by Dezi Hall
Being pregnant is one of those times in woman's life that has been idealized and infused with magic in the minds of young girls everywhere. Society has stamped pregnancy with a sort of ineffable loveliness, and just enough mystery that many women look forward not just to having a baby, but the process of getting there as well.
Then the fantasy becomes reality. And for a lot of women, pregnancy turns out to be closer to a nightmare than a daydream. We have gotten better at normalizing the range of physical reactions to pregnancy in this country. We now know it is acceptable not to experience the pregnancy glow but to instead spend your days vomiting and wincing with sciatica. (Mad praise for Princess Kate who came out of the hospital showing everyone that, yeah, human women still look about 6 months pregnant even after the baby comes out.) But that isn't enough.
We need to do more to discuss the emotions that come along with being pregnant, past just the standard issue "I hate my husband for doing this to me, now go get me some pickle juice to guzzle!" Those old tropes are played out and frankly borderline offensive given the real emotional struggles that show up as soon as those two pink lines do.
We need to talk about loss. And not just loss itself (which is thankfully getting slightly more acceptable to discuss), but the profound fear of loss. About 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. About 50% of those failed pregnancies happen before you're able to tell you're pregnant. That means that 25% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. This is a fairly shocking number to, say, a newly minted pregnant woman who immediately begins Googling statistics while the proof positive stick is still drying.
For a lot of women there is an ever-present dark cloud on the periphery of their pregnancy that has to do with this fear. Each milestone brings with it a momentary relief, which is then quickly followed by the same nagging sense of dread. This daily struggle with the fear of loss is enough to drive anyone crazy.
There's such a thing as a missed miscarriage? Could my baby already be gone and I don't even know? Did the baby kick enough today? Sure they kicked 34 times in one hour, but then they stopped for the next 3 hours. I had to slam on the breaks while driving. Is it possible my placenta detached and my baby is dying?
Everyone is fairly aware of how post traumatic stress can influence the mind and body. But being pregnant brings its own form of a sort of pre traumatic stress. A constant physical fear that punctuates everything. This is not a healthy state of mind for someone trying to grow another life force. We have made great strides in beginning to recognize and destigmatize Postpartum Depression. Now it's time to recognize and help those who struggle with fear and worry before the baby is even fully formed, because until we do that, we're still falling far short of holistic care.