Why "your life will never be the same" is not helpful advice

When I found out I was pregnant, tucked in between the congratulations, the well wishes and the excitement, there was a warning that 'your life will never be the same'. This always sounded stupid to me. I mean of course my life will be forever changed, soon I will be holding a tiny, squishy human being, reliant on me for its very survival. I know its going to be hard, even caring for an indoor plant is hard work, but unlike my drooping peace lily and burnt fiddle leaf fig, I can't just run out to Bunnings and get a new baby. Parenthood is going to be tough, but aren't most worthwhile endeavors?

photo credit - Alex Warden Photography

Fast forward to week 38 of my pregnancy and I'm sitting in the kitchen deciding what I want to eat for breakfast, already exhausted from simply getting out of bed. I'm about 16 kilos heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight, I'm measuring a belly over a metre round and have constant back aches. Life definitely feels different, and it is in this moment that rather than deciding on porridge or eggs, I reach for a pen and start scribbling out my thoughts.

I have come to decide that the warning of life never being the same is sage advice however in its simple delivery, it is not helpful at all. This explanation really lacks the depth needed to portray just how your life will be so different and the hurdles that we all seem to face when transitioning from carefree adult-child to full blown parent. I can't decide if this nugget of advice is so small because of the person's own inability to express their experience with a journey that they may still be on, or because we are scared in admitting that the gift of parenthood comes with bucket loads of grief, pressure, shame, fear and guilt.

I am still a couple of weeks away from stepping into the full role of motherhood but I have already felt the searing burn of guilt, shame, loss and incredible pressure. Much of my pregnancy was hijacked by incessant thoughts of inadequacy circling through my mind. Why couldn't I love my expanding body? Why was I all of a sudden longing for a night long bender from my Uni days past? Why was I becoming more distant with my friends? Why weren't the compliments from my husband lighting me up anymore? I felt like a fraud, this incredible miracle I had dreamed about was finally a reality and I couldn't find it in me to feel blessed and grateful for every passing moment of it.

Much like many pregnant women or any over worked parent, I suffered in silence. I could talk about the confusion of becoming a parent, but never the all consuming pressure that loomed over me, never the shame I felt around my body, the guilt that overwhelmed my daily thoughts and the, at times, debilitating fears of failure. I felt so alone, none of my friends had any connection to these feelings and while my husband did all he could to make light of the situation, the deeper into the shame spiral I fell, the more alone I believed I was. I never considered that these feelings were normal, and not just unique to me, until a woman I randomly met over Zoom very candidly told me that she hated her pregnancy.

After doing a lot of soul searching (through hypnosis, daily meditation, a yoga retreat, journaling and hiring a life coach), I believe I have come to a place where I am far more understanding of my fears and the shame and guilt that came along with them. This growing understanding has been what has led me to be far more open with my pregnancy experience and has given me the opportunity to connect with other pregnant women, and mums, who feel the same way. By being honest about my experience I have been able to be more compassionate to myself and in turn enjoy my final trimester. Well, as much a sleepless nights, breathlessness and back aches will allow.

But as I think about my journey so far I wonder if this is what those life changing warnings were about. Did they too feel lost, alone and confused by the pregnancy and parenthood transition. Did they suffer with feelings of pressure, shame and guilt? Have they overcome these hurdles or do they still feel, at times, disconnected and/or frustrated? Is there an accurate description for the overwhelming emotions that they at times feel? Could that maybe be why their advice was so vague?

When they told me my life would never be the same, what were they really wanting to say? For me its that the journey ahead is hard! One overloaded with pressure, much of which is brought down on us by an unrealistic ideal of perfection, because we all know what that pregnancy glow looks like and heaven forbid we don't have the energy to keep up with the Kardashian's while growing a human. This journey will bring about feelings of guilt and shame because you are going to go through your own transformation, your own birth. This may not always be evident but you may recognise stages of grief during this time. Denial, bargaining, anger, depression and acceptance. While the 'old' you isn't dead, like a butterfly emerging from their chrysalis, you will be a different creature, a magnificent creature, but different none the less and while all of this is going on, you are going to no doubt feel disconnected from yourself and those around you that just can't relate. This doesn't mean you are alone. No matter how frustrated or fearful you feel, know that this is not your own unique burden to carry. Pregnancy and parenthood are hard and we all feel the pressure, guilt and shame around doing the best we can for the little lives we love the most.

Your life will never be the same because you have embarked on one of the most important transitions of your life. You are growing and expanding, not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually too. The person you have come to love and rely on is transforming each day, and while this is scary, with a little love, compassion, honesty and connection with others who understand, you will get through the tough times.