Yep, you heard me. Upon learning I was pregnant, I was not feeling motherhood.
I did not want to be a mother. While not a novelty, I do recognize that this isn’t necessarily the “norm.” And I was devastated when I discovered that the two little pink lines on my pee filled stick were telling the truth. Having my pregnancy confirmed at the doctor’s office, I sat on the cold, plastic chair and sobbed. My life was just starting and now it felt like it was ending. I was in the middle of my master’s degree program, with a full ride for my tuition through teaching in their English composition program, preparing to travel to Spain, and (little did I know then) about to enter (along with the rest of the globe) a full-blown pandemic.
The doctor had looked at me, handed me a tissue, and simply said, “You should be happy! Millions of couples would do anything for a baby!”
Insert inner dialogue, “Gee, thanks… Would you say that to a woman who was crying over the fact she couldn’t have a baby? ‘Hey! You should be happy! Millions of women wish they couldn’t have a baby!’ I think not.
Her statement confirmed my biggest fears. I was overwhelmed. I was guilty. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. I was going to be a horrible mother.
In that moment the battle of the mom guilt started, and like most of us, I’ve been fighting it ever since. Mom guilt is a poisonous thing. It’s like putting on subtly tinted sunglasses and wearing them for a few hours. Eventually, you don’t notice that everything you see is being tinted. It impacts your perception, your actions, your thoughts, your goals, your identity.
Why do we all experience mom guilt? Is it self-imposed or imposed upon us due to societal standards? Is it reinforced by our own feelings of inadequacies? By every moment someone or something confirms our deepest fears – you can’t do this. By that tiny voice whispering in your head, “You really are failing.” Is that why we parrot acceptance and understanding for each other while secretly gloating over each other’s failings? Does it make us somehow feel better about our own areas of inadequacies?
I felt guilt, frustration, anger, joy, excitement, fear, and sadness over learning I was pregnant. Yet somehow I felt I couldn’t fully and confidently express all these emotions. To express that I was heartbroken over the news would confirm that I was not only a horrible mother but a horrible person.
When someone asked if I was pregnant, my short reply of, “yes” always received the expected and traditional, “Congratulations! You must be so excited!” How could you respond with, “Well, I am really struggling to accept it. I am not really ready to give up my selfish, self-centered life just yet.” So instead I responded with the expected, “Yes. It is exciting.” and while not a lie, it isn’t really the full truth.
Mom guilt can start from the day you learn you are pregnant and I’ve seen it last until the day you die. Why?
What if, instead of negating my response, the doctor had given me permission to feel whatever it was I was feeling over my pregnancy? To simply let me cry in that cold, plastic chair for a few minutes. What if we didn’t feel the need to analyze, justify, approve, or deny the many feelings that accompany pregnancy. What if I told you that you can feel whatever you need to feel about this new life you are creating?