I’ve seen it often—the glowing pregnant mama with everyone obsessing over her. Complete strangers opening doors for her. The perfect maternity photos that rack up hundreds of likes on Instagram and Facebook. The comments that harp on how much she’s glowing and everyone exclaiming that they can’t wait to meet the baby. I’ve seen all these things take place in every pregnancy that I’ve witnessed—and in my own pregnancy experience. But what I never truly saw people recognize is the truth that pregnancy is hard—and that romanticizing pregnancy can actually be harmful.

We live in a society where there’s this obsessive nature over pregnant women. A woman gets pregnant and suddenly everyone is drawn to her for one reason or another, whether it’s her baby bump or the excitement for the arrival of a new little one to kiss and squeeze on.

Related: The (very good) reason why so many people insist of telling pregnant women how hard parenting is 

Babies naturally bring about a lot of attention, so it’s no wonder that pregnant women receive a lot more attention than they’re used to. But in our defense, the attention that solely romanticizes our pregnancies doesn’t always serve the intention that it’s meant to. 

Because not every woman has a “perfect” pregnancy. And the real side that many people don’t acknowledge is that for many women, pregnancy is one of the hardest seasons of their lives. 

We spend so much time romanticizing pregnancy that we often fail to see how tough the season is for many women who experience it.

Most people never really see the sleepless nights, the morning sickness, the anxiety in between doctor appointments just to ensure that the baby is doing well. They don’t see the woman sacrificing her entire body for another being. The swelling, the heartburn, the aches. 

I personally never realized these things until I experienced pregnancy myself—and I instantly felt shameful for how much time I spent romanticizing pregnancy for other women around me. 

Because not for one moment did I understand how much pregnant women deal with. Not for one moment did I actually think to look beyond the whimsical maternity photos being posted and recognize everything else that pregnant women have to endure—such as all the symptoms, all the worries and all the unpredictability.  

Related: To the mama struggling through pregnancy—I see you

The truth of the matter is, we spend so much time romanticizing pregnancy that we often fail to see how tough the season is for many women who experience it.

Pregnancy often looks and seems perfect in the eyes of many. But the truth is, pregnancy isn’t perfect for a lot of women.

For many pregnant women, they’ll get the most attention from strangers and passersby that they’ve ever received in their entire life. I remember being pregnant and asking myself if this is what I needed in order to be seen—and yet I oftentimes still didn’t truly feel seen. Everyone saw my growing bump. Everyone saw my beautiful photos. But not many people saw the rivers of tears that I cried. Nobody saw the aching loneliness. Nobody saw how I yearned for someone to ask how I was really handling being pregnant. 

Related: Sometimes I don’t ‘enjoy every moment’ of raising a little one

I felt like I had these unrealistic expectations to live up to. I felt like I had to carry my pregnancy beautifully in order to convince people that I could be a mother. But pregnancy isn’t always beautiful. Pregnancy is hard.

For me personally, it was one of the lowest moments of my life. Initially, I felt extremely guilty for feeling this way. I wanted a child. I was supposed to be thrilled and overfilled with joy. And I was—but I was also filled with anxiety. I was also filled with grief over the loss of my identity. I was also sick more days than not. And I was also terribly terribly lonely—despite the overwhelm of messages and excitement that swirled around me. 

Related: Prenatal depression is a thing—a very real, important thing

Nobody had to sit with me through every second. They could enjoy my photos. They could obsess over seeing my bump grow. But they didn’t have to endure the anticipation of the next ultrasound just so I could make sure that my baby still had a heartbeat. They didn’t have to deal with being drained all the time. They didn’t have to anticipate making it past the first trimester. They didn’t have to deal with losing friends, or with people making assumptions. They didn’t have to deal with a husband being deployed overseas for half the pregnancy and worrying every single day if he was going to make it home safely.

But I had to deal with all of that—on top of forming a being in my body and trying to make sure that my stress wasn’t negatively affecting my baby.

So many moms everywhere can attest to the fact that pregnancy is hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I was overjoyed to be carrying child. I was overjoyed to be starting a family with my husband. I cherished every kick (mostly). I smiled from cheek to cheek when I could see my son moving during the ultrasounds. I thanked God every single day with joy in becoming a mother.

But even in the midst of my highs, I also experienced so many lows.

Related: To the mama struggling through pregnancy—I see you

And that’s just my story. So many moms everywhere can attest to the fact that pregnancy is hard. Because you have high-risk pregnancies. You have bed rest. You have women who experience miscarriages. You have mamas expecting their rainbow babies yet fearing that they’ll never actually meet them. You have worries about the baby’s development. And then you have all the symptoms that come with your body making room for another human being.

So moms don’t need the unrealistic ideals of pregnancy. Because it’s harmful to women everywhere. Being pregnant is hard—and it’s a lot of work.

The next time you see a pregnant mama, don’t obsess over her baby bump or her glowing skin. Ask her how she’s doing—how she’s really doing. Ask her what she needs—what she really needs. See her beyond the baby bump or the “glow” and let her know that she doesn’t have to carry any unrealistic expectations of having the “perfect” pregnancy.

Because pregnancy is hard—and it’s time that we stop romanticizing pregnancy and seeing it for what it truly is.