'The physical discomfort and mental anguish of carrying a baby were awful'

Maybe I’m not supposed to say it, but the physical discomfort and mental anguish of carrying a baby were awful, writes Heidi Scrimgeour.

I’m a pretty honest, tell-it-like-it-really-is kind of mum but there’s one thing I’ve always been afraid to say out loud when it comes to my experience of motherhood. It’s this: I hated being pregnant.

I cringed as I wrote that, such is my discomfort at confessing to the one thing that ‘good’ mothers aren’t supposed to feel. We have drummed into us that motherhood is a gift which many are denied and thus any admission that having a child isn’t boundless joy from its inception is somehow deemed a transgression of the laws of motherhood.

So it’ll come as no surprise to learn that I shed a little tear when I read that Saturdays singer and mother of two Frankie Bridge didn’t love being pregnant either. (Note she said she didn’t love it and not that she hated it — I’m guessing she felt a similar compulsion to make it sound less awful than it does.)

Frankie Bridge
Frankie Bridge

Bridge reportedly said: “I’m so jealous of women who do love it but I think we put ourselves under so much pressure to enjoy the experience and not everyone does. Either way it’s important to be honest and not feel like we’ve failed in some way if it’s not as incredible as we expect.”

Halle-blooming-lujah. The deification of motherhood has a lot to answer for. Good on Frankie for reminding us that not loving pregnancy doesn’t mean you’re a monster; merely human.

Maria Carey also she shared in an interview that carrying children was not the most pleasant of experiences, saying that she felt rancid. She said she was ashamed of her body and she wouldn’t let her then husband Nick Cannon see her naked.

Melissa Joan Hart, the Sabrina, the Teenage Witch star, said the comments about all the weight she put on was nothing compared to how she felt when she was pregnant. “I hate being pregnant — the lack of energy at the beginning, having to change your diet.” She said she would have seven children if only pregnancy wasn’t such a hassle.

In my case, I signed up so wholeheartedly (albeit subconsciously) to the notion that expectant mums are supposed to relish every second of pregnancy that I didn’t even admit to myself that I really struggled with pregnancy. It took a friend pointing out the obvious for me to register that I just don’t love being pregnant.

We were trudging to the top of a forest hill at the time, me huffing and puffing with every painful step, when I made some apologetic remark about this pregnancy proving much tougher on my body than my previous two.

“It’s not this pregnancy, you just hate being pregnant, I remember it vividly from last time,” she said.

We’d been pregnant at the same time with our second babies so I wasn’t inclined to argue. Inexplicably, it took hearing those words from someone else’s mouth to permission me to acknowledge that pregnancy just doesn’t sit well with me.

The ambivalence I feel about admitting this stems from the fear that people might assume my disdain for the physical condition of being pregnant might somehow translate to my child. Obviously it doesn’t. One can hate being pregnant at the very same time as adoring the growing child unequivocally. Loathing the physical impact of carrying a child does not negate your thankfulness for that child or the utter joy that his or her existence brings.

Heidi Scrimgeour holding Edan’s hand. He is now 11 and Zach is the bump is nine.
Heidi Scrimgeour holding Edan’s hand. He is now 11 and Zach is the bump is nine.

Admitting to not loving pregnancy when it doesn’t come easily to so many women also seems like the epitome of thanklessness and narcissism. It’s not. Each of my children were very much wanted and I have loved them fiercely from the moment I knew of their existence. I longed for another baby before my third arrived and yet my pregnancy discomfort reached its peak during her incubation. It’s probably no coincidence that I suffered from the severe nausea and vomiting of hyperemesis gravidarum with my daughter — an affliction I didn’t believe existed until it had me facedown on the bathroom floor trying to coax my husband into smothering me with the bath mat just to make the misery end.

But not loving pregnancy isn’t just a physical thing. Yes, the sickness threatened to unravel me and the strain on my pelvic floor along with constant back pain, varicose veins and other niggles which I’m not disclosing in a newspaper all put me in a place of permanent physical discomfort for nine long months. But I was also wracked with anxiety during each of my pregnancies, and it, too, was worse the third time round.

I was gripped by unspoken fears and a horrible foreboding that my baby might die. That coloured every conversation until I began to feel that there was an outside world — in which I played the part of glowing, gleeful mum-to-be — and an inner world where anguish was my constant companion.

Not being one of those mums who loved being pregnant used to make me feel that I had failed my babies, but I’ve since come to realise that my dislike of being pregnant wasn’t an indicator that I was unworthy of motherhood as I sometimes feared. Disliking pregnancy makes more sense to me than loving it. It is, after all, only a means to an indescribably glorious end. That I would gladly suffer the ‘means’ ten times over again to get my three wondrous ‘ends’ tells you all that really matters.


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