My dear friend - My dear, sweet, beautiful friend:
Before I say anything else, let me just say this. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart. You are so kind to be concerned about me and the baby. Pregnancy can be an uncomfortable thing, so thank you. Thank you so much for asking how I’m doing. I want you to know how much I appreciate your concern.
You may not know this, but I have gotten that very same question "how am I feeling"' from more people than I want to count. Some of them I knew. Some I didn’t, and I didn’t quite know how to respond. (Answering the question for strangers is super-awkward, by the way!)
What I am about to say is an awful lot to say all at once, on the spot, so I thought it’d be best to write it out, so I can say everything I mean. There is an awful lot, so please bear with me.
I don’t like to be asked how I’m feeling right now. And it’s not so much about whether I’m feeling bad or good - it’s mostly about what the question and the tone it’s usually asked in seem to imply.
More often than otherwise, people ask me, “How are you feeling, honey,” with a pretty thick layer of sympathy on it, and I know that these people have nothing but the most pure of intentions - really concerned about me, really want to know that I’m doing okay, really want to know whether the baby is doing well.
It’s not the attention that bothers me. A lady who isn’t obviously fat (or who obviously isn’t THAT fat) suddenly gets a big bulging watermelon on her stomach, and it invites notice.
I don’t mind the attention. What I’d rather not hear is the tone of sympathy that comes with the question.
The sympathy - I think - comes from what has become a cultural representation that pregnancy is not only kind of miserable in spots - it is undesirable.
I won’t belittle the discomfort of pregnancy. It can be pretty uncomfortable - during my first pregnancy, and during this one, too, I have had a lot of minor problems that had nothing to do with the overall health of the pregnancy. Here are some of the "problems" I had during my last pregnancy:
- I am not used to sleeping on my side, and for a long time in the beginning, it really hurt my back.
- I couldn’t kneel at mass (from fairly early in my pregnancy) because it really hurt my back.
- I couldn’t usually stand through all of the verses of the hymn when we went to my husband’s church.
- For weeks 6-10, It seemed like I did nothing but sleep, and after that I had insomnia for no readily apparent reason. (Apparently, building a placenta is really hard work, but the rest is not.)
- I was tired all the time.
- During my first pregnancy, I was thirsty all the time, and every time I moved I had to pee because I was drinking over a gallon of water a day (NOT exaggerating).
- I gained a huge amount of water weight during that first pregnancy (35+ pounds), and the resulting pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) became such a problem that I could not sign my name without my fingers going numb - in spite of all I was doing to alleviate it. (Did you know that drinking water is inexplicably a solution for the problem of water retention in pregnancy? - another is eating potassium-rich foods, talk to your doctor about trying that if you happen to be in that position right now!)
- I could not crochet a baby blanket or any of the other things I really wanted to make for my little girl (because of CTS).
- In the eighth month My feet and legs were so swollen that the only shoes that remotely fit were my husband’s sandals.
As far as symptoms go, I’ve been pretty lucky. I haven’t had the problem of vomiting that so many have, and I was able to continue to eat most of the stuff I liked. I didn’t have gestational diabetes, in spite of a pre-existing insulin resistance. I was never put on bed rest. And moreover, I was surrounded by family and friends who were always offering to help me with one thing or another. And I was very grateful for their help.
And in spite of all of my “problems” in pregnancy, how was I feeling during that pregnancy?
I felt great! I could not have been happier! I was totally psyched! I was so filled with joy, the whole time. I mean, sure I was uncomfortable (and I am uncomfortable now), but come on! I’m having a baby! It’s amazing!
There’s really nothing in this world that you can compare with carrying a little life inside of you. And you can’t fully express how absolutely incredible it is to someone who has never experienced it.
Pregnancy is an incredible thing that God has uniquely enabled woman to do - to carry a life inside of her, and in nine months bring it from invisibly microscopic to adorable mini-me. It is incredible and beautiful and exhausting work. Pregnancy, in spite of discomfort, is a season of joyful anticipation.
Extending unbidden sympathy to a pregnant woman fails to properly acknowledge that joy.
So, it is okay to ask about my health and that of the baby - after you’ve asked about ANYTHING else first. I don’t mind talking about the pregnancy, but I’m not ninety, and so I don’t like to complain about my “symptoms”, and I really don’t want to moan about my minor physical gripes to anyone who’ll listen.
The baby and I were both perfectly fine when we last checked - I promise to make sure everyone finds out in a timely fashion if that changes.
You want to know how the pregnancy is going. I get it. I am glad that you’re excited for us. There is lots of baby-related prep going on, and I’d love to talk about it. Be ready for me to gush if you bring up my hand-made whatever-it-is, or the amazing nursery decor I’m finding that I’m so excited about. By the time I’m done, you’ll wish I’d just told you to follow me on Pinterest or Instagram!
If I really look like I’m that uncomfortable, offer to do something for me. Something specific - like making a healthy meal for us one night this week, or taking the little one to the park for an afternoon so I can take a nap, or letting me borrow your Roomba to absolve me of the responsibility of sweeping for a little while. (Okay... so maybe I just want to test drive your Roomba to see if I want to buy one.) You have my permission to offer to help me out with something - even if we’re not super close! And you have my permission to offer again later if I turn you down now.
But do make sure you offer something specific. Asking “in general” sounds like someone has died or is about to die. Plus, it leaves a woman who is already forgetful with maternity brain to come up with something for you to do on the spot.
If I turn down the help, I’m okay. Really.
So, in conclusion, please remember that I really do appreciate your concern. I really do, but celebrate the coming of the new life with me before you offer your condolences for my morning sickness!
God has richly blessed my family with a coming new member, and I am so grateful! I’m excited and happy, and I want you to be happy for me! I am quite sure the world will never, ever have enough pictures of beautiful (sleeping) babies, and I can’t wait to take more!