many ultrasounds, putting their own health first. Don’t get me wrong, I see that in the States too, but it seemed more intense in Germany. I hope all the advice above can help you focus on you even if you are surrounded by comments that would try to make you feel guilty.
On the flip side – I think you have much better guarantees for both paid and unpaid leave, so job and financial security is probably better. Just so I don’t sound like I’m Germany-bashing 😉
Best of luck to you on this incredible and challenging journey!
I can completely relate to that. When I first started announcing to people that I’m pregnant (I’m 16 weeks now), it seemed overwhelming. I think a big part of it is that you’re trying to cope with the realization that life will change fundamentally, and at the same time everyone else wants something from you…
To me it feels like at the point where I got used to the idea of being pregnant and started relaxing (which was around the 11-12 week mark for me), I could deal better with other people, too.
I can understand that people are excited, and I don’t mind answering questions, but it seemed like everyone had well-meant but unsolicited advice and suggestions on what to do and what not to do.
My strategy was to outright ask people to cut out the good advice. It’s not always working (my mother in law just gives all the advice to my fiance now, for him to pass it along to me 🙂 ), but mostly I’m being left alone. Anything else I outright ignore. I’m sure some people think I’m being nasty, but even then, pregnancy hormones are always a good excuse :).
It also helps a lot to just continue with my life as usual and keep myself busy. I plan to keep working till at least one month before delivery. I see friends, take care of my animals, excercise, go camping, goof around, and just generally don’t make a big fuss out of the pregnancy. It works quite well for me, and makes other people realize that it’s still my old “me” inside.
Some things did change for me though. I semi-voluntarily – with a little nudge from my doctor – decided to stop riding my horse during pregnancy. I didn’t really want to, but if I’d fall off and lose the kid, I’m not sure how I could forgive myself. And of course, especially now in summer I sometimes wish I could have a cold beer in the sun, which I can’t have. But other than that I don’t feel much impaired anymore.
So I know it’s hard, but try to relax and keep doing whatever you’re doing. The novelty will wear off, both to yourself as well as other people.
I feel you! I’m 15 weeks out the other side now, and I still feel like my body isn’t yet back to being mine.
Its hard. I had morning sickness, fatigue, swelling, joint pain, and dizzy spells. I needed extra scans for two-vessel cord.
I had a mother who kept asking how her grandbaby was, and talking to my belly. I hated being unable to roll over in bed without it being a drama.
Now, I still have pain / discomfort and am still incredibly unfit after losing all my hard-earned fitness during the pregnancy since I couldn’t do much walking. I had to give up hiking, and stop learning to ski because I just couldn’t hack it.
My advice would be to find someone you can vent to. Because there is no way to make it better, but being able to whine about it without being judged will make it easier to cope with. Do what you can that is still you, and hold on to hope that in a year or so the rest will start to come back.
Its hard. And its mentally draining. But you will survive.
The first trimester is hellish. I don’t know of anyone that 100% enjoyed that part of their pregnancy. You’re excited and scared simultaneously. You feel fine one day and then suddenly you feel like you were hit by a bus. And on top of feeling awful physically, your brain is freaking out trying to figure out what comes next. It’s perfectly normal. By the time my 20 week scan rolled around I was finally getting out of that first trimester awfulness and ready to face whatever was around the corner. Most of my second trimester was such a relief. Even though my third trimester wasn’t always great, I just laughed off the limits of my body, like not being able to tie my shoes or peeing every hour through the night. But be forewarned, that lost feeling isn’t gone forever. Suddenly one day, you’re going to be a mom and responsible for someone else’s well being and the excited/scared times starts all over again, only this time you have to quickly learn to deal with it. And if you can’t, you’ve got to get yourself some help. Surround yourself with good positive people early in your pregnancy so you have those same people to lean on when the baby comes. My lil one just turned 6 months and while I don’t feel 100% like myself again, I’m closer to “normal” than I was 6 months ago. But I wouldn’t be here without my husband, my family and friends. I also highly recommend getting involved with a online social network for pregnant women and/or new moms. I would spends hours on r/babybumps over on Reddit commiserating and celebrating with the other soon to be moms. I graduated to r/beyondthebump and see a lot of the same women over there (we all have to have that kid eventually!) and it’s great to see and read about everyone’s progress and have someone that is going through the same thing as you. And always remember: you’re a wonderful mother and doing the best job you can.
I never felt like “omg guise . . im pregnant, look at me glow, look at my millionth ultrasound and billionth bump pic” NEVER. I was sick the whole time, I don’t believe in 90% of the medical testing they kept pushing on me, my family just wanted to touch me and give dumb advice, . . . . . oh lawd, it just went on.
The best thing I did to feel like me? Things I liked to do on my own. Spend a few hours at museums (no one talked to me!). Go to the bakery and get some of my fav pastries. I got sick of my mother in law pestering me about drinking enough water so I splurged on an awesome drink container that didn’t have any clear or transparent spots, so no one but me knew what I was drinking.
It also helped to keep the living room free of baby stuff. That way I could plop down on the couch and watch whatever I wanted without having to see baby stuff and pregnancy stuff anywhere.
I had a button made that said “PLEASE DON’T touch the bump” because I was seriously going to break someone’s fingers off. At my baby shower I got a onesie that said “my mom doesn’t want your advice” . A lot of my older family members thought it was rude, but I guess it worked as a good hint because they stopped talking about babies and pregnancy sooo dang much around me.
It’s hard. everyone is sooo excited and has such great advice . . . I get it. Just do what you do, and don’t be afraid to stand up for your sanity.
I want that button. I’m really nervous about the whole random-people-touching-bellies thing, because I get really awful panic attacks from being touched without consent/warning.
Shoshie, just to ease your mind a bit I want to tell you that NO ONE has touched my belly without asking. Not one person. I’m 35 weeks. This could have something to do with my appearance, mind. I’m overweight and frankly I’m of the opinion that I look like I’m carrying more peanut butter cups than Peanut. But my friends are all insistent that yes, I look pregnant. Even so, everyone at my office (300 people) asks me about my pregnancy every day and not a single one of them has gone in for the belly without asking.
I do recognize that your fears probably run deeper than this comment can calm, but I want you to know that there’s hope. 🙂
I’ve totally been there. For some reason pregnant women are often treated as if their bodies are public property. (Insert feminist rant here.) We are often taught that being a good mother means sacrificing EVERYTHING, including our identities. But this isn’t really healthy at all and doesn’t do kids any good either. There is absolutely nothing wrong with staying in touch with the person you were before you became pregnant.
Unless your doctor advises against it, you should be able to continue most of your regular activities, though they may become physically more difficult. (Every woman and every pregnancy are different though.) For me, the feelings of wanting my body back were more intense toward the end of my pregnancy. I think it was probably a few months after my c-section that I started to feel like myself again. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first and continue to enjoy the things that make you happy. If ever there was a time to pamper yourself this is it.
As far as dealing with outsiders making snarky comments and the like, while most people only have good intentions, it’s okay to remind them gently but firmly that you are still the same person you were before. How would you have responded to your brother-in-law if he had commented on your “shape” before getting pregnant? If it wasn’t okay for him to say it before, it’s not okay for him to say it now.
Oh man, I know how you feel. I will say, first off, that feeling never 100% goes away…BUT it does change as time goes by.
In my first trimester, I felt like ANYTHING but myself. I got terrible 24/7 nausea for 2 weeks straight starting exactly on week 7 (no vomitting though), then clockwork morning sickness during week 11. I was falling asleep all the time (immediately after dinner, at my work desk, on the bus). I didn’t want to eat, let alone LOOK, at most meat… I just wanted to eat berries, noodles, potato chips and cranberry juice. I felt fat, tired, greasy and gross, my nipples and boobs were beyond sore, I had bad acne and the intimate times were few and far between.
But then the second trimester rolled, and a lot of stuff cleared up. My acne, nausea, greasiness and general BLAHness went away. I wasn’t as tired now (but had an earlier bedtime), and the intimate times definitely picked up. I could eat a chicken breast without wanting to gag! I FELT LIKE ME AGAIN! But other things came in to replace those things. Different clothes were becoming more and more uncomfortable (thank goodness for the BellaBand), my stomach constantly felt stretched, and now that I LOOKED pregnant, I had to field so many questions and comments. Luckily no one has done the “unsolicited tummy touch/rub”. But also, looking pregnant, I felt better about myself and began to marvel at what my body was doing.
I’m now 28 weeks and entering into the last trimester. Now I have new issues. Like not being able to tie my own shoes comfortably (thank you husband!), or getting tired climbing a flight of stairs, or back pain.
The only thing I can say is, the first trimester sucks. Or at least it did for me, and most women who liked to volunteer their experiences to me. But further along you start to feel normal again (minus the growing tummy). I say…BE SELFISH! Take out time for yourself often. Bake cakes if that’s what you enjoy, take baths, put your feet up when you want and can to just veg out and relax.
As for trying to hide it from people (alcohol, your growing tummy)…I delayed getting my beverages when people were initially offering, and then had my husband “mix me something”. Or have a glass of wine, but never drink it (I would dump little bits at a time down the sink when no one was around…or had my husband drink it). If you’re out at a bar, take the waitress aside privately and ask for any drink you order to be made virgin. Blazers, empire-waisted maxi dresses, blousey tops that never came near your tummy pre-pregnancy to begin with all work great to hide a growing tummy.
I am a huge introvert so I was very uncomfortable with everyone staring at my body when I started to show. And i hated being singled out at gatherings “OH there’s PREGO!” I just wanted blend in to the wall and disappear. And come on people, I’m still JESSICA. And everyone had to tell me how big or small they felt I was. And then in the last month I finally was forced to wear real maternity clothes and they were so not my style….
That aside…I still managed to keep very active for a long time and that made me happy. I took a distance ed course to be able to tell people about something *I* was doing because I was still an individual with a life, not just a baby maker. I geocached up to 2 weeks before the birth and resumed 3 weeks after 🙂
I felt like this – SO MUCH. It was a lot harder earlier on when we weren’t telling people about the pregnancy, and it’s only really started to get better for me within the last few weeks.
The most helpful thing has been having a co-worker who is also pregnant that I can bitch to, really. She’s having a tough time, too, just normal stuff – people’s comments, body image, changes in general. BUT! She gets it! She doesn’t try and say things like, “OH, but it’s so worth it in the end!”, and doesn’t feel like she needs to make anything better. We’re just slogging through it, counting down the weeks.
Things started changing for me when I could feel the baby move, and actually had a physical sensation that there was a PERSON for whom all of this was happening. It was still a gradual shift, but it has helped. The process of preparing for birth and baby has helped, too, mostly because my focus has been off of myself lately, and more on the transition ahead of me.
The main thing, I think, is that life change usually leads to feelings like this. I had similar feelings when I started a “career” rather than being a student/everything else, and again when I was married. Both of these things have been excellent, and have left their impressions on how I’ve developed as a person.
Being pregnant is a long and profound journey. So is parenthood (I’m told). You won’t be the same, but you will also still be you.
I’m not sure when/if that feeling ever goes away. Certainly it didn’t go away for me during pregnancy (I made images of feeling like a ripening fruit). After pregnancy I still felt like my body very much belonged to the babies (I had twins). And even now I struggle to maintain a sense of identity while my whole being is swallowed up by baby care. The babies are over 10 months old and I still don’t know who I am in relation to who I was. I am trying to read more, do yoga, find things to do for myself, to keep me feeling like a human with important needs, thoughts, feelings, and preferences as opposed to just a caretaker.
I think this is something so many mothers struggle with. You’re in good company. 🙂
I’m two-thirds of the way through pregnancy #2, and the one thing I’ve learned is that you can’t change the way other people see you, but you can change the way you see yourself. I got completely lost the first time around. I ended up feeling like a second-class citizen in my own body. My body used to be for me, somewhere I lived in and something I was in control of, and now my body was pushing me out of the way in favor of this being it was growing inside of me, a being I didn’t even know yet. And everything was new and frightening and the one thing I knew, the one thing everyone was telling me, was I was supposed to put the baby first, so I helped my body push myself out of the way, and focused all my energy on this other, new, person. It should come as a surprise to no one that I eventually had a breakdown and got treatment for depression after my daughter was born.
Now my daughter is almost three, and I’m pregnant again, and being pregnant when you already have a toddler leaves you even less mental space in your life to think about yourself. But you have to. In order to be a strong, supportive mother to your children, you have to be grounded in yourself. Make the time to do things you like, even if it’s difficult, even if people disapprove. Be firm about your needs so that you can be firm about your child’s needs, because they will sometimes need you to fight for them too. And when people start asking you invasive personal questions, (because they will!) it’s ok to find polite ways to brush them off. Your body and your life is your own. Becoming a mother adds new meaning to both of those things, but it doesn’t alter the essential fact that you are your own person.