I spent most of my pregnancy in fear. We had been trying for a baby for nearly three years by the time we were pregnant with our rainbow baby: our daughter, who came seven months after a devastating miscarriage. I feared losing this pregnancy, I feared not being enough for her, and feared my marriage would change after we had our daughter, like so many other marriages I witnessed in my life. Often, I found myself afraid of incredibly irrational things but also felt jolted and anxious by things that weren’t that unlikely to occur. I spent a lot of time digging through research, though, and was happy to let go of some of my anxieties and enjoy the final weeks of my pregnancy.
My Pregnancy Fears
Stillbirth and Late-Term Miscarriage
I couldn’t even name some of the things that terrified me most, but the scariest of all was anything unknown: I had read one too many horror stories from the darker corners of the internet on stillbirth and late-term miscarriage. Having already endured one miscarriage, I didn’t think I could “go through” pregnancy again if another were to occur. However, when it was pointed out to me that I saw pregnancy as something to endure rather than enjoy, I decided I needed a significant attitude adjustment.
My fear of stillbirth was not unfounded, as it certainly does happen and is as earth-shattering and traumatic as any event could be. Fortunately, I dispelled this fear by being in tune with my body, perhaps to an unhealthy degree, but it helped me know my body’s natural rhythm during pregnancy. I knew what felt normal when I could expect our girl to be active and how to encourage her to move a bit when I was worried she hadn’t been moving much. Though you cannot prevent something so horrible from happening, you can feel more in control of anxieties surrounding the issue by being aware of changes in baby’s movement and your body. I feel like this was one of the main things consuming my happiness during pregnancy, and letting go of the fear of this unknown enabled me to be much more relaxed.
I had a friend whose little girl was born with a congenital heart defect and, within three days, passed away due to this rare and tragic disease. Even knowing the possibility is rare, the thought of the same thing happening to me brought me to my knees.
Only 3% of babies born every year are born with defects, ranging from clubfoot to congenital heart defects to cleft palate.1 Many of these defects are correctable, and a child born with them is just as capable of living a happy and healthy life as any other. I resolved to let go of this pregnancy fear and love the child I was carrying: whatever form she showed up in. I was able to release myself from the clutches of this fear in a practical way by reminding myself that we were fortunate enough to have incredible health insurance and that it would cover any need our girl would have after birth and beyond.
Having a C-Section
I cannot begin to explain how incredibly freaked out just the idea of having this major surgery made me. Something about the whole being cut open and under intense anesthesia thing must have given me pause. I wrote a birth plan, stretched, ate dates, and convinced myself that the heavens would reward me for doing my due diligence. Surprise: I ended up having a c-section. I never got over this fear and was wheeled into the operating room at zero dark thirty, still petrified of what could happen. A combination of my stellar care team and some killer medicine allowed me to go into the zone at that moment, though, and I was able to kiss and nourish my girl from the first moment she joined us earthside.
Though a cesarean is nothing to take lightly, it’s also a surgery performed multiple times a day. If you find yourself in need of one, the likelihood of a c-section going well far exceeds the chance of it going poorly. I do hope to have a natural birth in the future, and though I never imagined my birth story would include my arms being strapped down, I consider that one future pregnancy fear hugely dashed.
Failing as a Parent
I spent much of my pregnancy riddled with anxiety that I was not worthy of this beautiful blessing headed my way. I felt so incredibly lucky to be pregnant and to be carrying a daughter that I wondered when someone would jump out and say, “Ha! The jig is up. Hand her over.” But, of course, this never happened. Having a tumultuous relationship with my mother left me feeling a bit ill-prepared to become a girl mom: what if she hated me? What if I helicopter-parent her into running away from home to join a rock band and traveling circus duo? What if, simply put, I fail her?
It didn’t take me long into my parenting journey to discover that your love for this small person trumps everything else. Magically, it gives you the energy to do and be all that needs to be. It powers you through long workdays to get back home and spend long evenings rocking, feeding, changing, playing, and bathing them. And it pushes you to be your best because someone that matters is watching you. I learned very quickly that love prevails every time and that no love will knock you flat on your ass like that of a six or so pound person that now rules your world. I realized I didn’t need to have all the answers, but having the answer of “I love you, and I’m here” to most of life’s questions and trials would suffice.
I only wish I had the courage and insight to tell myself these things when I was dealing with anxiety and postpartum anxiety. Because I never fully enjoyed my pregnancy, but I am enjoying motherhood after seeking guidance and help and giving myself some grace. I encourage you, mama, to provide yourself with this same gift of love and understanding. It makes a world of difference, whether you’re knee-deep in diapers or just beginning your journey to motherhood.