I wanted to write a blog to convey the experience of being pregnant. I have purposefully not reinforced my experience with research; I wanted to reflect on my (and our) experience of growing a child – being ‘pregnant’. The nature of being a phenomenological researcher, and an individual who feels intently has entailed that I really do feel my pregnancy – I notice the spaces I occupy and the spaces she is occupying within me.
The whole experience of ‘being pregnant’ I have found both interesting and strange. Much work has been written about pregnancy, both scholarly research and informal ‘guides’. I remember one of the first things I did when I found out I was pregnant was buy several of these ‘guides’ and read some qualitative literature around the experiences of pregnancy and childbirth; none of which fully prepared me for my experience of pregnancy. The whole process of pregnancy in these guides is described in such generic terms (i.e. in trimester one you will feel this, this and this), but my experience of pregnancy was/is personal, shared and changing. I felt myself interpreting my own experience within the realms of ‘pregnancy’ just to comprehend and manage the experience and what I was to expect of it.
I feel pregnant, both through my body and within it. At some points I can feel so empowered, just being aware of her presence would make me feel like I am more than just myself. I have her; she is both me and a part of me. This ‘additional presence’ was not just felt, but embodied and seen; I have this ‘thing’ (no disrespect intended, daughter-to-be) that provides me with more of an embodied presence to the outside world. As I grew bigger people would/do notice me (or rather my child) more; I am more there than I was before, but in the same instance less there as me. Other times I have felt more vulnerable than I have ever before; I would reinterpret my experience within the generic pregnancy discourse of ‘oh you’re a hormonal mother, that’s expected’. But this sense of vulnerability feels so much deeper than that; I feel a sense of responsibility to my child. She is my ‘cargo’ that I need to deliver safely; I must eat weird stuff, I must not eat other stuff, I must not drink alcohol etc. etc. This message is reinforced constantly in my husband’s father-to-be-books, which for all intents and purposes state ‘what not to let your pregnant person do’.
The experience is both one I feel within and through my own body, but also a shared experience between myself, my partner and my unborn child. Prior to being pregnant, I would hear people say ‘we are pregnant’, which I found strange; surely only you are pregnant? Your partner is definitely not complaining about sickness, an overlarge belly that reinforces how far away the floor is when you drop something, and does not actually have a child inside them, and therefore is not *actually* pregnant. But the responsibility is shared (and felt) between us. In our final trimester we had a ‘scare’ from the midwife (which turned out to be fine); where they were concerned she was too small and not growing. The experience really did frighten the both of us and reinforced how precious the experience of having a child was/is. My husband really did feel the responsibility of having a child that day, a child that he could not contribute to, or feel or hold.
One key reflection I have learnt is that pregnancy is anything but generic; in fact ‘pregnancy’ doesn’t really explain what it means to be pregnant. I am a carrier, I am a mother, and we are holding, nurturing and connecting with our child, and, whilst she is not ‘here’ and ‘seen’; we feel her and we see her. Being and feeling all of this means the generic ‘I’m/we’re pregnant’ doesn’t quite cut it.
By Lauren Alexandra McAllister, Academic Practice Tutor