There was an Instagram Story tip earlier this year asking people to share pictures of themselves pregnant. I don’t remember the exact wording, but I do remember the profound ambivalence I felt while petting these baby bumps of varying sizes—from tiny bumps in the first trimester to watermelon-sized growths in the last few days. Part of me loves seeing all the smiling faces covering their round bellies; especially when I’m so close to the poster, it’s such a joy to see my friends full.
But I also feel a pang of sadness for myself. I have almost no pictures of my pregnancy with my oldest daughter. I have hyperemesis so I throw up many times a day. My obstetrician assured me that I was getting just enough nutrition to keep my baby healthy, yet my own body was shrinking. My skin was terribly pale with red cystic acne breakouts and my hair, which was already fine, was thinning.
During the first half of that pregnancy, I was also extremely depressed and anxious. I’ve stopped taking antidepressants to get pregnant. I could never be sure if it was the hyperemesis that caused my mental health to decline, or the hormonal onslaught of pregnancy, or both. Either way, it’s not a time I particularly want to record.
It helped my first pregnancy happened in 2012. Instagram exists, but it’s not as ubiquitous as it is today. At the time, I didn’t feel the pressure of being pregnant on social media. I became very ill and had to quit my job at the time. I barely left my apartment until I was seven months old and stopped throwing up as much, so I didn’t get pregnant in public either.
But I scream inside for my new book : The Unsustainability of American Motherhood Women I Interviewed Said They Socialized The media changed its own pregnancy experience. “All these beautiful images, these beautiful photos with flower crowns, subconsciously made me think that pregnancy is easy or that it’s a day-to-day beauty process,” one mom told me. When it turned out she wasn’t, she felt something was wrong with her.