Q. I am 20 weeks pregnant and I've noticed that my mood swings are swinging all over the place. It has gotten so bad that my fiancé and I argue almost every day. What can I do to keep myself calm and my mouth shut?
A. Horror-monal hysteria, frequently experienced by pregnant women, is difficult to control at times. During pregnancy I found those biting, nasty comments flying out of me before I knew what I was saying. My mouth was acting faster than my brain and it didn't take much to set me off.
Realizing that you are in the grip of pregnancy-induced hysteria is the first step to controlling it. The next time you feel yourself about to spat, "Shut up you #@!-ing %#!@!!," try to take a moment and breathe. Attempt to remember what made you attracted to your fiancé in the first place. How did you fall in love? What was your first date like?
If you can bring yourself to that pleasant place for just a moment, you may have a chance to break the spell of horror-monal hysteria and see things more clearly.
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Q. I am now 6 months pregnant and am normally not a very confrontational person. Last week I had my first experience with road rage and threatened another driver repeatedly with my middle finger. Is this normal pregnancy behavior?
A. Yes. This is a completely normal symptom of pregnancy. Maybe it has something to do with hormones, but let me tell you, a pregnant woman is no one to mess with.
If you have never been aggressive or confrontational, you may surprise yourself with how much nerve you have these days. The art of arguing becomes more of a challenge, and road rage seems to take on a new intensity. (Please do be careful though!)
My friend Tammy actually sprained her wrist while in the throws of pregnancy road rage. Being from an expressive Italian family, she does enjoy using strong hand gestures to get her point across. When a large red truck cut her off one day, she raised her hand and flipped her wrist around so quickly that she heard a snap. She was quite embarrassed at her behavior and could not bring herself to tell the doctor how she accomplished that injury.
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Q. Any advice on how to handle a stressful pregnant wife? My wife and I are expecting our first child, and she is now in her seventh month. The problem is that I seem to make her constantly irritated, and she often blames me for only wanting to hurt her. I try to stay calm when we argue, however at a certain point I just have enough. My wife can be quite demanding and nasty when she gets angry. Perhaps we just have a communication problem, but it is quite difficult for me to understand why she reacts so strongly to my "bad behavior." I know stress is not good for the baby, so I am looking for ways to calm her down, rather than putting "more wood on the fire." Any books I could benefit from reading?
A. I think the best way to handle a stressful pregnant wife is to really understand her. You need to know what's going on inside her body and mind. Actually being pregnant is the best way to relate, but since that's not possible for you, I'll try to give you an idea of what your wife may be feeling.
First, it's the horror-mones of pregnancy, which can make her mood swings so erratic and her temper extremely short. Believe me, you're not the only one subjected to her hostile behavior. I can remember in my last trimester of pregnancy feeling as if my nerves were constantly on the brink of the boiling point. Once, while standing in line to return a broken clock, an impatient woman tried to elbow her way past me to reach the counter first. I turned an evil eye at her and spat, "Don't you fucking dare!" She silently recoiled and took her place back in line. I can't imagine having the gall to do that under normal circumstances, but I must admit, at the time it felt damn good!
Second, your wife is experiencing a multitude of new and uncomfortable, if not painful, pregnancy symptoms on a regular basis. Pain and illness can make people bitter. It does take a toll on your tolerance and outward kindness towards others. I remember thinking: If you are not experiencing back pain, Braxton Hicks contractions, heartburn, faintness, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, swollen legs, a sore pelvis and throbbing feet, then you had better not give me any shit.
Third, you are the one that got her pregnant. I know this seems irrational, but if it weren't for you, she wouldn't be going through all of the discomfort and stress of pregnancy and childbirth. Is it really fair that the husband gets to drink wine with dinner, eat sushi, sleep through the night without heartburn, leg cramps and Braxton Hicks and still gets to become a parent to a sweet, tiny baby at the end of pregnancy?
Fourth, you are there. After time, anything and everyone becomes annoying during pregnancy. If your wife only lived with a dog for the duration of the pregnancy, the poor animal would spend many nights in the dog house, so don't take it personally.
The good news is that your old wife is still in there somewhere and she will come back. You may even catch a glimpse of the old her every now and then after a bowl of chocolate ice cream or a really good orgasm. In the meantime, you may want to remember these few key phrases to get you through the rest of the pregnancy: Yes, honey. Right, honey. Anything you say, honey.
p.s. A few books that may interest you are: The Expectant Father: Facts, Tips and Advice for Dads-To-Be by Armin A. Brott, My Boys Can Swim: The Official Guy's Guide to Pregnancy by Ian Davis and my forthcoming book, Frankly Pregnant: The Reality Journal of Pregnancy.
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Q. My husband has been pushing me to get pregnant for years. I am only 29 and don't feel ready. I work with children but really don't want any of my own. However, in order to appease my husband I went off the pill. I found out I am pregnant last night. I immediately got very angry and have been in tears ever since. He is ecstatic. When will the hormones that make me want this baby kick in? Right now I feel so guilty because I find myself hoping for a miscarriage.
-Anonymous, South Carolina
A. Entering into any kind of life-altering situation like marriage or pregnancy against your will can be extremely stressful and potentially damaging to your relationship. Since you've already jumped in and gotten pregnant, it's going to be a little tougher for your marriage to weather the storm of pregnancy. The horror-mones of pregnancy can make you very moody, resentful and uncomfortable. Maybe before these horror-mones really kick in you can try to work out the issues underlying why you didn't want to get pregnant in the first place. Identifying the reasons for your feelings may help you work through them and accept, and maybe eventually embrace, your current pregnancy. A history of an unhappy childhood, worries about the future state of the world or doubts about your relationship can all contribute to not wanting children of your own. You might try seeking the help of a marriage counselor to work through your issues.
Once you have cleared the air with your husband, you will more easily be able to enjoy your pregnancy and look forward to the birth of your new family member. This little person was made possible by you and your husband and will bring you more joy and love than you could ever imagine. It's impossible to describe this kind of love. The closest description I can give is to take the most passionate love of your life (like that guy who made you sick to your stomach every night you were apart and put you on a pedestal of wild butterflies every moment you spent together) and multiply that feeling by a gazillion. No, that still doesn't quite describe it. It's something that can only be achieved through experience. It's like standing outside a huge cathedral with magnificent stained glass- that you can only see from the inside.
Some women experience a growing love for their babies the moment they conceive. Others notice it when they first feel the baby move. And some women don't really have an attachment to their babies until after the birth. It's a different experience for everyone.
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Q. I am currently 12 weeks pregnant and my pregnancy was only confirmed recently. I had taken several home pregnancy tests that came back negative. I had a feeling that I was pregnant and went to the doctor for two blood tests. The first was negative and the second was positive. I recently heard my baby's heart beat for the first time, which brought me great joy. Now that I'm finally experiencing what should be the happiest time in my life I am very depressed and feel overwhelmed with grief. I feel like I missed the whole first part of my pregnancy. Is this depression normal?
-Adalia, New York
A. During pregnancy, mood swings, depression and horror-monal hysteria is common and very normal. The fact that you were unaware of your pregnancy until recently is what your brain has chosen to gnaw on, obsess over and become upset about. I can remember having a major meltdown over things as trivial as losing my favorite hat. I'm not trying to belittle the fact that you feel cheated about missing your first trimester. I'm just trying to point out that your feelings are normal, and in time you will realize there are more important things to worry about, such as hemorrhoids, heartburn, varicose veins, childbirth and… parenthood (ha, ha, ha!).