I’m Not Ready for This
Anyone who has had to pee on a stick will know that those five minutes waiting time are the longest in your life.
Anyone who has had to pee on a stick will know that those five minutes waiting time are the longest in your life. Someone once joked with me about which was longer, a minute on a treadmill or a minute waiting for the microwave to finish. I can say it’s neither, it’s waiting for those five minutes to pass. Taking this test was unexpected for us, we hadn’t planned on having a family yet even though we were probably in the ‘perfect position’ for this. Our own house, secure jobs, savings in the bank and a secure relationship, but deep down I was scared at what might happen. At about the four-minute mark, I came out of the bathroom sure that the test was negative and shouted downstairs to my partner who was pacing the floor. I opened my mouth to say that the test was negative when I looked down and it was positive. (You definitely need to wait the full five minutes before reading the results). He thought I was kidding, trying to wind him up, but I wasn’t. I told him it was positive, showed him the test and burst into tears. Were they happy tears, scared tears, worried tears? I wasn’t quite sure. All I knew was there was this tiny little thing the size of a poppy seed growing inside me and our lives were going to change forever.
The first few weeks after finding out felt surreal. We told our parents and siblings but no one else, thinking about the 12-week rule that most people follow. I didn’t feel much different which surprised me. I suppose I always had this idea that when we started a family, I would wake up one day with a big belly like in a cartoon and that would be me pregnant, but real life isn’t quite like a cartoon. I didn’t have any sickness which I thanked the lord for and other than my bras being a little tighter and my appetite going through the roof, nothing else changed. I remember being scared to lie on my front when I slept and woke up sometimes in the night thinking I was squashing my insides and worrying, but so early in pregnancy it’s not an issue. My phone search history was full of pregnancy questions, is this normal, what should I expect at this stage and so on. I didn’t have much time to think about things because I was too busy thinking about the physical changes I was going to start going through.
I hit the six-week mark and the morning sickness began but ironically, the morning was the only time I didn’t feel sick. From about 10:30am until 3:00am I felt ill constantly, not wanting to eat or move really. My new routine became work, sleep, repeat. I didn’t have any appetite to eat anything and any time I did fancy something, I ate it as soon as I could because who knows when I could next stomach something. I then became obsessed with googling when morning sickness would end or how I could stop it or ease it, but nothing really worked. I just had to power on. The only good thing that came out of the sickness was that I had a lot of time to spend lying on the sofa thinking over the future. All I could think about was how much my parents loved me and was I ready to give myself completely to this little kidney bean in my belly. This scared me but I put it down to being tired and under-fed and tried not to think about it.
I started buying little baby clothes which I know is meant to be bad luck, but I needed to do something to try and make this all feel real. Every time I thought about it, I just couldn’t believe it was happening. I put the happy face on and bought more to really drive it home. Still nothing. Deep down, there were some scary thoughts and feelings starting to stir but I didn’t know what to do about it. I decided it must just be hormones and again tried not to think about it. I spent hours online looking at maternity clothes and planning a cute capsule wardrobe for myself but still this uneasy feeling in my stomach remained that I couldn’t quite deal with.
The moment for me when I realised what those feelings were was terrifying, and I honestly didn’t know what to do. I woke up one night and this booming voice in my head said, “I don’t want to do this.” I just dismissed it and went back to sleep. I woke up the next morning and the voice was there again, “I’m not ready for this.” Seeing there was something wrong, my partner tried to get me to talk but I just blamed being tired and vowed that I would be ok. I spent any time I could look online for articles about people who were in the same situation as me but couldn’t find anything. The guilt I felt at searching “How do I know if I’m ready to have a baby?” was overwhelming. There were quizzes and lists about all the signs that you are ready to start a family, but what if you were already pregnant and didn’t know what to do. Nothing I read seemed to fit for me and didn’t help me at all. I cried. I cried so much for so many reasons. For how sick I felt, for the fact that I felt like I was losing myself, for all the things in our life that would change that I wasn’t ready for, but mostly for the guilt and horror I felt that I wasn’t ready to have the baby that was already inside of me.
After about two weeks, I couldn’t hide it anymore and I had to come clean to my partner about how I felt. He seemed to be looking forward to becoming a Dad and talked about it in such a positive way that I didn’t know how to start the conversation. I just said it straight. “I’m not ready for this.” He looked at me and his face changed, he relaxed and almost looked relieved. “I’m not ready for this either.” We had both been feeling exactly the same way but didn’t know the other was feeling it too, so had been hiding it from each other. Neither of us could think about what we were going to gain from this because we were too busy thinking about what we weren’t ready to give up and how our lives would never be the same. We talked about it for days and days, trying to come to a decision about what to do. I am naturally a very indecisive person – I struggle to choose between two chocolate bars – so this was nearly impossible for me. Almost every other decision I made in my life could be reversed, except from this. We needed to be 110% sure and that added to the pressure. I dealt with such awful feelings that everyone would hate me, that I would be punished for it in some way, that the doctors would be disappointed with me. As a woman, there’s an assumption that you have to be maternal, especially to your own baby but I felt nothing every time I thought about being pregnant or put my hand on my stomach.
After the most difficult week of our entire lives, we finally decided that we didn’t want to be parents yet. We made the appointments and spoke to our doctor and midwife. Sitting there in tears, I waited to be told off, to be shamed and told what horrible humans we were. The midwife looked at me and told me that I had done an incredibly brave thing by admitting how I felt and by doing what we were going to do. She told me that I shouldn’t feel ashamed of myself or any of the horrible things going through my mind and I had people to support me if and when I needed it. I won’t talk about any details of what happened next, but I will never forget the medical staff that helped me and treated me with kindness, compassion and a caring that I can’t put into words. All I will say is I will forever be grateful to them for how they treated me.
It took me about a week to recover at home and I remember waking up one morning and feeling a bit more like myself again. But I still felt guilty. Before we went through the decision, I told myself that it would be difficult and I would have days where I might doubt our decision but that it would be ok, that I needed to feel whatever feelings I had and accept them. Don’t hide it, don’t deny it because that could lead down a dark path. I had times where I just sat on the bathroom floor and cried until my partner came in and cuddled me. I cried about the guilt I felt for our decision and whether we were still good people. I had a check-up with my midwife about a month later and I was in tears before I even walked through the door. She reassured me that it was ok to feel how I was feeling but to remember why we made the decision I did and to forgive myself.
I got home and had a long shower and tried to look at myself with the same care and compassion that the nurses and midwives did. I felt like I had lost myself and part of my identity while I was pregnant and grew to dislike myself because of how I felt, and I needed to learn to love myself again. Over time, my body started to return to normal, I lost the bit of weight I had gained, my old bras fit me again and my skin started to clear up from all the hormonal acne I suffered. Little by little, I returned to the person I was before, and I slowly started to forgive myself.
I will never forget what we have been through and the whole thing has made us so much stronger as a couple. I had never been sure if I wanted to be a Mum but now I know I do, but only when the time is right. I know now we can go through anything together and come out the other side, still together and still loving each other unconditionally. He has seen a side of me that no one else has and still loves me, even on the days where I didn’t love myself and couldn’t bear the way I felt, he was still there holding my hand. I don’t hide anything from him now (not even my frilly pink shower cap) and I feel so much stronger talking about how I feel. This is the biggest thing that I have taken away from those three months, not to bury my feelings, listen to my gut and trust that the people around me will look after me and still love me no matter what.
I wanted to write this article and share my story because during the days when I was looking for information online to try and explain how I felt, I couldn’t find anything to help me. Before I came clean about my feelings, I felt so lonely and afraid and I didn’t know what to do. So many people now turn to google or social media to try and find a connection in times where they might not be able to talk about their feelings, and when that connection isn’t there it makes us feel so much more alone. That’s how I felt. All I wanted was for one person to say, “It’s ok, I know how you feel.” I am sharing my story because if I can give a connection to one person who is feeling what I felt, then it just might help them to not feel alone. Because even when you’re surrounded by people, sometimes you can still feel completely isolated.
How has this experience changed me? I’m more forgiving. I love myself more deeply than before and I give myself more care and time. I allow myself to feel my feelings and accept them for what they are, I never say I shouldn’t feel like I do. I don’t judge other people as quickly on what they might be going through, because you really never know. But most of all, I know now not to take the people around me for granted because without them, I wouldn’t have gotten through this.
If you or someone you know has been affected by anything in this article, you can contact Mind or Marie Stopes UK which offers a 24-hour advice line.