Jennie, 34, London, UK
I spent most of my 20s and early 30s, terrified of never meeting "the one" and ashamed of every relationship breakdown. I worried that this meant I had failed as a woman; not only was I single but I was unhappy about being single. Wasn't I supposed to be independent? To not need another? To love myself and be happy on my own? But was I not also supposed to be settled, engaged, married, pregnant, or already with children? It was a total head-fuck and any which way I looked, I felt sure I had failed.
Then, at 34, I found myself partnered. Somehow I'd pulled it off. Perhaps I hadn't been broken all those years after all.
And now I find myself preparing to start trying to get pregnant. And the head-fucks continue.
It never occurred to me that pregnancy could be joyous. Sure, I fantasise about having a big belly, my partner talking to the bump every night, going to scans together, and telling everyone the good news. But underneath those small imagined joys, there is a persistent sense of dread. I dread the changes to my body. I worry about feeling sick and tired, I worry about stretch marks, I worry about damaging my vagina beyond all recognition, and the potential for ongoing health complications (tears, colostomy bags, prolapses, scar tissue). I'm scared about the birth. Scared about how much pain I'll be able to tolerate and how I'll respond to those in the room. I'm terrified of developing post-natal depression, of not bonding with the baby, of being triggered in all sorts of ways and feeling the traumas of my own childhood, particularly within my relationship to my mother. I'm scared of fucking up my baby. I worry about the impact on my relationship. Will we stop having sex? Will we stop being attracted to one another? Will any small niggles become bigger ones? I'm terrified of inevitably having to upgrade our house and of having to move. Where the hell would we go? How do you manage the responsibility of deciding where your child will call home? I'm scared of the financial burden of a child. I worry we won't be able to afford nurseries and will never go on another holiday or have a meal out.
I know that many of these fears, if not all, are "normal". However, I genuinely believed for a long-time that it would be irresponsible for me to have a child; that my own mental health stuff and the potential for me to become mentally unwell meant that it would be tantamount to child abuse to procreate.