Pregnancy, a Pandemic, and Prenatal Anxiety, OH MY!

My first pregnancy was a dream. No morning sickness, great news at every checkup, and I was calm, cool, and collected through the entire 40 weeks.

This time around I’m facing some new territory.

This time I’m dealing with a pandemic, taking care of my toddler, and oh hey, prenatal anxiety decided to walk into the party.

Now, I have zero reasons at this moment to be anxious or stressed about this pregnancy. Every appointment has gone like a dream. Although I had nausea at the beginning, it was very mild compared to other women’s experiences. I’ve been able to workout 5 days a week, work, and keep up with my 20 month old.

I guess a worldwide pandemic could be cause for anxiety, but honestly it’s not even the first thing on my mind when that sinking, overwhelming feeling sets in.

Instead I’m anxious about all the things that COULD go wrong but haven’t yet.

This is not like me. If you know me, I’m pretty chill. I like to go with the flow, and I don’t tend to freak out or worry too easily.

My first experience with anxiety was when postpartum anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks 2 weeks after giving birth to my daughter. I had never before felt that way. It terrified me! I couldn’t breath, my mind raced, my heart raced and I couldn’t pin point a single thought or reason for it.

It took me about 9 months, research, talking to people and talking with other mothers who have gone through it to finally control it. I learned tools and methods to calm it (which you can find in an earlier blog post), and eventually it just kind of faded away.

The last 5 months I have been pretty calm…. but every once in a while the fear just takes over. It doesn’t just take over, it overwhelms me worse than my postpartum anxiety did.

The thing about pregnancy is you are SO out of control, and you feel it. Your body no longer feels like the one you know so well, you can’t do some of the things you normally can, and no matter how well you take care of yourself you have ZERO control of the outcome.

For some reason this time around that lack of control over the outcome has freaked me out.

I have no idea why since the first time around I had a dream pregnancy. Then again, sometimes I think that’s the exact reason.

I know so many women who have done everything right, and been healthy, and something just went wrong out of nowhere. I know many that this has happened to multiple times… so in the back of my head there’s a voice saying “why would you be so lucky?”

I think about how blessed I was with an easy pregnancy, a healthy baby, and an easy birth all the time. I try to focus on my own experience and use that to focus on how well this second one has been going as well.

Anxiety, however, has no rationality. It just attacks, and it takes your positive thoughts and twists them. It sounds more like “you had such a good pregnancy the first time, while so many others suffered…. why would you think this time would go so well?”

I’m only 19 weeks pregnant, just about halfway through, but early enough that fetal movement isn’t super strong or regular. This NEVER bothered me with my first.

This time if I don’t feel the baby move more than once a day I go into full blown panic mode! My doctor even reassured me at my last doctors appointment that before 22 weeks she doesn’t even usually ask about it, and the fact that I feel it at all is amazing. You would think that would reassure me… but nope!

A major trigger I have noticed is social media. It makes sense that I didn’t see many pregnancy loss stories prior to being a mother, because I didn’t follow mommy accounts yet. This time they are pretty much all I follow.

The month of October is Infant and pregnancy loss awareness month. I think this is super important to bring to light, and beyond necessary to be shared. Sharing stories of your losses helps other mamas going through it, and show others that they are not alone. I love that women are speaking their truths, sharing their stories, and connecting with others about the pain they share.

Now for me…. this has been SUCH a trigger. I have never felt the sting of pregnancy or infant loss, but something about seeing post after post this past month has caused my anxiety to skyrocket.

One day last week, I read two posts in a row about mamas losing their babies at 18 weeks… the exact gestational stage I was at. I lost it.

I realized I hadn’t really felt much movement for the past few days. I reached for the Doppler my sister in law let me borrow a few months ago and my heart sank! I couldn’t find her!

It took me 5 minutes of pure panic until I found her little heartbeat and calmed down. I reached out to my husband and best friends and explained how I was spiraling. They reassured me all is well, and baby and I will be fine.

This was helpful at the moment but still…. the anxiety creeps back in all the time. I’ve been abstaining from mindless scrolling on social media, and it has been a real help.

Prenatal anxiety is a bitch. I want to enjoy this pregnancy like I did the last. I want to walk through my day with my daughter, and not be freaking out while I should be having fun with her. I just want to feel more in control of my mind.

Thankfully, this is not my first rodeo with anxiety. Postpartum anxiety has helped me to be much more prepared for prenatal anxiety.

I am so grateful to have the guidance and tools from my postpartum experience to help me calm it. Instead of it lasting hours, I use my breathing techniques and other tools to calm myself within a few minutes. I use art, being in nature, and exercise to keep it at bay.

Without knowing these tools I don’t know what I would do.

I wanted to share this so that other pregnant mamas know they are not alone. About 10% of pregnant women experience perinatal anxiety or depression. There are resources for you. There are forums to talk to other mamas going through it. There are therapists trained to help with this exact type of anxiety.

If you’re feeling any type of anxiety or depression during your pregnancy please know you are not on your own. Talk to a loved one or a friend. If it’s crippling you tell your doctor. Don’t suffer in silence.

Pregnancy and motherhood can feel isolating and lonely to begin with, but you’re not alone. Anxiety can heighten those feelings, but again, you aren’t alone.

Share your feelings, don’t be afraid of them. Journal it out if that helps. Just get the help you need mama, because you deserve it.

Let’s normalize these topics of women’s mental health. It is so important to know you never stand alone.

We will get through this, and come out the other side stronger because of it.

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