The second I saw that positive pregnancy test, life changed. Before, when I looked down, I saw my body. But now, the body I had used for years as a virtual amusement park for my own entertainment and emotional regulation, now was a vessel for growing a baby? The girl who had attended 9 Coachella Valley Music Festivals, 3 Burning Man Festivals, and hundreds of concerts and other San Francisco indulgence events suddenly couldn’t go wine tasting, or use weed, food, or any other substance to change my mood? I was now sharing my body with another human. Holy shit!
Everything I put into my body now mattered, especially during early pregnancy. I now needed to Google everything to find out – is it safe for pregnancy? I needed to adopt a new pregnancy diet, give up high mercury fish, lunch meat, and other foods.
When I thought about being pregnant earlier in life, I assumed that giving up alcohol and substances during pregnancy or anything else would be easy. You’re pregnant; you don’t have a choice. But I didn’t calculate in the “adjustment period”.
The first time I hung out with my partying friends, driving their drunk-asses around, I realized how hard this was going to be. Nine months suddenly felt like an eternity! Social events changed, I suddenly noticed how much I’d used alcohol to grease the wheels of social interactions, and how anxious I felt without it.
The hardest, but most interesting moment was when I realized that I needed to find a new way to cope with emotional pain. For me, most of my emotional pain is self-inflicted. I feel guilty if I don’t accomplish enough, I feel bad if I don’t live up to certain self-imposed standards. And that self-abuse caused downward emotional spirals. Before, when I was in one of these spirals, or felt overwhelmed or anxious, I had a glass of wine, or smoked, or took a melatonin and went to bed. Now, none of that was available to me. I needed a new path out.
It’s interesting, some of the most difficult times are also some of the best in your life. When baby girl became the most important thing to me, I realized that my self-abuse was causing stress. My stress was her stress, my emotional battles were her emotional battles. She felt what I felt. This had to stop.
The road was not straight. During the first trimester I was an f-ing mess. Morning sickness and depression ruled my days. But through all of that, I found something I had forgotten about – self-compassion, love, and acceptance of myself, even when I don’t have it all together.
As women, we think we need to have it all together. Whatever causes your stress, whether it’s self-abuse, anxiety, worry, or being overworked or overwhelmed, to “have it all together” many of us have to use crutches. Alcohol, drugs (prescription or otherwise), and food become the cornerstone of our “having it all together” strategy. We numb out. We run from pain. Even if you’re not an alcoholic or addicted to substances, how many times have you used a glass of wine or something else to make the day go away? We don’t think about them as crutches, but suddenly when they’re taken away abruptly with pregnancy, we’re forced to re-evaluate our strategies. And to make matters worse, there is no transition period. There is just the positive pregnancy test and boom, no more crutches.
I think one of the best things I did for myself was to use pregnancy as a period of self-reflection, a time to re-learn new strategies for dealing with my emotional roller coasters. When I fell into bad downward spirals, I started to look for new ways to calm myself down, to deal with bad moods, to de-stress, and to cheer myself up. But the funny thing that I realized during pregnancy – I don’t have it all together! And it’s OK! I don’t have to beat myself up for it!
It’s OK to not have it all together. I think the notion that we have to have anything together, emotionally or otherwise, is what creates stress for us and for our babies. We worry that we’re overreacting, we worry that we’re in a bad mood, we feel we need to change it.
It’s okay to feel like crap sometimes. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. It’s okay to be angry and want to throw a carton of Greek yogurt at your husband. It’s okay to be sad. The sadness, the anger, the overwhelm, the “overreacting,” it’s inevitable, especially with the hormonal changes. And guess what, it passes. We don’t have to use crutches to change our mental state and we don’t have to beat ourselves up for it. We just have to ride the wave and accept ourselves, no matter what’s happening.
With this realization, I feel so much stronger emotionally than before pregnancy. Pregnancy is a shit show for emotions, and sometimes you don’t know which way is up. I like describing myself as emotional. Yes, I “overreact” sometimes – but who doesn’t? I like who I am. When I occasionally go off the rails, I always come back on. I’m an emotional creature. I’m a woman. Thank God! THAT, my lovelies – is self-acceptance.
How did you adjust to pregnancy and giving up alcohol or other no-no’s?