While I was pregnant, I got to know myself in a whole different light, a side of me that I thought never existed. I anticipated the mood swings because I read about in pregnancy books and saw it in the movies, but I thought it was all an exaggeration. As it turned out, my moodiness was even worse than I imagined.
Mothers-to-be find themselves in a fragile position when they discover the impact of their new roles. With it comes a rollercoaster of emotions. Some are negative: worry about your baby’s development, anxiety when thinking about the pain of delivery, especially for first-time moms, irritation with having to use the bathroom every half hour, stress brought about by making sure your newborn will have everything he or she needs, distress with your body changes, including feeling fat and unattractive, fear thinking how your whole life as you know it will change significantly. More often than not, the intensity of the positive emotions surpass the bad ones: joy over the fact that you’ll soon be a mother, the excitement of seeing and holding your baby, feeling fulfillment as a woman, and the love that you feel towards your yet-to-be-born child that somehow makes all your troubles seem insignificant.
In the scientific aspect of mood swings during pregnancy, they are explained as effects of hormonal changes that affect your levels of neurotransmitters or the chemical messengers in the brain. This causes heightened emotions, both pleasant and unpleasant. It’s different with every expectant woman. While some may feel normal and unaffected, some may feel more depressed and anxious than others. Most find that moodiness is most difficult to handle during the first three months, as they are still getting used to the fact that they have a growing baby inside them. It then eases up in the second trimester, and then comes back as their due date is coming closer. Part of it may be also be attributed to the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy.
I can still recall my experience with mood swings while I was pregnant with my first-born. One minute I feel breezy, the next, I’m a total mess. Normally, I’m a very patient and agreeable person, but that person decided to take a vacation during the course of my pregnancy. I got upset real easily, especially when I go hungry for more than ten minutes. I noticed every flaw around me and picked on it. Before it used to take a LOT for me to even show any sign of annoyance, let alone anger. It was an emotional time for me – outbursts and crying fits in some occasions even with the slightest provocation. Sometimes I know I’m becoming irrational but I still push it. I was also still adjusting with married life at that time, so it was a lot to deal with. Living in a new home, I missed the comfort of seeing familiar faces and surroundings. As I learned, it is essential to have an understanding partner by your side that will not take your outbursts personally and will help calm you down and get it together. Just reassure him that it’s the hormones talking and you love him no matter what. Also, it is important to bond with each other as much as you can because when the baby comes, it is a given that you will be sacrificing some time together to care for your newborn.
That emotional period didn’t last very long for me. I got better control of my emotions, but the anxiety got stronger, the anxiety of the delivery, that is. I’ve always hated hospitals. I detest the pain from getting shots, but how does pushing a human being out of you even compete with that? I have low tolerance for anything painful, so how can I possibly survive this? In high school, we were shown a graphic video of a woman giving birth and at that time, it turned me off against the whole pregnancy idea. Nearing my due date, thinking about what will happen agitated me and I often bugged my husband about it. In the end, I just comforted myself with the thought that millions of women go through childbirth, recover from it and go through it again. So it may not be as traumatic as I imagine it to be. Fast forward to the present, and I’m typing this article with my 18-month-old son sitting on my lap and I’m thinking, the experience of childbirth was so agonizing but that great feeling that came afterward and in the months after eclipsed the pain that I’m willing to go through it again. Yes a cliche statement but true all the same.
Amidst the fluctuating emotions and assorted food cravings, one feeling remained constant. That is the happiness I felt about the whole idea of becoming a mother, which first came upon viewing that positive pregnancy stick. This feeling never left me, even when I was sidetracked with some negative emotions. It’s one of my dreams fulfilled. Part of it is wonder about the whole miracle of life, part of it is finally having a purpose in life, which I found missing before. In a way, I felt blessed, privileged to be given this big responsibility. The gladness multiplied a hundred times when I first heard my baby’s heartbeat, and my joy increased by a thousandfold when I felt my baby move for the first time inside me. If you’re having doubts before, these events will change all of that. Just look forward to that moment when you can finally hold your child in your arms. It has the effect of making you stronger and more secure during troubled times.
You get used to the burden that comes with pregnancy such as fatigue, frequent urination, a monstrous appetite, and having to look yourself in the mirror continuously expanding. It’s common to feel like you’ve lost control over your body and your life during this time. But tell yourself, this is only for nine months so might as well make the most of it. Rather than let frustration build up, find ways to decompress. Get plenty of sleep, give in to your cravings, exercise if you can, read books you’ve never had the chance to before, distract yourself with bad TV shows even. If you still find distressed, try taking a pregnancy yoga class or practicing meditation. Sometimes, all these negative feelings can lead to depression. Ten percent of expectant women go through mild to moderate depression. At this point, it is best to consult a professional counselor. Research has shown that untreated emotional health problems can affect your baby’s physical well-being and increase your risk of preterm labor and postpartum depression. Therapy and medication can be effective in treating it, and will help you fully experience the joys of motherhood.
Feeling overwhelmed and having all these mixed emotions is totally normal. Even before the baby is born, the pressure of being a good parent is already there. For soon-to-be-mothers, it is an effort not to let your mood swings get the better of you. Sometimes, you have to remind yourself to take a break and savor the whole ordeal. Indeed, you must realize, pregnancy is one of life’s greatest experiences.