“How do you feel?”
From The New York Times:
Olivia sat across from me in my sunlit office, shadowed in grief. She’d been trying to get pregnant for years, and had been coming to see me for nearly all of them. After three miscarriages and two unsuccessful IVFs, she spoke softly of her strained marriage, wringing her hands in her lap. I shifted my weight from one leg to the other, listening intently; she shifted her eyes toward the window. But no amount of diversion could hide what sat between us: my unmistakably pregnant belly.
As a psychologist who specializes in women’s reproductive and maternal mental health, I hear countless heartbreaking stories from women struggling to get pregnant, coping with perinatal anxiety, grieving miscarriages, contemplating terminating pregnancies and weathering postpartum mood and anxiety disorders. Somehow, during my pregnancy, my own anxiety didn’t spike. I remained steady.
Understandably, my patients wanted to know about my pregnancy; a third entity had entered the consultation room, altering the therapeutic dynamic. They peppered our sessions with questions like “How do you feel?” (especially during first trimester, when I glowed olive green), and “What are you having?” (I didn’t know). They wondered aloud how my impending motherhood would affect my work life.
Olivia expressed concern that I would lose the pregnancy and pressed me for details about my status and symptoms. “Thank you for checking in,” I’d respond. “I feel fine.” Then I’d turn the focus back to her. Together we explored the feelings my pregnant belly evoked for her: her envy of my seemingly “easy” go of it, her fear that my pregnancy would end badly, her fantasy that my being a specialist in reproductive health somehow made me “immune” — that “probably nothing bad would happen” to me.
My baby was born that fall.