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When I was a young woman in my 20s, the thought of becoming a mother one day was still a distant notion.
It was what I would eventually want when the moment was right.
Back then, I was, like many of us, constantly bombarded by images of pregnant, serene ladies in various advertisements and magazines. Naturally, I would unconsciously absorb the pictures and brush them off with a smile, knowing that one day, I, too, was going to become that pregnant lady, constantly stroking her belly, smiling. But in the meantime, I was determined to enjoy my life as a woman free of such responsibilities.
Years came and went and I met the man that later became my husband, and soon after, we decided to start a family. The first time I found out that I was pregnant was a surreal moment where I felt like I was floating in a bubble. So many contradicting emotions were hitting me all at once, and I was trying my best to make sense of them.
Part of me was scared of the enormous task lying ahead, and another part was excited at the thought of having a baby. And since there wasn’t much that I could do at that point, I decided to make the best out of the journey I was embarking on, and enjoy it as much as I could.
One week into my happy news, I woke up one day feeling like I had been hit by a truck. Dizzy, barely able to stand, I steadied myself on the wall next to my bed and went to the bathroom. I was nauseous and drained, feeling like I was all over the place.
I realized at that point that I was experiencing morning sickness. I tried to console myself that it would pass soon. I kept repeating that I only had to make it through the morning and that it would fade away before I knew it. I spent that day looking at the clock, counting the minutes until noon, knowing that lunch hour would be my salvation.
But then lunch came and went, and I was still feeling unwell. By the time it was dark outside, I had called my doctor, done my research, and understood that sometimes morning sickness lasts all day. In my case, it lasted all day, every day, for the next three months! Homemade lemonades and some pregnancy-safe medications would temporarily appease it. But my refuge was only short-lived, and after a few minutes, nausea would come back stronger than ever.
I was, then and there, completely dumbfounded as to why we call it “morning sickness,” if sometimes it tends to stretch out longer and mess up our ability to function properly. I was bedridden for the first three months of my pregnancy, and the next six were a series of consecutive pains and discomforts. And the worst part, as I later found out, was that I had it way easier than others.
Throughout my first pregnancy, I kept asking myself, why isn’t this talked about more often, and why are we almost always shown images of perfection and smiles? Like everything else in life that is worth experiencing, parenthood is full of hardships. And admitting that does not remove the beauty out of it.
That initial shock was my first step into deconstructing the myths of bliss around pregnancy in particular and motherhood in general. Everything related to motherhood is usually put into a crystalline bubble, and the hardships, the sacrifices, and the sufferings are rarely shown. And when they are portrayed, they are generally depicted as exceptional cases, when in reality, they are, more often than not, the norm.
Showing in mainstream media that some pregnancies are hard, tiring, and some are tragic removes the taboo notion that pregnancy is perfect (and that anything that varies from that narrative is but wonderful). By not talking about the ups and downs it subsequently strips our humanity out of a beautiful experience.
Yes, some women can have delightful pregnancies, but what about the ones who don’t? What about the ones who have difficulties with their fertility or the ones who choose to remain child-free? Don’t they deserve to be represented, heard, recognized, and more importantly, normalized too? Why does society pressure pregnant women to feel nothing but joy, not the wonderfully rich array of emotions we humans are blessed with?
We, as mothers, will be good sometimes, but some other times, we will yell. We will lose our tempers and make mistakes. As long as we own up to them, do not harm anyone in the process, and learn from them, then it’s all good.
No one told me that pregnancy would be this hard and that for nine months straight. No one told me I would feel like a total stranger in my own body by completely losing my sense of self. No one prepared me for it, and I was naive enough to believe that it was all going to be rainbows and butterflies. After nine months, between dealing with a body put through such tremendous effort and change and a newborn that needed 24/7 attention, the little sanity I had left flew out of the window.
And yet no one talks about that either. They expect us to step into our role as mothers with ease and delight because it was what we were born to do, after all, weren’t we?
Yes, motherhood is joyful. It is the best thing I have ever done in my life, and I would go through all the stages of pregnancy again in a heartbeat.
Learning how to become a mother and a good one takes time and practice. Learning how to put our needs aside and cater to someone else’s needs, all day, every day, isn’t a joyful ride and shouldn’t be treated as such. It takes time, patience, a lot of love, and realizing that it is a learning curve.
And like all learning curves, we will fail sometimes, but some other times, we will triumph. Some days will be pure bliss, and others, we just want to sleep. Some moments our hearts will beat with the purest kind of love we will ever get to experience thanks to parenthood, and others, it will ache in pain because we have been up all night again with the baby, and all we need is ten minutes for ourselves. Some days we will truly feel blessed because we are, and some days we want a break. And that is okay too.
Shining the light on only the good parts is stripping away new-time parents of their entitled feelings and creating isolating environments, where they are left bewildered and alone, to start deconstructing the myths, one by one.
It also creates misery where women struggle to keep up with an imaginary perfect mother who has had smooth sailing up from her pregnancy throughout her early motherhood years. This mother does not exist, and no one should strive to be her. All we have to do is be good enough mothers for our children—to hold them when they cry, be there for them, and ensure their well-being. But also know that it takes time, passion, and compassion toward ourselves first.
Yes, we are human, yes we make mistakes, but as long as they are mistakes that we own up to and that help us grow, then everybody should be fine.
We, as a collective, have started waking up to the harmful notions of toxic masculinity and toxic positivity, and it is time for us to shed more light on the toxic motherhood mindset that keeps us, as mothers, trapped in untenable perfectionist ideologies.
Not only is it harmful to us as individuals, but it is also harmful to our young ones and our family unit. We are not our best selves by constantly comparing and belittling ourselves when we eventually fail to reach those impossible ideals.
Would I do it all over again? Absolutely! My kids are the two most important humans in my life and have made me experience joy and love that I have never dreamed of. However, what I wish was different was to be better prepared and better armed with more pragmatic views and expectations. By the time of my second pregnancy, I had a realistic idea of what was lying ahead, and I was able to enjoy the good moments and sleep through the bad ones (whenever my back allowed it.)
I wasn’t in a constant state of shock and desperation, trying to find someone, anyone, around me, who would explain to me what was going on, and why my fairy tale wasn’t one. My fairy tale was real life, and this is what we need to see more of.