“Losing Yourself” Through Pregnancy

changes lifestyle pregnancy Feb 29, 2024
“Losing Yourself” Through Pregnancy

The transition from being you to being a mama is already a natural thing. To some extent, most of us envision being different from our mothers. We are infinitely cooler and ready for this.

Although we planned our babies along with the journey to grow them and birth them, there’s more to that process. Many people do not talk about the change that happens naturally to transform you into a different person. It’s a beautiful transition of nature that happens gradually and subtly. It's an unfolding. In my private practice, I chose “Bloom'' for the program I put together for helping pregnant women. I chose this specifically because that’s what I see them do — they bloom. These women become more complex and beautiful. The fun thing, is they have no idea how it will happen until it does.

I was raised in the early 70’s and 80’s with the intention by my father to “not be dependent on a man.” He was hell-bent on making sure I was tough, having me play basketball in the boys league, and letting me help fix cars, or renovate houses with him. As a child, I was encouraged not only to embrace and smash the stereotypical archetypes of what a “girl” did but to also kick ass and take names— as I held and loved on slimy frogs, played trucks, and was a fierce competitor. I wasn’t raised, despite having a prize-winning debutant mama, to be a shrinking violet in taffeta and pantyhose.

Thankfully many of these gender lanes have become more fluid. It went beyond that though. The message infused into me as a small child was to be fiercely independent, handle your own shit, and don’t ever become dependent on anyone. Even your own husband.

And I did. I got a job in a predominantly male industry as a medic and loved it — the danger, the physicalness of it, and being in the action helping really sick people. I even accessed my inner badass by jumping into cars on fire or rushing into a crime scene.

That was, until I had a baby.

While I’ve known many badass medics who carried babies and worked throughout most of their pregnancies like bosses, my pregnancy symptoms started right after staring at the stick with debilitating morning sickness. My “morning” sickness really lasted all day, every day for months — culminating with me throwing up on the back of a patient we were transferring to a litter in the ER. So embarrassing!

From the beginning, it started: “You can’t lift that” or “Go sit down” which was always met with me being flippant and saying, “I’m fine! I got this.” And I did.

Until I couldn’t. And that’s where the wheels started to fly off.

I couldn’t put my pants on by myself.

I couldn’t lift that box without stabbing pain in my stomach.

I had to move to being a unit secretary in the ED and couldn’t run calls anymore.

With my second, I almost lost her at 17 weeks and immediately was told I could not

My mind could not deal with that… at all.

When you are fiercely independent and handle your shit, shunning help from anyone because you “got this” but then you can’t — it’s one giant mind screw that no one talks about.

For 20 years I have been seeing patients faced with debilitating, unexpected pain, lose themselves in a way that is not a natural transition into being a mama.

In the snap of their fingers, the game changes in a way that they never expected:

Their spouse treats them colder because they are grouchy. They kept their partner up all night with their flipping in bed and are wondering what happened to their vibrant, happy, fun wife. Their work treats them at arm’s length because they are debilitatingly exhausted and they got caught sleeping at their desk when they were always the rockstar. Their friends went for a hike and didn’t invite them because they are sick of hearing about their sciatica and just thought they couldn’t do it. They
aren’t able to do their job anymore earlier than they thought.

To some, it’s a loss of identity.

It’s like being the starter on a basketball team your whole life and you get benched to watch the world go by. It is a loss of independence and status of “handing your own shit.” Being dependent on someone else is a huge shift that causes intense feelings for us control-freak, we-got-it women.

Even though every mama changes in the transformation to motherhood, there is a secondary and radically different transition for women on the struggle-bus with intense lower back pain, pubic pain, headaches, and/or wrist pain.

Being dependent on others, being subject to someone else helping you with basic needs whether it’s opening that jar, carrying that package, or just putting your own pants on is mentally painful.
It bucks firmly against being weak, submissive, and dependent and leaves many of us who crave independence and control wondering how to “be.”

I submit to you, as a doctor who has cared for hundreds of pregnant women and as an almost 50-year-old woman myself who has been through some stuff — as most of us 50-year-olds have — that there are “seasons.” One of my friends, Cara Frank, an acupuncturist, spoke in my business class about how life is built in a natural order. No matter what happens, if you are in a ‘winter” season, life will give birth to a beautiful spring, like clockwork every year giving way to summer and then ebbing into fall.

This “season” you are in is temporary. While getting treated differently and not being able to do things drains you — here’s the important point — it’s temporary: just a short time. It is simply a season to see the lessons and beauty in the change:

See what it’s like to have other’s find joy in finally being able to help you.

Learn to articulate your needs.

See who your real friends are.

Let yourself be cared for.

It’s a season. It’s not forever, love.

This is not just for pregnancy but beyond. After I had my child, I could not be a medic anymore without breaking down and crying on pediatrics calls. Other women I have seen had a change in priorities, touting proudly that they would come back to work when they got out of the hospital. Others thought about a new career that gave the flexibility to build a life alongside their new love — a love that is bigger than anything they have ever felt.

Part of the reason I adore caring for pregnant women is seeing this transition and helping empower and guide them through this time by giving them the tools to be independent yet feel supported.

Just like watching the seasons change, so do they. And from the outside, it’s an amazing process. If you can learn to let go a bit and enjoy the ride, however different than what you expected, you can trust that just like a cocoon, you will bloom into who you will be when this is all over — because it will end. Giving way to a new season, you accept that maybe the first big lesson in motherhood is having things outside your control. Learning to see the lessons and the beauty in this, like I do most days, will end in something magical.

You got this.

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