Remember that magical moment when you found out you were pregnant? I’m sure you can imagine where you were, what you were wearing, what you had just eaten, and almost every detail of that life-altering day. Whether the emotion you experienced was elation, shock, fear, gratitude, or panic, chances are that was just the first step on the emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy.
In my pregnancy experience, I found that my excitement slowly transitioned into worry. I felt like I had suddenly been given a precious miracle, and I was terrified that something would happen to it just as quickly. While we feel bonded to other pregnant women over the shared experiences of morning sickness, growing bellies and other pregnancy milestones, the undesired arrival of anxiety often goes unspoken, leaving us feeling alone and unsure of how to conquer it. It is far easier to complain about the physical challenges of pregnancy than to even mention the anxiety-ridden thoughts going on inside of your brain.
I’ll never forget when I was at my 16-week check-up when I said to the doctor that extended periods of time when I am unable to feel the baby move made me very nervous. She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Be realistic- your baby is fine. And..get used to worrying. Pregnancy seems to prepare you for all of the worrisome times in your child’s future that are completely out of your control.” I felt like I had been touched by the goddess of truth! With that I walked out of the office and decided that was the start of my healthy pattern of intentional thinking.
While we cannot control everything during pregnancy or our children’s life, we can control our thoughts. I’ve come to find that anxiety occurs when a thought becomes exaggerated or irrational.
When I find myself going up the elevator of irrational fear, I picture myself pressing the stop button and forcing myself to go back down to the lobby and get grounded. I’ve found these tips are helpful for managing anxiety during this incredibly anxiety-provoking time:
- Know your triggers. Different things incite anxiety- is it waiting between doctors appointments, medical concerns, delivering, or that brie cheese you accidentally ate that causes you to panic? Knowing what causes anxiety can help you come up with a plan to combat it.
- Exercise. In addition to being a great way to stay in shape and prepare for delivery, getting some fresh air and moving your body releases endorphins, which are the equivalent of bug spray to pesky anxiety bugs.
- Create a mantra. Maybe because I grew up playing team sports and always had coaches that had catchphrases, but creating my own mantra has allowed me to be my own coach and defend against anxiety. Something like, “the body is an amazing thing and would let me know if something is wrong.” Creating an additional one with your partner is also a great idea! Having them say something like, “Your physical and mental strength is inspiring. Our baby is so lucky!” is great during pregnancy and doubles as practice for them in supporting you in the delivery room.
- Identify your comforts. Wouldn’t it be nice to get off of the elevator of anxiety at the 3rd floor and see all of the things that comfort you most? For me, I see a floor full of fresh flowers, a warm bath, and some relaxing music. When I am getting anxious I take time to create this tranquil space at home. Yes, of course, early on in our pregnancy my husband came home one day to discover our house resembled a flower shop! But intentionally creating this comfort allowed the anxiety to slowly slip away. I’d suggest that your comfort is realistic and not diamonds or high heels (save that for the push present!).
Replacing that panic with rational thinking takes practice. Luckily you’ll have a long time to get it right. Start today by deciding to be intentional. Also, blast the music! That’s always a good way to celebrate and you definitely have a lot to celebrate!