Social media (I’m especially looking at you here instagram), is full of glowing women sharing the most beautiful pregnancy photos. Come on, admit it, you’ve browsed through them too, so you know exactly the ones I’m referring to; fit women with belly only pregnancies wearing gauzy, pastel-colored maxi dresses, their faces framed by perfect blowouts of glossy, full-bodied curls. They gaze adoringly down at their tiny bumps, cradled affectionately by manicured hands. The whole scene looks so idyllic that it verges on the fantastical. It’s something foolish, something irrational, something completely unreal, but, captivated by their beauty & brilliance, I lapped up the story presented by those photos, not pausing to realize how far-fetched they really are, and how unhappy they would eventually make me.

When I was actually in the throws of experiencing pregnancy first hand, there was a definite lack of glowing happening. As it turns out, it’s hard to project a breezy, effortless, mom-to-be glow when you spend most of your day popping antacids to ward off the smoldering sensation of heartburn, coupled with the urge to vomit. And, for some unknown reason, gauzy, pastel-colored maxi dresses weren’t finding their way into my wardrobe. Instead, leggings became my new version of formal wear and at home, I lived in pajamas. My hair was exceedingly limp, and if I were to gaze adoringly down at my bump, I’d just end up with two (okay, to be completely honest, possibly three) double-chins. For months, I felt so sick I’d battle just to make it through my work-day in one piece, and then come home to collapse into bed where I had three favorite “hobbies.” The first was to eat an obscene amount of carbs: crackers and bagels smothered with cream cheese were a few of the only foods that seemed appetizing, since they helped to settle my stomach. The second was to binge-watch The Crown, and every Princess Diana documentary known to man on Netflix. The third, since it too helped my constant nausea, was to scroll through instagram to distract myself from my own miserableness. I didn’t post anymore, since I was too sick to do anything fun, but I scrolled hard, devouring content from woman who were clearly slaying the whole pregnancy thing.  Avoidance at its best.

Quite simply, I allowed myself to be intentionally deceived by false appearances, & it was delightful, at least at first. For months during my pregnancy, I’d being using social media for that pleasure. The pleasure of seeing pregnancy through a fantastical, but unachievable filter.  Throughout my time of scrolling hard, the perfect pregnancy fantasy represented by the photos kept me company. They provided me an avenue for escape, a rabbit-hole I could drop down into with only a tap of my finger, avoiding the uncomfortable reality I was experiencing. At first, I revelled in the pleasure of the beauty, but soon found that I languished in it instead, latent, miserable and feeling sorry for myself. I lurked hungrily on the periphery, deflecting my own pregnancy experience, & my own life, in favour of something completely bogus and manufactured. I’d look at those beautiful, goddess-like photos and think, “What’s wrong with me?” It was isolating, & induced severe jealousy.

When I finally entered the second trimester, and messaged friends to let them know about my happy news, only one, Sarah, was honest about my imminent reality: “Congratulations! Being pregnant really sucks,” she wrote. It was what I so badly needed to hear: that other people felt like I did; fat, sweaty, sick, & tired of leaning over the sink every morning, trying not to vomit while brushing their teeth. It was such a relief to know that I was not the only pregnant lady on the planet who wasn’t glowing. Why can’t we all just be that honest, and that blunt when it comes to the realities of being pregnant? Why are we afraid to be forthright & genuine about out struggles? Why do we try to present ourselves as having weirdly idyllic pregnancies, when, in reality, they’re often anything but?

Well,  I’ll be the first person to say that pregnancy can be downright ugly, and downright gross. In the aesthetic sense, my pregnancy was anything but beautiful, & the experience didn’t make me feel the least bit beautiful either. Yet, I also have to admit, that in a more profound way, pregnancy is indeed beautiful. After all, you are growing a little person. Happily pregnant myself for almost six months now, I finally have the hindsight to recognize that those instagram photos are not real life. Actually being pregnant in the real world doesn’t come with a pretty filter. It’s hard. But that’s also what makes it wonderful, & real. So friend, if I may be so bold as to offer some advice, find yourself a good pair of leggings with a stretchy waistband, a box of crackers, and a bottle of antacids. “Congratulations! Being pregnant really sucks!” Try your hardest to enjoy your own journey, unfiltered, stretchmarks and all.

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