I’m in the last days before my due date I wanted to give one final update! Those of you who have been pregnant might remember the very special mental workings of being 39+ weeks pregnant. I swing between “baby will come when he’s ready!” and “I’ll be pregnant forever” on a regular basis (like, seriously, about ever 5 minutes or so). I feel lucky that we haven’t had the need to schedule an induction or c-section (yet), but also jealous of friends and clients that know the last possible day they’ll be pregnant.
While in some moments I fear I may be pregnant forever, the rational part of my brain knows that eventually this little dude will come out (or be kicked out), and I won’t be pregnant any longer (even just typing that makes me want to set off fireworks and do back flips!). But while I’ve got the chance, before the baby madness sets in, I wanted to write some of what I think I’ve learned from this pregnancy. When people find out what I do for a living and that this is my first pregnancy they almost always ask, “Do you feel like you’re better able to relate to your clients? What have you learned?” I think it will actually take some time for me to process all that this pregnancy has taught me, but for now I know that I’m ending this nine months in a very different place than where I started.
Working with pregnant women for the last eight and a half years meant that I was coming into pregnancy with all the information, all the resources, and all the support. I literally could not have had a better set up: a flexible, supportive job, tons of clients turned friends with experience and advice, an encouraging, interested spouse, to say nothing of being an expert in the science and psychology of a normal pregnancy. I felt (and feel) so lucky to have had all of this at my disposal- I could not have felt more supported, cared for, and informed. And…yet.
The thing that being pregnant that my 10,000 pregnant clients couldn’t teach me is that being pregnant is…grueling. Even though I’d see some clients many times a week, I didn’t understand that it’s a long, long marathon with no breaks (and really, THIS is why I missed drinking- it would have at least felt like a tiny break). There is no way to just NOT be pregnant for an hour or two. This is true for all pregnant women, but it’s especially brutal for someone having a difficult pregnancy. And for that person who is having a hard time the relentlessness of pregnancy often overwhelms all the support and resources and information a woman might have.
I’ve written some about it here and I want to be clear: being pregnant was very very hard for me. It was difficult physically—nine months of nausea and vomiting — and also (or perhaps, because of that), difficult psychologically. Difficult might not even be a strong enough word. It’s not that I expected to be an “ I ADORE being pregnant! “ type of person, but I also didn’t expect to feel so….defeated by it. A hard pregnancy can come in many different varieties- it can be bad or scary test results, debilitating SI pain, prenatal depression, or any other number of conditions. Mine took a specific form, but I think the specifics are less important than the experience of finding the whole thing very tough. And so when friends ask if I can relate better to clients now that I’ve been pregnant, it makes me laugh some. I think I can relate to so much better to women for whom pregnancy is a slog, or a hard experience. As for the women who love being pregnant, I feel farther away (and more envious) than ever. Mostly, when I now see a pregnant woman, rather than being a font of advice for her (like I was for years), I mostly want to give her hug.
So now, I wait. My days being pregnant are limited (despite my middle of the night fears that I’ll be pregnant forever), and I know there’s a whole world that’s about to open up to me. I’m left thinking of the advice I’ve given to clients who don’t enjoy being pregnant: “How you experience and feel about pregnancy has nothing to do with how you experience and feel about motherhood.” I’m certain that advice will stand. The only thing that’s more exciting than knowing soon I won’t be pregnant is that soon I get to be a mom. I’m so thankful that I got pregnant, and was able to carry to term, as hard as the experience was. I’m so so excited. But also? I’m humbled. Pregnancy has humbled me. And from what I’ve heard, I’m sure motherhood will too.
Kathleen Donahoe is co-owner and senior instructor of Oh Baby! Fitness.
Photo by Stacey Bode Photography.