Wartime pregnancy: my top five most unusual emotions

December 13 Russia launched 10 ballistic missiles towards Kyiv. Due to their speed, the rocket alarm system was activated only after the missiles reached the capital. 53 people were injured, including six children by rocket fragments. The oldest victim is 80 years old, the youngest is 5. I wrote this text at 3 am while hiding in the bathroom during the shelling. After that, there were drone attacks for several nights in a row. This text is not about pity or asking for help. This piece is about how women continue to give new lives even in times of war.

I wonder: Do pregnant women in different countries experience the same feelings? And I wonder: what’s it like to have a carefree pregnancy? Why am I asking?

Because I live in Ukraine. I think you might know that here we live one day at a time. Every day survived is a good day. Sometimes it’s challenging to provide a dose of positivity when reading the news or hiding from drones or rockets. Nonetheless, every day I experience a range of positive emotions because in a few months, my husband and I will have our own child.

So what’s being pregnant like in a country at war? Here are my top 5 unusual emotions I experience almost every day.

1. Fear
The past few days, Russia has been launching new ballistic missiles at Kyiv.

At 3 in the morning, we first hear the loud and long flight of this death machine, then a barrage of anti-missile system gunfire, and only after that, the sound of the alarm.

It’s not the same animalistic fear as at the beginning of the invasion. Honestly, when the siren goes off, I wake up, say “damn Russians! Glory to the anti-missile system!” turn off the alarm app, and go back to sleep (or rather, spend another half-hour trying to find a comfortable position, as it’s not so easy in the third trimester).

But now, with the new, unknown, ballistic shelling, this wave of fear is intensified. It’s one thing to die yourself, and another when you’re responsible for an entirely new person who hasn’t even seen this world yet. It’s more of a rational fear. Winter is coming again, and the story of shelling and blackouts will repeat. We’re learning to sleep in warm clothes again. And you’ll learn because you’re a future mom, and you’re doing great.

2. Anxiety
Something close to fear but not quite. It’s not about rationality but your inner self, still incomprehensible to me.

I started experiencing insomnia. The doctor said it’s normal in the third trimester, but during the appointment, he gave me a questionnaire on how prone I am to depression and whether I need psychological help. I never thought I was, at least in all my conscious life.

Regarding insomnia: I used to wake up at 4 am and lie in bed for an hour or two, staring at the ceiling. These few days, I wake up a few minutes before a rocket flies over our house. Of course, it’s just a coincidence, but this feeling of anxiety doesn’t go away. Along with this feeling this hateful state appears when the stomach hardens, and then an aching pain follows from below. It helps to get down on all fours to relax the abdominal muscles a little.

You calm the baby down, tell him that everything is fine and it will pass. And you’re ready to stand on all fours until morning just for your baby to feel comfortable. And you will do it because you’re a future mom, and you’re doing great.

3. Uncertainty
Not in yourself but in the future. When we found out a few weeks ago that we were having a son, my husband was ecstatic. A SON! That’s what he had been dreaming of (although he said gender doesn’t matter).

At first, I breathed a sigh of relief, “well, that’s good, in the future he’ll have more opportunities to get a good job and have a decent salary because remnants of patriarchal systems haven’t disappeared yet.”

The author and her husband (and baby). (Photo: Roksolana Lisovska)
But then came the terrible, unpleasant, and slimy feeling of uncertainty. We live in a country where there has been a war for 9 years. “What will happen to him next? It’s a boy; should we prepare for him to go to the frontline in the future? What if the economy, plummeting into the abyss, reaches a point where we have to live on food ration cards? How does one give a decent life to a child in a country you love with all your heart but where you don’t understand what will happen next? What if (or when) my husband is called to the frontline, how to raise a boy without a father? What if the Russians occupy the entire country?”

Then images of Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel — videos of raped infants and shot children appear in the mind again. You get the feeling that it’s very close, and it could happen again. Then you pull yourself together — “calm down, you have to live these 9 months only with positive emotions!” — distract yourself with pleasant everyday things. And everything seems fine until the first trigger. And then it starts all over again. But you’ll cope with it again because you’re doing great.

4. Anger
Anger at everything: first of all, at Russian terrorists and their entire nation because they somehow decided that they have the right to destroy someone’s life.

Anger at Ukrainians who don’t donate enough and relax in peaceful cities (although it’s understandable to live this life because tomorrow it may not exist, so there’s no need to bury yourself prematurely), anger at corrupt officials in power who tarnish the country’s reputation.

Anger at international partners because, thousands of kilometers away, they are “tired of the war” and talk about reducing aid (but as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote: “You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed”. If you started helping from the first days of the full-scale invasion, don’t leave us halfway. Look at the map, Russia is vast, and it has so many resources for war. How will we cope without your support?).

Anger at myself because did I even have the right to think about a child during the war? How responsible or irresponsible is it to give birth during a time of combat? And anger at myself because I didn’t turn on the heated floor, and now I’m writing this text on cold ceramic tiles. This anger is already a kind of permanent state.

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