Here’s a tip – never complain about any aspect of parenthood, ever. Especially not on the internet.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re unexpectedly pregnant at 16 or 45 and feeling way out of your depth. It doesn’t matter if you’re wracked with antenatal anxiety or postnatal depression. It doesn’t matter whether your partner has left you six weeks into your pregnancy, or died the week before your due date.
It doesn’t matter if you’re in hospital, on a drip due to hyperemesis. It doesn’t matter if you’re facing your sixth miscarriage. It doesn’t matter if your planned, longed-for pregnancy is causing you such intense pain and discomfort that you’ve considered not continuing with it.
None of that matters – because some people would give anything to be where you are. Apparently.
This probably seems more like a rant than a reasonable, balanced blog post. I’ve tried to keep it from becoming a stream of consciousness, but it’s hard when you’re angry. Three years ago, having people tell me how lucky I am was probably the least useful piece of advice I ever received. I hoped there would be a gradual shift away from guilt-tripping struggling women, but it’s still alive and well. Dare to complain about any aspect of pregnancy and motherhood, and you’ll have this little chestnut trotted out.
Don’t get me wrong, I can’t begin to imagine the pain of infertility. I can sympathise, but I can’t empathise. I’m sure this post will be controversial; I’m sure many won’t like it, but I’ve sat on these thoughts for three years, continuing to watch the pain and guilt this trope causes. Whoever you are; whatever difficulty you are going through – your pain does not give you the right to make others feel awful.
I was lucky to get pregnant easily and have a healthy baby. That didn’t mean I had to feel lucky all the time.
I felt lucky at the first scan; seeing our baby for the first time.
I felt lucky when I held her in my arms once she’d arrived safely.
I wasn’t lucky to get pregnant at the time I did; with no action plan and no family-friendly accommodation on the horizon.
When I developed antenatal anxiety so severe that I lay awake each night, for weeks on end, convinced that someone I’d argued with that day would try and kill me and the baby, I didn’t feel lucky.
When I had a crisis of faith towards the end of my pregnancy and my second year of university, convinced that I couldn’t cope with anything because my self-confidence had been chipped away at for weeks, I definitely didn’t feel lucky.
I didn’t feel lucky being induced early, because my baby and I were both at risk.
When postnatal depression pushed me to the brink of killing myself, I can’t say I felt particularly lucky.
Through all these times, I would never have dreamed of saying “You’re so lucky, I’d give anything to be in your position” to people without children – because you never know whether it’s by choice or not. You never know whether they embrace a childfree life, or whether their life is consumed with fertility treatments and dreading pregnancy announcements.
There are times when I’m sure some people would give anything to be in my position. I feel lucky and privileged during these times.
I do have to ask, though – would those people really “give anything” to feel lost and scared and terrified? Or to lock themselves in a cupboard at six months pregnant and stay there for almost an hour because everything around them feels terrifying and overwhelming? To stare down at their twelve-week-old baby and feel no joy or happiness; just an all-encompassing sense of dread and fear? Would they give anything to experience hyperemesis; SPD; perinatal mental health conditions; pregnancy loss; birth trauma?
Many people would give anything to fall pregnant on their first month of trying; to sail through pregnancy with the usual symptoms but nothing untoward; to have an immediate rush of love when their baby enters the world on their due date, and to soar through motherhood on a cloud of love and happiness. I’d have given anything for that too.
“Remember how lucky you are – some people would give anything to be where you are now” isn’t helpful advice. It isn’t advice at all; it’s a phrase used to guilt-trip and shame women for having feelings, and silence them. With topics like pregnancy loss, birth trauma and postnatal depression still stigmatised and rarely spoken about, phrases like that ensure that it remains taboo, and women don’t seek help and treatment.
There’s a phrase I try to live my life by. “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about”.
If only we could all extend that courtesy to pregnant women.