The Question I Really Want to Ask

Over the past month or so at least six different people that I know have announced that they’re pregnant; some for the second time but most for the first. Even though I still find pregnancy announcements something of a mental health mine field I’ve made sure that I’ve been to see each person to congratulate them on their exciting news. I’ve asked them how they’re feeling, how appointments and scans have gone and when they think they’ll want to start their maternity leave.

What I haven’t asked, however, is the question that I would really like the answer to because I’m not sure whether it’s something that I should really be asking. The question itself seems harmless and innocuous but I know better than most it’s potential to open up an escape route for a huge volume of confused, pent-up emotions that can leave you feeling ashamed of your feelings and embarrassed for having shared them.

That question is “Are you pleased?”

It’s strange how such a simple question can be perceived as prying and intrusive and the last thing I want is for anyone to think I’m asking because I’m nosy or that I have some morbid fascination surrounding other people’s pregnancies. It’s just that when I first started telling people that I was pregnant with Squidge most people assumed that, because I was happily married with a stable job and home life that I had to be pleased about being pregnant and so no one ever thought to check whether that was actually true.

I understood why people didn’t ask; someone being unhappy about becoming pregnant is a difficult and uncomfortable truth to accept, particularly if you don’t know the person in question very well. There are few better ways to kill  conversation and leave the other person red-faced and lost for words than, in response to their excited questions about scans and due dates, telling them that actually you are so scared and miserable that you can’t get out of bed in the morning. This may seem like an overly dramatic response to someone who is just trying to be nice and show an interest  and I was in no way out to deliberately shock or upset people so instead I avoided situations where people were likely to ask me questions about my pregnancy.

As a result, instead of being open and honest I found myself pretending that I couldn’t think of anything more exciting than decorating the nursery, shopping for baby clothes and growing an alien bump that meant I couldn’t sleep properly and gave me raging heart burn. I found it very difficult to tell people that actually I was really struggling with the unexpected turn that my life had taken, convinced that they’d think I was some kind of monster.

Through one route or another, people found out that I was pregnant but also that it was taking a huge toll on my mental health. By the time I went back to work when Squidge was five months old, most of my colleagues knew that I’d struggled to accept my pregnancy and so it’s not something that I feel as though I need to hide from them. Equally, everyone whose opinion is important to me has been accepting and supportive even if the actual concept of being depressed during pregnancy is not something they can understand.

The medical care and mental health support I received during my pregnancy was (mostly) exceptional but I’m well aware that a large part of the reason why this was the case was because I was completely honest with every healthcare professional that I met, no matter how painful that honesty was for me. I’m also aware that not everyone is as lucky in that respect as me, either because their concerns aren’t recognised, are ignored or because they just don’t feel able to speak up.

I would hate to think that anyone I knew, particularly those who know what I’ve been through, felt as though they couldn’t talk to me if they were finding their own pregnancies difficult but at the same time I know how frightening it can be to open up to someone.

Which is why I’m conflicted as to whether I should be asking people if they’re pleased to be pregnant. On the one had it could be considered a hugely intrusive question but on the other it could be the opening that someone needs to take that first step to getting the help that they need. I know I’m not qualified to offer the help and support that women who are struggling need but at least I’d be able to let them know that they’re not alone, tell them the things I found most helpful and offer a hand to hold and a shoulder to cry on in the difficult months ahead.

So far I’ve kept my questions to myself, relying on people to tell me whether they’re pleased about being pregnant with the excitement in their voice and the animation with which they talk about their growing bumps and plans for the future. No one I know has given me any reason to doubt their happiness but there’s still a niggling thought at the back of my mind. It reminds me how much I wanted someone to just ask me if being pregnant was what I wanted, so that I could tell them how confused and frightened I was and not have to pretend that everything was fine.

Am I right in not asking that one question?

What do you think?

MaternityMondays_zps8b777e9aPicture10twinkly_tuesday_badge_2015

Louise is a full time mum and a part time neonatal nurse who has battled depression for many years but particularly during her pregnancy. She lives with her husband (the Northern One) their little boy (Squidge) and their three guinea pigs who live in the kitchen.

Louise blogs at 23weeksocks (http://23weeksocks.com) about lots of different (and seemingly unconnected) topics that she’s passionate about, including mental health, antenatal depression, neonatal care and baby loss.

In 2015 she was shortlisted in the ‘Fresh Voice’ category for the BIB (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards and the ‘Bereavement Worker’ category for the Butterfly Awards. She was also one of the keynote speakers at BritMums Live reading’Twinkle Twinkle’ which was her account of caring for a premature baby on the day that he died.

24 thoughts on “The Question I Really Want to Ask

  1. kimmykeepreal says:

    What an interesting post! I think you should totally ask the question. You’re just as qualified to ask it than anyone else! Quite a few of my friends are pregnant for the first time, and the mental health side to it is so important to talk about 😘

    Like

  2. Amber says:

    My colleagues didn’t know that I was dating a woman so when they heard that I was pregnant, they assumed that it was some kind of one night stand situation. Many of them asked whether I was pleased, or better yet ‘okay’ with the situation, which made me giggle.

    I think you should ask. I always ask, and I always ask new mums if they’re really coping as well as they seem to be.

    Like

  3. Nicola says:

    Instead of asking “are you pleased” why not ask “how do you feel about it – I know I was overwhelmed when I found out I was pregnant” giving them an opening to speak about it and let them know that you have some experience without completley overwhelming them?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) says:

    Really interesting post and it is so true that people do assume that you are automatically happy with being pregnant. I don;t think I would ever have been offended if I had been asked that question, but many of my friends knew how I struggled with my first pregnancy. It is difficult to know how other people would take it. Great post and hugs at the same time for putting other people’s needs above your own! thanks for linking with #MaternityMondays xx

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      It is difficult to know how people would react to the questions which is why I’m nervous about asking. I’d hate to upset anyone but equally I’d hate to think that they were suffering in silence. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  5. Mummy's to do list says:

    Hi there, just discovered your blog and it’s an interesting one for me on several levels. Firstly, I’ve struggled with anxiety since my teens and found pregnancy and the sense of a lack of control very difficult, even when everything seemed fine. And secondly because we lost our first baby at 21 weeks due to heart failure, caused by a congenital heart condition. This started to show itself from the 12-week scan, setting us off on a roller-coaster two-months of tests, hope and then ultimately loss.

    As you can imagine, the two pregnancies that came after this – thankfully both very healthy ones – were even more fraught with fear than they would have been anyway. So, I can really relate to what you say about the question ‘are you pleased?’ Well, yes I was but I was also terrified, as well as just relieved to be pregnant again. It was very hard to be excited as most of the time I lived from day to day, week to week and for the next medical appointment when, hopefully, I’d get a bit more reassurance that everything might be ok this time. In that sense, we were lucky to have very supportive medical care. But I don’t think others around me, other than my husband and a local SANDS befriender, could honestly appreciate just how frightened I was. This continued with my last pregnancy too – just because by then we’d already had a healthy baby girl, it didn’t really change the fact that, for me, pregnancy is a mental battle (physically, I was always fine).

    I did feel guilty and quite cheated that I didn’t really enjoy being pregnant – all I ever wanted was a positive end result, a healthy baby and the huge burden of responsibility I felt for safely incubating that tiny life to be lifted from my shoulders. There were plenty of times I said I would quite willingly fast forward through each pregnancy just to get to the end point where I had a newborn safely held in my arms.

    Bit of a long comment, sorry! But a good, thought-provoking post.

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      Thank you so much for reading my lovely. I’m so sorry for the loss of your little one and that things have been so difficult for you.
      I understand what you mean about feeling cheated because I feel it to. Due to my mental health issues that were exacerbated by my pregnancy Squidge may well end up being an only child and I probably won’t know what it’s like to be happily pregnant. Even if we do decide to have another child, I will never have my first pregnancy again and it’s a thought that makes me sad.
      I’m pleased you had good support from your husband and the SANDS befriender and that your medical care was also good.

      Like

  6. mummaknows says:

    Very interesting. When I found out I was unexpectedly pregnant, my boyfriend and I immediately thought we wanted to get an abortion. We were serious as a couple but we didn’t want to bring a child into our lives quite yet. A week later I found out I was already 16 weeks along and way past that stage in the pregnancy. While now, I am glad that I didn’t have to make that decision, and obviously I couldn’t imagine life without my first baby (we now have two) – but it was hard to express my true opinion of the pregnancy. That we weren’t all sunshine and lollipops. And we immediately had to drastically change our lives…and our vision of what our lives would look like. Anyways, I like being honest about it and sharing that I didn’t love being pregnant….but it doesn’t mean I love my kids any less. ya know? This is probably a slightly different view than what you are getting at but just thought I would share it! #thetruthabout

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      I completely understand where you’re coming from. I love Squidge to the ends of the earth but it doesn’t change the fact that my pregnancy was awful and I hated almost every minute of it. Equally, just because I felt like that about being pregnant it doesn’t mean that I love Squidge any less than a Mum who adored being pregnant.
      I’m so sorry that you had such a difficult time but I’m so pleased that everything worked out for you.
      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. natasham says:

    What a really honest post! I see your dilemma..ofcourse you want to ask the question, because you want to make sure the person is *really* okay but it is a sensitive one. I think try and find another way of phrasing it, like maybe ask “That’s amazing, how are you feeling about it?” Most of the time you can gauge how someone really feels by how they answer. #thetruthabout

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      I’ve had a few different suggestions of how to phrase the question and I think it would be far better received if it was more open-ended.
      If people are excited then obviously I want to be excited for them and not put a dampner on the situation but equally I don’t want anyone to feel as though they have to be happy because everyone else is excited.
      Thanks for reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. thenthefunbegan says:

    I definitely think it is OK to ask someone how they feel about their pregnancy – especially if you sense that they may be possibly pushing some of their emotions under the carpet. I guess it is really subjective and personal as to how well you know the person, what you already know about them, etc. but as others have said, asking in an open, caring way can’t really be taken badly I don’t think. Thanks for linking up to #thetruthabout X

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      I have a couple of suggestions of how to word the question differently so that it’s more open ended and hopefully has less chance of offending anyone.
      Most people at work know how difficult I found my own pregnancy so hopefully they’d realise that I was asking because I care and because my own experience was so awful.

      Like

  9. nickykentisbeer says:

    This was a really interesting and thought provoking read. I actually know someone that has just experienced exactly what you have described. I may share your post with her.

    Personally, I didn’t enjoy pregnancy at all, I was an older mum and it was hard. I never had the wonderful feelings of elation that others did. Of course, I was delighted to be pregnant but nothing happened in a harmonious way either physically or mentally. I was immobile for much of the pregnancy and afterwards and ill. I put that down to one of those things but your post resonates.

    No one wants to know if you feel rubbish , it’s a bit like saying you’ve had a terrible Christmas ! More pressure!

    Of course, for some , asking if they are pleased could be misinterpreted as implying they aren’t so one has to tread lightly.

    It’s an area ripe for making people feel like they have to behave in a certain way and if they don’t then something isn’t right. We see so many examples of these traits when parenting which is why the blogging community is so liberating.

    Glad I found this on #twinkly Tuesday.

    Nicky x

    I

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      Hi Nicky, thanks for reading. It’s such a difficult (and potentially inflammatory) topic of conversation with the potential to give someone the opportunity they need to say that everything isn’t ok but equally the risk of really offending or upsetting them.
      I’m so sorry your pregnancy was so difficult and I hope things are better for you now.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Jenny @ Unremarkable Files says:

    Someone secretly *wanting* to share that they’re feeling scared/overwhelmed/anxious/anything other than thrilled could welcome the question…. but if you don’t know the person well or if they are very excited they could be totally offended by the question.

    If you know them well you could probably ask something like, “How are you feeling about everything? You know, emotionally.” Which is probably a better question since it’s more open-ended. If they have mixed feelings about their pregnancy, a yes or no question like “Are you pleased?” would be hard to even answer.

    Great post!
    #thetruthabout

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      Hi Jenny, I really like the way you’ve phrased the question. It gives someone who’s really excited the opportunity to say that but also if someone isn’t happy or just isn’t sure how they feel it gives them the opening to voice those feelings too. Thanks for reading.

      Like

  11. mummascribbles says:

    Such an interesting post and a question I’d not really thought about. I don’t think I would have been offended, as someone that was extremely happy to be pregnant, by the questions. I think that if by asking it you help just one person, then it’s worth it! Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    Like

    • blopmamma2014 says:

      I’m still trying to work out how best to phrase the question but no one has announced they’re pregnant for a while so it hasn’t been an issue. I’ve had lots of helpful suggestions though 🙂

      Like

  12. DomesticatedMomster says:

    I have never truly thought about asking anyone if they are pleased to be pregnant. Even when my friend who before she was even 30 had 6 kids under the age of 8. There are some I would like to ask why the feel the need to keep popping them out when they are already overwhelmed. I am visiting today from #TwinklyTuesday.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s