I used to be the girl that resented parents who complained about getting no sleep because of their children, were disappointed by their gender reveals, or complained about pregnancy symptoms. Didn’t they know I would kill to be in their shoes? Why couldn’t they realize how lucky they were and be grateful? Well, I’m here to tell you I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
Now, that’s not to say my feelings weren’t valid. I had every right to those feelings and it was completely understandable I felt that way. After two losses I was desperate to have a healthy baby – one of any gender who would make me nauseous in pregnancy and keep me up all night in infancy. But my struggle to conceive a healthy baby did not invalidate the parent’s struggle with gender disappointment or bad morning sickness. Just because I felt my struggle was greater did not erase theirs. Me wishing to be in their shoes didn’t make them ungrateful. Their venting didn’t make them ungrateful. A parent is allowed to love their child and still feel negative feelings. Gratitude and disappointment aren’t mutually exclusive.
I did not understand this until I was on the other side of things, but… When you give someone zero room to complain, really think about what you’re saying. Can you honestly say that when your day comes, you are only going to feel sunshine and butterflies? That you won’t feel entitled to the full pregnancy/parenting experience (which includes bitching about the not so perfect parts)? That you won’t be allowed to complain about a single thing – that you will forever have to be grateful and grateful alone?
I am pregnant again after a traumatic year of losing babies, and it is an absolute dream come true. Pregnancy and this child I’m carrying are my whole world, and I cherish every second. But you bet your ass I complain about heartburn and whatever unpleasant side effect I’m experiencing that day. ‘Cause you know why? It’s part of the human experience. I don’t have to keep silent and suppress my daily struggles just because others would happily trade places. I don’t have to pretend that 100% of pregnancy is wonderful. I get to be real, raw, and honest. I’m allowed to be frustrated I’m not getting any sleep in third trimester, all while acknowledging I am thrilled to be carrying my child and would give up sleep the rest of my life for her.
I am also allowed to prefer a certain gender. ‘Cause you know why? I will be raising this human for the next 18+ years and people are allowed to have preferences. If I’m being completely honest with myself, despite telling myself “healthy is all that matters,” I would have been a bit disappointed if I was having a boy. Would my child having a penis make me love him any less? Of course not! Would I be any less grateful to be pregnant again? Nope! But I’m allowed to be happy I’m having a girl, just as I would be allowed to be disappointed if I were having a boy. Gender disappointment is a very real and valid emotion, one I assume you can only truly understand having been there (I obviously haven’t been there, but I have great empathy for anyone who has, and would never make them feel worse about it by shaming them for their feelings). Being disappointed doesn’t cancel out being grateful. We’re allowed to feel both.
After my second miscarriage, I saw a tweet from a popular Twitter dad expressing that no one knows sleep deprivation like a parent. I was offended by this, because I would have given anything to feel that tiredness. But instead of scrolling past, and letting him vent his frustrations, I made a comment (a polite one, but one that surely left him feeling pretty guilty). He commented back and you could tell he felt horrible. Did the guilt I piled on top of his plate really make me feel better? Not a chance. Did it wake him up to his privilege and force him to realize what he had when he had it? No, because he never lacked gratitude. The poor guy is a dad of multiples, who takes in foster children, and here I was unloading my heavy burdens on him when he was just trying to make a joke and vent out some frustration. I wanted him to feel grateful for what he had, but who says he wasn’t grateful?
Now that I am pregnant again, the guilt I feel for TTC moms is indescribable. I hurt every day for my fellow mamas waiting on their rainbows. When one of them tells me to be grateful it crushes me. One, because I am incredibly grateful and it hurts me deeply if someone can’t see that. And two, because the guilt I feel for being pregnant when others cannot weighs so heavily on me, that comments like that just make me feel unworthy of my happy ending. I imagine pregnant moms who have never struggled with loss or infertility have empathy for those who do, and feel guilt from these comments as well. Everyone should be allowed to speak their truth, even when others have it worse. Someone is always going to have it worse. A life without the ability to vent would be like living in a cage.
If you get served a meal that is exactly what you ordered, but gives you indigestion, are you allowed to say anything (or even think anything)? Flip a switch, turn off those negative feelings, and bury them. There are children starving in Africa, after all.
So, to the mom who wishes we’d all shut up and be grateful, I am here to tell you that I see you, I was you, and that your feelings are completely valid. But I promise you that when your day comes you will want to be entitled to the full pregnancy/parenting experience, and that includes feeling all of the emotions – the good and the bad. I promise you that you will not want to be throwing up with a smile on your face. Sure, you will be thankful you’re sick because it means your baby is healthy, but you’re going to want the option to vent about how shitty the nausea feels. You’re not going to want to silence your voice for others. So please, please don’t silence others’ voices. If you need to unfollow parents or pregnant women that is completely understandable and probably a very healthy move, but please don’t shame them or silence them (like I did to the Twitter dad). Let them have their voice because just as your feelings are valid so are theirs.