Yikes! You’re pregnant! After months of eagerly awaiting the double blue lines, it’s hard to confess that you’re feeling a bit down in the dumps. Because truth be told, you thought you’d be giddy with happiness at the thought of having a family. Not in your wildest dreams did you imagine you’d be pregnant and anxious.
How can you cope with this transformation?
Pregnancy is one of the most significant life changes you’ll ever go through. So to say, this transformation can feel overwhelming is an understatement. Because apart from dealing with the visible physical changes, your mind needs time to catch up with this sea change. And it is a lot to process, even if you are beside yourself with joy. Yes, expecting is fantastic, but don’t be alarmed when you’re pregnant and anxious; it comes with the territory.
Mostly these stressful feelings are compounded by the reactions of your environment. After announcing your news, one thing you’ll find is that friends, relatives, and strangers especially think they have a free pass to say whatever the hell they like to you. Well meant, but unsolicited advice can freak anybody out. It certainly did when I was pregnant for the first time.
Are you a freak for feeling anxious at a time of sheer happiness?
I will always remember the sheer disbelief when I saw the double blue lines appear. Sure, I had known that I might be expecting, but still, nothing had prepared me for the rush of feelings I experienced; joy mixed with anticipation, excitement with nervousness, delight with apprehension.
But, at that time, all feelings of happiness were mostly overridden by pure fear. What if I wasn’t prepared? And what about the few drinks I had before I knew I was pregnant? Would they harm the baby? What if I couldn’t breastfeed? What if I wouldn’t be a good mum? Then I felt more stressed for having all these thoughts. Shouldn’t I just feel happy, since this is what I signed up for? I mean, who was this woman who was pregnant and anxious? Also, feeling perpetually hormonal didn’t help much, either.
Indeed, looking back, it was a confusing time. I found it hard to express all my conflicting thoughts. In fact, I just felt that people expected me to be nothing but happy. And I think for that reason, women how are pregnant and anxious don’t talk about it. I mean, ordinarily, mental health can be a hard topic to broach anyway, but at a time of supposed and unfettered joy, it feels like you are dropping a tremendous bombshell when raising it.
Then sleep, an elusive friend at the best of times, made only a scant appearance. Because worrying at night kept me awake, making me too tired to function the next morning, causing the pregnancy stress to grow out of proportion. It was a vicious circle.
It’s good to talk
So how did I deal with all of this? Well, first I talked to my partner. It helped a little. While he was not going through the same physical changes, he was no stranger to the mass of contradictory feelings. He could still relate (a bit) to how I was feeling. But it just felt good to talk and to share my feelings. Because when you don’t talk, your feelings can take over, crowding out any rational thoughts you may have.
Once I offloaded, I could start to see the wood for the trees.
Also, during my first check-up, I bombarded the doctor with my many questions.
I’d say the poor man was probably questioning his career choice by the time he got rid of me! Although, I’m sure I wasn’t his first pregnant and anxious patient.
Announce your happy news
So when we knew everything was ok, we announced the news. It certainly wasn’t a great big pregnancy reveal, just more of a drip-feed. But I remember many joyous conversations with parents, siblings, and friends over time. People were happy for us. And the fact they had confidence in us to make a good go of this put my worried mind somewhat at ease.
Taking in their reactions made me feel more positive, and one day, I sat down and made a pregnancy plan. First, I decided to write my feelings in a pregnancy journal, which was, hands down, the best thing I did. Indeed, confiding all of my thoughts to paper felt liberating. Seeing them all written down made them easier to deal with.
On paper, some of them didn’t even make any sense. In fact, it made me realize that’s just what they were, thoughts. Recording them allowed me to gain an understanding of my anxiety. Also, any time I felt the pregnancy draining me, I would sit down and write. Offloading all negative thoughts felt very therapeutic.
Then I started pregnancy yoga. As an exercise phobic, that felt like something I could ease my now substantial body into. I also had a faint hope I would miraculously become flexible and have a straightforward birth. (If there is such a thing!)
But while it certainly relaxed me, I’m not sure I paid enough attention. Most of the breathing advice I received for the delivery went well and truly out the window during the moment supreme. But taking up yoga had another unforeseen benefit, as I met some lovely women in the same state of disbelief. In fact, most of them were-you guessed right-pregnant and anxious, like me. It was great realizing that no, I wasn’t alone in my complete bewilderment.
Next, I looked at my diet. While being a relatively healthy eater, usually, I took things up a notch and invested in a juicer. Soon, I could be found in my local Aldi fondling kales and cabbages to make a disgusting green juice. You guessed right; that phase went out the window as soon as I pushed a little human out of me too.
I don’t know if it was the exercise, the juice, or my pregnancy hormones, but I did, albeit briefly, develop a bit of a glow. People started commenting on it, and that made me feel better about myself.
I even invested in sturdy pregnancy underwear and some great, comfy leggings and tunics. (Quick tip: if like me, you’d rather not spend too much money on clothes you won’t be wearing for long, ignore the maternity wear section and buy some leggings and loose, long tops. They will be your friends for long after birth too.)
How I stopped being pregnant and anxious & found joy instead
And along the way, I started feeling a bit better within myself, apart from the old wobble. I remember well how crappy it made me feel when someone told me that breastfeeding was best for the baby. Of course, I wasn’t going to argue with that.
But her offhand remark did serve to remind me of the sheer anguish a friend of mine went through when her breast wasn’t best for her newborn. And so how was I to know if it would work out well for mine?
Buying baby equipment was another biggie. If you’re not feeling overwhelmed the day you find out you’re pregnant, believe me, the day you walk into a baby shop will set you off. There are just so many choices! The thing is that most buggies around the same price point are equally good, they are just different to suit various mothers and lifestyles. But I ask you, how will you know what kind of mother you will be after the baby comes when you’re only just beginning to terms with becoming a mother at all?
While upsetting at the time, getting through those wobbles made me realize that, yes, it was scary, but this was now my new reality. It was morphing into a whole new life phase, but I wasn’t alone in this. My ever-growing body was carrying a whole new life, a buddy that would stick with me no matter what.
When I focused on who I was doing this all for. And on the life that was growing inside of me, I became much less self-absorbed. I lost most of my anxiety, although, naturally, I did keep some for the birth.
So, after going through this enormous roller-coaster a couple of times, what advice would I give to you? How can you go from being pregnant and anxious to pregnant and loving it?
Five simple steps to a stress free pregnancy
1. Focus on the joy
First, take a deep breath and enjoy this amazingly special time of your life. It will never come back. Perhaps you get pregnant again, but believe you me, people never make as much fuss when you are with child and have a toddler (although they should!).
2. Start writing
Do yourself a favor and buy a journal. In fact, order one now.
Choose one that you’ll love, and you’ll always enjoy the process of taking the time to sit down and record our feelings in it. Get some discipline and do this every day, and before you know it, it’s just another daily habit.
3. Make sure you’re comfortable
Buy some new underwear and clothes to fit your growing body. Putting on loose clothes will make you feel infinitely better than squeezing yourself into your skinnies.
If, like me, you’d rather not spend the money on expensive maternity clothes, buy comfy leggings and long, tunic tops. They’ll be your friends long after junior is born. Also, embrace comfortable flats, your feet will thank you for it.
4. Focus on you
You’re growing a little human inside of you, which is no small feat. Make sure you are your biggest priority right now. Before you know it, junior will make an appearance, and you won’t have time to focus on yourself.
So learn to meditate, find some engaging books to read, and watch some crappy movies while you still can. Hell, why not go for broke and watch Friends again from the start? (By the time you’re at the season finale, your baby is ready to come out.)
Listen to classical music, learn how to knit, take up painting, anything to relax is good. A chilled-out mummy makes for a relaxed baby.
5. Ignore people’s comments; they don’t matter
Lastly, take any comments or well-meant advice from relative strangers with a large pinch of salt. Just like every woman is different, no two pregnancies are the same. Soon your baby will be here, and this feeling of overwhelm will be eclipsed by a great big wave of love.
But that’s another story for another time.
How can we help you?
Not sure how to prepare for your baby’s arrival? Fret not, have a look at our pregnancy to-do plans divvied up by trimester:
- pregnancy to-do list of your first trimester
- pregnancy to-do list of your second trimester
- pregnancy to-do list of your third trimester
Not sure what you can eat now you’re with baby?
Consult our what to eat and drink when pregnant-our ultimate guide.