From showcasing a baby bump to organising The Big Day, there are certain life stages that society regards as the peak of female happiness. But what if your experience doesn’t live up to the hype? One woman shares her story…
For Candice Pires, 35, from London, the nine months leading up to the birth of her daughter weren’t just disappointing – they were traumatic.
‘There’s a picture of me with my boyfriend on Christmas Day, 2012. I’m wearing a new body-con dress, heels, full make-up and I’m standing sideways to show off a tiny bump. I look like a slim, happy woman in her early thirties, expecting her first child. I appear to have “The Glow”.
‘You’d never know that I was barely holding it together: one of my sisters bought the dress, the other put on my make-up and my boyfriend helped me to stand up straight. I was 12 weeks pregnant and hating every second.‘While everyone around me knew I was suffering, no one knew how to handle it. I had prenatal depression as a result of hyperemesis gravidarum, an uncommon condition involving relentless nausea. Within weeks I’d lost a dangerous amount of weight and was in and out of hospital. I had to stop work and spent most of my time motionless in bed. Days were long and shapeless. I was too weak to read or watch TV. Sometimes just the sound of the doorbell or my boyfriend walking into the room was enough to make me vomit.
‘Negativity isn’t my thing, but I became overwhelmed by terrifying feelings of loss – loss of independence, happiness, my health, quitting training for my first half marathon (OK, there was some relief with that last one). I was genuinely convinced part of me was gone forever; that I would always be depressed. When I should have been celebrating new life, I was mourning my old one.
‘Oddly, I knew I would love my baby. I didn’t worry about that. It was me who was the problem. My boyfriend and family did as much as they could, but no one could pull me up. In retrospect, I now realise pregnancy is often isolating, and I wish I’d spoken to other women in a similar situation. I don’t think we talk openly enough about the hard bits – there’s a hot-cheeked shame associated with admitting you don’t like carrying a baby. It’s almost as if it negates your love for your future child.
‘When I finally went into labour – emaciated with a massive bump – I kept thinking, “This is still better than being pregnant”. Three years later, I am madly, limitlessly in love with our little girl. And while I don’t know if I could go through it again, I’m happy to say that pregnancy wasn’t a joyful place for me, but motherhood totally is.’