Pregnant with my second child and determined to take control of something, I popped into Jiffy Lube for an oil change. My serviceman was a woman named Ali. She looked fabulous in a blue jump suit with a smudge of grease on her cheek.
“How far along are you?” she asked, motioning towards my protruding belly.
“Just about 20 weeks,” I replied.
“Half way there,” I added cheerily, trying a bit too hard to sound optimistic.
“I have an 18-month -old at home,” Ali shared, “I can remember feeling like I would be pregnant forever.”
Before I could say as much as an “Amen,” she continued:
“People who say pregnancy is a beautiful thing need to be slapped.”
And, just like that, Ali became my favorite person in the whole world.
I hated being pregnant. I’m well aware there are women out there who would do anything to be pregnant. How can I, someone who’s apparently as fertile as a guinea pig, someone who gave birth to two beautiful, healthy daughters, complain?
Yet keeping silent feels false. It feels as if I’m advancing the myth that pregnancy is second nature for every woman, a blessed joyride, the ultimate signifier of true womanhood.
I didn’t expect pregnancy to be easy, but I never expected it to be hell.
Around six weeks in, both times, I woke up with what felt to me like a the residual effects of an alcohol, tobacco -fueled all-nighter. Nausea oozed from every pore, yet I knew I needed to eat. It was as if there was a monster deep within me that fed on emptiness.
I adopted the posture of Quasimodo. Dragging myself to work and back each day was a major accomplishment, rewarded with a twelve-hour nap. If my husband wanted to eat, he needed first to go to the store for groceries (supermarkets repelled me), then prepare himself anything that didn’t require cooking. If he did cook, even a single slice of onion or roasted pork chop, I would sit up in my bed like the Bride of Frankenstein and moan, “You’re killing me.”
It didn’t take me long to learn that hating being pregnant was not something you admit to or talk about:
“How do you feel?” a female co-worker consistently asked me each morning during my first pregnancy as I shuffled into the office with a forced smile on my face.
“Like an old, colicky horse that needs to be put down,” I finally answered one day.
“Don’t you dare say that!” she scolded. “What if the baby hears you?”
This woman, a mother herself, was one of those suspicious creatures who claim to feel great during pregnancy. She could not empathize. Instead, she chastised.