Jokes abound about pregnancy hormones. I remember very quickly in my first pregnancy realizing that I would cry over things that didn’t matter (like my husband eating my Pad Thai leftovers, though I still think that was a big deal), and be quick to tears on other things. I figured it would be like when that Sarah McLachlan, SPCA animal cruelty commercial comes on when I have my period and I just dissolve into a sobbing heap for a few minutes before coming back to center. Crying is the socially acceptable “hormonally crazy” change. My anger was another story.
There are things that no one told me about being pregnant, and I’m sure I’ll write lots about those things in an effort to inform more women that what they’re going through is probably normal. That I would feel so angry, and that I would have a difficult time controlling this rage was something I was unprepared to deal with, as was my husband.
The first time I felt out of control anger we were driving to Baltimore and I had to pee. My husband didn’t stop fast enough for my liking, so I just lost it. I started screaming at him while he was driving, calling him names, dropping F bombs – all because he didn’t stop at a McDonalds and instead opted for a 7-11 just a bit further down the road. I couldn’t stop myself, even as one of his friends cowered in the back seat, trying to protect himself from my expletive-ridden explosion. It was like an out of body experience, and I felt powerless to stop it.
When my rage cloud had passed I felt embarrassed, like waking up from a blackout and finding out all the terrible things I had done. Holy shit, I thought, I’m only 8 weeks pregnant, how will I survive this?
Pregnant and Angry – not a great combo
Learning to deal with big pregnancy emotions is a process, and it may look different for each person. One thing that has helped me tremendously is to talk about what’s going on with other mothers, and when in doubt, seek professional help.
To calm myself I had to pull on some non-pregnancy related tools I had in my arsenal. Thanks to loads of therapy, I knew how to deal with my anger not pregnant. Here are some of the things that worked for me:
- Phone a friend who knows me in both good and bad times, and ask her if I’m being crazy.
- Make sure that I’m being honest with my medical team about how I feel and my emotions. Maternal emotions, especially strong ones like anxiety, anger and depression, can impact fetal development. It’s important to keep the team in the loop, in case medications are needed.
- Be honest about my fears, realistic or unfounded, that come with pregnancy. When I felt so angry I couldn’t stop myself, I worried that I would be a terrible, angry mother. I had to talk to other people about this, and just acknowledging my fear meant I was less likely to act like a terrible, angry mother.
- Take a deep breath, pause, and walk away from the situation. Sometimes I just had to take a little walk, even if it was for a glass of water or another pee break.
- Prenatal Yoga, taking a nap (only in the first pregnancy), or other self-care activities. Sometimes this meant laying on the couch with a book, but I just had to make sure that I unplugged from what I had to do and just take care of myself. This was much easier to accomplish before I was pregnant AND had a toddler. (Here are some free yoga class videos.)
- Eat my feelings. This is a terrible idea for some people, but sometimes I just ate a cupcake. This worked better when I met a friend at the bakery, or for a quick lunch.
- I’ll call this one pray, but you can call it whatever you want. It’s a bit like praying, a bit like meditating, but it’s all about getting centered. Talk to whatever or whoever you want, in your head or out loud, and just ask for help. It’s like putting energy out into the universe, and there’s a power in saying it which makes it real, and easier to accomplish. Sometimes it might be, “God, help me with this anger,” or even just saying “I need help with this” to a non-specific receiver, or other times it might be asking the universe to bring you serenity. Whatever works for you.
You’re not alone, and I wasn’t either. This, like morning sickness and heartburn, will pass.