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Image / Editorial

‘I’m pregnant and suffering from pregnancy imposter syndrome’


by Dominique McMullan
23rd Jan 2019
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Dominique McMullan is due her first child in April this year. Since week 10 she has been keeping a diary. Here, in her first entry, she writes about the unreality of those first few weeks


I’m pregnant and suffering from pregnancy imposter syndrome. Just like you might feel in a job, expecting someone to ‘find you out’, I feel a bit like someone might tap me on the shoulder and tell me they know that I’m not a mother, or a mother-to-be. They might even accuse me of making it all up. No one even knows yet by the way, so that’s unlikely.

Am I even a mother yet? I feel like a fraud. I keep forgetting our secret and then remembering and feeling equal parts terrified and delighted. Can I eat cheese? Should I go to yoga? Why did I say yes to work drinks?

I feel scared, but what I am describing is not a fear of miscarriage, although there is also that. I have had two scans now, and every time I see a little white mass, with that fluttering white dot in its centre, I feel a flood of relief. I feel like holding up the scan to no one at all, and saying ‘see?’ But only for a second does it feel like the fluttering mass is a baby, or that it is inside me. I get a peek at the reality and then I forget again.

My mum had difficulty conceiving. My sister is IVF and I am adopted. We were the new, modern Irish family in the early 90s

My state still doesn’t feel real. This is probably a form of subconscious self-protection. I feel completely removed from what is happening to me. Without a bump there is no physicality to hang on to. The world goes on as normal, with this little secret in my belly.

Tears over negative pregnancy tests

With the sickness, and the worry, and the hormones; I feel like I am free-floating, separate from reality and yet tied so heavily to my body. I also keep thinking that it can’t be this easy.

My mum had difficulty conceiving. My sister is IVF and I am adopted. We were the new, modern Irish family in the early 90s; paving the way for what was to come.

I always knew how precious a thing it was to be able to conceive. I grew up aware of tears over negative pregnancy tests in downstairs bathrooms. I grew up knowing how loved my sister and I were. I knew the deep desire for children that lives in some women, and how that desire sometimes can’t be met. I grew up knowing how lucky we were, but how close to the edge we were too.

I am too well acquainted with women’s stories of difficulty, silent sadness and outright tragedy. To me it seemed that women who conceived and simply had a child, were in the minority. Stories of strength are of course far more interesting than stories of banality.

Dream state

Mothering is in my DNA. Babies, and a family, are what I have always wanted. I have mothered since I could speak. I always had an array of dolls towed behind me as a child, as a teenager I loved babysitting so much I’d do it for free. As an adult I’m usually the one mopping up tears and finding the plasters.

But I always thought conceiving would be difficult. Because that is what it always seemed to be. I thought it would take a year, at least. It took two weeks and a weekend in the west of Ireland. That last sentence is a line I have recited to a few choice women over the last 10 weeks, and with one or two I have seen a quick shadow pass over their faces.

I have stopped saying it.

I am reminded again of how lucky we are.

For now all I want is time to pass more quickly so that this dream state can begin to feel like reality.

Related: Ask The Experts: what skincare not to use whilst pregnant?

Related: Babies or business: women are putting off getting pregnant in case it damages their careers

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