Your pregnancy is an incredible journey and a defining moment in your life. At such a profound and dramatic occasion, it’s natural to have overwhelming feelings—guilt among them.
Emotional fallout doesn’t get any bigger or tougher than when it's rooted in matters of life and death. Having a baby means choosing to make a life, choosing to change your own life, and choosing the unknown. When the profundity of your pregnancy’s consequences starts to become real for you, it can be really scary.
That’s natural. That’s okay.
There could be any number of things related to being pregnant that trigger feelings of guilt:
- being able to get pregnant when someone you know can’t
- not feeling as excited about the upcoming baby as you think you should
- having second thoughts about having this baby
- reluctance to take maternity leave or a feeling that you’re letting your co-workers down
- not enjoying your pregnancy and/or experiencing strong negative feelings about your body’s changes
- difficulty giving up something that’s now on the pregnancy “no-no” list (caffeine, alcohol, smoking)
- pressuring your partner into getting pregnant
- concern or worry about how your life will be different and then feeling sadness or loss about the changes
- feeling overwhelming happiness at a time when people around you are sad or stressed
- excitement that you’re going to be able to quit your job and stay home
For me, guilt is a feeling that triggers action. If I feel guilty, it’s usually because of something I’ve done (that I feel I shouldn’t have), or something I’ve failed to do (that I think I should have).
The danger with feeling guilt is that it can turn into a self-pity party pretty quickly and it can become a place where you stay and wallow, “shoulding” all over yourself. Or, at least that’s true for me. Some people I know feel even the slightest twinge of guilt and seem to be able to bury it as swiftly as it showed up. They can compartmentalize feelings, sort them out and decide whether or not the guilt is justified.
For me, it’s a little longer, more arduous process, but I guess in the end the action steps for resolving guilt are all the same:
- Note the guilt.
- Determine the source of it.
- Decide whether the “should” thing is reasonable and justified.
- Take action.
You can follow the same steps during feelings of guilt that occur during pregnancy, but more likely than not when you take a look at the source of your pregnancy guilt, you’ll see that your feelings are probably reasonable and that your goal should be to accept where you are, rather than forgive yourself.
Feelings of guilt around things such as being able to get pregnant when someone you love can’t, isn’t something you should feel guilty about—your friend’s loss isn’t your fault. You can take action by talking with your friend, and being sensitive and respectful of her feelings, but you don’t have to stay in a place of feeling guilty.
Other things, like not enjoying being pregnant, aren’t anything to feel guilty about either. They’re natural. The task here isn’t so much to forgive yourself as it is to accept where you are emotionally.
Then again, if there are choices you have made which are the source of your guilt during pregnancy—such as not quitting smoking or pressuring or tricking your partner into getting pregnant—facing up to it, taking responsibility and either accepting the consequences or changing your behavior are the cure.
Whatever you do, try to let go of the unnecessary guilt or resolve the justified guilt so the feeling of guilt won't hijack you for the next nine months.
Besides, you’ve got lots of years of mothering ahead of you in which to feel guilty! Just kidding. The following statement is really how I feel. (It comes from the website Creativewithkids.com in an article called, "How to Find the Positive Parenting Tools You Need.")
"Let go of the guilt...we have much better things to hold onto."