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Last week, I was sitting round a table with a group of fellow mums-to-be, relieved to hear that I’m not alone in the thoughts that have been running through my head these past few months of pregnancy. Is the baby still there? Is the baby okay? And how oh how do you get past worrying about cot death?
I’m prone to anxiety and catastrophic thinking – prolonged and I’m-way-to-young-to-deal-with-this stress during my teens has left its mark, but I’d say I’m on top of that in day-to-day life. I may instantly jump to tragic conclusions if someone is just 15 minutes late, but I can watch those thoughts and not let them rule the roost. The same has been true in pregnancy. I’m hyper aware of pre- and post-natal anxiety, so I watch myself for the signs. My midwife knows my past, and, like me, she’s currently not too concerned. It’s just something to keep one eye on.
Of course, knowing where to draw the line is tricky. When does a reasonable worry become anxiety? Pregnancy is naturally riddled with concerns. There’s the first 12 weeks when miscarriage is a fear, then the first round of anomaly tests, followed by a long wait for the 20-week scan where a sonographer works their way through a nerve-wracking checklist of vital signs – five fingers, a stomach, four chambers in the heart… I think it’d be unusual not to have nerves.
And then there’s the rest of it – the cost, the mind-bending change that’s blooming into your life, and its implication on relationships, dreams and habits. And that’s not to mention learning how to look after a newborn. Having a baby is life-altering, and change, while deeply exciting, also comes with questions.
So far, those questions aren’t making me anxious to a concerning degree. I worry about the baby’s wellbeing and I wonder about how my life will change. But I don’t have the crippling thoughts that characterise anxiety. If something bothers me – a pain, a worry, a fear – I speak to Steve, call the midwife, see the doctor, or sometimes just wait it out and let it pass – because those worries do pass and they don’t impede my life, and that’s why, for now, I know I’m okay.
Because while pregnancy has its worries, for me this is also a time filled with joy: the pure awe of knowing a life is forming inside me, the thrill of feeling the baby move, and the endless dreams and hopes and wonders about what this little human’s life will be. The journey to get here was hard and I feel lucky every day.
So I’m watching the road with interest – worries rise and worries pass, on some days they feast on my nerves, on others they stay far away. I’m not a picture-perfect earth mother, at ease with every step, but, for now, I think having anxiety is one less thing to worry about.
How did you deal with the worries of pregnancy? Have you experienced pre- or post natal anxiety? A fellow blogger, Frankie, wrote a powerful blog about her own experiences with it, which I recommend people read. It’s important these things are talked about and recognised if they arise.