Many women out there who are like me, first generation farmers who like to feel like they can do it all on their own, are very daunted when those two pink lines first appear. Pregnancy is an exciting but also terrifying transition in a woman’s life, and I can clearly remember the emotional and physical struggles of my first time around. Circumstances have been somewhat similar this time around, however my experience has been vastly different.
While I still have your attention and the opportunity to impart my wisdom, let me just say, THIS TOO SHALL PASS, and, this difficult stage of life is so freaking short it will be over before you know it. Try to keep yourself, your mate, and your cows alive, and don’t sweat the small stuff.
I had such high expectations for myself, and had my identity so tied into what I could accomplish in a day when I got pregnant last time, and every hard day struggling with morning sickness, or back pain, or fatigue felt like an enormous failure and an affront to who I believed I was. Perhaps it is easier this time, because my identity is now less about what I accomplish and more about who I am to my family, something I couldn’t quite wrap my head around before Felicity was born. When I have a hard day this time around, I hug my little girl, read her a book and tell her I love her. I know that just because I didn’t accomplish some great difficult task (or even menial necessary task) on the farm today doesn’t change who I am in her eyes; I am still her mommy, and I want to impart joy and security, not my own guilt and self judgement. It’s not that I don’t get frustrated, or short tempered at times, it’s just that I try (key word here, try) to let stuff go and make the best of whatever comes up.
Another thing that made pregnancy rough for me last time was having super high expectations for my diet. Just prior to getting knocked up, we had started to go grain free, I was cooking regularly, and we were enjoying all home-grown meat. I was feeling super good physically (I WANT THAT BOD BACK!) and feeling pretty darn good about myself too (aka proud). Unfortunately a contingency I hadn’t planned for was severe morning sickness. Cooking was absolutely nauseating, and by the time I was done, whatever I had cooked became inedible to me. Not just at that meal, but for all time. I let myself get SO hungry and sick because I couldn’t bring myself to cook something good, but also didn’t want to eat junk. I was basically useless for the majority of the day, and when I finally got some food into my system I would start to feel better. Eventually I dropped the lunacy, and decided eating was more important than clean eating. I would start my day off with a blueberry bagel and cream cheese first thing in the morning every day, and do you know what? It made me feel better. Being full staved off the nausea, and not being nauseous allowed me to keep eating, feeling better and being more active. So eat. Whatever it is that sounds good, just eat it.
Allowing yourself to take things slow, listening to what your body can handle, and not setting unrealistic expectations for what you need to accomplish helps to keep you from feeling discouraged or burnt out. Prioritize what absolutely has to be done on the farm, and hope that once that is accomplished you will be energized to keep going. But if not, at least you won’t have wasted your energy on a pet project while the daily basics got neglected.
Ask for help, and invest in your relationships. People, especially your baby’s daddy assuming he is actively involved, are much more inclined to help if you ask nicely, and express verbally and physically how much you appreciate their support. I have really struggled in the past with not asking for help, wishing my SO would somehow know that I needed it, and then becoming resentful and grumpy when he didn’t magically read my mind. By that point I would be feeling snarky and the opposite of loving, and would throw his lack of helping me in his face. Somewhere along the line, I figured out that it works WAY better to try and be kind, speak out loud words of appreciation for the hard work he is already doing, and specifically ask him if he could help me with whatever task it is that is becoming difficult. Everyone, not just husbands appreciate kind and direct interactions. Approaching the problem this way leaves me feeling less tired, resentful and grumpy, which results in more love and affection (within reason, I mean, pregnancy can totally result in cranky ice-queen monster woman no matter how intentional you try to be).
Lastly, and this is actually more specifically farm related than my previous advice, which has been pretty general, try to plan your chores to all be accomplished in a time efficient and condensed manner. If that means the animals get one big meal a day and just get looked in at in the evening so be it. Sure it’s nice for them to get breakfast and dinner, and maybe your habits have been to do some of the chores in the middle of the day too, but if you end up doing the same job twice a day that you could get done in less time just doing it once, you may just be making your life harder than it needs to be. You never know when in a day you will feel amazing and energized, and want to work from sun up to sun down, or if you will struggle to drag your tired, achy and nauseous ass out of bed. Plan for the hard days and take advantage of the good days. If you have other little people to look after while your spouse is at work during the day try and get out of the house to do chores early in the morning or in the evening when everyone is in bed. Unless the season and size of your child allows you to safely baby-wear, it is generally much easier to get chores accomplished without a toddler making every task take ten times as long. This alone time can also be a mental saving grace for mommies who will be answering a million little people questions for the rest of the day. Cows don’t ask dumb questions.
In conclusion, the major differences between my really hard pregnancy, and my current slightly less hard pregnancy have been:
Eating whatever it is that sounds good, particularly ensuring a good amount of red meat and carbohydrates (aka burgerville hamburger, and a shake). Snack ALL THE TIME. It doesn’t have to be carb rich, it just usually is.
Focus on the positive. I know that sounds ridiculously cheesy, but it does help. If you focus on what you can’t do, and how crappy you feel that is all you will see. So many women are currently longing for a healthy albeit miserable pregnancy, and I get to have that experience. I get to to feel the crazy sensation of another human being living and moving inside of my body. That’s some pretty cool shit.
Along the same vein as staying positive, is realizing that this is seriously a very short period of time. This was super hard to accept the first time around. I worried that I would never get back to normal, and that if I didn’t maintain my non-pregnant lifestyle that I would lose who I was forever. In some ways that was nonsense; I was able to get back to normal in most ways incredibly fast after giving birth, in spite of a major hemorrhage and retained placental tissue. But in other ways I have never been the same. Yet somehow I am happier and emotionally healthier than I have ever been in my life. Not all change is bad.
Love yourself. Don’t give in to feelings of guilt and inadequacies. There will always be those amazing women who ran a full scale dairy by themselves, bucked hay, and castrated calves all while nine months pregnant, but that doesn’t have to be you. Your experience of pregnancy is valid, and beautiful even if you have struggles, physical or emotional, that prevent you from accomplishing your normal tasks. Either way you are creating a whole new person, and in the end they will care a lot more that you are happy and in love with them than if you broke any world records for pregnant ladies.