As I recently reached into my purse and pulled out my wallet, I remembered the time my loving husband proudly presented me with that wallet. I responded with gratitude that he had bought me something nice, and I graciously thanked him for it.
Then I cried about it in secret.
I was almost 40 and very pregnant with my seventh child.
Ah, pregnancy! Of course. Why else would I be upset that my husband bought me a wallet?
I normally operate on logic and reason, not emotions. It was a big frustration to me during pregnancy to feel all the feels, to pause my whirlwind life to deal with emotions. I disliked the emotions worse than I disliked the nausea or fatigue.
Why are we more emotional during pregnancy?
Hormones play a big part in how we feel emotionally. Some of us are more sensitive to surging progesterone and fluctuating estrogen levels, and this may make us more irritable or weepy.
Pregnancy is a time of profound transition. Our lives are forever changed by pregnancy and birth, and anxiety or fear of what lies ahead can cause heightened emotional sensitivity.
Our bodies change during pregnancy (ha, that’s an understatement!) Some of us enjoy these changes, delighting in our new curves and relishing all the new sensations we feel. And for some of us, these changes bring uncertainty and a feeling of vulnerability. Even if we start pregnancy with a healthy body image, we may wonder how our partner feels about all the changes, wonder if we’re still attractive, feel awkward as our clothes no longer fit, or feel clumsy as our balance changes.
Pregnancy can also bring unresolved emotional issues to the surface, particularly if we’ve endured abuse in the past or had strained relationships with our caregivers. There isn’t a lot we can do to make the extra emotions go away, but there are some strategies we can practice to help manage them.
Get enough rest. We all know what happens to our little ones when their sleep is interrupted! That can happen to adults, too. Go to bed earlier. Start a bedtime ritual—shut off your screens an hour before bed, take a bath, drink a cup of warm chamomile tea, lay down quietly in a dark room. Yeah, you're probably going to have to get up to pee soon, but get as much rest as you can. Take naps during the day whenever possible.
Eat well. What you put into your body has a big impact on the way you feel. Enough water, enough of the good stuff (you know, protein, veggies, fruit, good fats), and less of the not-so-good stuff (hello, sugar! and processed food.) If you are craving less healthy foods, look up healthy snacks on Pinterest or do a Google search for healthier alternatives to your favorite treats.
Exercise. Check with your own provider before you start, but generally, most midwives and obstetricians recommend daily exercise during pregnancy. If you are already exercising, in most cases, it's ok to continue what you are used to doing. Listen to your body, and make modifications as necessary. If you don't already exercise, try a daily walk. The fresh air and sunshine will probably make you feel better, too.
Minimize stress. When you notice something causes you to feel on edge, consider whether it's something that you can change. There are some things we have little to no control over, like our partner's spending habits or our employment. But we can learn to manage how we handle stress. Search YouTube and the App Store for "pregnancy relaxation" to practice relaxation techniques. Even if you are planning to use medication in labor, these exercises can help in any situation that causes you to feel tense. Practice them regularly so that they will come easily to you when you need them. And then make adjustments for the things you can, like that loud cashier at the grocery store who loves recounting her own pregnancy horror stories. Every. Time. Figure out her days off and get your groceries then.
Speak gently to yourself. We all have an inner voice. If yours is habitually unkind to you, cut her off! Imagine how you would feel if you heard someone speaking to your pregnant loved one unkindly. How would you speak to a loved one? Speak to yourself the same way.
Journal. Journaling can help you connect with yourself, understand why certain situations trigger certain emotions, and help you to problem solve. If this idea appeals to you, but you aren’t sure how to start, here are some tips to start journaling.
Communicate with your partner or other support person. Burdens are easier to bear when someone is helping you carry them. Share your struggles, share the things that make you feel better or worse, and ask for help.
Even in the midst of the emotions, I felt silly for being upset about that wallet, but that didn’t change the feelings. I talked to my husband about it, and he reassured me that his only thought was wanting to make me feel special. I knew that, really, I did. When the feelings died down, I laughed about it. Six years later, I still get a kick out of carrying that over-priced wallet in my second-hand purse, and I’ll carry it until it falls apart.