Pregnancy can be scary – your body is no longer your own and your emotions are a rollercoaster. Many women start to feel fearful that they’re not cut out to be a mom. Here is some advice from other moms
Common pregnancy dilemmas
Most women feel some anxiety about their impending motherhood at some stage. Here some experts help you through some of the common dilemmas.
I hate the changes in my body and if one more person strokes my tummy, I’m going to hit them.
Solution: “A woman’s body image plays a very important role in her sense of self-esteem,” explains Durban psychologist Dr Allison Sampson.
“For some women, the changes that take place in pregnancy such as waist thickening and breast enlargement are daunting and totally off-putting. You can get around some of the anxiety of your changing shape by reminding yourself that it is temporary and that the changes are good – and completely necessary – for your growing baby.
“You can also cultivate a positive body image by wearing nice clothing you’re comfortable in, keeping fit and taking care of yourself. But people do also tend to treat pregnant women differently and often don’t think twice about touching a complete stranger.
"It’s usually well intended but if somebody approaches you and you don’t want him or her to touch you, put your hand up to signal that you need some personal space. You are also well within your rights to step back saying, ‘Excuse me, I feel crowded’.”
I feel like a beached whale and my husband clearly thinks I look like one, as he has no interest in sex.
Solution: “There are profound changes that start taking place the minute you fall pregnant,” says Cape Town gynaecologist Dr Janet Cole.
“You might only notice the changes a couple of months down the line, but things are happening from the very moment of conception. You can’t be a little bit pregnant! Inevitably these changes will affect your libido and sex drive. Women vary enormously. Some feel like sex more, while others lose interest completely.
“Partners are usually a bit nervous and think sex might be dangerous, but unless there’s bleeding, there’s nothing to worry about. You need to be innovative and try different positions. It’s important to keep some sort of relationship going because when the baby arrives, sex is often the last thing on your mind when you’re up 4 times a night and completely exhausted. Sometimes women use being pregnant as a good reason not to have sex and I feel like they’re asking me to write them a sick note!”
It’s not that I don’t want help and advice, it’s just that every man and his dog feels it’s his right to pronounce on any and every subject relating to pregnancy and birth. What can I do to stop the onslaught of personal stories?
Solution: “Pregnancy seems to bring out the best and worst in people,” laughs Sharon de Wet, mom to 2-year-old Emma. “I got so sick of hearing childbirth war stories.
My friends told me about urinary incontinence after vaginal birth, a stranger at a party told me about her haemorrhoids, and some guy in the parking lot told me I looked tired and that I was probably anaemic. It freaked me out, but then I chatted to my doctor and she told me it wasn’t unusual and that I should just stop them before they warmed up by saying, ‘Thanks, everything’s fine. My doctor is taking good care of me.’ That helped a lot.
I also decided to do some of my own reading to find out what I was comfortable with. That way, when somebody launched into a topic, I could counter it or it was like water off a duck’s back – meaningless.”
Click on page 2 to read advice on bonding with your baby, pregnancy niggles, life after baby, dealing with in-laws and breastfeeding issues
What some pregnant moms are terrified of...
My husband and I really want a baby but I don’t like children – at least not other people’s. I am frightened that I won’t bond with my baby.
Solution: “When you’re pregnant you have very little idea of what it feels like to have a baby in your arms,” reassures Cape Town midwife Joy McPherson. “Very few people don’t bond with their own baby. That said, post-natal depression (PND) is a very real problem and there’s no way of predicting if you’re going to be affected or not.
One of the side-effects of depression is withdrawing from your baby, no matter how much you love him or her. Get support as soon as you feel you aren’t coping. Having a baby is a huge adjustment and you give up a lot to have a child, but there is help out there to get you through your darkest moments.” See www.pndsa.co.za for help.
I’m not blooming at all. I have acne, my ankles are swollen, I have gained 15kg and I’m only 6 months pregnant.
Solution: “Any body who perpetrates the blooming myth should be taken out the back and shot,” says gynaecologist Dr Janet Cole. “Very few women bloom. Most feel grim in the first 12 weeks, recover a bit in the middle trimester and then feel shocking towards the end of their pregnancy. As for the acne, it can get worse during pregnancy but your blotchy skin should clear up after birth.”
I am a career person and I’m terrified that I’m going to turn into a woman who does nothing but talk about babies and that my friends who don’t have children won’t be interested in me any more. BORING!
Solution: “Child development is a slow process,” says Dr Sampson, “and it’s hard to stay stimulated initially when you’re getting no feedback from your baby. You’re not going to have much time either and will probably feel exhausted for the first few months, but I always encourage new moms to keep reading, thinking and not to stop mentally. I also made a point of keeping up with my childless friends, just to make sure I didn’t drown in baby talk.”
I am terrified of a natural birth so I have opted for an elective Caesarean. Why are some of my friends making me feel like I’m a bad mother even before the baby is born?
Solution: “You do need to remember that a Caesarean is major abdominal surgery and the next day you may wake up feeling that somebody has taken a knife to you,” says Dr Janet Cole. “You definitely recover much more quickly from a normal birth, but if you are truly terrified then there’s no point in going through something that is going to be an absolute nightmare.
Having a Caesar does not make you a bad mother. You can tell people to mind their own business but if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then some patients just say, ‘My doctor says I need an Caesar because of complications,’ and leave it at that.”
My mother-in-law is telling me how to look after the baby even before he or she is born. We have had a good relationship until now – I fear it may change.
Solution: “As a mother-in-law, your role is to keep mum. Listen. Be supportive. Be respectful. Don’t interfere,” says midwife Joy McPherson. “Extended family support can be very positive, but it can also be thoroughly intimidating. Your partner’s support through this is important. If he stands by you and your decisions, then his mother won’t really get to you.”
“Ask for support in practical things like cooking, shopping, or tasks that you just can’t manage,” says Dr Allison Sampson. “It’s so easy to get swamped by advice and insecure moms end up consulting a hundred different sources and end up more confused and anxious than ever before. You need to learn your own way in motherhood and this is something you can tell your mother-in-law if you feel she’s being too intrusive.”
Breastfeeding. Yuk! The thought of a baby latching on to my breasts and milk coming out of them is too awful. I know breast is best. What can I do to get over my horrors?
Solution: “I also thought it was gross and felt neutral about breastfeeding before Lilly was born but that soon changed,” says mom Erika Stephans. “I knew it was best for the baby but had a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ attitude. I really struggled to feed off the one breast, my nipples bled and I had one abscess after the other. So many people told me to give up and move on to formula. But the more I struggled, the more dogged I became.
Overnight I went from rational to completely fanatical. Something in me switched and I wanted so badly to be able to feed my child. I ended up feeding Lilly until she was 10 months. I would have gone longer, but she basically weaned herself.”