“What’s wrong? You’re pregnant. You should be happy!”
That was a question put to me in my early days of pregnancy. I wasn’t not happy. I was shell shocked. There’s a difference.
I was nauseous 24/7, my body flooded with hormones causing chronic constipation, fatigued by sudden insomnia, had spells of vomiting and pretty much felt like someone had plucked me out of my familiar body and stuffed me into some strangers skin and demanded I operated as normal. When, truth be known, nothing felt further from it.
That statement though – you should be happy, hit me like a ton of bricks. We had planned this, we were excited to bring a new member into our family. Why did it appear that I wasn’t happy? I suddenly felt shame….for a few minutes. Then I felt anger. No! There was something really wrong with that statement.
As I said, I didn’t not feel happy, happiness was definitely in there, but it was in there amongst a plethora of other emotions, and all those other emotions were just as valid and had a strong need to be heard too.
When I saw the two blue lines on the pregnancy test it felt like a door slammed shut behind me. The door to everything I once knew of my life, the one where I had full autonomy and agency over my life and my decisions. And now – well what now? What is to become of me, being a mother in our current society.
What would that mean for me as a woman, wife, daughter, sister, friend, business owner?
I had a lot to get my head around, while at the same time experiencing intense pregnancy symptoms.
I started to ferociously look into this whole pregnancy thing and the motherhood journey head, because it felt massive and I needed to gain some control of how I was processing it all. To do that I needed to understand what the hell I was experiencing and what was this societal reverberation coming back at me telling me I should be feeling anything other than exactly how I’m feeling right now?
So off I went on my research journey. And as it turns out, the patriarchy seem to have a lot to say on the matter. A cultural and generationally handed down narrative that basically insists that pregnancy is only experienced as a blissful and wonderful time in a woman’s life.
I came across the term – ‘The Pregnancy Bliss Myth’. A term coined by two amazing reproductive psychiatrists in New York. Authors of ‘’What No One Tells You.’ They talk about the need to debunk that myth entirely. To break it down and rebuild a supportive narrative for pregnant people, and that in doing so we create space for validating their true pregnancy experience, whatever that looks like and without judgement.
I listened to an interview with Professor Anthony McCarthy the Consultant Psychiatrist at the National Maternity Hospital, Dublin who stated the need to ‘discount the myth that pregnancy is somehow a solely positive experience and that all women simply bloom’, that it is ‘a very challenging and physically exhausting time for a lot of women.’ Research shows it couldn’t be further from a blissful experience for many women.
So this was great. I got this far and I felt a bit better. Though I did wonder, how are we as a society supporting our pregnant people through the reality of it then?
Still, I decided to make an appointment with the mental health team in Holles Street to talk through where I was at with everything. I met a fabulous woman, Dr. Aoife Menton, the Senior Clinic Psychiatrist. She was unbelievably helpful and asked had I heard of the term Matrescence? Nope, I had most certainly not. Matrescence is a term coined by Dana Raphael in 1973. The journey a woman goes through from pregnancy into motherhood. It’s an actual physical, emotional and physiological transformation…did you know that? I didn’t, though the minute it landed I knew that’s what I was experiencing.
Matrescence is huge, and not about spoken enough. It’s one the biggest transformations a woman goes through in her life, changing from one version of herself to another. There’s a huge identity shift that often occurs that can overwhelming and unsettling at the time. Though I would argue there’s a huge empowerment piece in there too that’ll talk about again.
So that was it. I was facing an inaccurate and unhelpful societal narrative around pregnancy and was beginning my journey through Matrescence.
The chaos died inside me.
I decided then to choose differently. To create a new narrative.
One that had room for both the positive and the less enjoyable experiences of pregnancy. I decided then that I would validate my own, and every other pregnant person’s experience of pregnancy, whatever that looks like and to push back on that patriarchal narrative that doesn’t allow for the realities of the massive physical, emotional and spiritual journey that is pregnancy and beyond.
Here’s some podcasts, Insta accounts to follow and reading recommendations that I personally found helpful, if any of this resonated with you;
The Good Enough Mother
The Motherkind Podcast
- Insta Accounts
Dr. Sophie Brock – Sociologist in The Liberation of Motherhood
Dear Mama Project – Nikki McCahon
Good Enough Mamas – Ali Pember
What No One Tells You – A Guide to Your Emotions from Pregnancy to Motherhood – by Dr. Alexandra Sacks
Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong- and What You Really Need to Know
– Emily Oster