First you may feel like you can conquer the world, handle all your relationships with ease, or hike the entire Appalachian Trail. Then you may feel like a wet, wrung-out dishrag: large, incompetent, and vulnerable. While you might normally be easygoing, reading the evening news might now make you weep uncontrollably, and a stolen parking space might cause an outburst of rage. What’s going on?
Even though it may feel like you are heading straight for a nervous breakdown, you aren’t. You’re pregnant and going through an unbelievably dramatic change, one driven by hormonal, physical, and psychological changes that affect every cell in your body and every iota of your spirit.
By the second trimester, many women begin to realize their emotions have become incredibly powerful. Once it was possible to hide the fact that something was bothering you. Now it seems impossible to moderate any emotions, either the uplifting ones or the difficult ones. Many of your relationships may have become suddenly more challenging.
All of this is difficult, but completely normal. Now is the perfect time to learn how to truly care for yourself. When your baby is born, you will need all the self-love and self-awareness you can gather. Here is your opportunity to do everything you can to smooth the pathway to motherhood.
Working Through New Emotions
It’s easy to blame your heightened emotional state on hormones, but experts say that isn’t the whole story. “Heightened hormonal levels are not making you have feelings, they are making you more aware of them,” says Jennifer Louden in The Pregnant Woman’s Comfort Book. She adds that being pregnant is like being injected with truth serum. For instance, you are suddenly unable to pretend you aren’t mad when your partner criticizes you—because you are mad.
Many other feelings are heightened as well: fear, sadness, love, frustration, and excitement. A lot of women notice their tolerance for minor annoyances is practically gone, and the breaking point is quickly reached with long-winded friends, a neighbor’s barking dog, or a partner’s procrastination.
Instead of trying to ignore these strong feelings or shut them down with too much TV, try to look upon this heightened emotional awareness as a gift. We live in a culture where we are often encouraged to hide strong emotions, even from ourselves. It’s so much healthier to know what you feel and then decide what to do about it.
Here are some ideas on coping with strong emotions:
Keep a journal and record some of your struggles. Describe the situation you are currently grappling with. Then take note of all the feelings that are coming up around this situation, even the ones that seem irrational. Notice if you are feeling any of this in your body or energy levels.
Another good way to explore and express emotions that come up around other people is to write a letter you don’t intend to send. You can feel free to say anything you like and to use any language that you feel like using.
Don’t forget to explore the possibility that some of your emotional reactions could be rooted in physical causes. When pregnant it is easy to become suddenly tired or hungry without even realizing it at first.
If strong emotions feel overwhelming, get help. Pregnancy is a great time to begin therapy, if you haven’t already done so. Your whole life is changing and it makes sense to get all the support you need now, before the baby is born.