Young African Mom: Prepare to stretch mentally during pregnancy
Pregnancy is brutal on the body but it is even worse on the mind. When we get pregnant the main obsession for most of us is our physical self. How big is my belly going to get? How much weight will I gain? Am I going to get stretch marks? Will I ever be able to wear these clothes again? What if my pregnancy nose never goes back to its normal size? Questions, lots of questions...the overarching theme being a focus on the physical. Pregnancy related mental health issues are more common than many know.
When I was pregnant I found a lot of resources online about snatching back, Instagram feeds of glorious motherhood, fashionista moms, fit moms, do-it-all moms and all sorts. What I couldn't find was information about how to deal with my feelings, and the frustrations that come with being pregnant.
I found the whole process daunting especially in those early months when there were no physically signs, just me alone by myself in my head. I felt really lonely and isolated. Like all this, this whole thing was on me, alone. Those early weeks were emotionally heavy and overwhelming and that was just in the first trimester. Perhaps it was that I lived alone but I felt like this great task had been bestowed on me, the chosen one, the Mocking Jay, and I was all alone. That loneliness felt vast and deep and insurmountable. Yes we had chosen to get pregnant but I felt it was all on me.
Towards the end of my first trimester I just stood in the mirror and said this will not be your portion. Why am I feeling so alone, and isolated? I have my family, I have my parents, my friends, I have so much. I am not alone. Yes it is on me to carry this baby but I am not alone. I started saying positive affirmations to myself to that effect.
"I am not alone. I am loved. I am cherished. I am not alone."
I made this my daily prayer and it slowly brought me mental calmness. By the start of my first trimester I felt much better emotionally and the affirmations helped. Another thing that helped was acknowledging that nothing ever had prepared me for this undertaking. I had been grossly miseducated, and under informed. Nothing in 16+ years of academic instruction had prepared me for this. It wasn't my fault I was feeling overwhelmed, that's what happens when you're unprepared. No one had ever really told me the truth of their pregnancy experience, African women just get on with being pregnant they don't talk about how hard it is. We just do it.
So I too decided to get on with it. I began to prepare myself emotionally by creating a list of my pregnancy truths that I would hold for my mental stability and health. These truths helped me stretch emotionally and got me into the right frame of mind for my pregnancy.
Truth - Nothing and no one is allowed to stress me out or make me unhappy
Truth - I will not allow anyone to dictate what I will do or how I must do this pregnancy
Truth - Only those who love me and I love back should know about my pregnancy
Truth - Whatever I don't feel like doing I will not do. Where I don't feel like showing up I will not show up
Truth - I will not apologize for anything that I need to do to prepare to be a whole healthy human being for my child
Truth - I will not perform my pregnancy as per any pre-concieved notions or expectations
Truth - I will not be afraid. Allah who made it possible for me to conceive will bring me through to my delivery, and if Allah decides it is not to be then Allah's will be done
Truth - You may be alone but you are not without love. Mummy dey! Daddy dey!
Truth - My body will do what it has been built to do, if I trust it to do its thing.
Truth - If I'm going to get through this and come out of it as myself then I have to listen to my intuition and follow my heart.