It wasn’t that I was ashamed of being pregnant — I just had no desire for something so intimate to be so publicly displayed.
I didn’t want to tell anyone I was pregnant. Even the thought of anyone asking questions or judging me in some unknown way because I was pregnant made my mouth turn to cotton. Here I was, 33 years old. Married. No skeletons in the closet that I was trying to hide. But all I wanted to do was vanish and definitely not talk to anyone about being pregnant.
Other friends who were pregnant were practically running through the streets shouting at the world when they found out they were pregnant. Meanwhile, I wanted to hide in my house for nine months. It wasn’t that I was ashamed of being pregnant; I wasn’t at all ashamed or embarrassed. I just had no desire for something so intimate to be so publicly displayed. Additionally, I abhorred the idea of the world around me asking me questions. I didn’t want random people, or even people I knew, focusing on me and my growing stomach. It wasn’t any of their business.
Even though I knew I wanted to be pregnant — I had gone through great lengths to become pregnant in the first place — my brain and heart were definitely not speaking to one another. Logically, I knew I didn’t have a choice; I would have to tell people about the pregnancy — it would eventually be obvious I was carrying a bit of extra weight. However, this other nagging part of my brain engaged my “fight-or-flight” response and it was telling me to take flight, to hide. And then, to top it off, my heart was telling me to be happy — but on my own terms.
How Being a Highly Sensitive Person Impacts Being Pregnant
It was one thing for me to be happy at home, with my husband, where we could quietly plan ahead for what was to come. And behind those closed doors, I was ecstatic. I cleaned, planned, organized, and sewed. All the things a stereotypical mother-to-be would be doing and all things that we highly sensitive people (HSPs) value, too. But it was another thing to face the wide world of people at work, and in the neighborhood, who looked at me and immediately thought they knew me because I was pregnant.
We sensitive types feel more in control when we can plan and organize the world around us. However, if you have ever been pregnant, then you probably know that planning and organizing and maintaining control are basically the last things you can hope for. Most likely, even with all the planning and organizing, things won’t go according to plan. Practically even the idea of having a baby will bring chaos into your life — and, therefore, into your mind — when you are a highly sensitive person.
And to make matters worse, for some reason, society in general seems to believe that whenever a woman is pregnant, it is their “right” to pry into that woman’s life. Random strangers will approach you on the street to talk with you. Or even worse, someone you just met will touch your stomach. We HSPs are already overstimulated more than others, but this is magnified more so with all the sudden (and unwanted) attention we’re getting.
Even friends and family will ask intimate questions that have no place in a normal social context. Having people you know ask personal questions like, “How long did you try for?” or “Have you thought about having more than one baby?” are akin to being asked how much sex have you had. It is appalling. And, again, this is heightened when you’re already a sensitive person to begin with.
Even though I waited until 21 weeks along to tell anyone, and I mean anyone, that I was pregnant, the remaining half of my pregnancy was brutal as I attempted to be polite as I fended off the barrage of attention I did not want. On top of already having a body that was changing daily — change being something that HSPs don’t typically deal well with — you’re also forced to deal with the comments and beliefs coming from others. Even if most people have the best of intentions when they touch your stomach or give unsolicited advice, because HSPs can easily read between the lines of what is being spoken — and we’re pros at reading body language, too — the sentiments portrayed can leave a pregnant HSP feeling ambushed and drained.
Yet, all that said, I managed to survive my public display of pregnancy and find ways to be happy in the real world. Here are some things that worked for me as a soon-to-be mom and may work for you, too.
4 Ways to Draw Less Attention to Yourself as a Pregnant Highly Sensitive Person
1. Create boundaries (and actually stick to them)
In order to survive this constant attention and prying into my personal life, I created boundaries with those individuals I encountered on a regular basis. (And if you’re an HSP, you know that setting boundaries can be a challenge for us!) I set myself up to be able to politely explain what I needed and ensured people around me understood my boundaries regarding my pregnancy.
For instance, most of my coworkers understood that I am a private person and don’t like to discuss personal or bodily functions with others. However, responding to daily questions, like “How are you feeling?” started to get irritating, as I found them to not be related to me, but to my pregnancy. Setting up boundaries — even around questions like this — helped to regulate the numerous interrogations I received throughout the day. I ended up asking coworkers to only ask me once a week how I was feeling so that I did not have to deal with that conversation numerous times a day. It was great that they cared, but it was too much “caring” for me to function as an HSP who needed to feel less stimulated, not more overstimulated.
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2. Send pregnancy announcements through email
Sending pregnancy announcements through emails sounds so simple considering our main mechanism for communication these days is through email to begin with. However, I told everyone I work with that I was pregnant — via email — even though I saw them daily. I sent it when we were all off on vacation. That way, they would have a few days to get over their personal excitement without being in my personal space physically with their individual reactions. Each individual has the right to be excited for someone else’s good news, of course. But controlling the way others receive information can help with the reaction so that it is less overwhelming for us HSPs.
3. Wear pregnancy clothing in order to prevent questions
I used to hate when random people looked at me with those eyes that said, “Ohhhh, you must be pregnant.” It made me grit my teeth and blush even before they uttered a single word. So, after hiding in my already oversized hippy clothing for the first 21 weeks, I finally let my mom drag me into the one and only maternity clothing store I would enter during my entire pregnancy. A couple hundred dollars later, I was wearing clothes that made me look pregnant. There would be no question about it now! The proper clothes took the question mark out of the looks from strangers and even reduced the number of questions I was asked, which made me feel less overwhelmed (which was important for my HSP self to maintain a sense of calm and peace). I didn’t necessarily feel more comfortable being pregnant in public, but the honesty in the display made it seem like I wasn’t hiding from myself.
4. Keep active — it’ll be good for your physical and emotional health
I’ve always been a swimmer. No matter what type of exercise you prefer, maintain it during your pregnancy, as it’ll be good for your brain and increase your serotonin and dopamine levels. And when we HSPs are relaxed, we’re happy!
For me, the added bonus of swimming during pregnancy was that no one could see me since I was below the water. Of course, there was the whole issue of walking on the pool deck in a swimsuit that remained awkward, but the reward was being invisible for as long as I was submerged under the surface. Mentally and emotionally, it helped me to feel normal and to restore balance in my life because I was able to keep doing something I had always done. And, physically, it helped to keep me in shape. And it also kept me happy because anyone in the pool with me never asked any questions about my being pregnant.
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