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.

Letting Go of Plans: My Birth Story

The past few months have been a whirlwind, but they do not compare to the past two weeks. I have left this passion project of a blog unattended, because I was very pregnant, busy, and far more focused on preparing for the little bundle of joy that was to join us!

You see I am a gal who likes a plan. A nice solid plan. This is something that occasionally drives my husband nuts (like when it’s Saturday we have no plans and I get up at 6 am contemplating things to do, and demand he start planning the day with me as soon as he wakes up). I can’t help it! I like to know what I am doing, and what I need to get done.

Nesting hit early on in my second trimester, which was terrible timing because farm life was still in full swing and the husband and I were both working 7 days a week. Come November I had my husband painting walls and building cribs before he had a chance to think otherwise!

Once that third trimester kicked in, I was sure to finish my Hypnobirthing home course, and assign my husband homework and readings from it as well. I wanted to be thoroughly ready for what lay ahead, and my husband had to be too. My birth plan was written, proofread, and had 3 copies printed and strategically placed in different bags just in case by 36 weeks.

In my head I planned that this baby just wouldn’t make it to 40 weeks! She had dropped by week 34 and was 7mm from my bladder and resting her head on my cervix since 37 weeks.

Well I learned pretty quick that planning was about to fly out the door!

The week before my due date I had a routine check. The doctor examined me, told me I was 80% effaced and 1 cm dilated. “From the looks of it you may not make it to your due date, but just in case go ahead and schedule an appointment for that day.” That comment basically gave me the green light on my plans to have this kid before my EDD.

Well then my due date came, and at that appointment the doctor said “OK. Nothing has changed from last week. I would schedule a sonogram for next Friday, and have you scheduled an induction for the 42 week mark yet? Because I think you should just in case.”

This was the beginning of my plans shattering. I walked out of that office with two new appointment cards: one for a sonogram in case my stubborn baby was too big to wait until 42 weeks, and one for an impending induction. My heart deflated and my ego took a big hit. My plans to be a mother by that evening had flown out the window.

I dramatically texted my family saying “No baby, I am just gonna he pregnant forever.” That was the new plan. I even came home and declared it to my husband. “Well since she doesn’t wanna come out, I’ll be induced on the night of February 18th and she’ll be born on the 19th. It’s ok though because I got to pick who will deliver her.”

Well that night our daughter had other plans. After a delicious eggplant parm dinner (a labor induction suggestion from a friend… who knew!), at 12:30 am on February 9th my water broke.

It wasn’t like a scene out of a movie where I immediately went into labor and we rushed to the hospital. I had been sleeping and was actually terrified that the whole loss of bladder control thing everyone had been telling me would happen, had finally occurred. But nope, my water had definitely broken. I phoned the hospital, they told me to wait til 6 am or until my labor had started and I was having good contractions 5 min apart for 1 hour.

At 7:30 that morning my husband and I were rushing out the door to go have our baby girl! I had been having strong contractions every 4 min for 1 min straight for 2 hours by the time we got to the hospital, so naturally my husband and I thought this was gonna be it! I’d be delivering by noon, just like we’d hoped for the past month! An afternoon baby, and lots of naps for the rest of the day! (Hahaha now I can really laugh at that because I’ve lived the new baby hospital life and know that naps are hard to come by there).

The doctor examined me and informed us that my water had indeed broken and she’d be back in a few to check my cervix.

I was so excited! I must be well on my way right? The contractions although pretty painful, and super close at this point were bad, but my hypnobirthing breathing techniques were really helping! I was about to have the all natural, beautiful, non medicated birth I dreamt of!

The doctor then checked me, and informed me that while I was 95% effaced, I was still only 1cm dilated. My water had been broken for almost 9 hours and if I went much longer, the baby and I would both be put on antibiotics because we would be at risk of infection. She suggested I be put on a pitocin drip (synthetic oxytocin) to speed things up.

My birth plan had entailed no pitocin unless necessary… but starting my baby’s life with antibiotics or risking infection outweighed my desire to naturally progress. I agreed, they started my drip, and things certainly sped up. My husband asked me if I wanted to show the doctor my birth plan… I said no that’s ok, confident that I would get the rest of my natural birth!

The first 4-5 hours my breathing techniques worked wonders… but then we entered the transition period. I was about 7-8 cm dilated and the contractions were coming every minute or less, and due to the pitocin were lasting 120 seconds instead of 60 and were super intense. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t breath or relax my body if I tried.

Enter the drugs. I remember looking at my husband who I told “don’t you let me take the epidural”, and pleading with him not to judge me. I knew that if I didn’t take it, I would not have the energy to push this baby out on my own. That mattered to me more than anything. My husband of course supported my decision. What felt like an eternity later, the anesthesiologist showed up and took all the pain away!

After a brief hour long nap, I started feeling a serious pressure and my contractions once again. The doctor checked me, told me I was at 9.5 cm and that she wanted to wait one more hour so the baby could descend a little further on her own. Whelp then she noticed I was feeling my contractions once again, and that the epidural had snapped out of my back! “Ok time to push!” She announced.

About an hour later my little girl was placed into my arms. Our lives were changed forever… and all plans have gone out the window!

We planned to “get some rest” that first night, but as soon as I’d feed the baby, and change her and shut my eyes a nurse would come in to check one or both of us. So we planned on napping the following day, but we were flooded with excited and happy loved ones who came to wish us well.

(Keeping it real:this picture truly captures how exhausted I was the day after giving birth)

It’s been a week and a half since our baby girl was born, and I can honestly say I have woke up everyday knowing full well there will be no planning happening. I’m ok with this now. The only plans I have every day now are to feed, clothe, and give my baby girl all the love she deserves. That is truly the only plan that matters anymore.

Whoever first told me to “plan to throw your plans out”, you were so right. I am so at peace with this idea of a plan free day, because all I really want to do anyway is spend as much time with my girl as I can.

It’s only been 11 days since the birth of my daughter, and time already seems to be speeding by.

Life is just too short to make plans. Instead I will choose to soak up each and every moment I get with my child, so I can cherish them one day when I’m free to plan away again.