We’re having a baby!
Announcing that you are pregnant to family and friends is such a thrilling moment. There’s something special about letting the people you care about most in on this little secret. I am currently about halfway through my 4th pregnancy, and much like the others, announcing this baby gave a rush of joy and excitement. But those happy feelings, at least for me, are often followed by the hard edge of reality – anxiety kicks in. I’m carrying a baby. The tremendous and overwhelming responsibility of that begins to sink in.
I recently calculated that I’ve spent a total of 22 months of my life pregnant, that’s eighty-eight weeks of joy and stress and planning and puking. Considering I’ve only got one child at home, that’s a lot of time I’ve spent being pregnant. Obviously, pregnancy has not always ended in the way I expected it to, hence the many months but not so many littles.
There’s about a million reasons to have anxiety about your pregnancy. The newness of the first pregnancy. The stress of unplanned pregnancy. The surprise of a multiples pregnancy. And the all too common, pregnancy after loss. And the list really goes on and on.
At times, a healthy amount of concern about what the future holds for you and baby can turn into a crippling amount of anxiety that leads to obsessive thoughts and a million calls to your OB.
Unfortunately, I’ve experienced the dark cloud and racing heartbeat that anxiety can produce. I’ve spent nights lying awake googling all the varying ways my pregnancy could end badly. If I let it, anxiety could steal all of the joy that pregnancy brings. But I find myself turning to a few coping skills that have saved my mental health. While I’m not counselor, I do believe these habits have been all the difference in my fight to stay joyful all nine (or how ever many I’m given) months long…
Clear Your Mind
This is a piece of advice I’ve given many moms who’ve shared their struggle with negative thoughts before, during or after pregnancy. For me, a mental outlet is reading beach books. Silly, girlie and comedic love stories tend to lighten my mood and are a short break from anxiety prone thoughts. Hilderbrand, Griffin and B. Williams are just a few authors to get you started – get a library card and use it often.
Maybe your mental outlet is different than mine. A weekly girls night, journaling your thoughts, exercise, self-help books, or a daily devotional. Whatever works for you. Find out what fills your soul up with some joy and lightness, then make time for that every single day. Put down your phone. Stop checking your bump app eighteen zillion times. Take a mental break.
Community is Key
We all know sharing your feelings with your mother, husband, co-worker, or girlfriends can be therapeutic! Allow yourself to vent concerns, ask questions to those more experienced, or just have a little cry with someone you trust. If you can find a friend who has experienced a similar struggle, even better. If you’re feeling isolated, this may be the time to join an area MOPS group, seek out a small group at church or find a new play group through a blog like ours.
Considering the statistics of miscarriage and infertility, it only makes sense that someone you know has already struggled with pregnancy after a loss or pregnancy after fertility treatments. Unfortunately, these pains are common and if we open up about them we have a chance to ease some of our own anxiety through the bonds of community.
Talk it Out
Sometimes that nagging inner monologue of anxiety just does not ease up. It can turn into depression, panic attacks or even begin to affect your physical health. And as helpful as our community can be, it’s not always enough to just talk it out with those around us. It may be time to sit down with a professional counselor and share your anxiety.
If you’re facing an especially daunting experience, like a high-risk pregnancy or a fatal fetal diagnosis, it may be best to go ahead and sit down with someone who can provide professional help before things spiral out of control.
I found myself in exactly that position last year, when we were told at our halfway to term sonogram that our baby would eventually be stillborn. For the remainder of my pregnancy, I began seeing a counselor once a week to combat my anxiety while pregnant and the depression that was already setting in.
I could have found several reasons not to see someone: I’m strong enough to handle this, I have another child so I don’t have time, or my OBGYN hasn’t recommended it. But I didn’t let any of those excuses stand in the way of making my mental health a priority – and neither should you. Call your insurance provider and find out what services are offered (it may even be free) as well as where you can find an in-network counselor.
How have you dealt with anxiety during pregnancy? What advice would you give pregnant women who find themselves overwhelmed with worry?