How to Conquer your Pregnancy Anxiety
“How much did you freak out before having your [eldest]? Like about how much your life would change? I’m trying to keep things in perspective but sometimes I get a little anxiety of how much is going to change. Last pregnancy I was so much more excited, this time I definitely swing between being happy and scared.”
Those words were written to my sister when I was three months pregnant. Despite using the adjective “little”, my anxiety was overwhelming enough to steal my sleep, night after night. As a first time mom in my thirties, I had become accustomed to a life with many freedoms and I was coming to terms with “losses”: travel opportunities, career growth, relationship changes, and changes to my health and body. Furthermore, “morning” sickness was unforgiving and I was uncertain if I had the stamina to continue, and at the same time so scared of another miscarriage. Thankfully, I found some tools that helped ease the anxiety that persisted throughout my pregnancy.
1. Give your baby a special name while in utero
As suggested by our hypnobirthing teacher, personalise your baby by giving your little one a name to use while they are in utero. We decided on a simple and sweet floral one. When talking with family and friends we used this name and the pronoun “her” instead of “it”.
2. Talk, sing, and play with your baby in utero
One of my favourite memories of pregnancy were the moments I placed my hands on my belly and conversed with my baby. I told her about my day, her daddy, our preparations for her, and the world she would enter. I especially loved to talk to her alone so she knew that I was talking to her and no one else. My husband felt slightly silly about talking to my belly but I encouraged him to do it so she could get to know his voice too. Furthermore, I sang, played music, and gently tapped my belly in different areas to play with her. All these things helped build a connection and allowed me to feel that everything woud be okay between her and I, significantly reducing my anxiety.
3. Take a birthing class
Whether you’re a first time mother or not, so much anxiety is caused by the fear of birthing as you never know how your upcoming birth story will play out. Personally I chose a hypnobirthing course to not only understand the physiological side of birthing, but also how to calm my mind during the occasion. Moreover, the class also gave my husband tools to help me, like different massage techniques and how to be my advocate at the birth. On the other hand, I have friends who actively chose to learn as little as possible and just trust their bodies, this helped them remain calm, and if that works for you too, go for it.
4. Yoga and yogic breathing
Doing a bit of mindful yoga everyday is a great way to find inner peace. Some days, due to nausea or pain, I could only manage to do breath work yet that little bit of calm was exactly what I needed. Over the years I’ve dabbled in different yoga classes but never fell in love with it until I discovered ‘Yoga with Adriene’ on YouTube. I actually prefer doing it on my own now; I adapt a movement when needed, do less, do extra, take a break, do it first thing in the morning or last thing before bed. I encourage you to find a class in real life or online that works for you and start reaping the physical and mental well-being benefits.
5. Hypnosis for anxiety
Hypnosis is not what you think it is. I started using it whilst dealing with stubborn physical pain despite surgical treatment. My surgeon, another one for a second opinion, and a psychologist, brought to my attention that it was entirely possible for my mind to be holding on to the pain. I had heard hypnotherapy might be able to help, but reluctant to see a hypnotherapist I made my own self-hypnosis recording. Within several months, pain that had lingered for years slowly faded away to nothing. It was nothing short of a miracle!
These days, instead of making my own recordings I just search YouTube for videos. My favourite is Gary Maddison but it’s important to find a voice and technique that helps YOU relax. If the thought of it seems a bit scary (hypnotherapy TV shows have a lot to answer in that regard), let me assure you that like meditation, under hypnosis you are safe, always in control, and can “wake up” whenever you need.
Let’s be honest, sometimes these other well meaning techniques don’t work, especially at four in the morning when feeling the most alone in our thoughts. It’s during these times that I use the power of distraction. Listen to a podcast, read a book, or watch TV. I know this isn’t what a sleep or an anxiety expert would recommend, but sometimes it’s the only thing that blocks out the scary thoughts going through our minds. I’ve been asked by others why I don’t listen to a meditation or hypnosis session and truth is, sometimes I find my thoughts so overpowering that I need a stronger distraction. During some of my worst times of pregnancy insomnia I did quite a few midnight Netflix and podcast marathons.
7. Talk to others about it
You are not alone in feeling anxiety during you pregnancy. Pregnancy is an emotional time; your hormones are changing, your body is changing, and ultimately, your whole life is about to have a momentous, forever change. Others have been through this and they’re there to ease you into your role of mother. Talk with someone who you know will compassionately listen. That may or may not be your partner, mom, sister, friend, or colleague. You might even consider a professional therapist. Your anxiety and fears may come from unresolved past experiences and you can use this time not only for the typical baby preparations, but also as a time to heal you.
It’s not silly to feel anxious or alternatively, to grieve the “you” that you’ve come to know. Thankfully, when you emerge on the other side, your capacity to love, your patience, your empathy, your skills and abilities will all grow. And when you finally hold your little one in your arms, you will truly know that behind all that fear was your greatest treasure.