Sacrifice in Pregnancy

It blows my mind that my body knows how to grow life. Inside me is a human being that isn’t an extension of me. I’m growing and nurturing what will be an independent spirit, someone who will exist separately from me. They will be born of me, but they will not be me, they will be them.

It is a privilege to experience this, and I love sharing time with my body buddy. I never feel lonely – even driving on my own has become a road trip with Runner Bean. But sharing my body is a mixed experience. It took a while to adjust to, and I’m looking forward to my body being my own again. It’s hard to always make decisions based on what is best for Runner Bean: to lack the freedom to do what I want to do and look at my choices through someone else’s eyes. 

Of course I want what is best for my child. I know that my short term sacrifices should help Runner Bean in the long term and that eases the sacrifice. But equally, I sacrifice because I know my character – if something goes wrong I will find whatever I can to blame myself. Even though I am not omnipotent and I know nature has powers over me, I will find ways to blame myself. This guilt combines with the purer desire for what’s best to make me willingly and resentfully sacrifice. 

The additional layer to sacrifice in pregnancy is that there’s so much bad information and bad research. There are endless opinions, backed up by bad or no science, but going back to the guilt, once you’ve been told something, if you don’t do it, how do you console yourself if coincidentally – or not – something goes wrong? 

Sleeping on your left, not back or right sides, to reduce the risk of stillbirth is a perfect example. Everyone says to do it, even though the evidence is not sufficient or conclusive. Even though I know that, I still do it. Despite surrounding myself with pillow supports I still wake up endlessly throughout the night when I’m not on my left (as if my body now knows left is best, too) and turn back to my left. My husband rolls me if he wakes up first. I’m SO BORED of sleeping on my left. I’m not most comfy here, and I feel constrained, but I do it. What if?

The obvious sacrifices have been tough booze, many types of food or ways of cooking food. I’m so excited to go to a restaurant and be able to choose according to my taste, not look through my pregnancy googles. I went for a fancy meal and of over ten starters I could not have a single one according to the NHS guide to food in pregnancy. The chef invented something for me, instead. As an aside – restaurants mark what’s appropriate for vegans, vegetarians, the gluten intolerant, why not the pregnant, too? Pregnancy is not exactly a new trend or going anywhere soon…

But it’s not just the obvious sacrifices. Alongside booze, many foods, medicine when I’m ill, sleeping on my back and right side, I’ve sacrificed hot baths, steam rooms, cycling, tennis, using my abs. It feels the list of sacrifices in pregnancy is endless and yet it also seems endless sacrifice is expected of expectant mothers. I think we need a lot more celebration for it. If, after all, the sacrifice is not such a big deal, why doesn’t everyone go without, in support of the mother? 

I was asked the other day if I enjoy being pregnant. A man asked. I wondered if he knew 5% of what it’s really like to be pregnant, the beauties and the beasts, rather than the propaganda that women love babies more than life itself, and pregnancy is a time for glowing, would he ask such a seemingly simple question?

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