I opened my eyes. My head was spinning. I was eight months pregnant, and my body lay on the tile floor of a children’s shop where my prenatal class was taking place. I looked down to see my legs sprawled out in a V shape. I was wearing black tights on a very hot July day. That probably wasn’t the best choice, but it seemed easier than shaving my legs. Toys had fallen on the ground around me and were scattered near my body.
My husband looked concerned as he held my head in his lap. Our prenatal course instructor was kneeling near my face, fanning me with a paper in her hand. A few other classmates stood nearby staring while a fellow expectant mother loudly proclaimed, “I know first aid!” and rushed over to measure my pulse.
I had fainted.
I remember feeling lightheaded right before I fell. I planned on asking my husband for help in finding a place to sit. Apparently, I wasn’t quick enough.
My baby was fine after the fall. Somehow, I knew not to fall on my bump. Also, a nearby toy stack in the shop cushioned our landing, simultaneously drawing attention to my fall, which explained the crowd of expectant parents and classmates offering to help.
I felt as disoriented as I did embarrassed. As I gathered my bearings, I wondered what my classmates were thinking of me. Fellow parents probably thought there was something wrong with me, or that maybe I wasn’t taking care of my baby and myself.
The truth is much stranger than that. It might even sound unbelievable. For some time, I believed there was no way that my body could hold both me and my baby.
It seems crazy to say this, but I felt like my baby was sucking the life out of me.
This feeling started in the first trimester. When I was about seven weeks pregnant, I succumbed to acute morning sickness. The nausea was unbearable. I spent weeks over a toilet, and I was often unable to keep anything down. At one point, I vomited continuously for over 24 hours. That’s when I needed medical intervention. One hospital visit, a bottle of anti-nausea pills, and at least four liter bags of intravenous rehydration fluids later, I was discharged to go home, where I still felt dreadful.
I tried living my life normally. Waking up and getting ready for work seemed to take all of my energy. If I was lucky, I would hold down dry toast. During my morning train ride to work, I felt dizzy and overheated in the train compartment. I always needed water.
At work, colleagues often brought strong spicy food to their nearby desks, triggering my nausea and forcing me to retreat. I used to be one of the most energetic members of my team. During my pregnancy though, I was constantly fatigued.
New symptoms started to appear at night. Acid reflux kept me awake even though I tried to sleep with three pillows propped under my head. Often, I vomited as soon as I tried to sleep. As my bump grew bigger, I felt like I could barely breathe when I laid down. Pregnancy was defeating me.
My external appearance reflected my internal struggles. Long showers were unheard of. Forget wearing my contacts or making any effort with makeup. My clothes were almost as disheveled as my hair. I looked just as crappy as I felt.
At 5 feet 4 inches with a pre-pregnancy weight slightly under 100 pounds, I was tiny and just achieved an adequate BMI. My doctor encouraged me to eat normally, which seemed nearly impossible as I could no longer hold my favorite foods down. As my bump grew, it took over my body. I looked like a stick figure with a massive belly.
So when I fainted on that hot July day while I was eight months pregnant, it didn’t feet like a huge surprise. It felt like more proof that this baby may have been sucking the life out of me. I never told anyone this because it felt unmotherly.
Really, though, was my baby taking over my body? Is that even possible? At the time, it felt like it could be. However, I can’t deny that I was scared of labor, birth, and postnatal life. My anxiety about becoming a mother was crippling. I became pregnant a lot sooner than I expected. I was not mentally or physically prepared for such a major life transformation. My career was in overdrive, and I had not settled in a permanent home with my husband. I thought that by the time I did get pregnant, I would have had those two aspects of my life figured out. I kept asking myself questions about life with a child. Would I go back to work after having kids? How will children affect our marriage? Will this baby take over my life the same way it’s taken over my body?
On a warm summer day, I gave birth to a sweet baby girl, and my feelings of a body invasion vanished as she left my body. It happened so quickly. My world changed overnight in unexpected ways.
Postpartum life forced me to revise my priorities. Now, eight months into postpartum life, I am spending what little time I have outside of caring for my daughter on activities that I truly love. Writing is like meditation for me. I decided to nurture my passion for it. As a new mother, I share my experiences with fellow inspirational writers, enabling me to focus on storytelling within my hectic schedule. My baby girl released a passion inside me that I kept buried for a long time.
I reassessed my relationships and gained greater understanding. Family relationships suddenly seem much more important. I better understand my mother-in-law (sometimes), and I learned to trust her advice more easily because I do believe she wants what’s best for her children and grandchildren. Relationships with siblings and our respective children are suddenly more meaningful as we plan family vacations together. I realize I want family to play a significant role in my daughter’s life.
Often, I think of how my actions and decisions will impact my daughter. I want to be a role model for her and live a more meaningful life. Now, when I make decisions ranging from new career options to fashion choices for my postpartum body, I ask myself, “What will my daughter think?”
I suddenly feel very foolish about my fears during pregnancy. My baby was not sucking the life out of me. In fact, she was pouring life into me. She rejuvenated me by giving me new passion to follow. A new perspective on my relationships. A new identity to live by.
And I’ve never felt more alive.