Excerpt from Asking for a Pregnant Friend: 101 Answers to Questions Women Are Too Embarrassed to Ask about Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood
Hey, mama. I see you. I see the questions you push away in embarrassment at your prenatal appointments. I see the wariness you feel over the bombardment of emotions you’ve been navigating as your belly blooms. I see the dark thoughts you have about motherhood. I see you doing everything you can to lead a healthy, happy, and informed pregnancy but still feeling confused, like there’s a big chunk of information and support missing from the sea of guidance on pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood. I see you wondering if you’re the only one who feels this way.
I see you because I am you. When I was pregnant with my son Hudson, there were so many deep, murky layers of the baby-making journey I found perplexing and, in many ways, shame-inducing. This confusion and shame stuck because I didn’t think I could talk to anyone about what I was experiencing. I felt like I was hiding. Hiding my insatiable lust. Hiding my kinky dreams. Hiding my swollen labia (you’re welcome, world). Hiding my “Should I have gotten an abortion?” question. On the outside I looked like a bloated, fairly content, baby-grower with shiny hair. On the inside, I had pulled out all that shiny hair and was cowering in a corner while judgy fingers pointed at me.
To soothe my fried nerves and scrambled brain, I tried to secretly find candid answers to my questions, especially those society has labeled taboo.
(I also developed a “Clear Browsing History” obsession.) I thought that if I could just find an online resource or book that named what I was feeling and told me it was normal, I might stop feeling like I was broken. But I didn’t find it. I found only watered-down answers to the G-rated cousins of my questions, and lots of books that told me how to glow during pregnancy, not die during childbirth, and breastfeed during motherhood. Sure, they were helpful, but they weren’t what I was looking for. And so my pregnant brain logically assumed everyone else just magically knows about the super strange physical changes of pregnancy, that no one else has morbid, scary thoughts about childbirth, and that all the other ladies have the whole postpartum sex thing figured out.
I didn’t discover how wrong I was until I started teaching childbirth preparation classes and my clients pulled me aside to ask questions. Their questions were my questions, and I was thrilled. I wasn’t alone! I wasn’t broken. Hearing other women name many of the unspeakable queries I had on my journey into motherhood emboldened me to start asking physicians and mental health specialists these questions. The answers I received were fascinating and liberating. Turns out there were totally legit reasons for every thought, physical phenomenon, and emotion that had made me feel different or unfit for motherhood. I started adding this in- formation to my classes, and the response has been awesome. When I talk about how orgasms during pregnancy won’t hurt the baby, or what all the weird smells from all the places mean, women light up (and men often blush and shuffle off to the bathroom). They’re getting answers to the questions they were praying someone else would ask. But the coolest part is, my bringing up these topics often gives them the confidence to share their experiences with said topics. We get into some really interesting con- versations.
These moments of sharing and connection in my classes caused me to become That Lady at dinner parties, conferences, back-to-school nights, and heck, pretty much every other social situation, who asks unsuspecting women about all the stuff they never thought they could talk about during pregnancy and beyond. Sometimes people slowly back away, but most of the time they open up.
I’ve learned that we’re part of a massive secret society. There are thousands of us slipping away from prying eyes to scan chat rooms and forums, flip through books, and make our fingers numb with Google searches as we look for answers to the same things you came to this book wondering about — maps to the same paths you’re wandering. But I don’t want you to feel like tracking down answers is a full-time job. I want you to have all the answers in one place, from a friendly, accurate source. I also want those answers to come from a friend who would never judge or make you feel like a weirdo for asking that “TMI” question.
So… can we be friends? Can I be the person who never judges you and is always up for talking about sex, smells, scary thoughts, feeling like you want to lock your partner out of the house, and all the other stuff we deal with as we make, birth, and nurture babies?
It’s my hope that during this friendship you will be freed from many of the barriers to a joy-filled journey into motherhood. I also hope that this friendship will bolster your confidence so that you can begin speak- ing more freely about the “underbelly” of your motherhood experiences IRL. And I hope you start finding women you trust and talking with them about the things they’re also worrying about or confused by. But hey, even if you just talk to this book, I hope the experience fills you with relief, and compassion for your amazing self, who is doing the best she can.
Where Did These Questions Come From?
These questions have been sourced from women just like you over the past five years. Even when I wasn’t aware that I was collecting these questions, I was collecting these questions. They’ve come in whispers after childbirth classes, from girlfriends who look over their shoulder at the cafe to make sure no one is listening, or from my YouTube viewers and social media buddies who email their questions because they don’t want them seen on public forums. And when the idea for the book was sparked, I began asking everyone who would talk to me what their hidden questions were during the wild entry into motherhood. People talked, fascinating discus- sions were had, and juicy questions emerged.
Why Are These Questions So Embarrassing?
The questions are embarrassing because they require that we come to terms with the fact that we don’t have it all together, they force us to develop a new relationship with our bodies and sexuality, and they often uncover emotional or mental challenges. This is big stuff. It’s stuff we innately shy away from because it’s usually really uncomfortable to take an honest look at who we are and how pregnancy and motherhood are changing us. Sometimes we shy away from these questions so fiercely we don’t even know they’re our questions until we see or hear them.
But the beauty of shared questions and experiences is that they often wipe away the grime of embarrassment. Think about it: If you’re walking down the street and you trip in front of a group of people, you’re probably going to feel embarrassed. But if another person trips just as you’re getting up, much of that embarrassment will dissolve because, hey look, you’re not the only one who trips! It’s all good! That’s what this book is, all us ladies tripping through pregnancy, childbirth, and early motherhood together, then helping one another up.
Who Is Answering These Questions?
Mostly me: Bailey Gaddis. I’m a mother, the author of Feng Shui Mommy: Creating Balance and Harmony for Blissful Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Motherhood, a childbirth preparation educator, birth and postpartum doula, and certified hypnotherapist. As I answered the 101 questions in this book, I also drew on the experience of midwives, OB-GYNs, and doulas I’ve worked with over the years, and my lady buddy, Meghan Rudd Van Alstine, PhD, who is a licensed psychologist. Insights from peer-reviewed studies were also a big piece of the puzzle. I bundled all this wisdom together into a book of science, intuition, and experience-based guidance for ladies who are ready to be liberated from those taboo curiosities and crippling fears that keep them up at night.
So here they are, the juicy and totally legit things a woman would only ask that treasured friend who never, ever judges. The questions some women get brave enough to ask online but are then flayed by trolls about and never ask again. Welcome to the first step in leading a shame-free and super empowered journey into motherhood.