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In one of my stories, I have a chapter that is all about a woman's first pregnancy and her experience. It is a fictional woman but still, because my writing tends to be on the scientific side of fiction, I of course, researched pregnancy.

But this pregnancy research started years before I put it into my writing because I have been wanting a child.

Anyway, I have never met a pregnant woman, nor have I been pregnant myself so I pretty much only know the scientific side of pregnancy. I don't know the emotional side of pregnancy except those emotions associated with pregnancy symptoms and a positive test.

So writing about a pregnancy is difficult for me unless I am writing about the science of being pregnant. And one of my stories in my mind has to include a chapter about a woman who is pregnant for the first time.

This chapter is preceded by a chapter about my 2 main characters, 1 male and 1 female, debating about when they should have a child with the female on the side of "right now" and the male on the side of "1 year later".

So, if I don't know any women who are pregnant and am not going to leave home just to meet one and I have never been pregnant, how can I make it easier to get the emotional side of pregnancy into my writing?

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    I thought the #1 rule of writing was "Write what you know"? – user26940 Oct 3 '17 at 12:20
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    You could ask your mother. I have a strong suspicion she was pregnant at least once. – eyeballfrog Oct 3 '17 at 14:05
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    @eyeballfrog If it’s their biological mother. ;-) – Konrad Rudolph Oct 3 '17 at 15:23
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    @eyeballfrog I would need a séance to ask my mom about her pregnancies. Caters may also have been adopted by an infertile couple, and so wouldn't know their biological mother, or may not be on good terms. – Kevin Fee Oct 3 '17 at 15:24
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    "Write what you know" is pretty limiting. Let's change it to "Write what you want to know," which requires, of course, research. – Ken Mohnkern Oct 4 '17 at 14:52
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As someone else has said, every pregnancy is different.

I am currently eight months pregnant, have been pregnant before, and pretty much every woman my age I know seems to be pregnant right now, so I can give you some insights, but I'd like to also say a few things about research and writing.

Research

You say you're 'not going to leave home just to meet one' - but a lot of good writing relies on doing good research and sometimes that involves leaving the house.

Visiting a Moroccan market if that's what you're writing about is going to make your writing far more rich than just reading about what one is like on the Internet.

By contrast to actually having to travel across the world, there are pregnant women all over the place, wherever there are humans, so this is surely one of the easiest things you could 'properly' research - i.e. by finding some and talking to them. I'm concerned that you're not willing to put in at least that amount of effort.

Writing for effect

As there are so many varied pregnancy experiences, this is a fantastic opportunity for you to pick and choose the experiences that suit your character, story and plot.

For example, if things are going well for your character, then their pregnancy could be going very smoothly, but if things are going badly they might be exhausted, sick and aching.

Furthermore, the parts if pregnancy that affect them best / worst can reflect their character. Are they vain? Then perhaps they are obsessed with how 'fat' they look, the weird dark line that now stretches up their belly, how they might be left with stretch marks and an outy belly button and deflated boobs (all actual things).

Or are they used to always being very active? In which case the extra weight and fatigue could also lead to frustration and irritation as they find themselves physically unable to do what they used to.

Pregnancy

Okay, finally I'll get to pregnancy itself. Here are some of the things you may or may not have read about - based on my own experience and that of pregnant friends:

Sometimes you get really weirded out by the fact there is a human - an entire human - growing inside your very own body. The more you think about it, the freakier you realise it is.

You have weird nightmares about losing / dropping / hurting the baby, but it's usually not a normal baby. It's hairy like a gorilla or only an inch big (so you lose it down the back of the sofa) or made of jelly.

You spend a lot of time worrying whether your bump is too big or too small. And complete strangers find it appropriate to comment on the size.

EVERYBODY asks if it's a boy or a girl.

By the time you get to eight months you've forgotten what it's like to not be pregnant.

Feeling the movements inside you - kicking, hiccoughing, squirming is the most awesome thing in the world, and like a little secret between you and the baby that is very constantly happening, and other people don't realise when you're having conversations with them.

Obviously there's tons more, but hopefully that will be of some help.

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    +1 for choosing the aspect of pregnancy that tells the story you want about your character. What is she feeling? Maybe abject fear, or rapturous joy, or quiet contentment as she rocks in the completed nursery, or rugged determination to make things better for her child than she experienced. Or maybe all of them in the same day. – BradC Oct 3 '17 at 16:06
  • Agree with @BradC and TheNovelFactory, but also consider the journey to even getting pregnant--infertility affects 1 in 8 women, and it is devastating to fail at something so natural and so 'simple'. And once you do get pregnant after infertility, there is so much panic not just about miscarriage, but miscarriage and losing your one chance to have a child. – Marisa Oct 3 '17 at 17:13
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I've also written a pregnant character. To add up to the scientific research, I visited 'mummy forums', where some threads/sections are questions and comments relating to pregnant mums' worries of all kinds. It was very eye openeing, especially because, like Thomo said, each pregnancy is a case so even if you met a couple of pregnant women, you still only have a very small pool or informants.

You could go through two or three forums, to see what they are like, and then choose one to join. I'm certain most members of the site you choose will be happy to help with some insights.

  • This is a great way to get research even if you are afraid to leave the house. Just be sure to be up-front that you are not pregnant yourself, and would like insights to use in a book. I was on a forum like this where an active member (who claimed to be having a complicated twin pregnancy) turned out to be a fraud, and it was traumatic for everyone involved. – 1006a Oct 3 '17 at 20:54
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I've been pregnant three times.I had three different emotional experiences with each.

The first pregnancy I expected to sail through because I had every book on the topic. We became pregnant on our first try, and every doctor's visit was routine. I knew that it was clear sailing, because I was so gosh darn smart. Our daughter had a birth defect detected after she was born, and she died 11 days later.

The second pregnancy we also became pregnant on our first try. I again did everything by the book. I was terrified the entire nine months. Our daughter was born, and a handful, and ran me ragged and I did not sleep for five years, and she was always up by 5 AM, and she never slept for more than 15 minutes at a stretch, and to this day I can't explain any of that. But we were glad to have her.

The third pregnancy, we again became pregnant on our first try and I did everything by the book. I could not imagine another child like the toddler we were raising, and I was in tears at the certainty that I would not be able to handle it, thinking that the exhaustion I already felt, was going to be doubled with the next child. When i saw this child's heartbeat on the ultrasound, at 3 months, it was magic, and I fell in love with her. I was no longer scared. She was born, and was so easy, and slept easily, and made everything in the household, easier.

When I write pregnant characters now, they always have had a previous miscarriage. Maybe someday I will write the pregnant arrogant woman that I was on my first pregnancy. But, it hasn't happened yet.

Good luck. If you throw in a few specifics, and triggers, it may not even matter if they are right. they will probably sound right, given how wild pregnancy is.

And yes, when you are eight months along you cannot remember not being pregnant. It is bizarre.

  • Just found this question and your answer. Wanted to thank you for writing your experiences. Unfortunately I understand. In a way I wish nobody did. – Cyn says make Monica whole Apr 29 at 15:44
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While I'm not fully qualified to properly answer this, my wife has had 3 children, so I'd like to think I might be able to offer some observations.

First and foremost - each pregnancy is different, and each mother (or expectant mother) responds differently. What's true for one isn't necessarily true for another (likewise, what was true for one pregnancy wasn't necessarily the same for another).

By and large, there's not a huge emotional shift (or if there was, my wife never really displayed one). Pregnant women don't suddenly become blubbering messes unable to accomplish anything. Confident, capable women stay confident, capable women.

What does occur though, is an increase in fatigue, particularly through the latter terms. There might be minor emotional changes that also stem from this - a tendency to snap or cry due to fatigue and stress. Sense of smell and taste also apparently heighten. So while there's no huge emotional change, it's more akin to a heightening of existing emotion, coupled with a general fatigue (as there is a great deal of strain being placed on the body).

If there's the possibility of complications or a general lack of movement (again, in latter term) then there's also an associated increase with worry and fear - but that's to be expected.

What is interesting though are the other changes. Through her second pregnancy, for example, my wife couldn't stand raw chicken. The sight and smell would make her physically sick. Or she really, really liked Salt and Vinegar chips (crisps - depending on your part of the world).

And Morning Sickness is a bit of a misnomer - it can hit at any time. Not everyone gets it. Some get it worse than others. My wife was sick or queasy constantly. Others I know - were sick briefly (as in, maybe a week all up).

Take all this with a grain of salt though, as I'm not speaking through personal experience. It's all observation from watching my amazing wife struggle through three pregnancies - so if someone out there's better qualified, please chip in!

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Thank you for acknowledging the difficulty! Pregnancies are, in a word, diverse. And that's probably why I don't like reading about them so often (The Color Purple coms to mind as an exception): they seem to be not-quite-main plots, in books by men, that average out pregnancies as seen in books and shows on television and present the same pregnancy.

You can research subjective experiences just as well as you can research science. There are plenty of memoirs and listicles and thinkpieces out there. Try women's writing on Medium. Try Buzzfeed which is a left-leaning site that likes to promote openness about these topics. In general I lean toward suggesting very feminist writing for this, because feminists tend to be enthusiastic about writing about aspects of femininity and women's experiences that simply haven't been acknowledged in mainstream ethos. That is exactly what you need in order to not be stale.

Is your novel a novel where the characters sh*t? Any discussion of pregnancy that does not involve morning sickness, the fear of terrible injury or disease, and the fear of the baby not making it upon birth, is probably very incomplete.

In short, research it from primary sources i.e. contemporary women's writing.

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