I’m pregnant and feeling lost — Am I just a “vessel” now?

Guest post by Vesparia

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?

  1. “I did NOT actually write this Offbeat Families post, despite the fact that the author refers to her baby as ‘Geekling’ and complains about the amount of blood she’s had drawn.”

    I don’t live in Germany, though.

    Love you per-natal nickname;) And I feel you on the subject of all the poking and prodding. I have been complaining to various people “And now the doctors want ALL MY BLOOD”. Also that this whole pregnancy thing turns out to be really time consuming! I’m on my second week in a raw of having places to be everyday of the week, most (Though not all) of them pregnancy related. Right when I have NO ENERGY WHATSOEVER.

    As for you question, my suggestion would be to make time (Somewhere, around all the appointments) to do any of the things you love that you have the energy to do. Think about the things that make you feel most like YOU. You’ve listed some of them. Bake a cake. Watch some Dr. Who. Hang out with a friend who is more interested in you than in your pregnancy. Invite a friend over to watch Dr. Who and eat cake!

    And talk to you brother-in-law about the fact that his teasing makes you uncomfortable, or get your husband or another member of the family that you trust to do it for you. He probably means well, teasing is a way of expressing affection for some people, but if it is making you uncomfortable, it is not ok and he needs to know that.

  2. Your question really struck a cord with me. 2 weeks ago (but both examples happened within the same week) I had one co-worker comment on my sexiness, and another comment on my “miracle grow” growing breasts. The two comments made me feel really dis-empowered, embarrassed and self-conscious. I am not presuming how you have felt, but it sounds like there is some commonality. I asked a few people for help. Mostly the conversation went, yes your pregnant, everyone thinks he/she has the right to comment on your body- tough patootie.

    One amazing friend gave me a phrase that I now repeat to myself and hold as “back up” in case I’m in a situation that makes me feel uncomfortable. This friend suggested I say something like ” Thank you so much for your ___ (complement, story…). I feel like I need to tell you, your comment makes me a uncomfortable given our professional relationship, and workplace environment.” Boom, I felt empowered again! I now have a comeback.

    I don’t know if this phrase will or would work for you. That said, there might be a way to tailor it to your needs. I don’t know your brother in law. Maybe he would heed to this type of comment. Maybe he needs something a bit more stern like, “This is the office, comments about colleagues bodies are off limits, and in this setting, I/ my wife is a colleague.”

    Pregnant or not, it is your body. You have a right to respond to your needs regardless of the other person being a medical professional, family member or stranger.

    • “I had one co-worker comment on my sexiness, and another comment on my “miracle grow” growing breasts.”

      This is sexual harassment and should really be taken more seriously by your management. There is no way that this sort of stuff is okay to say to a co-worker.

  3. Oh my gosh, I absolutely felt this during (and, honestly, for a bit post-birth). I equate it to feeling like a teenager again. Struggling to make sense of this new identity, feeling awkward, weird body changes, ugh! Not my favorite time. My best advice, it will be o.k. You’ll find the balance to your sense of self again. Take heart in the fact that you have so many people that can relate to you, even when it feels like no one could.

  4. I hear you. I kept my pregnancy a secret (as much as I could) until 20 weeks because I didn’t want to talk about it nonstop. As soon as people knew, I hit a really hard spot. I got super angry because I kept hearing comments about my body, never got to talk about anything but “the baby”, kept getting touched, and suddenly had all of the world weighing in on whether or not I should be working/traveling/gardening/keeping my kitties/feeding my turtle/drinking coffee/wearing pumps and so forth.

    My partner and I had a serious conversation where I told them that I would not go and see their family unless they respected me. Bottom line, if I felt like I couldn’t go a family event without being called “preggo”, having my belly rubbed, or getting interrogated for taking a bath I was not going to go. People were a little put off at first, but then they realized I am a lot more fun when I talk about things I love instead of things that annoy me.

    Honestly, the trick with strangers has been to built up a night aura of “eff off.” If people start asking me questions, I answer with as few words as possible and change the subject. I realized I don’t have an obligation to make other people happy or abide by their sense of right and wrong.

    The most important thing I have done in all of this is to be conscientious about not filling every moment of my life with baby/pregnancy/etc. Read your own books. Watch your own shows. Check out magazines that aren’t all about pregnancy. Go and do what you want to do. Claim space and time for yourself. If I’m in “me time” and people ask me about the pregnancy, I say ‘I’m not talking about that right now,” or “Wouldn’t you be embarrassed if I told you I wasn’t pregnant?” I found people that I can hang out with and talk about whatever I want. I went out and bought some fabulous, comfy pajamas that are not maternity.

    You are not a vessel, and you have no obligation to make other people happy. Do whatever you need to in order to make yourself feel like the badass person you are (who just so happens to be pregnant with a geekling).

  5. This thread is so super interesting. Basically because the OP says that she feels like she’s losing herself because all she ever hears is about the baby and preganancy, and a lot of people have replied asking questions about her baby and pregnancy or giving advice about the baby or pregnancy!!! Maybe it’s just that I haven’t been pregnant before so I don’t feel myself rushing to identify with those bits of it, but human behaviour is super interesting, and I guess the replies show just how hard it is for people to NOT talk about that!

    My advice comes from being an upcoming bride, where you get the same thing where people ask ALL the time about the wedding and how it’s going. Sometimes I want to talk about it, sometimes I just want to scream I AM OTHER THINGS BESIDES THIS!!! My advice is to schedule one day a week (or fortnight or an hour a day or whatever works for you) where you and your partner agree to not talk about the pregnancy, and ask other friends to abide by this too. Keep replies really short to other people and change the topic e.g. “How’s the baby coming along?” “Oh it’s coming, you know. So I hear that blah blah blah…”

  6. Honestly, I never really had a problem with this but I think it comes down to how I identify myself. I have not invested in my personal identity to interests and roles and I don’t really expect other people to know everything or care about all sides of me. I don’t share details of my married life with my mother and my coworkers don’t care about my gaming habits. You are still who you are, and as a previous poster stated you have a new identity to try to get used to, that of mother, this doesn’t have to supersede any other identities you have, but some people will relate to you (some only temporarily others more permanently) as this role. You can actively remind people of other parts of yourself I guess but I never saw the point much myself. I mean, I don’t feel I have to tell my co-workers about things, so my role as mother is similar to that in my mind.

  7. For me, being a vessel was one more piece to add to my identity. It doesn’t have to squish out your other aspects of identity, not forever. I was a writer, friend, daughter, artist, magazine editor, wife, chronic pain sufferer, festivalgoer, and traveler. Sometimes I focused on my writing; other times, I wasn’t traveling, being a good daughter, or worrying about my career, because I was busy helping a friend. Now I’m all those things plus a mom, a body in this world. I gave up travel and festivals for a couple years and became a much worse friend and wife. Now my son is almost three and I have more time for romance, friendship, travel, and festivals again. To everything, there is a season. We don’t have to be everything all the time.

    Being a vessel was weird — but what a singular and incredible life experience! No point in fighting it; it was joyful if strange to accept the transformations happening to my body and to my inner spirit. Nine short months is all you’ve got of this. A blip on the radar of time. Sometimes I felt like a cow or a machine, this *thing* that was manufacturing a creature. Sometimes I felt like a spaceship, powering around this little alien. If you step back and think about those things—write, sing a song, make a smudgy painting in response to those emotions—for me it was still utterly bizarre, but funny and interesting. And sometimes I just felt like a mom, the Virgin Mary, the Empress in the Tarot — an archetype. Kinda cool.

    The full level of acceptance didn’t happen until my fourth month. My first trimester was hard: I had close people in my life opposing my pregnancy, and I was sick a lot. After a couple months, I actively focused on the idea of joy, just plain joy in my pregnancy, being open and relaxed enough to ignore the haters, open myself up to the input and attention of strangers, let myself take the full ride even if it meant change –fast, fast change of myself. I painted the word “joy” and rolled it on a scroll. I put it in a special place and spent time every day just thinking that word: joy, joy, joy. It worked.

    I think there is too much pressure to always keep one’s independent “self” prioritized. The self is a big, flexible, elastic thing (just like our bizarre bellies!). Let it stretch. It will never be exactly the same after this: why would you want it to? Life’s about transformation and continuation. But just like your belly will become flatter (if a bit flabby), your “self” as you currently know it will probably re-emerge. It’s a strange road but for me, learning to embrace and accept it was *way* better than fighting it and worrying about an outdated sense of my identity.

    For me and many women I’ve talked with, having a spiritual-physical practice got us through it. I started doing yoga with a video every day, Prenatal Yoga with Shiva Rea. I’m not sure why it was so incredibly calming, useful, and grounding—but it worked. She says things about the idea of the baby inside, about our bodies, that soothed and inspired me. There are three women in the video: Shiva Rea (no longer pregnant), a woman at maybe 4 months, and a woman who’s about to pop. It gave me a reference point for what was happening to my body. Would I ever *really* be like the 9-months pregnant woman, unable to bend over, adapting the exercises to sitting in a chair?? Soon enough, I was in that place, and surprisingly serene about it.

    I also enjoyed my pregnancy and baby once I realized that yeah, this process isn’t entirely private. I was *bringing an entire new human* into this world, a human who would go on to use up Earth’s resources, create waste, take taxpayers’ money for school, bring light and happiness to many people simply by smiling at them on the street. That’s not a private act. By having a child, I *did* become more engaged with the larger society and humanity as a whole. That *isn’t* a bad thing. I let people stare at my belly and coo at my child, and discovered a new and wonderful sense of openness and generosity. It turned out my limited idea of “self” really didn’t need to be protected so hard. What it needed was to melt a little. Then things felt truly good.

    I’ll stop rambling now. I really hope you adjust to this crazy transformative time and have a great birth and wondrous babytime. It’s going to keep being weird!

    • This is AMAZING.
      My favorite parts:
      “For me, being a vessel was one more piece to add to my identity. It doesn’t have to squish out your other aspects of identity, not forever.”
      “We don’t have to be everything all the time.”

    • As someone who has a lot of the same feelings as the original poster, I find this very isolating. I can not speak for her, but when people would give me stories like this, it only reinforced my feelings of otherness. I’m not saying that this is necessarily what is happening, but it’s something to consider, also.

  8. Sorry you’ve been feeling kinda crappy so far.

    I had two major periods of “not feeling like myself” during my pregnancy- in the first trimester when I had morning sickness and in the third trimester when I was huge and tired and couldn’t focus on anything but the pregnancy. I suddenly wasn’t interested in cooking, drawing, and taking long walks like I used to be. It was a sucky feeling! But the good news is that after the little guy vacated the premises, my old interests and hobbies came back full force! (Although admittedly with a bit less time to do them, heh)

    So for that part at least, rest assured that those changes are not permanent. Good luck with things!

  9. I had these same feelings at first, and I still do now, even at 28 weeks. It’s hard to feel beside yourself sometimes, but it’s really normal. The only thing I can offer is that (in my case at least) some of those feelings of disconnect or unhappiness will fade. Having a baby is a big unknown in a billion ways and it’s normal to not be ecstatic about it.

    Try and focus on the things that make you happy and make you YOU. I mostly refused to talk about the baby in the first trimester, and didn’t tell anyone except my closest friends and family till 15 weeks. Now more people know but I’ve made it clear that I’m not just a baby oven.

    Talking about things that you’re interested in and not just hypotheticals about a person you don’t know yet will help reinforce your self-worth.

  10. I felt this way the entire time I was pregnant. My son is five months old now. The feeling of feeling lost in my own self is finally going away thanks to the help of my wonderful fiance. Once you start to show the feeling might get worse. It did for me. After I started to feel him kicking though, it was like that feeling was never there. It was the most special feeling you could ever imagine. When my son was born it came back, but not nearly as bad when I was pregnant. It does get better, I promise.

  11. Talk about feeling like a “vessel”, my man’s father introduced me as “this is the lady who’s growing my grandchild” and frequently referred to me as “oh, most treasured of receptacles”. Beyond that I’ve fought tooth and nail to be seen as something other than “Jasper’s Mom” with his conservative religious family. I’m scared to death to tell anyone that I’m pregnant again….

  12. This is my second pregnancy. In neither of them did anyone outside of medical staff try to tell me what I could do/ eat. Everyone asked me if I had limitations. I named them, we moved on. I was incredibly lucky to have friends and family who asked and ask now that I’m preggo again how I feel.

    As to the brother in law, if it bothers your significant other, and saying something seems to have made it worse, I see two options. The probably unpopular one is to respond. I have done this myself by responding to every comment with a similar comment about the person commenting. They generally either get angry, which I respond to with: it doesn’t feel good to have to listen to that does it? Or they just stop talking. The other option I see is simply to ignore it. Whenever they make a comment start a new topic, just don’t act like you even heard them, whatever works.

    Anyone talking to me who made a big deal of talking maternity when I didn’t want to was generally met with: it’s going fine, I’m super stoked about (insert hobby here, for me it was some craft project I was doing usually). They got the point, and I got to talk about something I loved that made me feel like me.

    As for morning sickness, that was the bane of my existence the first time around. I lived on milk, crackers, and any broth I could get down and keep down. I found two things helped with it: ginger candies (basically ginger anything, I love pickled ginger by the way) and peppermint tea (or candies with real peppermint, not just flavor). Granted I was either drinking the tea or eating a candy every fifteen to thirty minutes, but it helped.

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