Oh how I have been struggling to write this one!
When I started this blog my plan was to share some of my insights based on my experiences dealing with mental health issues but lately I have been going through some pretty big changes and to be honest I feel like I don’t have much insightful advice to offer at the moment because I’m still trying to figure it all out.
So let me just start by announcing that I am pregnant! I am excited and grateful to be expecting a little baby yogini at the end of May.
I’ve just reached the halfway mark in my pregnancy now and not surprisingly I have been faced with some big, unexpected, uncontrollable changes along the way. Already this baby has been challenging me both mentally and physically and for the most part, I must admit, it has not been super easy.
I’ve never seen myself as someone who is afraid of changes. I’ve spent the better portion of my life analyzing, reflecting and trying to improve my mental health and overall way of being which has called for many changes on many occasions in almost every aspect of my life (relationships, career, living situation, etc…). It was sometimes scary but I’ve always faced up to change with a certain amount of courage and even excitement knowing that these new ways of living or being will only help to improve my life. But to be completely honest, I’ve always had big fears about the effects that pregnancy and postpartum would have on my mental health and whether it was even responsible of me to have a child knowing that I am a prime candidate for postpartum depression and there’s also a chance that I could pass on my mental illness to my offspring.
I got married at a pretty young age and many people wondered if it was because I wanted to start a family asap and be a young mother, but in fact I just enjoyed being a young, married couple, without kids, “living the life” sort of speak lol! I often said that I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to have children at all or perhaps I’d be better off adopting. I really felt unsettled about the whole “starting a family” thing.
Over the past year I spent a lot of time thinking about it and discussing it with my family members, friends and my doctors and I finally came to terms with the fact that while I may be a prime candidate for postpartum depression, I am also way more prepared for this possibility than most. I put a plan in it to place before even trying to get pregnant: I met with my therapist and discussed all the possibilities, I found myself a obgyn that is well versed in pregnancy and mental health issues, I met with a perinatal psychologist in case medications needed to be managed in any way and I made sure that my closest family members were aware that I will likely need extra support if or when I were to get pregnant.
I cannot yet speak to what postpartum life will be like but I have already lived through many, many changes both physically and mentally and almost every day I am faced with a new challenge or transformation. So far, pregnancy for me has been a lot less “glowing” and “radiant” feeling and lot more “nauseous”, “tired” and “unsettled” feeling.
BIG physical changes have obviously occurred and continue to do so. Besides the 7-8 weeks of 24-hour nausea and exhaustion that I went through, my ever-changing outward appearance continues to be a huge challenge for me. I lived with body dysmorphia for many years and have always had a lingering self-conscious feeling about my body size (especially when it comes to my belly) so watching my body grow and expand has been difficult to say the least.
I’ve also noticed that while some people appreciate my very honest take on these things, others feel a little offended or let down that I’m not beaming with joy or super enthusiastic thus far. That’s been hard too. Responding to the overwhelming amount of questions (not to mention the unsolicited advice and opinions) of anyone and everyone I come across has been difficult. I’ve become very comfortable over the years with opening up and discussing my feelings about mental health issues but it’s been a lot harder to be honest about my feelings on pregnancy because for the most part people seem to really only be able to tolerate the positive.
To be clear: yes I am grateful and excited to be a mother. There is no question in my mind that I want this baby. But that doesn’t mean that I have to love every part of the process. In fact, I’m starting to learn that one of the big factors in postpartum depression is the amount of pressure that women are under to love and embrace every part of motherhood even the parts that are uncomfortable, awkward or unpleasant. It sometimes feels like anything less would be a failure to the child and a disappointment to all those who wish to have children in the future. That’s a lot of weight for anyone to carry around and I can see how the “guilty parent” feeling can start almost as soon as the child is conceived.
I won’t go in to too many more details about the particular changes or challenges that pregnancy has brought up for me because this blog is meant to be for everyone (not just parents, or moms to be) so for me the real question here is: how can I handle these big life changes and what have I learned thus far that I can share with others?
We all go through changes in life; some are planned, some are completely unexpected. Some changes are for the good and some changes unfortunately lead us down a more difficult path in life. I won’t claim to be an expert at handling big changes like the ones I’m going through now but I am trying to remind myself all the time of some of the key principles that I’ve been living by the last few years that have really helped me to feel healthier and happier on a daily basis. There is one practice in particular that I keep on coming back to which seems to be the one and only essential principle to follow when it comes to big life changes that cannot be controlled:
GO WITH THE FLOW
I know we’ve all heard this saying a million times so it may not seem like a very original or enlightening piece of advice of offer here but if there’s anything I’ve learned thus far about being a mother (or a parent of any kind) it’s that you cannot completely control your child no matter how hard you try. My baby has yet to grace the outside world and she is already rolling around inside of me and making me feel and do things that I never expected to experience. Fighting morning sickness, or my expanding belly would be completely useless and a huge waste of energy. The same can be said for the multitude of other uncontrollable changes that humans may or may not face throughout the course of their life.
We can’t fight the changes or feelings that come from the loss of a loved one, or a physical injury, or mistakes we’ve made in the past. Even changes that we decidedly made for our own benefit like moving to a different country or changing careers or leaving a toxic relationship or starting a family will inevitably come with certain uncontrollable and unwanted factors along the way.
I think mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn really put it best when he said, “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf”. I think this is what it really means to “go with the flow”. It’s not about complete surrender and simply resigning yourself to be swallowed up by the waves and washed up on the shore. It’s about finding and practicing ways to make the ride a little easier, a little more comfortable and dare I say fun.
So that’s what I’m working on right now. I’m going along for this pregnancy ride and trying to find ways to make it as smooth and enjoyable as possible. So far I’ve fallen off my surfboard and crashed into waves more times than I can count. But every now and then I catch a small wave and I stay up just long enough to see that if I keep on practicing this whole motherhood and parenting thing may just be the wildest and most fulfilling ride I’ve ever been on.