I have a crippling phobia of pregnancy and childbirth. I have absolutely no intention of ever having a baby.
How does that make you feel? What’s your honest reaction? Take a second to think about that.
Tokophobia is a rare phobia of pregnancy and childbirth and I’ve had this mental health condition for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up and pregnant mothers would ask me if I wanted to ‘feel the baby kick’ I would flinch and move away, while trying to control my gag reflex. My reaction is still the same at 30 years old. It’s not something you grow out of, despite what everyone has told me my whole life.
This World Mental Health Day I thought I’d talk about what it’s like living with Tokophobia, because it turns out it’s pretty rare and really misunderstood. Ironically, when I Googled it, I was taken to several articles on the subject which featured images of pregnant women. Let me tell you what that’s like; it’s like if you were really freaked out by spiders and you opened a web page to see a photo of a massive hairy spider looking at you with its fangs – only, as well as that fear response, you also feel nauseous.
I hate the sound of screaming children, I don’t think babies are cute and I don’t scroll my Facebook news feed that much because when I do there is always someone who wants to show me an ultrasound photo of what the inside of their womb looks like. No thanks.
How do people react to someone with Tokophobia?When I tell people that I have a phobia of pregnancy and childbirth and I don’t want to have a baby, they look at me like I’ve just grown the head of a Pterodactyl. “You don’t want kids?” They say with revulsion. Well, actually, I do want kids, and I’ve always wanted to adopt… They look at me like I’ve now grown two Pterodactyl heads and eaten a puppy. Oh yeah, not only is there still a stigma attached to mental health but evidently if you want to adopt then you’re a terrible person.
If you’re reading this and by some chance you also have Tokophobia, there is nothing wrong with you. You’re just perfect as you are. It’s the world that’s wrong. I once told a nurse about it and she reacted with horror and disgust and gave me a booklet about talking therapy to help with my ‘problem’. It’s not a problem, it’s the way I am. I find it utterly bizarre that in the year 2019 all women are expected to reproduce, as if we live in some post-apocalyptic world where we need to repopulate the planet. To me that’s crazy.
I truly believe we should celebrate that which makes us different and instead of judging people for their mental health condition, we should at least try to understand. At the end of the day, it still takes guts to talk about your mental health and we could feel so much better if everyone approached things with curiosity and understanding instead of judgement.
I’m really lucky to have supportive colleagues and friends at Project Storm and we openly talk about our mental health. There are loads of ways to start the conversation in your workplace and you don’t have to be an expert. Visit www.time-to-change.org.uk/asktwice for more information, guides and activities. I hope this article helps someone to understand what it’s like.