What No One Tells You About Having a Baby

Sarah got pregnant in January 2017 and gave birth in October. She’s been shocked by the experience since the very beginning and worries the lack of education, support and dialogue around what it’s like to conceive, give birth to and care for a child does a disservice to women. She wants to speak honestly about what it’s like as much as she can to help reverse that. Below is her as-told-to story. -Haley Nahman

Realizing My Ignorance Early On

My husband and I were married for five years before we decided to start trying for a baby. Just a few months before I got pregnant, a close pregnant friend’s baby died the day she was due. She never found out why, but in doing my own research, I found out that one out of every 160 pregnancies in the U.S. ends in a late-term death of the baby, or stillbirth. In about a fourth of the cases, doctors can’t even find a possible cause. I had heard of people having miscarriages, but I’d previously thought that once you’ve passed four months, you’re pretty much home free.

It made me realize that if I’m an educated adult who lives in New York City and I didn’t know about this statistic, there have to be so many people out there who also have no idea. That she couldn’t find a support group in a fairly large city highlighted how so much of what women experience in pregnancy is left out of the cultural dialogue. So I approached my own pregnancy through that lens. It was always in the back of my mind that I didn’t know anything about having a baby, and that it could happen to me too.

Losing Control of My Body

I was really sick at the beginning of my pregnancy. People talk about morning sickness as a common symptom, but they act like you throw up once in the morning and it ends in four weeks. I was sick all day, every day for 18 weeks. I could not eat, couldn’t function, couldn’t go out to dinner with my husband, couldn’t have lunch with a girlfriend. It was the most alienating, isolating and miserable four months. I would go for three days eating the insides of bagels and little slices of apple because that was the only thing I didn’t puke up. That level of nausea is very hard to describe. My husband really didn’t understand, as wonderful and good as he is.

You can’t tell anyone that you’re pregnant for months, either, so you have to get up and go to work every day. I felt compromised in every possible way. Finally that ended, I started showing and the pregnancy part became a little bit more fun. But there were endless side effects that no one ever told me about, like an intensified sense of smell, horrible breakouts and other changes in my body. On the flip side, I also felt a certain type of euphoria the whole time, which was hormone-related.

The Weightiness of Pregnancy

Pregnancy wasn’t the blissfully happy, magical thing that everyone told me it would be. It’s only nine months, but it seems so much longer. Every day was different. I’d ask myself, “What’s going to change about my body today? Or my mindset? Or my relationship with my husband? Or my sex life? Or my relationship with people in my family?”

There’s a lot going on in your body when you’re pregnant; I felt so emotionally heavy through all of it. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders because every decision I made impacted me and this hopeless little thing that I was building. I also felt immediately so much closer to my mom, who I was already extremely close with. I would cry myself to sleep three nights a week, worried that my mom was going to die before I had the baby. I would try to explain all of this to my husband, and while he’s awesome, I don’t think he had the emotional capacity to understand what any of this would be like.

I can’t speak to the very real decisions people who have depression have to make when they’re pregnant (like if they’re going to continue with antidepressants); I don’t have that type of depression, but I felt emotionally heavy the entire time, and there weren’t a lot of people who I could talk to about it. Even though my friends who don’t have kids are empathetic, amazing people, they had no fucking clue what I was talking about. And my friends who did have kids, who did understand what I was talking about, were busy because they had kids.

Around the five-month mark, I had a real mental breakdown. I was inconsolable for a week. I couldn’t stop crying. On the one hand, I was very grateful that I was able to conceive and that I was making this baby, but I also felt like my choices were suddenly so limited. I felt kind of like my life was ending. My husband didn’t feel that way. But I just kept thinking, Holy shit. Why did I decide to do this? My whole life is about to get turned upside down. What if I didn’t really understand what the implications of that were? Did I really want this? I was questioning everything.

The Process of Giving Birth

I was pregnant all summer and gave birth on October 3rd. The process of giving birth was horrific. Once I got to the hospital, every step of giving birth was a trauma on my body, from the giant IV that they stuck in me to my water not breaking enough for the baby to come out. They had to re-break my water with what looked like a giant knitting needle. It was so gruesome and gross and painful. I was doing that kind of crying where I couldn’t breathe. I was in labor for almost 19 hours.

No one tells you so much of the horror of giving birth. It’s such a disservice to people, especially to people who don’t have access to the kind of care that I do. I had it better than most: I had incredible medical care at the best hospital in New York City. I saw a private doctor who doesn’t accept insurance in New York — it was a very expensive and rare opportunity that only a very lucky and privileged person would have.

I had a friend in Chicago who was pregnant at the same time I was. She had more of your “standard” experience, a standard doctor who took all sorts of insurance. I cannot tell you how different our experiences were. I had a sonogram every single time I went to the doctor; she had a sonogram twice. I went through maybe four types of genetic testing, some of which weren’t even offered to her. There were just so many ways in which her much more accessible medical care was subpar compared to what I got. It just wasn’t right. What’s more is I think that compared to most people, she was in a privileged position. A lot of families have it much worse than she did. Women are making the future of our species, and for most of them, the medical care is so far beneath what they deserve and need.

There Is a Lack of Dialogue

Did you know that you bleed for six to eight weeks after you have a baby? Because I had to wear adult diapers — no one ever told me that. No one ever told me that you look physically pregnant for months afterward. One study showed as many as six out of 10 women have a condition called diastasis recti where their abdominal muscles stretch so much that they separate and their bodies are often not capable of putting them back together without physical therapy. I never heard about that — I never read about that in a biology textbook. Like so many postpartum complications, it is also severely under-researched.

Part of the reason no one told me this stuff is that women forget; your body makes you forget what the experience was like to protect you. But also, people just don’t want to talk about it. This should be the shit you learn about in science class when you’re an eighth-grader! All of this should be normalized because it’s something women have to go through in order for the human species to continue.

I’ve heard people say, “They don’t tell you this stuff because if you knew you wouldn’t have a baby to begin with.” That’s not a reason not to give people medical, scientific information about their own bodies. There’s something inherently misogynist about it that this isn’t common knowledge.

After I had the baby, I had no clue what to do with him. Everyone says, “When they put that baby on your chest, you’re gonna immediately fall in love. It’ll be the best moment of your life!” When they put the baby on my chest, I honestly felt like he was an alien and I did not know what to do next. I didn’t really feel connected to him. It wasn’t a magical fireworks moment at all, and I felt really guilty about that. When I told other mothers that, they said things like, “Yeah, I didn’t love the baby for the first few weeks either.” That was good to know, but I wished I hadn’t spent weeks thinking I was missing a chip.

The Pressures of Motherhood

I am three and a half months postpartum, and my friends say it takes about a year for the hormones to level out. When I say that I don’t feel connected to my child, it’s not that I don’t feel a deep sense of responsibility and respect for this little creature. It’s just that I didn’t fall in love immediately. That glittery version of having a baby wasn’t reality for me. My stomach is still distended, I am bleeding into an adult diaper, I pee in my pants if I jump too fast, I cry all the time, I feel every emotion more deeply and I’m losing my hair because of the drastic change in my estrogen levels. The thought of anything happening to the baby is devastating, but what am I going to do? Sit up all night and stare at him? It’s such a clusterfuck of emotions, and it doesn’t stop.

I was told that I had to breastfeed, but I refused to do it. It was a decision I made that made me feel less tethered and weighed down since I was already feeling a lot of anxiety, pressure and depression about my life changing completely. Deciding not to breastfeed gave me a sense of autonomy and was the right choice for me. But when people hear me say that, they look at me like I have seven heads. You have no idea how many men have asked me about that decision. When I tell them, I feel like they look at me as though I’m a huge asshole for not feeding my baby solely from my body for six straight months.

Women Need More Support

Even though I’m a vocal person, I still feel shame for saying that I have postpartum depression. It’s almost like I think I don’t deserve to say it because other people have it worse. But the fact that it’s hard for me to say is cultural brainwashing. So I’m supposed to accept that this is my reality and that any amount of complaining makes me a bad mom or a bad woman? Or that I’m airing my dirty laundry in public, which is impolite? In reality, that is inaccurate and is why this problem persists. I love my baby, I love my husband and I know that all of this will work out. But I cry every single day. I feel sad and lonely.

We all have our opinions on how it feels to have a baby, but the lack of widely shared scientific, medical information about what happens to your body bothers me. Women are not properly prepared for and supported in motherhood. It makes me so angry. I don’t understand why women aren’t rioting in the streets. We need to make sure women are given proper care and proper help. We need to make sure women are not tricked into doing this, and that if they get pregnant and decide they don’t want the baby, they’re not villainized for having an abortion. I’m in a depression because I don’t see a way for it to get better for women without massive amounts of change. I’m one of the very lucky few — for most people, it’s even worse, and I can’t imagine that. I’ve never felt more militant about women’s rights, abortion rights issues and health care issues than I have after going through a pregnancy.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi; Art Direction by Emily Zirimis.

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  • I don’t think mothers talk to other women about “the horrors of giving birth” because they don’t want to scare you into thinking birth is this huge traumatic experience. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. Some of the things you mentioned aren’t talked about, but many of them are discussed (morning sickness, depression, bleeding afterwards) in most pregnancy books on the market today. I agree that women need more support during pregnancy and the postpartum period. There are support people called “doulas” who actually do this specific job. Perhaps you can reach out to a postpartum doula and talk to her about the things you are going through. You could’ve expanded this article to talk more about how African American women have extremely high rates of maternal mortality and their babies have rates of infant mortality regardless of age, education, income, etc. All of the things you talked about are valid, but these issues aren’t “new”. Women have been talking about these things for ages.

    • Kristen Ban Drake

      As a Grandma and GrandAunty of several wonderful babies, my heart goes out to this young woman and any other young woman who is afraid and sorrowful about these experiences. My sisters and sisters in law and now my daughters and their cousins were and have been the most powerful support group of all during our pregnancies. Each one of us had different kinds of pregnancies, and we told each other the gory as well as the joyful aspects of it all. I actually had my babies back in the late punk days when I was playing bass in some all girl bands, and while many of my peers were either puzzled, amused or sometimes nasty about it all, I had books that helped me through it as well. With the Internet now, I would like to think that no one should feel alone, and I hope this writing helps the writer as well as many of your readers. We are our most Powerful Pals.

      • Jessica

        I think a good point is made here about the power of community. “It takes a village” is an accurate reflection of what historically child rearing would have entailed. Multi-generations living close together, with a lot of the necessary information passed on orally. Now, we live much more separate and isolated lives. This has sone benefits, but we lose that oral tradition and the support that comes from being part of a very close-knit multi-generational female community. I can’t comment on whether the author had that available to her or not ( it sounds like she probably didn’t) but I imagine that could be part of the source of the information gap she felt.

  • cici

    As someone in their first trimester (and an avid reader and lover of Man Repeller), I completely resent this post. It claims to want to offer “scientific” evidence of how women aren’t prepared for motherhood and pregnancy, but really, it comes off as a long monologue deeply rooted in this woman’s self.

    I respect and empathize with her depression, but depression is a very personal matter. I don’t think it’s right to present her own story – shaped by her background, medical history and character – as something that ALL women who plan on being mothers should hear and take into consideration.

    Personally, I don’t think that every woman should be a mother, especially if they don’t want to or don’t think they have the mental capacity to handle it. And I certainly don’t think a woman’s self begins and ends with motherhood. However, the experience can be deeply beautiful and joyous for many.

    At the very least, this post should have a caveat that this is a *personal* story, not a scientific warning that should be read before someone considers becoming a mother. At the very least, it should link to a positive piece about someone who enjoys pregnancy and/or motherhood. Again, the experience is not for everyone, but it is for many.

    • I didn’t read a single scientific warning. It was very much a personal story about realizing that our society doesn’t teach us enough about pregnancy and childbirth in a scientific way. We learn where babies come from but not really much about how they develop and are birthed and what happens afterwards. Also, the US has notoriously crappy leave policies for mothers, and if more people knew about the biology of pregnancy and recovering from birth (men and women), that could change.

      • The title phrased it in such a way to make it seem like it was general information (“what no one tells you” vs “what I didn’t know”), and not a personal story, which is what it was.

        • The title is just “what no one tells you about having a baby” which I’ve seen on like every single parenting website ever since getting pregnant. Haley’s intro also makes it clear that its a woman sharing her own personal story.

      • cici

        the first and last paragraphs most notably

    • ladybirda

      You can resent this post, and you can keep burying your head in the sand if it makes you happy. Personally, I think it’s better to be prepared for different possibilities in case everything doesn’t come up puppies and rainbows in the delivery room or in the weeks after. I remember a wife of one of my husband’s friends started telling me her delivery and breastfeeding horror stories when I was pregnant with my first, and I was so mad at her for freaking me out. But lo and behold, I wound up with the emergency c-section, and losing half my blood, and the mastitis from nursing. These are violent things to happen to a human body, and women have a right to know what they MAY be getting into. I’ve had friends deliver babies in under an hour with 3 pushes, friends who didn’t need a single stitch. I’ve also had friends who have lost their babies before or right after their deliveries. Yes, ALL women who plan on being mothers can benefit from learning about other women’s lived experience. Dealing with reality is a big part of growing up, that is, if you have the mental capacity.

      • cici

        I certainly don’t bury my head in the sand and don’t appreciate that assumption. I’ve sought stories from women in my life and women on the Internet about mother and pregnancy. You wouldn’t know, but I am more than aware of the different outcomes and realities. I wish I could say – as a rule of thumb – that I wear rose colored glasses, but that’s not the case and it’s not fair for you to peg me as otherwise.

        You’re right. Every woman has a different pregnancy story and experience; I think it’s irresponsible to present one story as one that can apply to many individual situations. This story can or should be shared, but it’s the job of MR to portray it as a personal experience to learn from and pay heed to – not a “Go Ask Alice” type story that’s meant to scare.

  • I actually seek out “horror” birth stories because they make me feel better about my own traumatic birth experience, from which I truly believe I have some form of PTSD. It honestly infuriates me to hear people say how “magical” or “beautiful” their birth experience was, or how the baby “was out in just three pushes, can you believe it”? It makes me feel totally inferior and angry that I didn’t have that. I have zero recollection of holding my daughter for the first time, I didn’t get to do skin-to-skin (something that was very important to me), all because I lost so much blood. So, yes: let’s share the non-magical side of giving birth.

    • Abbie

      I can’t recommend The Longest Shortest Time enough–this podcast was so life-changing for me, especially this episode. https://longestshortesttime.com/podcast27-rewriting-your-birth-story

    • Kelsey Alyssa

      Three pushes!!!! Hahahaha I was pushing for 6 hours and eventually had a forceps-assisted delivery. It blows my mind that people only push for 20 minutes or less!

  • L

    This article is valid in many ways but you have to do your part in doing your research not waiting around for doctors to tell you. This isn’t new. Probably before you decided to get pregnant, you should’ve done some research. Not every pregnancy is the same. Sadly, she had a difficult one but this doesn’t apply to every woman. There is support out there. You have to find it.

    • Ania

      Some of these things are well described in the literature, if not in popular than at least in medical. But still many are not!
      I live in a capital city of a large European country and I took 2 years and half a dozen doctors to diagnose my problem with Kegel muscles after giving birth, which is a common problem! With a diagnosis, there were literary THREE professionals in my city able to help me.
      So the support is there, but finding it can take a lifitme. We can do better.

    • Christina

      Feeling undeserved by your doctors is a completely legitimate emotion and concern. Maybe you can do some research on how women’s pain and emotional issues are evaluated by medical professionals. A first time mother is going through a completely foreign experience, which is often painful and confusing. The US has a much higher infant mortality rate than other rich countries, among other blatant issues. There is clearly a gulf between the care being provided to most US women and what they actually need.

      Don’t be callous about someone speaking out about their experience and calling for a better system.

      • L

        As a woman, I understand and sympathize what she went through. However, you can’t solely depend on the government and medical professional to provide and do all the work for you. You should as an individual do you due diligence and research. There are support groups and such to go to. Again not all pregnancies are horrific and terrible. There’s aid out there, you have to look for it.

    • KathND

      I’d say this article is valid in all ways, because it’s a fellow woman sharing an honest experience.

  • I don’t think these things are “talked about” in a very public way, but I learned about all of these things thanks to FB, specifically FB pregnancy and mama groups. And they were such a blessing for me. In my case, I am a plus size mom, and plus size pregnancy comes with it’s own challenges & assumptions – I found a FB group devoted to plus size pregnancy and motherhood which was my #1 resource. Same with breastfeeding – rates are lower for Black women for numerous reasons, and finding a breastfeeding group devoted to Black women was a godsend for me. I’m still a member of both groups and I continue to learn so much, and also share my stories so that new members/mamas can continue to benefit.

    Also regarding overall pregnancy & birth statistics, I found the book “Expecting Better” by Emily Oster to be invaluable in that regard. I read it when my husband and I were just talking about beginning our parenting journey, and I felt so much more informed when I did get pregnant and throughout my pregnancy. As a scientist, I’m all about making data-driven decisions, and having the citations and then being able to look at the journal studies was weirdly reassuring to me.

    • gracesface

      Also a researcher (in my life, not my career) and I appreciate your candidness. A plus size mom (I’ll probably be one too) group is encouraging to hear about.

  • Abbie

    I’m so sorry you’re having this experience, Sarah. I am proud of you for advocating for what is right for your family and seeing treatment for PPD (which will affect 10-15% of women!!!!). 3 months is still the “fourth trimester”–it will get better.My first pregnancy was a little like you described–very heavy and anxious pregnancy, full of fear and anger at our medical system and society, regret for changing my “perfect” life, painful recovery. The second time around was just…easier in every way.

    Along the lines of advocating for yourself and your choices, for other pregnant women or women who may choose to become pregnant that find this scary, I’d recommend a few resources: a doula (if you can afford one, the best money you can spend to make labor less traumatic), an OB who listens to you and cares about YOUR health as well as your baby’s, and evidence based research to educate yourself to make good decisions. https://evidencebasedbirth.com/ is my hands down favorite.

    Finally, I don’t want to toot the “mom friends” horn because I wholeheartedly disagreed that I needed friends that were moms when I had my first child. I was defiant that I wasn’t changing, so I didn’t need to add new friends. With the second kid, I realized its a lot easier to go through this experience with other women–who happen to understand this unique, life-changing, harrowing experience because they’re moms too. Somehow I was able to show myself more empathy when I viewed myself through my friends’ eyes.

  • Danielle

    thank you

  • desssie

    wow I am surprised that this post is getting negative feedback: it is extremely clear that it is a personal report + the topic is definitely something that is not discussed widely enough
    and it is not not discussed just because it may not be what the majority of women experience (I mean you’ve all heard multiple stories about that lady who gave birth in the taxi to the hospital – not sure the statistic is high for that one), but because it does not paint maternity in a positive, or at least ‘negative but I am making jokes about it’ way
    having gone through a very similar experience myself, I totally share the feeling of resentment that such stories are not more advertised: when it happens to you, you are going to feel like some weird ungrateful alien. And when I discussed it with fellow mothers, lots of them had experienced some level of what is described in that post, but no one discusses it. And don’t tell me it’s because it’s too personal (I mean at that stage most mothers share their babies’ stools’ colors and textures). I really think it is because some way or another, women feel like sharing this is just not acceptable
    So thanks for sharing!

    • Lorange E

      I’m surprised too. And the calls for balance by reporting a happy birth story are maddening to me. The reason it was so brave of Sarah to share this story is because the vast majority of birth stories are happy or gloss over anything negative! Rarely do you get a radically honest accounting of what it was like and someone’s feelings when the feelings weren’t all good. And as someone pointed out above, some groups of friends do not talk about this stuff. I think lots of women don’t read much about pregnancy etc. until they are actually pregnant or committed to becoming pregnant.

      • desssie

        totally agree. And I think the backlash to this post confirms the necessity of putting these stories out there, because I feel like there is a huge amount of emotional / instinctual pushback to this topic (that probably explains why negative thoughts on pregnancy / motherhood are not that discussed) –> if this were an article on a terrible breakup, I doubt there would be any comments saying ‘oh my own breakup wasn’t that bad so please state that this is only your own personal opinion’

        • courtforce

          I think it’s fine and valuable to publish stories like this that highlight the negative experiences many women do have during pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.

          The issue I had with the article though, wasn’t the author’s detail of her emotional and physical tribulations, or the gravity she assigns them. Those are serious issues. It was the blame the article seems to assign to other women for apparently not telling her all the terrible things that could happen. So no one ever told her about all the bizarre ailments that affect pregnant women, or how common postpartum depression is, or that morning sickness is not just in the morning, or that your body doesn’t return to normal for a while after pregnancy? It doesn’t make these things any easier to deal with, but these are the kind of things I thought we all knew as little girls, and that my friends and I now discuss in excruciating detail as we are having kids of our own.

          Everyone should have the platform to tell their story, whether they want to sing in bliss from the mountaintops or open up about their feelings of fear and isolation. But if you think this is what “no one tells you about having a baby,” maybe you should do a better job listening to what others are really saying.

          • Milda Zim

            It might sound unfriendly towards the author, but, if she got such a good care, as she is stating, then wasn’t she given ANY info about pre/during/ after? My doctors were throwing info at me, I was tired of it. But thats Norway. But still.

      • Kristin

        I called for balance—for me it’s about the title which made me feel that this was going to be a more universal story (not that there is one); this is a story of depression and anxiety from someone who is still in the throes (and I see her partly accepting the diagnosis but also trying to convince herself that it is just hormones), and I think it is worth telling and I’m so thankful to the author for sharing but, based on the title, I thought that I was going to relate to it more. I think we should normalize these stories and it is an important and underheard perspective.

        • Karyanna Truby

          The title made it seem universal. I feel like this story should be part of a series. Even if it’s not a total balance.

  • Katie

    I think most of us operate in a fairly self-centered zone throughout our life, and things don’t seem to make an impact on us until it’s actually happening to us. I don’t think the things mentioned in the article are new, or are not talked about, but I do think the author wasn’t paying attention to women’s experience with motherhood until she was becoming a mother herself. I’m not trying to negatively judge the author, as I think basically we all do the same thing as humans seeing the world through our own two eyes.

    I am currently trying to conceive my fourth child and each pregnancy, labor, birth, and newborn babyhood has been very different. My first labor was 30 hours long, while my third was 3 hours from start to baby. Being pregnant, birthing a child, and raising children is all shockingly difficult for so many different reasons. However, I don’t think people aren’t talking about it, I just think nothing can prepare you for it before you actually do it yourself.

    • Cynthia Schoonover

      You’re right in that no amount of knowledge beforehand really prepares you for the experience of becoming a mother until you actually do it. I remember looking at my first baby lying in her crib and wondering when life would get back to normal.

    • Cay

      These things are talked about if you have a group of female friends/family who are open to talking about things like this. A lot of women don’t, for a variety of reasons. My close female friends and I know the intricacies of each other’s periods and pap smear results, but when I tell that to some of my other friends or to my mother, they are shocked and horrified that I know that my friend’s HPV finally cleared itself up.

      Publicly, we don’t, as a nation and culture, adequately address women’s health or women’s experiences in their own bodies. The narrative that women just bounce back from birth and everything is all happy is very much persistent – it’s partly why we have such terrible maternity leave policies in this country, the vastness of the birth experience is just not discussed or respected. I think that it’s a bit larger than humans not having a focus beyond themselves.

      • Stacey

        I definitely agree that the openess of your friendship group and family can help prepare you for pregnancy, child birth and raising children. I am thankful for the open conversations my friends had with me before having a child. I try to be fairly open and kind with my sharing as well. And I remember thinking after child birth – oooh that’s what Person A meant lol. Fun times.

    • C williams

      I agree, each pregnancy is different. I was so afraid because of the child birth stories so my body was in anxiety mode and labor was long it took nine hrs for two centimeters. After I had my son. I said no more kids. Three and a half years later, I had my daughter. I miscarried the third. If I could I would do it again. Pregnancy is not an easy thing but an enjoyable experience for me after the baby is born.

    • Anne

      I agree. Gave birth for the first time in October as well, and found that my center shifted entirely. As someone who prides myself on self reliance, I needed to reach out to my female friends and relatives with children with an urgency I’d never had. I love my single friends but there’s something primal about motherhood that deepened my empathy and relationship with those who had been through it. We can share our darkest times – miscarriages or devastating post partum and the fears and anxieties that hang over those early weeks- as well as the incredible highs that do very much exist.

      To her defense, this article reads to me as coming from the perspective of a first time mom. It can be so easy to assume that your experience will be the exception (orgasmic birth anyone?), and not want to hear or read about the darker stories during pregnancy for fear of jinxing it all. It’s one reason I withhold my harder stories from pregnant or TTC friends unless they are very close or ask explicitly.

  • Autumn

    I’m so glad three of my closest friends have had multiple babies while I still have zero – I’ve learned so much about what nobody tells you or talks about. Like I had no idea there was something called a mucus plug until one of my friends mentioned it!
    My friends are honest too so I’ve seen the not-so-rosy side of pregnancy and babies which is comforting in a way.

  • Ania

    The muscles of the bottom of the pelvis (so called Kegel muscles) are wekaned after pregnency. If they are too loose, you pee when you jump, but now and then they get tightened so that joints in your pelvis are not stabilized properly and you hardly walk. That happened to me after my first pregnancy. I thought my body betrayed me and I would be handicaped for ever.

    These Kegel muscles are so important and so difficult to train without professional help. I tell it to every single pregnent women even, though I know they might get scared and despite it is rude to give advice not being asked for it. Go to the physioterapist, learn how to exercise Kegel muscles, and after giving birth take good care of yourself, including your private parts and stomach muscles.

    The worst happens after the birth: you are weak and in pain, but all attention is on the baby and you are foremost a mother, not a human being. That is why everyone tells you: breast-feed and noone tells: take good care of yourself. And at this particular 6 weeks after giving birth your health is at great danger, but also with proper exercises you can come back to good shape really fast!

    When I was pregnant for the second time, I felt even shittier than the first time, but I knew it would finally end – a helpful thought. And then I exercized with a physioterapist starting from first days after labour. Thanks to the hormones I was able to get in a better shape than prior to first pregnancy.

    If only had I knew before. After this journey I learned that my body did not betray me. I just did not have to opportunity to take good care of myself, because there is no distinction between me and my body.

  • Cynthia Schoonover

    I remember having to switch to an unscented hand and body lotion during my first pregnancy because the scent of the one I was using made me feel sick.

  • Toronto CS

    It gets better. It really does.

    I wish I had been able to relax when my daughter was a baby. I had heard “start as you mean to go on.” I was a really rigid person, too — I couldn’t nap during the day, I just couldn’t. But I was so exhausted!

    But now I can nap anytime, no problem. My daughter at nine months was so different than three months. Trust yourself and it will all be okay.

    I actually did have a lot of info on still birth and post partum. I had read a lot of women’s magazines (pre-internet) and I read What To Expect When You’re Expecting (loved it).

    I wish I could have had more support from my mom, who just doesn’t really like babies and was very into her career at the time. I also wish my husband had been a little calmer.

    Try not to be depressed Sarah. We’re supported or surprised at different times, I think, not because of our society but sometimes just based on luck and who we are. You will find your way.

  • κατερινα π.

    I agree in most of what the author is writing except the part for the abortion. I believe that abortion should be done after a rape or sth illegal or unethical.I am in my mid thirties have two boys no wish for another so i am extremely cautious with my sex life and if sth happens i would surely keep the baby. And i also agree with the other commenter Kattie. It does not matter how much you know or see or hear. It’s always hard and shocking when it happens to you, and it’s also kinda weird having such a great doctor as the author says she had that he didn’t let her know about the pregnancy the aftermath and other stuff she says didn’t know. Also we need to be supportive for the choices the others make that does not effect us and not be judgemental,especially us women towards one another! ” oh, I am a better mum than you are I breastfed for a year!” or ” I never let my kid eat chips or chocolate”, “oh,I gave birth naturally why did you had a c section?” and other small and meany things that does not make us better parents or ppl, but do make the other person feel awful!

  • Marie-Eve

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and speaking your truth.

    I think we definitely should talk more about the details of pregnancy, giving birth and post-partum. All stories are important to share. Every pregnancy and every birth is different.

    Personally, I felt like pregnancy was mildly annoying (having to abstain from some foods, drinks, and sports, strangers wanting to touch my body, etc.) but I was very lucky in that I had an easy and relatively symptom-free pregnancy. This is just random and not a result of anything I’ve done. If I have a second pregnancy I know it could all be very different.

    I also didn’t feel like giving birth was horrific. I’ve spoken to other mothers who were in labour for 36 hours and view their experience as tough but beautiful. The number of things that can vary and or go wrong (or well) during a birth are endless. There is a whole spectrum of birthing experiences.

    Also, I think it’s clear the US has many very serious issues regarding healthcare and women healthcare in particular. I’m Canadian, where we have universal healthcare and all medical care is “free”. (Although we typically have 1 or 2 sonograms during a healthy pregnancy –
    More if needed – and it doesn’t seem to be a problem.) We also have about half the rate of stillbirths than the US does (about 1 in 300). Judging from this story, it also seems like midwives, doctors and nurses talk to us more about the medical realities of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum (diastatis, postpartum bleeding, what happens when they have to break the water, how labour goee, how it’s longer for a first baby, etc.).

    There’s also a problem with the lack of parental leave in the US. My husband just went back to work after 5 weeks of paid parental leave. I feel fine now, but I think I probably would have had post-partum depression if he hadn’t been with me 24/7 for the first few weeks.

    So, yes, women should march, demand universal healthcare, paid parental leave (for both moms and dads), create support groups, spread awareness, etc.

    P.S.: I highly recommend following “Faces of Post-Partum” on Facebook. A beautifully real and raw photo-essay and blog with testimonies (some wonderful, some heartbreaking, and everything in between) from mothers of various generations from Canada and the US.

  • Kristin

    It sounds like this woman has had a really traumatic and awful experience. Would be nice to have some balance—the title gave me the impression this was going to be more universal—I felt like I just was able to lean into the loss of control and pregnancy and motherhood really zen-d me out.
    Couple other thoughts—
    Pregnancy is one place where more care is not necessarily better—in a low risk pregnancy you don’t need a sonogram at every visit and some people don’t need every kind of genetic test. (And extra testing can add to anxiety without improving outcomes—her friend who didn’t pay cash have actually had better care.
    And not to preach breastfeeding cause it is definitely overhyped (and not a treatment for depression) but I was so high on what I’ve attributed to oxytocin from breastfeeding I was on cloud 9 post baby. And my body snapped back (though apparently this is not true for everyone)

    • LS

      I think you raise a great point. The women I know who have paid for the most expensive private obstetricians have sometimes gone in to have the worst birth experiences – highly medicalised, frightening & impersonal. An appropriate level of medical care is important, but there are other types of care that can contribute to positive outcomes in pregnancy – prenatal emotional support, prenatal exercise, birth classses (not just the hospital ones, which are useful hospital inductions but provide little to no guidance on the emotional aspects of childbirth, but hypnobirth, active birth skills, etc).

      • Kristin

        Yeah it is unfortunate that doulas don’t usually work in hospitals and many of these services aren’t covered by insurance.

    • Bridget

      Totally agree with Kristin and I have four children. (I am from New Zealand though, so we have a totally different health care system). As far as not knowing what happens to your body during pregnancy and labour- do your research, ask questions, there’s plenty of information out there!

  • stephanie

    Forgive my ignorance being a woman who is conceivably years away from the desire to have children, but the author sounds like she is extremely self-centered and somewhat resents her child for the after effects of labor/birth (ie distending stomach muscles, bleeding for weeks straight). I feel like her last statement of “I love my baby, I love my husband…” is a cop out; she spent the past three minutes saying she didn’t feel connected, etc. I appreciate that she recognizes her privilege, but it makes the subsequent complaining even more annoying.

    I’m probably going to get a lot of shit for this post, but this was by far one of my least favorite MR posts. I thought we (collective community) already decided that the personal narrative/essay was dead?

    • Jessica Barthel

      As you’ve said, you haven’t had this experience and are clearly unable to empathize with it. Postpartum depression is very real, and is hormone driven. It’s a terrible experience magnified by exhaustion and the sudden loss of autonomy. When you are forced to go days without showering (suddenly no time), cannot go to the bathroom without the soundtrack of a crying baby (unless you hold him/her while you go) and feel genuinely lucky to get two consecutive hours of sleep then you can judge.

    • Eliza

      This woman documents an experience that clearly traumatized her, the effects of which she is still struggling with, and you say she shouldn’t complain because she could pay for a private doctor and seems “self centered”? PLLZZZZZZZZ. PPD is real, and comments like this are why women don’t talk about it.

  • Jessica Barthel

    Sarah, thank you so much for sharing your experience! I too felt disconnected to both my kids after giving birth. After giving birth to my son, the nurse put him on my chest and was trying to get him to crawl to my breast WHILE I WAS STILL PUSHING OUT THE PLACENTA. And then of course the Dr. had to sew me up and I felt every single stitch. I had to tell them to get the baby off of me- I was too traumatized from the pain (natural birth) to deal with anything else. It seems everyone expects mothers to act like they weren’t just subject to various degrees of literal torture once the baby is born.

    And I totally get your choice to bottle feed. I chose breast for both my kids and was anchored to my first until she turned one. Number 2 is 8 months and, like his sister, has completely rejected the bottle (and still refuses to eat solids-I introduced them at 4 months!) so once again cannot get away away for more than an hour without the inevitable phone call that he’s crying and needs me. Breast is not always best. Your baby needs a healthy mommy- I certainly would have been healthier (mentally) had I chosen to bottle feed my kids. Time for yourself is a necessity for mental stability after having kids.

    We really are so unprepared for the whole experience. The work involved. The emotional and physical duress on both parents, really (the the baby is out, anyway). So many nights not sleeping, cleaning up poop and vomit and being completely drained- it can drive you insane. I’ve often thought that the lack of education in this department is a big reason why so many little ones are neglected and abused. If there were legitimate, thorough classes on reproduction and child rearing that went hand in hand with sexual education I think it would definitely lead to lower teen pregnancy rates and lower rates of abuse. If only.

  • Johanna Moroch

    I’m sorry you are having a hard time, Sarah. Believe me, it gets better.

  • I really appreciate this post. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you so, so much for writing this, Sarah. And thank you, Man Repeller, for publishing it.

    I got pregnant in January of last year, and a few weeks into the pregnancy, started bleeding pretty significantly and was rushed to the hospital and discovered I had a blood clot growing between my baby and the placenta. I was told that I could miscarry in a matter of minutes, hours or days and that the likelihood of survival for the baby was slim. The hospital was conducting a clinical trial for women with this condition, and that might be my only chance that the baby might live. Given that I was diagnosed with a condition a few years prior that made conception a difficult, far-off pipe dream, I decided to give it a go.

    To take part in this clinical trial, I signed my rights away in countless waivers – the side effects could include blood clots, migraines, various types of cancer and depression. It was also a double blind study, so neither my doctor nor I would know if I was being given the actual hormone or a placebo. I didn’t think twice, and took part anyway.

    My entire pregnancy was plagued by depression – both as a means for me to protect myself in case I miscarried, and also because I was undergoing extensive hormonal treatments. By month five, I began to contemplate how I could end my life while keeping my baby alive. I thought my baby would be better off with no mother at all than me as a parent. It was a dark, isolating time. Just as the author states, it’s not like life just ‘pauses’ because you’re pregnant – you still have to work and put one foot in front of the other, day after day. This was increasingly difficult when I lost the will to live.

    About 26 weeks into my pregnancy, a few of my colleagues volunteered in South America, and someone was a carrier for mumps. Through a freak occurrence, and despite having been vaccinated twice, I contracted mumps which is incredibly dangerous in pregnancy. I spent 15 days in quarantine in the hospital’s infectious disease ward – a place where dreams go to die. I was at risk to give birth 14 weeks early. I continued to go through the motions, working 60-80 hours a week and just trying to keep this baby alive. Doing so almost killed me.

    At 30 weeks, we discovered my pelvis would be too small to deliver the baby normally, and thus, I would have to have a C-Section, which I promptly scheduled. Like the author, so many people told me to go a ‘non-interventionist’ route, having watched The Business of Being Born one too many times. “People have been giving birth for thousands of years” was told to me countless times, as though despite significant advances in the field of medicine, women should be expect to forego all of this in favor of something more ‘primitive.’ When your appendix bursts, does anyone tell you that people have been having appendicitis for thousands of years? No, they rush you to the hospital. The whole situation is absurd.

    My water broke a week early, and despite having a high-risk pregnancy and a scheduled C-Section on the books, I was still urged by countless doctors and residents to just ‘give it a go’ since I’ll feel ‘more accomplished’ if I have a vaginal delivery. My doctor was not available, so I proceeded, out of fear of not wanting to tell people how to do their jobs. I was pumped with pitocin, which I had a severe allergic reaction to, for 6 hours before the head of obstetrics came in and rushed me for a C-Section. It was so rushed, in fact, that my right side was not completely anesthetized before they made the incision.

    By the time I saw my baby, I felt overwhelming relief. I loved him, of course – but mostly, I felt grateful that we both survived. Like the author, I have access to medical care and am in a position of privilege. I had a doctor that was an advocate for my mental and physical health, and my pregnancy was challenging and ridden with fear.

    It’s been 5 months since I have had my baby. There are ups and downs, but it is the most isolating experience of my entire life. I wish I could reach out across my screen and hug the author, but I can’t – so instead, I’m sharing my story in hopes that I can make her feel slightly less alone, just as she has done for me.

  • Greenborough

    Every woman deals with pregnancy differently. That being said there are a lot of weird things that happen. There’s a huge loss of control with pregnancy and the early days with your new baby. I think women who can embrace that chaos have an easier time.

    I felt very well informed during my first pregnancy but I also suffered through intense nausea and cried a lot feeling helpless with our new baby at times.

    But isn’t that life? It’s full of tragedy, loss, and chaos as well as love, purpose, and dignity. No one gets out unscathed. Life is messy. So is pregnancy.

    I remember telling my doctor that I was vomiting up blood at 20 weeks. He said that’s what’s happens when you vomit 1-3 times a day for 14 weeks straight. Not to worry. It would pass. And he was right. At what other time in your life is your doctor going to tell you that?! Pregnancy is a crazy time. You just have to do the best you can.

  • Emily Stark

    I appreciate the vulnerability and openness of this post. However, I had a standard birthing experience with both pregnancies, as I am on Obamacare. I feel slightly offended it’s referred to as “subpar” because as far as i can tell we both have healthy happy babies and we are also intact.

    • gracesface

      Oof yes. I had to scroll all the way down here to find someone I agree with (though I have not yet had a kid myself).

    • Kelsey Alyssa

      I agree with the privilege – I know they have been working to include voices of colour, but I still get such a sense that this entire website is ‘brought to you by’ rich, white New Yorkers who feel like they have a grasp on how the world works.

  • Maria

    As with many things, it’s harder for some than others, and one cannot pre-empt the extent of the impact conception, pregnancy, birth and parenting may have on an individual. I do feel sorry to read this article.

    The author argues that it’s a disservice to women that people aren’t totally clear about the related impacts, as though this is a foil to preparation and awareness. We cannot underestimate the importance of taking responsibility here, for undertaking our own research to educate ourselves. This needn’t be limited to anecdote.

    (Incidentally, an obstetrician I know said he marvels at how much time women will spend preparing for a wedding, and by comparison how little work they will do as they prepare to welcome a child.)

    I’ve also noticed a backswing where a ‘bad experience’ (which is really trauma in pregnancy and birth) can get a lot of air time, but women who have affirming, indeed fantastic experiences need to be careful about not speaking too freely about this so as not to cause offence.

    In my own case, I’ve been pregnant five times, and have given birth to two healthy, live children (the other three pregnancies ended in miscarriage before 13 weeks). I gave birth in Australia, both times under the care of an independent midwife my husband and I engaged because after researching all the options we really valued continuity of care.

    We regarded an OB/GYN as a specialist whom we could be referred to in the event we required such specialist care, but that it was not necessary for a healthy, complication free pregnancy. We still needed to pay around $7,500 out of pocket as private midwifery was not covered by our private health insurance.

    My son was born under the care of our midwife in a hospital – we sort of used it like a hotel – “checking in” to use the room/facilities but ultimately got to do our own thing. I got to relax in a bathtub full of warm water which helped with pain relief and experienced a vaginal birth. My water broke naturally on Tuesday morning and my son was born on Friday night. A long labour.

    My daughter was born four months ago under the care of the same midwife. This time, I opted to birth at home, which I found very relaxing and supportive. It was a much quicker labour, as my water broke on a Tuesday morning (again) and I delivered my little girl that night. It stands out as one of the greatest days of my life, my husband and I have never laughed so much, it felt festive and fun and after our miscarriage experiences it seemed miraculous that everything had worked out so beautifully. I had a really fun day too, having a great lunch with my mother and grandmother after my waters broke at my favourite Japanese restaurant and just chilling out with my son.

    It’s interesting how in the Australian medical community there is an increasing interest in homebirths for women with uncomplicated pregnancies as the health outcomes for mother and baby are, in those, circumstances, better. There are now a number of publicly-funded homebirth programs as a result.

    I am 30-year old management consultant and the most unlikely advocate for homebirth and the utter delight of physiological childbirth. While I feel there is certainly a perception that I shouldn’t share the soundness and joy of my experience because it may be inflammatory to others, I was deeply encouraged by the women who had taken the risk to share their affirming stories with me which I was still pregnant: it made me feel I too was worthy of having a wonderful time, and maybe, just maybe, it was possible.

    A good birth also makes a world of difference to the postpartum experience. I felt incredible, balanced and energised, and was able to return to work (from home) after a couple of days, and started travelling again (accompanied by my baby, who is exclusively breastfeed) from three weeks. It’s not for everyone, and breastfeeding was painful for me the second time around in a manner it hadn’f been with the first, but it was a way for me to regain some sense of self after what felt like a long, though happy, pregnancy. Thankfully my mother has been available to travel with me, so I have lots of support to make it all work.

    Anticipating much criticism for the great birth experiences / homebirth advocacy / not taking more time off / being in a privileged position to travel for work because, oh, grandma is just along for the ride – but you know, it’s also an example that you can do this on your own terms and have a sensational time of things.

    I highly recommend childbirth preparation (we did a lot of self-directed learning but also attended a Calm Birth weekend which wasn’t hugely useful to me but my husband got a lot out of it) and post-birth debriefing to manage any issues which may have arisen.

    For every “horror story” that’s told I think it’s equally important to seek out tales of happy, ‘normal’, fun, delightful, interesting physiological birth. Doesn’t mean it’s not unchallenging but if I was able to have a good time, why shouldn’t you?

  • Sarah Wexler

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s an important and not at all uncommon story. My sister just had her first baby, and her experience was remarkably similar to this. Even the myth of conception is so pervasive; she began to get disheartened after trying to get pregnant, finally succeeding within 6 months (!). Not at all a long time, but when you’re used to hearing how immediately it happens for some people, it can really feel like something is wrong with you.

    Since giving birth, she has shared almost everything about what her body has been through with me, starting from pregnancy to now 3 months postpartum. She even had to start physical therapy 2 weeks ago, despite receiving the all-clear from her OBGYN because the doctor missed a mild prolapse following birth, something that is also extremely common and not talked about.

    I relate to that feeling of hopelessness when facing a problem that seems so overwhelming in scope, and as someone who has struggled with depression for a long time I have my own reservations about pregnancy and whether it is the right path for me. I just hope that you take comfort in the fact that you are doing all that you can for yourself, your child, and even for women by taking the time to spark this dialogue.

    And thank you, Haley (and Man Repeller), for giving a voice to women in all aspects of life.

  • Elizabeth Gordon

    Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. It underscores the fact that the pregnancy experiences run the gamut from glorious to gory. I felt great when I was pregnant and breastfeeding, but once those hormones were gone, I slumped into a very dark place that felt like it would never end. I loved my baby so much, but hormones are a very powerful thing, and readjusting to life without relaxin and oxytocin was not easy. I was embarrassed to talk about it, so I suffered mostly in silence.

    I agree that despite reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting (my kids are 14 and 11 so it was a long time ago and there weren’t as many websites, blogs and books), I felt unprepared for labor and delivery. Afterward, my mother flat out told me that she didn’t want to scare me, so she spared me the unladylike details. Fortunately, I had a friend who took me out to lunch beforehand, looked me in the eye and said: “You will poop during delivery (had never occurred to me). Also, by the end of this, your nipples will be the color of a leather shoe and they will be the size of saucers”. I was marginally prepared, but I had no idea that bloody show was like a full-blown period and, HOLY SHIT, the plug was straight out of a Sci-Fi movie. Also, no matter how much of an epidural you have, the shoulders are really unpleasant.

    The great thing is that whether you’ve had a baby or not, we’re all women and we are all capable of empathy and we can all support each other. So, Sarah, I know that slowly but surely, things will get better for you. Just keep talking about it. You are only as sick (or depressed) as your secrets, and as long as you stay vocal the people who love you can do their best to support you every day until you feel better.

  • Lily

    i am a mom of three who is currently expecting her fourth child. This post came off as being a rant from someone who sounds like they are in over their head because their expectations didn’t meet their reality. I especially didn’t appreciate the constant theme that she was privileged and had access to the best care. I have given birth in nyc hospitals from amazing doctors. I have to say that it was a terrible experience both times. My last pregnancy was in NJ where even though I was on meidicaid, I was privileged to be in the care of the most amazing practice. Whether a doctor takes insurance and where the hospital is located is not an indicator of the best possible care you can receive. I had two c- sections in Ny, and here I was able to deliver naturally and am grateful that the staff at the hospital in NJ was kind caring and compassionate as well as being extremely professional and abreast of the latest studies and techniques. The assumption made by this woman that paying for her drs visits would grant her access to the best possible care is extremely off and indicative that her expectations are not in line with reality. Your dr should guide you through the whole process and be available to answer any questions as well as raise possible issues you might encounter. I had three sonograms this pregnancy- it is absolutely not an indicator of the level of care you receive. I also have struggled with post partum depression and I can say that I empathize with her but I find her attitude is that everything should be handed to her on a silver platter. There is no way to anticipate every problem that might arise in our life. We have to deal with things one day at a time. It is also a misconception that just because you are aware that something can happen, does not mean you will be a prepared to deal with it when the time comes. A woman’s anxiety level during pregnancy can negatively affect her health and the health of the baby. If every possible thing that could go wrong was presented to you at the first drs appt when you confirm your pregnancy you are setting that person up for nine months of anxiety and agony. I hope she gets the help she needs and realizes that with any other relationship, especially one that is fraught due to lack of sleep and raging hormones, her connection to her baby will deepen over time.

    • Angela

      This echoes how I felt reading this!!

  • laura

    While I understand the importance of sharing personal stories about the struggles of pregnancy/parenthood, this post walks a really difficult line and crosses into the territory of being a bit too biased/negative considering the audience it will attract, specifically first-time pregnant people/parents. I wish we weren’t sharing things like “the horror of giving birth” in a culture that over-medicalizes the fuck outta this (all for $$$) due to intense fear-mongering around the process of birth. The true horror of birth in our society is that we are conditioned to fear it from the time we know what it is, and that we believe we must be cared for by a medical system that fails in myriad ways. I’m so sad that the author of this piece didn’t have the support needed – I wish I could change this reality for all new parents. But that has to be the crux of the conversation, not about the horror of it but about the devastating loneliness, the societal isolation, & the broken systems of support. For those expecting, I encourage you to reach out to services that can assist you in healing this isolation – there are low-cost and student doulas everywhere who can be a person to talk to, there are resources online, and hopefully there is at least one non-judgmental person you can allow yourself to lean on in your life throughout this intense process of change that you will be going through.

  • Hannah Nichols

    Thank you so much for sharing all of this. I am a married 25-year-old woman living in the South, and I don’t want children. For some reason this makes people feel the need to comment on my life and my choices. I actually had a coworker tell me “you are so brave for admitting that’. I totally agree that all the not so fun things of childbirth and pregnancy should be more common knowledge. So many of my friends are pregnant, and I feel like they aren’t talking to me as much, maybe because they feel afraid to admit their feelings. Childbirth and pregnancy are such complex subjects that definitely need more conversation.

  • Mikaela

    Now, maybe we can also hear from someone who took the initiative to educate themselves about pregnancy, childbirth and the newborn stage, who had a group of friends who talk freely about the ups and downs and gory details, and who had challenges (no “orgasmic birth” here for sure) but ultimately cherishes the experience. I’d be willing to write that essay for you, after two really different labor experiences and heading into a third. Pregnancy is super weird, the list of items I googled my first pregnancy is ridiculous. But it doesn’t have to terrifying. Childbirth can be extremely difficult but also incredibly empowering. And, to echo others in this thread, the most expensive prenatal care is no indicator of quality or of outcome, and some would say that the over-medicalization of childbirth is part of the problem.

    100% there needs to be more dialogue between women surrounding what to expect pre and post childbirth. And I whole heartedly wish that doctors were more vocal about how to repair your body after childbirth, because it doesn’t just happen for most people. Probably almost all mothers could do with some pelvic floor PT.

  • Caroline Christianson

    I appreciate the intentions behind this post, but the anger about this information being “not talked about” implies it’s normal to stumble upon detailed knowledge instead of self-motivated. The diastasis recti example given is not studied because there is not more to understand about how the female body mechanically adjusts to accommodate a fetus during pregnancy. Women’s health disparities are many, but access to information about pregnancy is not one of them.

  • Alex Corby

    As someone on the same baby timeline as the author—ie, gave birth to my first around the same time—MR really, really needs to post a balancing counterpart to this piece. While every pregnancy, birth, and mother is different and to be respected and admired (women are tough!), this article would’ve scared the sh*t while I was trying to conceive. Pregnancy and birth are no joke, but it can be a hell of a lot better (and easier) than the author describes…

    • KathND

      It can also be a hell of a lot worse. My last pregnancy ended with me miscarrying and going through labor on my bathroom floor.

      I understand the anxiety around conception (promise) and am all for the happier and more peaceful birth stories, but I’m positive we women are strong enough to hear those that run the spectrum. We’re doing ourselves a disservice if we can’t highlight the good and the bad.

      • Kathryn Dahak

        As a strong woman who is also pregnant right now, this article scared the crap out of me and now I will not be able to sleep for god knows how long. MR should at least include a disclaimer so that a person is prepared for what they are about to read when clicking on this article.

        • Sandra

          Kathryn, I hope you’ve been able to sleep. I’m a recent mom (baby is 4 months old) and, although I was anxious too about everything (am I going to feel connected to him?) I went so crazy with love (and oxytocin!) and, although tired sometimes, so much better and more relaxed than I thought I would be. I’m talking from Spain, where we don’t have as many tests as the writer, but everthing went right. Painful and uncertain sometimes, but right.

          Obviously the writer is under depression and having obsessive thoughts (and it’s good that she’s aware of it). This is a possibilty for everyone, so if that’s your case in the future, return and read again so you don’t feel lonely and have the courage to talk about it and seek for help.

          Besos y fuerza!

        • raissaemail

          Kathryn, relax. look at the statistics. Most pregnancies result in healthy babies, for starters. Also, your mindset makes a word of a difference. You are the master of your pregnancy, no doctor, obstetrician or other expert is. you are made for this and have that mammal drive. Putting your experience in someone elses hands will for sure make it harder. Shit can always happen in life. I had the same timeline as the author, have a deformed uterus and the hospital staff made it very clear they didn’t have much hope for my “high risk pregnancy”. Thankfully I knew all the things the autor wrote about and much more. My mum birthed three healthy daghters at home and taught me her experience too.
          Of course you will have to learn. Learning isn’t easy. Same goes for baby! Depression and baby blues are a possibility, I had a little taste and it suucks, but that too teaches you something. My pregnancy and birth where easy and fantastic, and motherhood has made me happier, calmer, wiser, healthier, more patient, more in love, stronger, more empathic and less tolerant for bullshit. Also, now I really am well in my body and feel more beautiful than ever. No, our baby doesn’t sleep through the night, shes not a doll and she is a high need child. Everything above is still true.

    • Anne

      It would be helpful to have counterpoints- and also good statistics. It’s a hell of a lot more likely that a car accident will be a problem than a stillbirth. So much fear mongering and miseducation is already out there in the mommy-blogosphere. I wish the author had had more of an understanding of the range of experiences and that there is no ‘textbook’ way that things will go, and it’s all a gamble- the good and the bad- but some outcomea are far more likely. Loved the book Expecting Better as it was based in statistics and not an extrapolation of one person’s experience.

    • Cara

      As someone who hasn’t got any kids yet, this article definitely put me off. But I know several women who have thrived through pregnancy and labor. One of my friends loved labor and delivery so much. She is basically an evangelist for safe and positive birthing experiences, as research shows that makes labor “easier.” Obviously I have no knowledge of my own, but just from speaking to different women, I can tell that birth is a very different experience for everyone, and even different from baby to baby. It definitely was unfortunate that this article didn’t look into the positive sides.

    • Katherine F Peterson

      I think it would have been most helpful if the entire article was framed around postpartum depression/mental health and pregnancy. The title should have been “What no one tells you about having a baby when you have depression/anxiety,” or “talking about postpartum depression.” While I absolutely agree that there is not enough education out there about what pregnancy (and also conception) entails, as others have said, the information is out there if you seek it out. I’m also very curious about 1/160 statistic. The vast majority of pregnancies end with a healthy baby and no complications, period. I’m 5 months pregnant and that has been my mantra.

  • Amanda

    Even though I often hear this kind of realisation when women experience the life changing gift of having a child I wonder this; If everyone would have told you all the above as a possible part of going though pregnancy, birth and motherhood, would you have chosen not to have a child?

    The thing about having a child is that you have to experience it for yourself to understand all the stories. You can’t imagine the enormous change in your life and to your personal freedom until you experience it.

    I think every new mom is thinking to themselves: why did no one tell me how insane this was going to be? The answer is that people do tell you and the stories are out there, but we don’t comprehent the weight and seriousness of the stories until we feel it ourselves.

  • Laura S

    As always, I love reading the comment section on MR articles almost more than the articles themselves. There are so many points from the comments I agree and disagree with. I think everyone can agree that this was one woman’s experience. We cannot condemn her or criticize how she experienced pregnancy and birth because that belongs solely to her. I think everyone’s reactions to her story are a direct reflection of something they are feeling towards pregnancy/birth (having gone through it or not). I would LOVE a month dedicated to motherhood. The choice to be a mom or not to have kids, relationships with our own mothers, how pregnancy affected people differently, how prepared/unprepared they were for birth, what the f do you do once the baby comes home… I had a baby 5 months ago so I’m completely biased, but as a new mom I now “get” how isolating all of this can feel. The line about amazing friends with “no fucking clue” resonated with me most. I love my friends dearly and they are amazing humans, but I can’t expect them to understand what I’m going through when its not something they are yet familiar with. And for those who don’t have kids or no interest in kids, it would be awesome to shed some light around motherhood as a month-long topic so everyone walks away knowing more. Which is I think the point of this article.

    • Cara

      I would love a month too! As a woman with no kids yet who’s unsure if she wants them or not, its a. so helpful for me to hear different experiences and view points on being a mother, but b. I’d love to hear more from unsure women. There’s so much stuff in our culture telling me I should be a mom, and all the counterpoints are very rigidly, “I don’t want to be a mom ever. I knew this when I was 8.” I’d love an article from someone who’s like, “I mean, I don’t want them now. Maaaybe I will? Do I think this just because I’m socially conditioned to want them? Who knows?”

      • Laura S

        I’ve always known I wanted kids but I’ve been less sure about BEING a mom. If that makes sense… Even now I don’t think of myself as a mother. I think of myself as me, with a baby.

        • Milda Zim

          This is so very well said. My boy is 1yo and people still keep asking me, so, how do you feel being a mother? And I can never trully find the right answer, because I do feel like I am me, with a baby.:) Which btw brings to the other topic. I wasn’t planing to get one either. I found out too late to change anything. And while reading this, I thought, what would the author would have done in that situation? Everyone experiences motherhood differently, from the very start. Labour experience is very personal, and only thin guidelines can give a blury picture of how it might be for you. Then again, there are so many ways to seek for information and prepare yourself physically and emotionally. And as such big city as NY, with the resources the author has, one must want to know. Its all here:)

  • Lauren

    This was a very similar to my first pregnancy and labor, except I had it generally easier. But it’s appalling what happens to your body in childbirth. There WAS a key difference between my first and second pregnancies. After I gave birth to my first, they might as well have placed one of my kidneys on my chest. I just didn’t get it. This lasted for months after giving birth and I had a really hard time bonding with my kiddo initially.

    The second time, I knew what was happening, and I loved it.

    Becoming a Mom (and a parent) is not a miraculous moment that bestows upon you magic powers. It’s a long, often painful, learning process. Like any skill, it takes time to develop, and the rewards are scattered amongst many, many failures. The fact that our culture and generation romanticizes this transition on social and traditional media serves nobody. This shit is hard.

  • Ashley

    Your friend did not receive inferior prenatal care because she “only” got two ultrasounds and didn’t have a battery of genetic tests. She received the standard of care that is recommended by the current research and guidelines and is what insurance will pay for. Your additional sonograms and genetic testing were only offered because you are a private payer who is willing to shell out for unnecessary testing. More is not always better in medicine. Unnecessary testing can lead to false positive test results and undue anxiety regarding the pregnancy.

    • elpug

      thank you. that part had me do a double take. women on insurance can still get great care. this made it seem otherwise.

    • BK

      Was just about to type basically exactly this comment, but you beat me to it. If the intervention isn’t required, why expend the time, money and stress doing it? Also the whole private health insurance = better care argument is a non sequitur. For example, in countries with public health systems, eg Australia, a woman can give birth in a public hospital for actually zero dollars and still have a healthy baby and receive excellent care.

  • Connie Spear

    Brave and true. Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and parenting are different. Thank You for being honest about yours. I too suffered from post partum depression. Not fun.

  • Likely unpopular opinion

    This article kinda rubbed me the wrong way. Although that may not be how she intended it, it came across extremely privileged and like she was looking to blame someone for her pregnancy / early motherhood not turning out the way she’d hoped. The information IS out there, and pretty accessible too, for anyone with a library subscription and/or internet access. I’ve never been pregnant, am not trying to conceive, and I don’t even especially look out for information about it, but I know about/have read about all the gruesome/less-than-rosy aspects of motherhood that she describes. To some extent, it is YOUR responsibility to educate yourself as much as you can before you have a baby, and then when you’ve done what you can, to surrender to the fact that you have chosen to do something that will change you in ways have little control over. I get that obviously reading about it is completely different from experiencing it, but that is kind of the miracle/tragedy of birth, no amount of preparing/being told will truly give you as sense of it until you’ve done it yourself. Maybe like sex for the first time, but on a much bigger scale.

    I read this as someone who has always been able to have everything just so, everything fixed, information packaged and given to her, so when life spiraled a bit and took on a bigger dimension, she’s like “someone should have told me!!!”
    I also didn’t like the pitying way she looked down upon people less privileged than her, as though 2 sonograms were akin to having birth in a ditch. It came across as very I-know-better-than-you, I-know-what-is-best-for-you, condescension pretending to be caringness. She ought to watch Call the Midwife.

    I know that this is a personal recounting of one woman’s experience, which is fine, but I wish it hadn’t been given this larger dimension as though her personal experience were some kind of generalization about the lack of information out there/the poor care “less-privileged-than-me” women get/a rallying cry.

    • Mols

      I’d have to disagree about the “your responsibility” to some extent. Pregnancy is so common and so integral to society that it shouldn’t be a DIY research project for those with the time and inclination. If we learn about STDs and periods in health class in public school, why not pregnancy? For that matter, why do most high schools teach more about cell membranes and geometry than pregnancy?
      Your common sense approach of doing as much as you can to prepare yourself is spot on. The issue though, as I see it, isn’t so much about whether the information is out there, but why doesn’t our culture typically teach about? It’s not unimportant seeing as there is no culture/society without people having babies. Why has cultural osmosis imbued more knowledge about skin cancer prevention than the process of having a baby? (btw more Americans get pregnant each year than those diagnosed with skin cancer). The fact that this knowledge has to be actively sought out, reflects cultural priorities and perceptions surrounding pregnancy; which obviously isn’t about keeping women/society informed about it.

      • Cara

        I think you’re right that that’s what the author was trying to say, but it definitely came across more the way the OP saw it. (And the 2 sonograms thing was, in fact, ridiculous. There are plenty of mothers who get FAR less care than that, but that’s what she picked as “not good enough?”)

  • Ashley

    Your friend did not receive inferior prenatal care because she “only” got two ultrasounds and didn’t have a battery of genetic tests. She received the standard of care that is recommended by the current research and guidelines and is what insurance will pay for. Your additional sonograms and genetic testing were only offered because you are a private payer who is willing to shell out for unnecessary testing. More is not always better in medicine. Overtesting can lead to a false positive test result and undue anxiety regarding the pregnancy.

  • Samantha s

    Fascinating article, fascinating conversations. As someone with managed, but severe, anxiety, I continue to struggle with deciding whether or not to have children (I have also been working through an extreme fear of childbirth, which I believe I am starting to overcome by following doulas and midwives on Instagram).

    Point being, whether someone finds this post too negative, uninformed, or perfectly truthful, I empathize with the author’s fear & anxiety. This is something I have been thinking a lot about as many of my friends have started having babies. We live in such a sterile environment – we shower everyday, we put on clean clothes, we go to work, manage ourbodily functions in private, don’t reveal too much of your body, but also try to be sexy, attractive…clean, sterile, professional & attractive.

    And then you get pregnant. The parts of your body, once intimate and private, will be on display before birth, during birth, after birth, during breastfeeding. Am I the only one dreading the thought of 20 doctors staring at my vagina? I know it’s not special, half the world has one, but still, I DREAD this. I dread breastfeeding in public, whether a hashtag for normalizing exists or not. And the bleeding, and the liquid coming from everywhere for months…it’s all so messy, human, natural, biological…the OPPOSITE of the lives we are used to living…I find this opposition to be the most frightening.

  • Sophie Evelyn Poulton

    I’m in the third trimester with my first baby and I have depression. I had hideous morning sickness all day every day for 4 months and it has returned in the last week. I feel like I want to just send this woman all the information for the many brilliant, informative, honest mums, hypnobirthing therapists and midwives I follow on Instagram who are getting me through. Women are starting to open up about the realities of motherhood but you have to search them out. Living in the UK I think our healthcare system seems to be much better for pregnant women than what I hear of the USA. I suffer from a long term battle with depression and I yet have felt completely supported and informed of all of the things that this lady mentions, including my midwife letting me know I will probably poo during labour and that it is completely normal. My heart goes out to this woman. But if you don’t have access to a woman friendly medical service then you can use the internet. There are resources out there. You just have to look for them.

    • Kelsey Alyssa

      Where have you gotten your information for prenatal depression? When I was pregnant, I had a hard time finding anything other than a couple of medical studies on it and felt very isolated.

  • clara

    I thank you for this article. I Know about all this from books but also from my own mom’s pregnancy as my brother was born when I was 13. These topics are accesible to most women but they are not culturally acceptable so at the end of the day, the generalised idea that almost everyone has about pregnancy and motherhood is a fantastic experience full of glittering unicorns and so on. If you feel pain or you are scared you must keep it to yourself so and I am surprised about negative comments, the headline is clear: what no one tells you about having a baby. Because we all have heard the blissful maternity side.

  • Marina

    All the information you claim is not available to women can be easily found with some basic googling. Knowing your body is not mandatory, but it helps going through life (i.e., knowing what are the specific risks of being a woman, for example, doing breast self-exam, pap smears etc). It should be the norm.

    • Leah

      But that implies you have to know WHAT to google. If you’re unaware of what will happen it’s quite hard to find any specific possibilities.

      It’s why discussion of different experiences on a platform like this is so important. It’s the best way to become aware of all possibilities and how normal they can all be.

  • Lorange E

    This bit is FIRE: “I’ve heard people say, “They don’t tell you this stuff because if you knew you wouldn’t have a baby to begin with.” That’s not a reason not to give people medical, scientific information about their own bodies. There’s something inherently misogynist about it that this isn’t common knowledge.”

    It is inherently misogynist!

  • Roma

    Was the part about the abortion deleted from the post? I see it referenced in some of the comments.

  • Bethany

    This is such a sad experience. i know that the author is definitely not alone in her experience and many women have such a hard time pre and post pregnancy. however, i have to agree that the title made me believe that this was a little less of an opinion piece and more informative on birth. which, that is fine- i get that both types of articles exist on MR. It just threw me off a little.

    i think the taboo nature around pregnancy is slowly starting to wear off, but we have a ways to go. i am 25 weeks pregnant with my first and i am thankful that i do have a great support of women around me. i know there are a lot of women who do not. the biggest take away that i get is that every single pregnancy is different. you just can’t possibly fully prepare for what’s going to happen and how your body will respond. i hope that every woman feels empowered to share her story and help women to realize that the outcome for each woman are as different as the humans that WE are.

  • Abby

    I respect this woman’s personal experience. I find the bit about “subpar” care to be problematic. Would have been nice for MR to include an intro or addendum acknowledging that experts do not recommend additive procedures (like many ultrasounds) for folks with low-risk pregnancies. More isn’t better in healthcare. See: stents, opioids, antibiotics… the list goes on.

    • orthostice

      Yes! It was my understanding that it is better to have fewer ultrasounds, although I can’t claim to be any kind of medical professional.

      • BK

        completely correct. One or two ultrasounds during term is a pretty standard manoeuvre for a garden-variety pregnancy.

    • cecilrahn

      so glad you said this!!! sonograms/ultrasounds should be preformed when necessary, not when desired. I completely understand wanting to see your baby grow, but it’s not without side effects.

  • orthostice

    This interview touches on some really important issues with women and healthcare that need lots more attention, but I do have to disagree with the interviewee about one thing: it seems like nearly EVERY mother has some absolutely HORRIFIC birth story that they are dying to share. A colleague compared it to when you are about to take your driving test and every single person comes out of the woodwork with a terrifying story of how they failed their test. I don’t think it is at all secret how down right frightening birth can be.

    • Katie

      Haha! Yes, I was thinking the same thing! As soon as you are obviously showing, everyone from the Target checker to the woman behind you at the grocery store to coworkers to aunts to strangers on the streets, wants to impart some pregnancy/childbirth/raising a baby story (or horror story).

  • A

    I’m about to have my first baby and I have to say, I really wish I hadn’t read this. I wasn’t aware my medical care was subpar or that I’m severely uninformed. I guess I haven’t dedicated enough focus to how horrific the process and its aftermath will inevitably be. There is so much anxiety around childbirth as is — why not balance this article with some broader reflection, perhaps an appreciation of how miraculous and empowering the experience can also feel for women? I have been following man repeller since it was a tiny fashion blog out of Leandra’s closet, and I’m glad to see how far it’s come and grown. But I REALLY wish the editors would do some self reflecting and take a look at a lot of these think pieces. You need to consider how much of the good you’re trying to do is overshadowed by obvious and unrelatable privilege. That’s one thing with a coveted handbag most of your readers will never be able to own, another entirely when you’re delving into topics as weighty as this. Simply acknowledging your privilege, as you’ve been doing consistently since receiving some backlash, is not enough if it doesn’t start to change the way you think. More perspective, please.

    • BK

      Your care isn’t subpar! This article is misleading in that it infers having fewer sonograms and not having genetic testing etc means a pregnant woman is receiving subpar treatment. If there are no/minimal risk factors in the antepartum period, it is simply unnecessary intervention to perform continual sonograms every time a woman sees her obstetrician; it’s quite standard for many women to have only a couple, sometimes only one during the entire term. Genetic testing – well, if there’s a family history or the obstetrician feels the need to, that’s the only time it’s really required. It’s an optional extra. And you don’t need to know everything about pregnancy ever to have a baby! Some people like to research everything and prepare for every possibility, others prefer to see how it goes when they get there. Just do you and take care of yourself, feel as scared/excited as you want, get nesting, and listen to what your doctor & midwives advise. GOOD LUCK with your upcoming birth! My sister just had a little girl and she totally rocks, and I’m sure your baby will too.

      • Cara

        Yep 2 sonograms is definitely not subpar care at all. A healthy pregnancy needs very little in the way of medical support as your body is quite capable of doing it all. Your doctor would have recommended more care if they felt is was necessary. And if you read the rest of the comments, you’ll see pregnancy/birth is a super personal experience, and there are a lot of positive ones. Congrats on the new baby!

  • Kaitlin M

    Sarah, thank you for telling your story.
    It’s crazy that the events surrounding the creation of a human life – a process that it is assumed half of the population will go through – are not talked about widely and in mixed company. Sure, those lucky enough to be surrounded by groups of women with children who don’t mind sharing personal details may have heard some of this before. But some of us grew up with mothers who are afraid to acknowledge they fart, let alone talk about their prolapsed uterus. And not talking about the reality of life is not helpful for anyone. We shouldn’t need to keep the gory details of pregnancy and birth in the secret society of women. Let’s talk about it with each other, with men, with everybody.

  • I’ve never commented on this site and chances are never will again. But having just read this article and all the comments I cannot keep quiet. I am likely the same age as many of your mothers. I have a 26 year old and a 17 year old, who is off to college next year. First off the title of this piece is deeply misleading and the intro does not prepare one for what is one person’s self-described harrowing pregnancy story. The title should do something to seperate this story from many others. It’s not What No One Tells You About Having a Baby. It’s what no one could tell her because no one knows how any one person will react to every pregnancy. If I had not had a child and read this it would terrify me and for most people this is not what pregnancy is. In terms of the fancy NY Doc versus Medicaid, let’s be honest most babies since the beginning of time and in too many parts of the world today, have been born in situations where they were lucky to have running water. Giving birth is what women were constructed to do. Though granted some women have it harder than others. I was naseuous but never threw up. I was lucky. I worked up until the day before I gave birth to each child and I gained 22 pounds with each one. I was back to my normal body in six weeks. I came home from the hospital and made dinner for the baby nurse and my husband two days after giving birth. I’m telling this story as no one has bothered to do a rebuttle here, that pregnancy like everything in life is different for everyone. For most people it is not that bad. Sure, we are all vain and it’s not fun to get fat and swollen and she left out hemoridial. Hormones are on an E ride at Disneyland and just like being pre-menstral you can bounce all over the place and people do warn you about that. Watch any 90’s rom com it shows you. But the writer alludes to her own depression and clearly this kicked off something in her. Does not happen to everyone. DOES NOT. It was easier being pregnant with my first than my 2nd, but I was 32 with the first and 42 with the second. The older you get the harder it is to lug them around in there. And it’s uncomfortable and you can’t sleep the last three months and some people have to take to bed for six months in order not lose the baby. There are stories far worse than this one. Just like there are stories that are glorious. I know women who are happiest pregnant. Giving birth sucks. It’s gross, and if they gave you all the details you might think twice or pull a Kim Kardashian and have someone else have your third one for you. The writer left out the big scissors cutting your cerivx and the blood squirting all over the doctor and your husband who almost passes out. I had so many drugs I didn’t feel most of it. But what I do remember 27 and 18 years later, is being so excited throughout my pregnancy no matter how physically uncomfortable I might have been, so exicited to be making these little babies who would be my daughters. I remember doing their rooms and buying the clothes, the toys. I remember all the good and I remember very little of the bad. And it’s that way with birth. It’s why women have more than one child. Some. I do recall wishing someone had told me you will bleed for 6 weeks. And it’s one of the first things I tell people when they have a baby. Be prepared for a lot of blood. But for me the second they put both girls on my chest – the very second to be honest you are pretty spent, it’s a lot work. But once they are cleaned up and you hold them. I can’t remember a better feeling and I’ve lived a pretty extraordinary life. And raising them has been the highlight of it. I feel badly for people who have these stories. I’m sure it’s all very real for her, though it feels a bit dramatic. But people’s feelings are theirs and they are non-negotiable. I will close with this, today I took my 17- year- old for what is her final pediatric checkup, I looked at that little weighing machine where we put her 17 years ago and I thought of all the shots, the lollipops, the tears, the strep throats and the day she broke her arm at camp. And I burst into tears as it’s all over. And I have a real legitimate sadness that my kids are grown and my baby days are behind me. I let my daughther leave the room and I cired to our peditrician and said Lucy is the most wonderful person and I can’t bear that she is leaving. This might be as selfish as being pissed off at an innocent baby for giving you stretch marks. I don’t know. And she said, you are so alone in this, most people can’t wait to get rid of them so they can get divorced. I said you’re kidding. She said no. She meant it. The truth is I do know many moms who are devestated when their kids go to college and many parents who don’t get divorced. So, there are many stories and many ways we parent, we love, we attach, we don’t attach and we try to unattach. But if parenting teaches you anything, if these little messy bundles of joy, frustration, costliness headaches, worry and exhaltation teach you anything, it is, and should be uncondtional love. So your stomach sags for awhile – who cares? Nothing in the world means as much as those two girls and I would throw up for six months and have all the needles in the world stuck up my vagina for the chance to do it all over again. So, that my friends is what it looks like looking back – at least for me. Don’t waste the time you have with these babies in despair as soon they will be having babies of their own, unless they read this article and then they might not.

  • Nicole

    So much is off in this article that others have mentioned in the comments and I just want to second (with no offense to the author who is in a difficult time now). The two big ones are:
    – none of this is news to me, as someone who has never been pregnant but has friends who have. I think it’s more of a reflection on the style of your female friendships whether or not these types of things are a shock to you
    – as others have mentioned, more medical care is not always a good thing, as it relates to pregnancy and beyond. Having repeated sonograms is not necessary, and the general idea that more is better can lead to an increase of false positives and dangerous procedures being completed that risk the patient’s health

  • Kate

    Well done for writing this. Everything you just said is exactly why I’m terrified to have a baby even though if I don’t, I fear it may become my worst regret. At 35, depression has been with me since the age of 18. I’ve been depressed more than I’ve been “normal”. I don’t know if that makes me more or less prepared for all the realities you talked about but I applaud you for writing, and if you can keep doing it, I’d love to keep reading a series on this. Well done, also, for choosing not to breastfeed. Didn’t know I “could” choose that. That in itself says a lot about how pressure filled all this is. You’ve got every right to be angry. We all do.

  • Kate

    It’s so interesting that so many women are calling for balance and are unable to read the truth about another woman’s pain. You need to read it and you need to face it. It’s real and if could be you or your sister or your daughter. It’s painful and scary to take it seriously – no one wants to abandon the candy-coated fantasies of motherhood but they are not true for everyone. Maybe they haven’t even been as true for you as you so desperately need to believe they have been. I challenge you to be brave enough to hear her and accept her. You accuse her of privilege which is ironic – your own privilege is part of the reason you can’t understand her story. You don’t need to apologise for your privilege but you do need to have empathy and be brave enough to hear her.

    • KathND

      Hear, hear.

  • Rachel Swanson Ortsman

    Full disclosure, I’m 6 months post partum and identify with some aspects of Sarah’s story. As many have noted, this is one woman’s experience and a traumatic one at that. I think most pregnancy/birth experiences occupy space in the gray area between blissful and horrific, but all are uniquely personal. Every woman’s pregnancy/birth experience and emotions are valid. I just hope Sarah is getting support she seems to need – being in NYC, Seleni Institute and The Motherhood Center are amazing organizations both dedicated to pre-and post-natal mental health.

  • KathND

    I went from feeling heartened to read a super honest story of pregnancy and motherhood…

    …to feeling totally bummed about the onslaught of criticism in the comments.

    Her story and opinion is just that, and a ln intensely vulnerable one (thank you!). I’m glad to read it, as I would be glad to read a different and contrastig account. I agree with the author that there are ways that we as a culture talk about child birth, pregnancy, fertility, and motherhood that is rooted in the patriarchy and is SO inherently unfair and damaging to women (don’t get me started on maternity leave!). But to see the backlash unleashed here in the face of a single person’s account makes me sad, as I think that paradigm needs every and all female voice to be heard, not silenced.

    You don’t have to agree with everything in this story to respectfully and empathetically “see” this woman as she is, with her unique perspective. I don’t, for the record.

    Thanks, Sarah, for lending your voice and perspective to the complicated experience of pregnancy and motherhood. I’m really sorry you’re experiencing post partum depression.

  • Rachel

    I found you can have all the same feelings and experiences as the author and feel, in parallel, contentment, peace, and happiness. I had complicated pregnancies, I felt that same upending feeling of restriction and discomfort and everything being foreign and lonely and scary. My first kid was born with a disability which forever changed my conception of probability – statistics might say the chance of something occurring is 1 in 32, but in reality, everything now feels 50/50. If it can happen to someone else, it can happen to me. But all that said, I just want to hug the author of the article and tell her the best advice I got as a new mom: “this too shall pass.” Everything will find an equilibrium. She is still in the haze of newborn life and she might not enjoy it as much as she might like baby-dom, or having a toddler, or she might get along great with her kid as a teenager! Everything from here on out will always change, she can count on that. Hormones will change, challenges will change, priorities will change, friends will change, her marriage will change… No one told me about the adult diapers beforehand. No one mentioned boobs like bowling balls that caused excruciating pain from postpartum engorgement or bloody nipples because baby’s latch is wrong. Who knew breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to both baby and mom! But I hope she sees each of these things as phases and not her new normal. When her sleep comes back and her hormones normalize and she can maybe leave the baby with a sitter and have coffee with a friend or a day date with her husband or exercise (luxury!) and feel a little of her old self somewhere in her new life as a parent, I hope she feels better and starts to enjoy motherhood a bit more. Everything WILL be OK. Eventually baby fits into your family’s life and mom doesn’t feel like she needs to give up everything she has ever known and held dear in order to cater to her baby.

    • courtforce

      you are so right. what a sweet response and encouraging advice. “this too shall pass” – so simple but so apt in a situation like this.

  • Nicole

    I’ve read Man Repeller for years and have never commented on a post but felt compelled to contribute to this discussion. I’m not a mother, and I wasn’t even going to read this post, but for a moment I thought it might have some useful general advice, which it didn’t. I feel sad that this writer had such a traumatic experience, but to echo many of the other comments, it really is your own responsibility to learn about what might happen during pregnancy. The writer’s privilege, emotional immaturity and complete lack of awareness is mind-blowing and this should not have been pitched as general advice. Of course there a traumatic pregnancies; this has never been a secret! There are also great pregnancies. The two references to how awesome but clueless her partner is are also completely condescending and irritating. Lately MR seems to be increasingly making readers feel more inferior and insecure than ever, which is the exact opposite of what I thought MR was supposed to be. I get that Leandra and co. live extremely privileged lives and like to celebrate that, which is totally fine, but I guess I’m kind of upset that the one blog I ever liked has turned into something I’m no longer privileged enough to read.

  • Chaya Aizenman Wilmowsky

    Chassidic mom of three and pregnant (and crying three nights a week): This article is SO on target.
    Thank you!

  • Mhh

    As a physician, my main concern after reading this article is that this mother needs to seek professional evaluation for postpartum depression. Post partum depression is a well known, well researched, and treatable condition— unfortunately none that any of that makes it any easier. I hope she can get the help and treatment she needs.

  • isabelle

    Thank you for writing this. I gave birth three months ago and I had a very similar experience, I found it very hard too. There is definitely not enough information publicly available and the health care professionals around me (both doctors and midwives) did not give me many details or advice either. I am the first in friend group to give birth so I had heard no stories… everything I knew was from Internet research.
    The difficulties of pregnancy and child birth remain relative social taboos. This must be one of the reasons why maternity leave policies are what they are in the US… they are not designed to protect the womens’ and the childrens’ health.

  • Kasi

    Thank you for your article and your honesty. I went through exact same post partum emotions as you do now. And I am not gonna lie, it took me about 14 months to get back to the real “me”. Trust me you are not alone and this will pass.

  • Leah

    Can I write an article for you about abortion and all the things I didn’t know before I had mine? All the ways I was let down, ill-informed, made to feel isolated and alone and shameful? How terrible my body felt for almost a year afterwards, and how I was given no follow up care and ended up in hospital a month after the termination with blood poisoning?

    What is terrible in our situations is all of the things that are normal that you never knew about. I have friends who had miscarriages and still births, a friend who still hasnt really bonded with her baby. None of them had any idea how common the issues they were facing are, and so slipped in to depression for months before finding the courage to talk about it, thus finding out they were not alone.

    In anything to do with women’s reproductive systems, there seems to be a complete lack of communication as to what to expect. Addressing that is something I think we should prioritise in 2018 and being able to read about it on a site like this is where it should be happening. This is where we communicate and read about other women’s stories in the modern world!

  • Basil

    What really got me when I had my first was how trapped I felt after he arrived. My husband and I have always had a pretty egalitarian relationship, and could do the same things but after the baby arrived I was SO stuck. If my husband wanted to, he could go out for drinks, go on holiday but I couldn’t really do anything. That’s what shocked me, how restrictive having a baby is, particularly if you’re breastfeeding (and if you don’t the level of guilt you be subjected to is extraordinary). BUT it passes. I got a life back (not the same – I’ll never be the same person I was before, but that’s a good thing). I now have a newborn and this time I feel different. I know it’s only a short few months where I have someone permanently attached to me so I’m enjoying it more. I’m also way more confident
    I swear if rich white men were the ones having babies, the world would be a very different place. Maternity (or paternity) leave would start at almost the moment of conception. There would be comfortable and amazing breastfeeding places everywhere you went (instead of having to perch on random seats or go into bathrooms: had to do that once out of desperation)

  • Laura Cate

    Truly, every pregnancy is dramatically different, as well as your postpartum experience. I basically only bled for 4 days after giving birth, my stomach went down within a week, and nursing didn’t hurt at all – but I still pee when I laugh, cough, sneeze or jog, 16 month later. It’s a total toss up! I think speaking about PP depression is so important, however, and am glad the author is open about this experience. I also had an iV, my water broken by doctors, and 3rd degree tears, but didn’t find labour traumatic at all – and I have an anxiety disorder! 🤷‍♀️ Again, different for all.

  • Leah

    Amen. Thanks for sharing.

  • Verity Yeates

    Birth is so different for everyone. No story will be the same. Conception, pregnancy, birth, postnatal experiences, our individual tiny baby and how they feed, sleep, cry, react to the world are all different – all of our stories are different. But we are the same as we can understand the general experience of conception, pregnancy, birth, motherhood. It is so helpful to have people around you, especially in the early weeks and months, who are understanding. It is such an emotional time and it is certainly not something you can plan for. Who knows how your body, hormones, hair and skin will react! The important thing is to support one another thought the hard times and the good (as the song goes!). To be honest, as so many others have said, birth and motherhood are not things you can plan for – how can you know if you will be happy or sad, disappointed or elated, crying with laughter or despair? How can you plan for the good days – when a smile lights up your world, and the rough days – when you want to go back to bed, cry and be left alone? Everyone is different and no experience is wrong, good or bad, unnatural or perfect. There is an expectation that a baby will bring you love and happiness but you have to be in a good place yourself for that to (potentially) happen. And even then you might be overtaken by your hormones (bloody things!). In the UK we have NCT groups, where we niavely discuss pregnancy, birth and the post-baby experience pre-baby (although most of the post-birth teaching is rubbish for the reasons laid out previously), the main reason for going is to get to know people who are going to have babies at the same time as you. Even if you really aren’t the same kind of people, it is so important to have people you can ask about absolutely anything and can text in the middle of the night (knowing someone will be up with a screaming baby at the same time as you). This makes your experiences more manageable and you might actually laugh with each other about the horror of it all. Sharing stories of birth is also very helpful and can help you recover – but until you have gone through it yourself it is so hard to describe. As mentioned before they are all so different and it isn’t really helpful hearing the horror stories until you’ve had your baby and can think – phew thank God mine wasn’t that bad, or oh my God my labour was terrible! I am still suffering now after a forceps birth but that is my individual scenario and no-one else’s. Why worry?! We are incredibly lucky in the UK to have the NHS where care is generally quite consistent, but even here terrible mistakes are made and dreadful things happen. My advice would be, imagine your baby will come three weeks early (as mine did!), have your birth plan memorised, pack your bag, don’t plan any building work/decorating for three weeks before the baby’s born, prepare yourself for sleepless nights (rest as much as you can, haha 😂), think and plan for breastfeeding mishaps (what do you want to do? Push through if it’s not working or decide to stop? Stopping isn’t failing), buy some formula and bottles to be on the safe side (for those days where the baby won’t stop breastfeeding), get some nipple guards and nipple cream, be kind to yourself and just go with the punches, don’t feel guilty for sleeping when the baby sleeps, get your husband/partner to take charge every Saturday or Sunday, have an hour outside on your own occasionally, eat easy dinners, buy a dummy and if it works – yay! As another post said we are so lucky to have this level of care – imagine giving birth in a refugee camp or in a tiny village in a third world country. Let’s not get upset if someone’s having a tough time and feeling horrible post-baby let’s all come together and help, and understand, if we can, but also let’s not put the fear of God into every first-time pregnant woman – let’s just slightly frighten her by saying “who knows what’ll happen, but it’ll work out OK in the end”

  • Rosemary

    Wow. I feel so thankful to have read both this article and all of the comments. I have nothing to add to this topic because I’m just an unmarried, barely-20 college student with no plans to get pregnant anytime soon, but I just want to express my appreciation for all the myriad perspectives shared here. Motherhood has always been one of my greatest dreams in life and I have concurrently wondered about and feared the “gory details” and infinite possible experiences for a long, long time. I sincerely admire every woman who has gone through the process of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood and it’s been amazing to hear so much knowledge, wisdom, and experience from so many different sources here: from Sarah’s raw honesty and call for better access to women’s medical information, to the women sharing their similarly harrowing stories, to the women calling for balance and reminding hopeful future mothers that

  • beckly

    Sarah, hang in there. The first few months are hard. It will get better. The thing about becoming a mother is there’s this massive loss of control over your autonomy. You lose your old body and your old life and it occurs through the often traumatic event of birth. If we’re raised with the privilege to believe we can have it all, and be in charge of our lives, it can feel like a massive betrayal, like “this is not what I signed up for!”. I remember crying a lot and feeling like I’d actually disappeared – scary. I was so tired I was hallucinating. But mothering is like training muscle – you gain strength through stress. You get on top of it. And often you choose to do it again! Hang in there.

  • Cynthia

    The author of this article sounds like she really did not read one thing before or even while she was pregnant. I know all pregnancies are different and her experience is nothing like what I am experincing. She also sounds like she was dealing with a lot of anxiety throughout her pregnancy which should have been addressed by a doctor. I would read this and understand this is her experience and this my not what you as a reader would go through if/when you have a baby. Everyone is different and has their own unique experience.

  • Stephanie

    Late to the comments again (I also have a baby so I tend to binge read on the weekends when I can catch a breath), but I agree with the comments about being surprised by the negativity of the comments. The author didn’t have the rainbows and sunshine pregnancy experience that some people are lucky enough to get, and that’s okay. It was her experience and it was her truth. As a fellow new mom, there is enough judgment out there, what we need is support. Sarah, I’m sorry you had such a difficult pregnancy. You are not alone. Also, I didn’t know about the 6weeks bleeding thing until I took a childbirth class.

  • Kelsey Alyssa

    I appreciated aspects of this article – I am just over 9 months post-partum and have just started to really feel at home in my body. It takes a long time to get back to normal, and the process can be challenging! My postpartum care was limited to my doctor asking me if I was getting enough sleep.
    While some parts of this are scary, I think it is good to have as many resources talking about the down sides as there are talking about the good sides. So many baby gloss over things – I remember my pregnancy app saying, “you might feel a bit down during the next few weeks” when I was experiencing suicidal ideation. There was almost no information on it, aside from two studies (I recently searched again and there does seem to be more information now, which is fantastic). I felt alone and worthless.
    Please remember that having a group of female friends is a privilege that not everyone has. It can be easy to assume a woman has at least a couple mothers in their circle, but many don’t! I was adopted and the first of my friends to have a baby. No one that I was comfortable talking to knew anything about the experience.
    I do agree that more needs to be discussed about diastasis and postpartum healing in general. About 7 months in, I could tell my abdominal wall was splitting and it was very sore. I asked my doctor about it and she said it was normal. No other information. The only reason I learned so much was from doing a lot of reading. I also had an episiotomy and had an extremely painful healing process, which I knew nothing about. Even reading online did not prepare me for the pain I had experienced for six weeks. Even months later I had sore scar tissue and it is just balancing out.
    Obviously this is one woman’s experience, and she is still in the process of healing. I can understand that some think this article is too biased or opinionated, but I think all discussion of these issues is good.

  • People think I’m strange (a monster, too) but I’ve always known that children are not for me, pregnancy is not for me.
    I was waiting to have my hair cut, years ago, and I basically read all the magazines available at the hairdresser’s (who was very late) so I read an article about pregnancy and childbirth. When she finally called me to wash my hair I felt kind of nauseous and realized, even more, that pregnancy is not for me.
    I think it’s so unfair that all the burden is on women while men only have the pleasing part of having a baby.
    I hope the woman of the article will be better soon because I felt sad for her.
    People always talk about pregnancy as if it was a gift, something magic, because they’re hypocrite and misogynist. Only a small percentage of women have easy pregnancies and deliveries.

    The adult diapers thing. I remember I saw Kim Kardashian in a KUWTK’s episode (I don’t watch it but for some reason I saw a part of it on an online magazine) where she said that nobody told her about bleeding for months and she wasn’t happy about it.

  • Hannah

    Dear ManRepeller — what is the value in offering only one viewpoint of a vast and multifaceted life transition? Your goal of educating more women is missed in only sharing one story.

  • Mols

    I’m always shocked at how little public education there is on pregnancy. My high school health class “covered” pregnancy solely by presenting a chart following fetal growth. When I’ve brought up this lack of education in conversation–usually mid-parley into the “are you going to have children?” discussion–the general response is “no one is ever really prepared to have children.” So there can be an attitude that the experience is so profound/individual, that you can never really be prepared (with a strong implications that there’s no point in trying). Of course, brace for whiplash when teenage pregnancy comes up. So apparently our culture does have standards for when someone is “ready” to have baby, but education doesn’t seem to rank highly on it.
    At the heart of it though, I think society takes women’s bodies for granted. Pregnancy is seen as a natural extension of cis-female biology; even an obligation. Not something that takes real work or engenders risk or is a process we need to or even can prepare for. Yet medically speaking, there are things to know, especially given the high rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity (which collectively affect the majority of American women and can cause serious complications). Other common conditions like asthma, depression, eating disorders, and STDs, also can have effects how a woman handles pregnancy and outcomes. Can this information exactly predict your experience? No. But can it help you make informed decisions about your health and pregnancy? Yes!
    Learning about pregnancy isn’t about trying to standardize the experience; it’s about becoming more aware of the range of experiences. I don’t think it’s presumptuous or futile to prepare yourself by doing some research pregnancy–talk to a doctor about pregnancy and your medical profile &/or read up on the variety of experiences that women have had (socially, emotionally, and physically). Again, prep isn’t about knowing exactly what’s going to happen. It’s not about being psychic. It’s about being aware.

  • Addie

    yes, I totally and utterly relate. Down to how I reacted when they put the baby on me after birth down to the peeing when I get up to not even recognizing my body anymore even though I am back to the same weight I was before– nothing is really in the same place as it was before. I actually read this article and wondered if I wrote it at some stage earlier on and just forgot. Thank you for putting this out here..

  • Compe Brothez

    Hats off to women who choose to put their bodies thru this, having known since i was 12 that i never wanted kids, and after seeing what pregnancy does to your body, (thru nursing school,) no thanks, I have had so many patients who have not a clue of all of the after issues of pregnancy, i wish that someone would tell them.

  • Susanne Frehoff

    Reading this makes me really sad. I live in Germany where every pregnant women is entitled to a pregnancy class, led by a midwife. This is covered by health insurance. We learned about all these problems you mentioned above in our class where we could talk openly. There are classes for women only or classes which you can take with your partner. I went there with my husband and it helped him understand more about how pregnancy and birth (and caring for a baby) fells like for women. After birth your midwife will visit you at home for a couple of weeks and help you with any problems. I think it’s important that there is someone who helps you and understands you and often we don’t have family or friends who have enough experience.

  • Njchickalways Smith

    I have been married for a year and a half.. people are down my throat about having a baby…I know myself and I know that it’s not for me..they look at me as if I am crazy..but people.. even family don’t know you..they can’t understand who you are really. I know I could manage it.. every one else does but are they really happy? I am an anxious person..I have high blood pressure..I need to control my stress and relax…I don’t think adding body change and a baby will help me. It’s ok..I can adopt one day… there are options..but for me child birth isn’t for me…

  • Em83

    Hi. So i am hoping to one day be a mom, but it’s not happened for me yet & the thought of not being able to ever have kids is completely terrifying. That said, i read this and can tell there is more going on in this & that even the title is coming from a distorted view. In the piece she said she didn’t have “that type of depression” and the entire description of her pregnancy basically had the banner of anxiety/depression over it. It makes me sad (especially with such good healthcare) that her mental health wasn’t cared for. My hope if she reads this is that she will see that depression is a total mind-fuck. You never think that’s what you have, you think you can get it in control, and you literally spin your wheels & wonder why everything (literally everything) feels so hard. Crying about losing her mom, the mental breakdown, l just hate that people didn’t step in for her. I realize I’ve not experienced pregnancy and childbirth, depression is depression is depression, and my hope is she will take the time to get some help & maybe medication since she’s not breastfeeding. This just made me so sad. Our country has to start treating mental health as physical health, & we have to start watching our loved ones and advocating for them.

  • MrsA

    I had a horrid pregnancy and a horror story of a birth. I had pelvic girdle pain and was on crutches throughout. The birth, in November 2017, was similar to this… induced with the giant knitting needle to break waters then induced with oxytocin drip that was just awfully painful that I can not describe. Then turned out, after 20 hours and 2 hours of pushing, my baby was just too big and I had to have an episiotomy and forceps, which look like giant tennis rackets that go inside me to pull the baby out. I was in hospital for 2 weeks having blood transfusions and was just traumatised. My husband was traumatised. He now has post natal depression/ptsd and I’m left with a mild prolapse as a suvenier. (No one ever talks about prolapses but I’ve discovered they’re so common. Mega shit. But very common.)

    My 9lb1oz baby is the best thing in my life, he’s amazing.

    But fuck that was a horror story. One that I will never get over.

  • verena

    The red tent!