Apathetic? Feeling ‘meh’ about being pregnant.

19 weeks, 6 days

Let’s talk about pregnancy apathy, and why I’ve not been blogging during my pregnancy. I have hesitated to write about this in a public forum, because I was afraid that someday my children may read it and think I was some kind of heartless creature. The more I considered it though, the more I believed that I’d rather my kids know that I’m a real person for whom things are not always perfect, that it’s ok to openly struggle with things and most importantly that (even though they don’t completely exist at the time I write this), I will love them unconditionally.

What do I mean when I say apathy, exactly? To be blunt, I feel emotionally detached from the person I’m currently growing in my womb; like I swallowed a baby pill and I’m just waiting for it to pass through some kind of gestational digestive system so that I can expel it and get on with my life. I feel monstrous just saying that sort of thing out loud and I’m finding that I have accompanying and overwhelming feelings of guilt as a result.

I am familiar with the mommy-to-be websites and blogs, well-known and otherwise (thebump.com, babycenter.com, rookiemoms.com, etc) as well as the aforementionedWhat to Expect When You’re Expecting” and though I find them to be incredibly helpful in regards to week-by-week information or baby registry tips, I have found most of them to be woefully lacking in the emotional side effect department. I was relieved to discover, after some simple Googling, that not only are there many women who also experience intense apathy (is that an oxymoron?) during their pregnancy, but that many of them are bloggers just like myself. In particular, this blog entry on Epinions from 2006 seemed to speak right to me. I found myself somewhat comforted that there were other women who were experiencing the very same thing.

Like the author, Joyfulgirl91 (whose account is sadly inactive now…I was hoping to contact her and thank her), my pregnancy was entirely planned. My husband and I both pined to begin a family and I diligently began tracking my ovulation in December of 2011.

Pre-pregnancy, I would not have classified myself as the type to struggle with long bouts of depression. I’ve had my share of ups and downs (not to mention my share of cynicism and sarcasm) but am generally optimistic when it comes to most things. During my first trimester, I was under the impression that the nausea and the bloating and the mood swings were the root cause of my generally gross emotions and that once I was out of the proverbial weeds I’d see a turnaround in my mood. I’m finding though, now that I’m barely shy of 20 weeks, that I can’t shake this maternity rut I’m in.

20 weeks into this journey toward motherhood I feel less motherly than ever. My parents had to put our 16 year old black lab to sleep in September and I still get choked up thinking about him, but when we saw the baby’s face at our last ultrasound, all I could muster was clinical interest in the sophistication of modern diagnostic tools. I am upset that my body is no longer my own, that my clothes don’t fit, that my diet is restricted, my ability to exercise clipped and that in general, my lifestyle has had to change rather drastically. I am not obsessing over names or nursery patterns, or finding mommy groups and pregnancy yoga classes, nor have I considered what my birth plan will be beyond “get the baby out of me.” I have registered for baby items in accordance with social expectations, but stuck only to the bare necessities. This reaction is selfish, and it’s likely that it’s linked to some sort of issue with control or anxiety. I’m not a psychotherapist, but that notion doesn’t seem like a far leap to me.

I do feel very guilty, as I mentioned. There are women everywhere who long to conceive, bear and raise children but who are unable to do so as a result of any number of complications, physical, economic or otherwise; parents all over the place who are dying to start a family but cannot. In addition, it’s downright HARD to get pregnant in the first place (despite what the relentless indoctrination most people receive in grade school may have led them to believe) and there are approximately 1,000,000 things that can go wrong. From fertilization through implantation and all the way to birth, the staggering amounts of possible causes of fetal termination are nothing short of mind-boggling. And still, here’s me, despite ALL of those things, unable to find it in my character to be thankful.

I really related to this blog excerpt: “I know there are women who desperately want to conceive, but that made me about as pleased with my pregnancy as the starving children in China made me want to finish my vegetables as a child. My response was about the same: they can have it.”

When people find out that I’m pregnant, the second question they always ask me (since the first is, of course, ‘is it a boy or a girl?’) is if I’m SO EXCITED. My response?  Bold-faced lies every time…that we’re (I’m) thrilled and can’t wait to meet our little bundle of joy…mostly because I don’t want to go through the long and uncomfortable explanation about why I’m actually not excited at all. TJ has said on several occasions that he wishes he could be more physically connected to my pregnancy, and I wish in return that I could give it to him.

I’ve spoken to him at length about this very issue and he is unabashedly supportive and understanding, which is very comforting to me. I’ve even told a few close friends and my doctor about it because I think it’s important to share things about yourself that you might not entirely understand. Both friends and physicians have assured me that I’m not abnormal or inhuman (in fact, I learned that many women don’t bond with their babies until weeks after birth) and even though it hasn’t quelled my pregnancy apathy, I do feel better knowing that someone else knows.

Unlike Joyfulgirl91, I’ve not found that my level of engagement with my pregnancy has helped much. I continue to take care of myself and I’m not behaving recklessly in any way, but I don’t know that I’m any better (emotionally speaking) for the effort. I have no plans to abandon my efforts at engagement, but my expectations are low. For now, I am simply taking it one day at a time.

Perhaps this blog will evolve into something other than my original intentions. I won’t make promises to update more often because I can’t guarantee that I’ll feel the need to; my posting track record speaks for itself (besides, let’s be honest: no one reads this, other than my husband.) I will promise to try and remain frank and open about what I’m experiencing.

Check out “Not Everyone Bonds with Their Unborn Baby: Coping With My Uninvited Guest” to read the entire blog post from Joyful91. And if by some chance you know how to get in touch with that gal, let me know.

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  1. I’m in much the same situation as yourself I think, I’ve only really noticed over the last week or so.

    Initially I was not thrilled with the timing but happy in a committed relationship, (engaged and planning a wedding – now postponed but I’m not holding a grudge.) Last time round I was a single parent with a good support system but single nonetheless and this time – great kid already, great partner, a house and not just turned 20, so I thought this’ll be grand.

    For the first few months I busied myself in the details and the info. I’m not a gushing, emotional, hugging type. I prefer to know what’s going on and be ready so I kept those in the know to a minimum and mentally prepared by reading. I was fine in my way, people tried to hug me and I still recoiled. People tried to lecture me about my complete lack of interest in breastfeeding and I expressed my lack of interest in their opinions on the matter. All in all I tried to maintain the separate identity that I had always had with the small group we had told because we thought they knew us (me) best.

    I didn’t relise how exhausting even a small group’s best intentions could be, my boyfriend’s mum suddenly thought we were going to bond over previously never mentioned body parts, my best friend (recently on her 1st baby) became patronising and dull, my brothers also filled with parental advice and opinions even though I was a parent long before anyone else. The only normal friend had a secret abortion and made herself justifiably scarce. Everyone we had told and subsequently told somehow felt they had a right to claim some little piece of me to disregard. My boobs were now a common talking point, my personality, my hobbies, my college attendance (I’m in the middle of an MA but apparently that’s madness), my plans, my bodily functions, my everything is now anybodies opening line. But I expected this to a point and so I relied on my boyfriend and continued on my merry way, keeping my thoughts mainly to myself.

    Eventually though I had learned pretty much everything I was going to without over-saturating myself in information. So I started looking at what we’d need and then I convinced my boyfriend that we should buy it all because of preparedness and the january sales but now with the exception of some stuff his sisters are being annoying about buying, we’re pretty much done and now with nothing baby related to do or learn I relise that I feel exactly the same as I did before I made myself busy – apathetic, disconnected and bored to the pont of inaction.

    I enjoy my boyfriends enthusiasm when he’s not at work, I like how he deflects people from annoying me and treating me as a human incubator but he (and I) have to work. My son has his own teenage thing going on and I won’t burden him by trying to make him a confidant either, everyone else either doesn’t know I’m pregnant (I’ve put off telling college and work friends to maintain an independent identity for as long as possible) or are unbearably annoying, so here I am, with no feelings of warm fuzzy love or even impassioned resentment, just blah. I don’t even feel like a prisoner, I don’t feel anything and it’s interfering with the rest of my life that I’ve struggled so hard to maintain. I’m even thinking of deleting this although I enjoyed writing it, everything is a bit of a chore but I guess persevering is the only sane option so up it goes. I’m glad other people feel the same without freaking out and it makes me more focused on coping or overcoming it rather than making it a focal point. I think it will pass and that all this will be a hazy memory of boredom in the face of a more tangible future. Good luck though and sorry for writing a mega-long reply.

    After writing this I’ve decided that I’m going to pour my energy into finding motivational tips and routines for myself and see if that can help break up the time to get over this endless stretch of meh-ness. Maybe I can work up from meh to procrastination to minimum effort and then by the time the baby gets here I’ll have shook it off.

    • I know exactly how you feel re: the buying and prepping. Tasks to be completed in the name of preparedness. I’m due in a few weeks and am done with the prepping…aaaand here I am again with the same feelings.
      I liked what you said about persevering: it does very little to dwell on this now. It’s best to push on and hope that it’s just a phase. Acknowledge that you’re going through it (we all know the old quip about denial, right?), perhaps connect with others going through something similar, and commence with the twiddling of thumbs until it’s over.
      Good luck to you too, and thanks for taking the time to write that response. Through it all, it really is nice to know that there are other people who have reacted to and are coping with pregnancy in a similar fashion. Best of luck with the war against the Mehs, too, and with the rest of your pregnancy.

  2. Came across this post when researching “painless childbirths” on a whim. If you ever get this reply, know that I would fully agree with the idea that women should feel apathetic about their pregnancies (to a certain extent though, so as you don’t end up losing all concern for the child’s life itself.) I just don’t like the idea of women being under control by transient hormones and exhibiting predictable emotional behavior. It reminds me of that other familiar transient sense of being infatuated and mistaking it for actual love.
    That sense of abnormality is something one can revel in, knowing that it is out of the jurisdiction of Nature’s despotic programming.

    …for the sake of being a good mother, women can begin emotionally bonding with the child after the tedious nine months are over and done with. Determining if a person is fit to be a parent is a different matter entirely.

    • I went back and re-read this post as it’s been over a year since I first wrote it and 9 months since I gave birth to my daughter. I’m not sure I asserted that women “should” feel apathetic about pregnancy–at least that wasn’t my original intent. I’m also not sure I understand what you meant by “I just don’t like the idea of women being under control by transient hormones and exhibiting predictable emotional behavior.” I can assure you that a.) there are probably very few women who relish the experience of being a hormonal trainwreck (even if it is transient) and b.) “predictable” might be the very last descriptive term I would choose for my pregnant emotional behavior.

      If I had the clarity of mind at the time to revel in the sense of abnormality as you suggested, perhaps I could have seen the situation with more objective eyes and felt a little better. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say…maybe I’ll be able to remember that during my next go-round. Honestly though, I’ll be happy to get through it again in one piece.

      For the record,’tedious nine months’ might be my favorite succinct description of pregnancy. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I have to say, I truly appreciate reading your blog. I am 18 weeks pregnant (with twins) and am having a really difficult time with my “detached-ness.” We, too, planned this pregnancy. I had to work with a fertility Dr and was at this for 10 months. I have wanted a baby for as long as I remember and wanted to experience pregnancy. I cannot seem to muster the correct amount of enthusiasm for any situation. People ask, “Oh, aren’t you just thrilled and I either non-enthusiastically shake my head yes or just shrug (as I can’t even gather the strength to lie well). This scares the ever-loving crap out of me as “this is what I wanted” (which I am reminded almost daily from parents, friends, etc). Hopefully this shall pass

    • First of all, congratulations on your success with fertility medicine! It’s truly a wonder of modern medicine. And twins, to boot!
      I recognize that there isn’t really much I can say to you that will make you feel better (which is my assumption based solely on my experience), though I’m very glad you appreciated the post. As I mentioned, it was comforting to me to discover that there were other women in the exact same ‘apathetic’ situation. It didn’t help to quell my emotion at the time, but it did offer me some hope that there was an end in sight, and certainly there’s value in that.
      All I can say to you at this point, at the risk of sounding horribly cheesy–is that it gets better. I promise. Your apathy for gestation is by no means an indicator of the love you’ll have for your babies once they’re born.
      Best of luck with the remainder of your pregnancy (halfway there!) and with the birth of your twins, and thanks very much for the comment!

  4. So I googled “why do I feel so disconnected from my pregnancy” and found this particular post. I know you’re several years removed from the birth of your child, but I could have written it today. Thank you for helping me feel not so alone. I’m in a stable secure relationship, but this was not even remotely planned. My boyfriend is halfway through his Masters program and I was laid off at work at the end of September – a couple weeks before we found out. I don’t know if those are contributing factors to my lack of emotion, but it seems relevant. I can’t stop feeling guilty for not feeling which plays into my negativity. Horrible admission to complete stranger(s) time: on Sunday night I ended up in the ER for 5 hours for excessive blood loss (everything is fine). A) it pissed me off because lack of periods is the only perk I’ve experienced thus far, and B) all i was thinking was that I was having a miscarriage. And all the problems that would go away if I did. You know, like, trying to find gainful employment before I can no longer fit in my work clothes and present myself as an obvious liability to future employers.

    I dragged my boyfriend through 3 different children’s stores today looking at the infant clothes and felt… nothing. I was hoping for the AED equivalent of jump starting my maternal instincts and drive, but walked away just as emotionally void. I’m DOING everything right, but I feel like I’m FEELING everything wrong.

    Anyway, thank you for putting this out there. It’s good to know that even the most unfeeling of expectant mothers can eventually feel a bond with their child, even if that doesn’t happen until after birth.

    • Hi Es,
      I’m woefully, inexcusably, and egregiously late responding to this comment–for that, I apologize. I hope in the nearly year since you posted it, everything went well with the remainder of your pregnancy.

  5. Thank you for this. Thank you.

  6. Thank you for your bravery. I could have written this as every single word resonated with me. Glad to know I am not a horrible person nor alien and that others share the same struggle. I am currently 12 weeks pregnant and found your blog by typing into google, “pregnant and feeling emotionally disconnected from my baby.” Bless you!!!

    • Hi Mindy,
      First thing first–congratulations! (I hope that doesn’t sound like a platitude.)

      Oh man, pregnancy. It really is an abstract, complicated emotional process that many people struggle through. I’m glad you were able to find the post and maybe feel a little better after reading it.

      For what it’s worth: at this point, I’m now a mother of 3 and can report with certainty that the way you feel about your pregnancy (or pregnancies) has absolutely zero to do with your capacity to love your child(ren). I don’t have time to blog anymore, really, but I should find some time to do a follow-up to this one.

      Good luck with everything! Take care, and thanks for the comment! 🙂

  7. Thank you for being so candid. I’m 9 weeks pregnant and completely unexcited about it, although it was a planned pregnancy. Nothing is as I thought it would be and I am sorry I ever asked for this. I’ve just started my journey and I’m completely dreading the next 7 months. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone, even if it feels like it.

    • Hi Sendy, thanks for the comment! It’s funny that you happen to comment today, but I’ll get to that in a second.

      I totally get where you’re coming from. Having kids is such a mind-blowingly huge life change. I think a lot of us (self absolutely included) don’t have the capacity to grasp the enormity of that concept until long after the baby is conceived. The upshot for you (and I, and so very many like us) is that what you’re experiencing is NORMAL.
      Now that I’ve had time to reflect on my experiences postpartum, I’m fairly certain that my mindset throughout the entire process was probably an emotional defense mechanism. It’s easy for me to say that now, but I keenly remember what it was like to feel like I had no skin in the game. I was relieved to learn that loads of moms (and some dads, too) had similar experiences and that it was not an indication of their capacity as a parent.

      I mentioned above that the timing of your comment was eerie. Just yesterday I saw this article http://www.scarymommy.com/not-excited-to-be-pregnant/ on Scary Mommy. It was written by Kristen Ellis. As I read it, I was thinking that it sounded just like this post, and I was musing that the chronology of our two experiences were very similar. You might find it to be of some comfort to you, as well.
      I wish you the very smoothest and healthiest pregnancy possible! Try not to get hung up on how so many people will expect you to feel and act while you’re gestating. You feel what you feel, and that’s no one’s business but your own. If all else goes to pot, remember that this internet stranger has your back. 😉

  8. Thank you so much for this! I felt so alone and very nervous about not having a close relationship with my baby (I’m 33 weeks). This helped me a ton. 🙂

    • Hi Hannah!
      Thanks for the comment! As strange as it might seem, messages like yours and the others here are still very therapeutic for me. My daughter is almost 5.5 now (and I have another daughter and a son now, too!), but it still resonates with me when someone else can commiserate and maybe feel a little better after reading the post. Pregnancy can be such a weird mix of “everything out there and in your face” and “holy crap I feel so alone” all at the same time. I hear you and see you, and you’re not alone in this.
      I hope the rest of your pregnancy is as healthy and comfortable as possible. Best of luck! 🙂

  9. I’m so glad this article exists, I’m 26 weeks tomorrow and after reading the article and the comments from other women I feel like a normal person instead of the strange person my parents are making me feel like. They are honestly waaaay more excited about being grandparents than I am to be a parent. I think it’s because they will get to enjoy all the bliss of a baby without any of the work lol. Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby, but I’m showing that love by eating healthier, diligently going to midwife appointments, and thinking of everything I need to do to prepare. Some family members are misinterpreting my lack of unbridled emotion as a lack of interest in the baby herself. It’s really irritating! Especially when my father asks if I’m feeling this way because I’m having a girl and my husband’s family (Chinese) want a boy instead…that’s an awful (and kinda racist) assumption. Anyway, long story short thank you so so much for putting me at ease and reminding me that what I’m feeling is very normal for a lot of women and I’m not some sort of heartless space alien whose incapable of being a great mom :).

    • Hi Nicole,

      I’m glad you felt a little better after reading this! Boy–“unbridled” is the best term I’m heard for grandparent enthusiasm. It really does take over, doesn’t it?? I hope the rest of your pregnancy is textbook awesome, but also as happy as it can be!

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