Pregnancy's Emotional Roller Coaster (cont.)
"What I tell patients ahead of time is, 'Look, you're not going to feel the same during pregnancy as you did before, so you and your spouse have to recognize that how you respond to a circumstance when you're pregnant may be different from how you responded before,'" Ling says.
When Debra Sherman was pregnant, the typically unemotional Chicago business journalist would burst into tears at the slightest provocation, even a TV newscast she watched about a dog killed in an accident. "It could be anything -- happy or sad," she says.
Sometimes she had no idea why; other times she knew exactly, like the time she and her husband were looking at graphic books on childbirth at a bookstore. "That was fear. I was crying because I didn't think I could do it," says Sherman, who gave birth to 8-pound, 15-ounce Alex on May 5.
Sherman's experiences are common. "Part of it is that you're just in such an open, raw state," Issokson says. "You're growing another life. What could be more powerful and sacred? It opens people to loss and vulnerability in ways they've never known."
One of the best tactics to manage your anxieties and fears is to find other people (your partner included) with whom you can share those feelings, whether it's an exercise or childbirth, heart-to-hearts with friends or family members who will listen without trying to fix, or even structured sessions with a therapist, experts say.
"I encourage people to ask very specific questions of other women," Issokson says. "Don't just say, 'How was your pregnancy?' but 'How were you feeling when you felt the baby kick?' or 'What were you feeling on the days when you were really tired?'" Journal writing or reading books about all aspects of pregnancy can help.
Books that explore the emotional aspect of pregnancy include "Journey into Motherhood; Writing Your Way to Self-Discovery," by Leslie Kirk Campbell; "Excited, Exhausted, Expecting: The Emotional Life of Mothers-to-Be," by Arlene Modica Matthews; "The Girlfriends' Guide to Pregnancy, or Everything Your Doctor Won't Tell You," by Vicki Iovine; and Louden's "The Pregnant Woman's Comfort Book."
Love, Anger and Everything in Between
When author Jennifer Louden was pregnant with her daughter, Lillian, she spent a lot of time talking to her belly, not just to coo adoringly, but to reassure and apologize. "I'd say, 'You know, I'm really happy you're here, and I'm sorry I'm feeling ambivalent,'" Louden recalls.
"I was feeling ambivalent about this huge change to my life," Louden admits. "That whole sense of freedom to direct our lives, to use our time the way we want. ... We're never going to be undivided again."
Conflicting emotions during pregnancy can be particularly common for women who have developed successful professional careers. "They're more conscious of the huge amount of sacrifice," she says. "Before we might have been in our 20s and thought that having a child was one of our biggest creative outlets. For a lot of women it's an essential part of life, but it's not the key so much anymore."