Expectations Series: Part 1 - Pregnancy

Expectations: Part 1 – Managing Pregnancy Expectations

Expectations: Part 1 – Managing Pregnancy Expectations

I have to be honest, I love that some of my friends are getting pregnant. It feels like an experience that can create a stronger bond between us. After all, becoming a mother does catapult you into a different category of being. Our whole society makes sure to remind us of that every chance it gets. And our society brings on a lot of expectations for us as future moms. There are a lot of do’s and don’ts during pregnancy, often times conflicting. And they paint a very fuzzy and confusing picture for us. It also skews our perception of what pregnancy expectations are actually normal.

Take your social media feeds for example. I will venture a guess that if you are an expectant mother, you have started following “Mommy Blogs” on Facebook and various pregnant mamas on Instagram. And you are beginning to form an opinion (mostly from Instagram) that pregnancy is beautiful, easy, and totally Insta worthy. All these women flaunting their perfectly shaped bellies and working out in exotic locales. They don’t show the everyday struggles pregnancy often brings, and it makes us believe that when we struggle we’re somehow the exception.

What shapes our pregnancy expectations?

I’ve heard other moms talk about how pregnancy has proven to be a difficult ordeal for them, and that they are not like most moms. Most moms, in their eyes, have these super easy, super enjoyable pregnancies where they ride unicorns in fields of daisies, and get served tea by the fairies from the forest. And the reason why they think that is Social Media!

I can understand why. People don’t like taking unflattering pictures of themselves, let alone post them for the world to see. I know, I don’t. Pictures showcasing my struggles simply don’t exist. Society pressed hard the expectation that I am supposed to be no less than perfect and beautiful, in order to deserve being photographed. And thus we create an environment where future moms come to expect that pregnancy and motherhood is easy.

Expectations Series: Part 1 - Pregnancy

What’s worse, is that even if the Insta mommies wanted to share their pain, it can’t always come across in pictures. Most pain we experience is internal and can’t be shown. Maybe that’s why most moms’ complaints get dismissed, their pain is invisible. It’s not the same as walking with a gaping bloody wound on your head for everyone to see.

Then there is the flip side to the perfect Insta pregnancies. It’s the horror story pregnancies. The ones that make expectant moms lose precious sleep over every little baby movement or lack thereof. The ones that make them question whether their bodies can actually go through this and carry the baby to term without causing permanent damage to them. This doesn’t set up realistic expectations either. But what’s worse, it doesn’t open the conversation up for anything. Because now the expectant mother is afraid to speak up about anything because how can her pain compare.

What Changes Happen in the Woman’s Body During Pregnancy

Pregnancy not only affects women physically, but also mentally. The act of growing a baby inside your body is a marvelous one. But it can leave one feeling insecure about their bodies. After all, we live in a society obsessed with losing weight and being thin. And pregnancy is the opposite of that. It’s a time in a woman’s life where she rapidly gains weight, grows and stretches her belly, and ends up with permanent changes to her body.

It’s not uncommon for women to feel alien in their new pregnant bodies. The body not only looks different, but it also feels different. Things that used to feel good, no longer do. Simple acts of sitting, walking or getting out of bed become heroic acts, especially in the 3rd trimester. So, it makes sense that many women suffer silently through these every day occurrences.

In addition, anxiety can be a constant companion in pregnancy. Whether it’s your first or 5th child, you always worry about their development. You can feel this little being inside you but you can’t see them. So you have to rely on what your doctor tells you and your mother’s intuition about whether everything is ok.

All of this is normal. But because we can’t see it in pictures and not many women share about this, many expectant mothers are left with their thoughts completely on their own. And they end up feeling like an island. Like they’re the only ones going through this struggle, when, in reality, pretty much every pregnant woman is going through this.

If you can’t see it, can you, at least, talk about it?

Expectations: Part 1 - Pregnancy

But don’t you dare talk about your motherhood struggles!!! The expectation is for you to perpetuate the stereotype of a happy and selfless mother. As long as the baby is doing well, you don’t matter. There are many moms who will spread this message without realizing the damage they are doing to themselves and others. And so the truth is not shared.

That’s why many pregnant women are taken aback by the fact that pregnancy hurts all over. And unless they are friends with some very honest women, their struggles won’t be normalized. They’ll go on thinking that their rough and less than enjoyable pregnancy is the exception, when in reality, it’s the rule. Now, there are actually women who have easy and enjoyable pregnancies, and we should not invalidate them. Every experience deserves a voice.

How can we change pregnancy expectations?

So what can we do to help future moms tailor their expectations to the reality of pregnancy? For starters, we (veteran moms) should be honest with our friends about our experiences. We should openly talk about struggles with weight, muscle and joint pain, back pain, gestational diabetes, blood pressure issues, etc. We don’t need to scare the other women, but it is helpful to talk about our experiences. So when others come upon hurdles they know how normal those are.

The truth is, when you are not experiencing the issue, you can just listen to someone else’s struggle and move on because it’s not relevant to you. But when you are experiencing an issue, it’s so important to know you are not alone. That’s why people go to therapists. They want their experiences validated and normalized. Otherwise, you start to feel crazy. And that is never a good feeling.

It’s up to us (moms) to normalize the conversation about motherhood. Our doctors simply don’t have the time to go into all the nitty gritty that is pregnancy related discomforts and issues. Plus, something may be very uncomfortable and not be medically relevant or dangerous. And hearing about an issue from your doc may not resonate the same way as if it came from your mama friends.

So let’s work on being open and honest about pregnancy and help other women understand that while it may be a wanted and beautiful experience, it can simultaneously be the hardest and most uncomfortable one they’ve endured.

For all the future moms out there, just remember: What you see on Instagram is not at all what the person experiences in real life!

P.S.

Don’t forget to read about the other expectations that come with motherhood. Expectations: Part 2 – Labor and Delivery, Expectations: Part 3 – The 4th Trimester, Expectations: Part 4 – Your Growing Baby.

Update

I’ve recently partnered with a Rachel Da Silva, RN, BSN, CLC, founder of Mommy Did You Know and became an affiliate for her prenatal and breastfeeding courses. She is now offering a Premium Prenatal Course that covers everything pregnancy, labor and immediate postpartum related topics. And as a bonus, she runs live 1 hour online groups where you can ask her questions about anything pregnancy or postpartum.

And don’t forget to prepare for breastfeeding (if you’re planning on doing it). She has 3 tiers of courses: Milk Minutes Free Breastfeeding Class,  The Milk Minutes Breastfeeding Crash Course,  Milk Minutes All About Feeding Your Baby (Premium Version). She has a variety of helpful resources on her page, including an online consultation to answer your postpartum related questions and a free (for members only) resource library. If you are interested in checking out and purchasing any of her courses, click here.

And the last thing I want to share with you is a discount: use the code MILKMINUTES10 to receive 10% off any of the paid courses. And use the code MILKMINUTES for 15% off in Rachel’s MDYK Store. She has adorable baby clothes and beautiful clothes for moms, pregnancy and breastfeeding accessories, and so much more.

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46 thoughts on “Expectations: Part 1 – Managing Pregnancy Expectations”

  1. I do agree with this. I was once told that I was too honest. Of course, this is the most beautiful experience that every woman should experience but also the hardest.

    1. Absolutely. People get so shocked when you’re honest about the hard parts of pregnancy. All they want to hear is how beautiful it is and glaze over everything else.

  2. What a beautiful message! I love how real this is! Currently 35 weeks pregnant and can relate to almost everything here. Pregnancy is a very rough time for some if not all women! You really touched base with it all, so thank you for that!

  3. You are right, what you see on Insta may not be real, or it may be. That applies to every aspect of life, not just parenthood. People have to stop comparing themselves to others and just do the best they can.

  4. I had a relatively “easy” pregnancy BUT it was still hard! There’s nothing “easy” about bringing a human into the world. I don’t know if there’s another experience on earth that is at the same time the most wonderful feeling and the absolute scariest at the same time. It can be both! Great post!

  5. It’s true that many of the unpleasant sides of pregnancy come as a surprise. I think most women try to keep co aunts to themselves or other women who have gone through it. It’s especially hard if you’re the first of your friends and siblings to get pregnant. I was lucky to find some honest pregnancy books to read during my 1st pregnancy.

    1. That’s so good about the books. It’s true that it’s very hard to be the first to go through this. We need other moms to talk to during pregnancy.

  6. YEEESS! I love this. I agree 100%. Nobody pregnant with their first wants to be told the negatives but I wish I had a more honest gathering of advice. People either gave over the top positive feedback or pure negatives (most of which never happened).

    1. I agree. The horror stories are abundant when you’re a first time mom. Not sure why people think it’s necessary to share that.

  7. I completely agree! We hear all the time how glamorous it is to be pregnant, but we definitely need to share more truths about how things really are. How tough it really is on the body and the emotions, especially when you already have a toddler who isn’t self sufficient. Love this post! Thank you for spreading the awareness.

  8. I totally agree with you about being honest about pregnancy- the good and the bad! That doesn’t mean share every single personal detail with the world, but to be real about it!

  9. My pregnancy was anything from normal according to my friends and family. None of them had twins nor we’re on bedrest for the majority of their pregnancy. I felt like I had no one to relate to.

  10. I was “lucky” in that my pregnancy wasn’t that rough. I had morning sickness for maybe a week, but only threw up once. The worst I had was feeling tired all the time and getting swollen feet and hands.

  11. Yeah- Insta has ruined the views of so many of us- I woory now about what it’s doing to my teen girls’ self confidence. Thanks for spreading the word, Mama.

  12. We tend to only share the happy parts of pregnancy, but it’s definitely not all roses. It’s creating an unrealistic expectation for sure!

  13. You comment about photos is so true. I remember cringing when people wanted to get a photo of me pregnant. I just didn’t feel good. And, I certainly didn’t feel photogenic compared to many of my friends. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Love it, especially how you pointed out how mom’s can’t talk about their struggles. I actually have a post on my blog about how mothers matter too. If they are not well they cannot care for their babies! I mean, Hello! My pet peeve are the people that come over to help by holding the baby so the mom can “get things done”. I want to say, “Um, how about you look around for something needing to be done so mom can rest with her baby?”

    1. Yes, yes, yes, Shayla. You are speaking the truth. Moms absolutely matter and they need to be taken care of, so they can look after the baby. And yes, only hold the baby is mom is taking a shower or nap, otherwise do some housework!

  15. This is very well said. I myself try and show the struggles of motherhood in hopes that is will bring us moms together rather than create this impossible expectation of what motherhood “should” be. It is uncomfortable to post “real” and “raw” mom life but if more people started to share then hopefully the expectation will start to fade.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Molly. You and I definitely have the same goal. We absolutely should share and show the “real” motherhood and not the idealized version we have all been fed.

  16. I agree with everything you said. Pregnancy is just beautiful but also challenging. We may have different experiences but despite everything, it just creates a special bond among mothers. Also, this post is simply all about “real talk” about the experience.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Clarice. I’m all about the “real talk”. I think it’s important for all moms to be able to share the real struggles as well as wonderful moments.

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