I feel as though I am finally coming out of the fog of this treacherous pregnancy, and with that, I am feeling a little haunted + blown away at how bad it really was. I mean, I knew it was bad, but now that I am feeling like myself, now that I have caught my breath I can see with much more clarity at the whirlwind that has taken place these past 6 months and 1 week.
I want to document this journey partly because writing is healing for my soul, partly because I want to remember it all, and partly because, like in all things in life, our world seems to want to brush over the pain, package it up into a “enjoy every moment” parcel, slap a positive quote on it, and de-value the darkness. I have found this to be true in so many avenues of life, but in the venue of pregnancy I have been absolutely baffled at the lack of support + understanding, and further: the judgment in this community.
So many humans have ‘best-intentioned advice’ and offer it unsolicitedly, likely unaware of the true impact of their words. I know you come from a good place, I know the advice is meant to cheer a pregnant lady up, I know it’s hard to watch a human struggle, but so often this well-meaning, unasked-for advice diminishes a humans experience, it invalidates a woman's truth, and in pregnancy it makes us feel like ‘bad mothers’ and shitty women.
I know that’s how so many of your well-intentioned words hit me.
But the thing is, I didn't ask for advice, I don’t need a pep talk. Well intentioned advice may be just that - well intentioned - but it can come across to the receiver as unsupportive + dismissive, and further it’s isolating for the human who is in pain, or the women who bares the babe that is struggling to hold it together.
Trust me, those of us with rough pregnancies would change it and “enjoy the fleeting moments’ if we could. Trust me, we would find deep solace and excitement in the weekly app updating us on the size and development of our babies if we could. And trust me, we would form a fucking bond the with baby in our bellies if we could. This was not my experience. The app scared the shit out of me - week after week I got to open it up to solidify that not only was some alien-like creature growing inside of me, but that there were further forms of pressure that suggested I should feel connected, excited, and in awe at the divine miracle of life. I didn't feel connected to the baby in me, I felt hatred for it, I despised it, I would have walked away from my egg if I could - that’s the truth, that’s what it was like for me.
Yes, I did feel like a shitty human, a subpar woman
Yes, I did feel infinite amounts of guilt.
And then I was reminded again and again to “just enjoy it”, I was reminded that “there are many gifts to pregnancy”, and that “the 2nd trimester will be better”. And while those may be true from some, it wasn't for me, I didn't enjoy it, and I failed to see the gifts. Combine the fact that I was falling completely short of what society says “good motherhood” should look like, mixed it with skyrocketing hormones and paralyzing sickness, as well as the total loss of the personality I usually have and this became a recipe for my sanity slipping fast.
Please do not suggest to me that the darkness I am drowning in - that may I add, I cannot control due to the way my body reacted to copious amounts of hormones - is wrong, ill-worded, or ‘could be done differently’.
I hated it.
I was told that ‘hate is a strong word’, I was told that I ‘would be prayed for in order to alleviate me from the feeling of hate’. Wow, thanks for your prayers + judgment; how about instead of telling me that I am not correct in how I feel, how about offering an ear, reminding me that it’s ok to feel how I feel. How about you stop projecting your experience onto me and then judging my path when I fall short of your expectations?
I know you mean well, I can see that, but I’m here to let you know that anything other than listening to what an experience is like for another human isn't helpful. Devaluing a feeling, or asserting that your beliefs on ‘what is’ and ‘what is not’ an appropriate word to describe my emotions is unwelcomed, you don’t get to tell me that how I feel is too big, too harsh, or too wrong.
The more I talked about my dark pregnancy experience out loud, the more women who flooded in with stories that screamed: “ME TOO”. It blew.me.away. The shame, the trauma, the women with unhealed wounds because ‘she ought to have found the beauty, miracle, and connection’; in her pregnancy - but didn't, pained me. I was floored at the vast number of women who suffered in this supposed ‘magical time’, why are we not giving voice to the darkness? Well, I can see why… it’s a dangerous community to be real in, but I think it’s time to change that. There is beauty in the darkness, and amazingly enough, so many women struggle through this deep initiation, it is actually super dark for a lot of women. Could you imagine the healing that would take place if we held back on our “make it pretty” attitude, and instead shared the truth of our experience?
Our experiences in the journey of pregnancy are different - your experience doesn't have to be mine, and further - there is nothing bad, or shameful, or wrong about a dark and painful initiation into motherhood. Nothing at all. There is beauty in the light, and there is beauty in the dark.
It's a lesson for the humans who loved it.
It’s a lesson for those of us who hated it.
Do not tell me one is better than the other, do not tell me how to navigate my truth, or that my truth would be better if I worded it a little sweeter, if I quieted my voice, or if I kept it neater. I can roar when roaring feels right, do not tell me I am too loud.
Isn't growing a human natural for a woman? Why then does it feel like my woman body is failing to do her job, why is she in fight or flight, why is she wanting to abort the mission? Why does it hurt so bad? Why is it so dark? If this is natural, why does it feel so painfully foreign, so utterly wrong? My body felt like it was rejecting what was supposed to be a magical + natural experience. Maybe motherhood isn't for me. Maybe I was not meant to bare a baby. If I was, wouldn't it feel more ‘meant to be’?
But it didn't, it was like a parasite, it felt like I was dying, or losing my sanity, and all the while you reminded me over and over again that I should be finding the beauty, that I should try to enjoy it. You affirmed through your well-intentioned-unsolicited advice that yes, I was falling short, doing it wrong, failing to rise to the occasion.
Let me tell you what pregnancy has been like, now I know it’s not like this for everyone, I know I fell in the small percentage of women that got served this severity of symptoms, but I want to share with you exactly what this experience felt like.
For the 1st 9 weeks, I was 100% bedridden. I woke up in the morning with breathtaking panic attacks that would have me in uncontrollable tears for 1-2 hours. It wasn't because I was scared, it was hormonal and overwhelmingly intense. I did all I could to manage it, food, prayer, breath. I set alarms and woke up in the middle of the night to eat a snack to hopefully try to control blood sugar levels - nothing helped. After the panic attack would pass I would sit in the couch for the entire rest of the day - too sick to move a muscle. I was more nauseous than ever in all of my life, and yet the second my blood sugar dropped another panic attack would come. Breathless. Frightening. All consuming. All I could stomach was olives and sandwich meat, and that’s only if I could make it to the kitchen to get it. My skin was pale and almost grayish green, my eyes became vacant, I was just an empty, anxious shell of a human. I had no idea where Kori went.
I was reminded to ‘enjoy it’.
The world congratulated me.
And then I was told that I came out and told the world ‘too soon’; “don’t you know, Kori, that you should really wait until 12 weeks to share the news”.
Was I doing it wrong?
Telling the world helped me process the pain I was in, ‘enjoying’ the insanity of my mindset and the debilitating sickness seemed an impossible task.
Was I excited to meet this baby, feeling the rush of congrats from the people?
No, not at all.
I was scared shitless at how I felt.
I couldn't leave my own house - every km further away from home I got, the anxiety kicked in bigger, and deeper, and more enormous. So I stayed home. I couldn't work. I couldn't coach. I couldn't be around humans. Grocery stores - the place I usually find peace - were overwhelming, the smell made me want to vomit, the lights were too bright, the hustle of the people drove me over the edge, straight into the seat of panic. I couldn't cook because all the smells had intensified infinity and everything made me want to vomit.
From week 9 to week 24 I started to be able to leave the house, which was a great relief as I needed to get to recovery meetings to try to maintain sanity. My slipping sanity scared me deeply, I have worked so, so hard to find an equilibrium in my soul and brain - did pregnancy destroy that? Would I ever feel sane again, or was this my new norm? I quickly slipped into some dark and all-consuming depression and uncontrollable anxiety.
To be totally honest with you (and yes, I know some of you will gasp in horror at this truth) I wanted to end the pregnancy. I felt with all of my heart that I was not cut out for this, the pain was too severe, I hated the human growing in me, and I hated myself for wanted to get pregnant - what a fucking dumb idea. I refrained from researching abortions until one day I found myself on google researching how late I could make that choice, asking the ultrasound doc what it would look like and confiding in my amazingly supportive husband that I really was not sure I was cut out for this.
Abortion. I didn't want an abortion, but the paralyzing pain of this was too much, or so it felt. I knew if I were to walk from this baby I would be haunted for all of the days left on this earth, I knew it felt wrong, but it also felt right, and also like the only way out. I felt guilty that I felt that way, I felt like a bad woman, a shitty mother. I knew this baby had a soul and I feared the feeling I was giving to her, I didn't want her to feel unwanted, and yet I didn't want this anymore, it was too much.
And then you continued to remind me how wonderful it is that I am pregnant, you reminded me, again and again, to enjoy it, that it was such a gift.
I know you meant well, I really do, but while you wished me well and pushed me to ‘see the joy’, I was completely unraveling in a world of hormones, pain, sickness, and guilt.
Was I the only woman on the planet that couldn't manage to do bare a baby.
Christmas came; we celebrated our city hall marriage; family flew in from all over the world, and what was a celebration I should have loved, I hated. I hated having people around and I felt so guilty at that. It was all too overwhelming for me, I smiled and tried to show like I was ok, but inside I wasn't and I had no idea how to navigate this tender, foreign, frightening space. We went to Vegas and nothing felt more horrible that feeling unable to participate - sure, I was there in person, but like swift disassociation, I was not there in my mind or soul. Vegas was hell on earth for me - a road trip which made me want to vomit -- malls, and bustle, and lights, and smells, it was just too much. It was a family trip though, and I had no idea how bad it would feel for me. I could not keep up energetically, emotionally I was off, mentally I was on another planet.
All the while you people continued to tell me ‘to enjoy pregnancy, it only lasts a short time’. I wanted to scream. I wanted to scream at you, at your well-meaning advice, at god, at the world, and my body. I just wanted to feel like myself, I just wanted to the darkness to go away - give me the sickness, I’ll take the vomiting, but please give me my sanity back, please tell me this will pass.
Nothing has scared me more than feeling like I lost my sanity again. After a lifetime of depression, anxiety, addiction, abuse, suicidal thinking, fantasizing about death, self-harm - finally - after seriously hard work - I was beginning to feel sane. Pregnancy seemed to have swept in robbed sanity from me, I was back to square one - just a crazy lady drowning in the abyss of darkness...again.
More truth you will likely gasp at: all I wanted to do was drink. Drinking in pregnancy is obviously not a good idea, and drinking as a recovering alcoholic is also a horrible plan, but I knew King Alcohol would ease the pain, I knew he would take away the darkness - at least for a moment, and a moment is all I wanted. Something deeper in me knew that if King Alcohol was invited back to my party he likely would appoint me as his slave, the darkness would triple in intensity and I would be a goner.
Pregnancy is magical and ‘hate’ is such a strong word, Kori.
Wait until the baby kicks, that will change everything.
The 2nd trimester is better.
Try to enjoy it, you will miss it when it passes.
Fantasizing about abortion, trying to steer clear of the urges to drink, falling into darkness as dark as I had ever known - this was my truth, and you insisted on trying to toss glitter onto a woman who was drowning in pain and struggling to hold it together.
Losing my mind.
I wanted no humans near me.
I fought with my husband, I was difficult to be around, I ached intensely on the inside.
I watched 5-9 hours of Netflix a day, I couldn't work out, or eat well. My diet consisted of salt and vinegar chips and french fries. I couldn't stomach my prenatal vitamins, vegetables were 100% out of the question, and I feared that holistic Kori had died and that I would birth a baby with severe nutritional defects. And even though I vocalized this, humans still persisted on with the reminder how how important good nutrition and hydration was, and how much my baby needed the nutrients I would get from prenatals; you don't think I fucking know this? I am aware, believe it or not, of what a growing fetus needs, I am well educated in human nutrition. I was keenly aware of what was missing diet wise, I was filled to the brim with guilt and shame at what had become of my diet, and the danger the world told me I was putting this child in. All I wanted was my usual healthy diet, but my body rejected it with nausea so intense that I had no choice but to comply. Salt and vinegar chips and french fries it was.
My sex drive confused me. Higher than ever one day and ‘get the hell away from me’ the next. I bounced around the scale emotionally, still totally unable to coach clients, to show up for work, the make it through much of anything in my days. I told all humans to stay away from our house - no more coffee dates here, no more Friday dinners, just keep away. It took a toll on our marriage, it was isolating, painful, dark, and it was all I knew to do to grasp any last straw of sanity still remaining. Making the bed overwhelmed me, walking the dogs tired me, and the world just remained black. I got tooth infections, ear infections, yeast infections. I had never had a health issue in my life and now suddenly I had all the issues.
But, aren't you so excited to meet your baby?
Make sure you take lots of bump pictures, you will want those one day.
Try to enjoy it, it only lasts a while.
Why can’t anyone see that I am drowning? Why do you keep telling me to enjoy this time?
Other pregnant women I know were so excited, they felt such a strong connection to their babies, they prepped nurseries and shopped. They felt a deep love and connection.
I didn't feel any of that.
Was I excited?
Not at all.
And that was my truth.
I felt horrible about it even without the world reminding me how I ‘ought to feel’ about it.
About 2 weeks ago something shifted, the world came into color, the panic lifted, the depression vanished. This week I felt my 1st real connection to the human growing in me - I felt love, like real fierce love. My heart softened. 2 weeks ago I fell into total despair on my couch, it had all become too much - what was becoming of me? Would this ever pass? Will motherhood suck, and now I am stuck with a human to raise?
Ever so gently one of my long time mentors reminded me that all things change, nothing lasts forever, and that my abyss of self-pity and fear was enormously selfish. Something snapped when she delivered that truth to me - something about her words, her love, the way she truly validated me and simultaneously pushed me to new heights directed me into the hands of acceptance, it was likely also much easier for me to swallow as her words had nothing to do with pregnancy.
This is my ‘pose’ right now, this is what life has for me. I can either resist it or surrender into it - that choice is mine, the pose, however, is not my choice. I am where I am, life has me doing what life needs me doing. I’m guessing that parts of why I was able to surrender on the couch 2 weeks ago as opposed to any other day in the past 6 months may have partly had to do with my own stubbornness + thinking, but also… hormones. I think this pregnancy and the death feeling of it all can be largely attributed to how my physiology reacted to the onslaught of hormones, and perhaps they shifted in these past few weeks enabling me to finally think a little clearer and see life in color again.
Perhaps it was a combo of the shift in hormones, the steadfast recovery work + prayer, the tough truths I got that afternoon 2 weeks ago, the “4th trimester” book I have been reading, or whatever the heck else it was, but something moved and changed and I was able to find some space for peace.
Today I feel acceptance, I feel excited to meet this human, I love baby kicks, and I am enjoying slowly by surely adding Brussels Sprouts and Kale back into my life. I found candy prenatals, and flavored omega 3’s, and I’m learning that flexibility right now is strength; I have to lean into what these moments are asking of me; yes the ‘usual Kori’ would opt out of candy supplements, but this isn't the ‘usual time’ and so flexibility is required. The more I can lean into what shows up, the greater peace I have. Things at home are smoother, I am more willing to be near other humans, and panic has not taken over me even once for weeks now. I’m ok with slow days, I have accepted that coaching clients and working is straight up on the back burner for now - until the universe gives me a green light again.
My focus is totally on leaning into what is true and real for me moment to moment.
And I can breathe again.
Today I am feeling grateful, scared to death of postpartum, and softer in all edges of my heart.
So here’s my point:
If you want to be there for a pregnant lady who is struggling - or for any human being in any situation - do not tell them how to feel, just bite your tongue, keep your mouth shut, open your ears and just listen. Don’t tell her to enjoy it, don’t tell her that the moments are fleeting and should be remembered fondly, do not tell her that she is wrong in how she feels. Humans have the right to process life as they do, in their truth, as real and raw and uncomfortable as it may be to watch. Do not diminish a dark experience as if to say that only light has value - it doesn't, there are enormous gems in darkness and none of us should feel wrong when we arrive in the pits of the shadow. Pregnancy and the rite of passage from maiden to mother is deeply personal, it’s not roses for all of us, it’s pain, and goo, and torture for some of us. Some of us abort pregnancies over it, it’s that painful. Some of us lose our minds, or attempt to kill our babies in the postpartum - it’s powerful. If you actually want to be of service, if you actually want to be supportive and help humans along their dark paths learn to listen to them, stop telling them how to live their lives, and bite your tongue with well-meaning advice unless you have been asked.
To the humans of the world who are in pain, I see you.
To the women who have birth trauma, who have truths that have been buried away due to criticism from the human race, I see you. I stand with you. You have every right to process your life and your experience the way your soul needs to, and you have nothing to feel bad about.