This Mom Overcame Her Pregnancy Anxiety. Here’s How.
Preparing for birth is a big deal. As a doula, I’ve seen moms come to birth with all levels of anxiety and fear. If you’re worried about your birth, know that it is normal, and you are not alone.
Most moms have complex and varied emotions about the new changes that are happening as they bring a baby into the world. If you’re working through new fears and worries, know that you are feeling emotions that hundreds of thousands of women have felt – and will continue to feel as long as life exists.
Sometimes people ask me, how do I know if I have anxiety in pregnancy? Is it possible to ease anxieties about giving birth? How do I know if my pregnancy anxiety will affect me or my baby?
I want to share with you a quick story about one anxiety ridden mom named Olivia. How she overcame anxiety in her pregnancy in my class Birth Undone. And what you can learn about identifying, accepting, and overcoming anxiety in your own pregnancy and birth.
You deserve to have a sense of peace and joy around your pregnancy and birth – let’s see what we can find out about creating it.
Olivia’s Story About Recognizing Anxiety During Pregnancy
There’s one thing you need to know about Olivia.
Olivia was committed.
She knew the birth she wanted, and she was going to get it no matter what.
She wasn’t the sort of person to give up. She hated when people told her that things that ‘could go wrong’ or did go wrong in their own births.
She had created a bubble of peace, and she didn’t want anyone or anything to interfere with her thoughts of having the perfect birth.
“If people just decide to have a positive birth, it will happen for them, and for me too.” She told me.
But, there was something stiff and cold about the way she said this. I had a feeling something more was happening in Olivia’s thoughts about her upcoming birth.
Under The Surface Of Olivia’s Feelings:
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When we talked a little further, I found out that her mom had had very traumatic birth experiences and the feeling of birth truly being safe, was something she wanted, and was trying to will into her life.
But under the surface, she was deeply afraid of something going wrong. We talked more. She said things like ‘well, I really just want to survive…’ and ‘I don’t know, I just want everyone to be okay… it all feels so uncertain.”
So, while Olivia was working hard to pretend her true feelings didn’t exist, they still kept her up at night. The thought of what if something goes wrong occupied way too much space in her mind. And it wasn’t her fault.
At first, only talking about positive birth experiences and outcomes felt like protecting her dreams about her birth. It made her feel committed to a positive birth. But, was it really commitment Olivia was feeling, or was it something completely different… Perhaps anxiety?
When Is Anxiety Common In Pregnancy?
Anyone can experience pregnancy anxiety. Olivia is certainly not alone. According to The American Institute of Stress, around a third of people report feeling extreme stress, and approximately three-quarters of people experience stress that impacts their physical and mental health – just in everyday life. Add pregnancy to the mix and you realize you are not the only one feeling anxious about the future during pregnancy.
Some life events that commonly trigger higher amount of pregnancy anxiety are:
Already having anxiety or depression before becoming pregnant (don’t worry, you’re not alone!)
Having a hard time getting pregnant
A history of miscarriage or loss personally or within your circle of close friends or family
Having a more high risk pregnancy or health concerns during pregnancy
Having major life stresses such as marital or financial problems in pregnancy
Simply going through all the life changes that surround having a baby
Often, we think that everyone around us had a perfect straight line through meeting their soul mate, creating a stable life, bringing children into that life and living their happily ever after. The truth is, that the more women I work with, the more I realize we all go through our own processes of discovery and growth. Very few people are enjoying a highly predictable, everything worked out just perfectly life, pregnancy and birth. We are works in progress and that is okay!
Olivia Decided To Acknowledge Her Anxiety And Use It As A Tool For Growth
Let’s go back to Olivia’s story.
Most of us value commitment, we want to know that we have the power to create a specific outcome in our life. We want to know that based on our actions, we can remove all risk and be one hundred percent safe.
And so did Olivia.
But was Olivia really being committed by ignoring almost all talk of birth? or was she avoiding her feelings and ultimately putting herself at higher risk of something going wrong?
Maybe you’ve been so committed to something, not getting it left you devastated. Have you ever wanted something so badly, you just had to ignore anything that made you aware it might not work out? Is commitment in these cases always a good thing…
OR has it turned to something else… such as anxiety holding you back from the real growth that allows you to be ready for what you want?
Many of us hold onto control for dear life, I know I have.
The reality is that sometimes we need to grow instead of force things. Just like your baby wasn’t ready to be born on day 1 of pregnancy – it is okay if you aren’t ready to parent, be a mom or give birth on day 1 either.
The Importance Of Recognizing Uncertainty
You can get to a place where you feel confident and ready for those things – if you choose to develop it within yourself.
Deepak Chopra teaches that “uncertainty can’t be wished away, therefore it is deeply valuable to come to terms with it.”
Olivia originally thought that what she didn’t know couldn’t hurt her. That’s why she didn’t want to hear her friend’s real experiences with birth.
Unfortunately, remaining naïve may have it’s benefits, but it wouldn’t help her move from a place of grasping for control to actually finding the feelings of peace, acceptance and positive expectation that she wanted about her birth.
Olivia Made Two Important Decisions
Olivia’s dreams for her birth mattered. As she searched her heart, she realized that she wanted more support around her birth. We talked about how it was normal to have fears and anxieties. We also talked about how the process of overcoming them and growing from them would be a fulfilling and rewarding experience.
Getting a true picture of the task in front of her, would help her actually have the confidence she was trying to force into her life. Olivia made two choices that day.
Could she let go of her control and fear that her birth may not go exactly as she planned if it meant that she could actually come to a place of feeling safe and relaxed about birth? You’ll see how it worked out for her soon.
How Can You Identify Pregnancy Anxiety?
But first, let’s talk about how you can identify pregnancy anxiety.
Many women have anxiety during pregnancy. Some signs of pregnancy anxiety are:
Overthinking and rumination
Frequent Stress Eating
Lack of motivation
Feeling a lack of control and apprehension
Shortness of breath, or changes in your overall breathing
Increased heart rate
Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
When you look at this list are you thinking great I’m good or… oh yeah… that feels familiar? Recognizing anxiety in pregnancy is a big deal. Getting support is an even bigger deal.
The most common phrase that I hear mom’s state about anxiety in pregnancy is a general sense of dread or constant worry about the future. Other moms state they have a sense of worry – tightness in their mind or body and they notice their heart racing.
Some moms feel this constantly. Other’s feel this way when they think about a specific part of pregnancy, giving birth or the months postpartum.
And while it is important to be prepared for birth and the life changes that come with a new baby, you also deserve to have the ability to feel present and enjoy this incredibly unique time of life.
There are tools that can help you do this.
Here Are Three Questions To Ask Yourself To Help You Identify Pregnancy Anxiety About Your Birth:
1. Would I be at peace even if my birth goes differently than planned?
There is so much you can control and influence about your birth. But, at the end of the day, you are responsible for the effort that goes into preparing for your birth – not the outcome of your birth.
Sometimes, there are things that influence your experience that are just not in your control.
What if you have a c-section? or the process is a bit more dramatic and complicated than you expected?
Even though it’s not what you want, and it’s not what I want for you either…Do you have a sense that if this happens, you will still survive, and at your core you will be okay?
Do you think you would be able to find joy in the moments of meeting your baby, moving into motherhood and being at peace with your effort even in this scenario?
If so, you’re committed.
If not, you may be trying to control. Especially if the fear of something going wrong has brought you into a place of fight, flight or freeze. (As in Olivia’s situation where she was avoiding her fear – freeze.)
2. Do you have an accurate map of what is inside your sphere of influence and what is outside your sphere of influence?
By this I mean, do you feel like you know what to do to influence the way your birth unfolds, or are you just hoping the pieces will work out for you or even pretending there are no important pieces you can move?
Do you have to ask people not to share their stories because it might uncenter you? Do you feel like you can’t ask the questions most important to you because the answers might not be what you want? Do you feel like you might feel shame or disappointment in yourself if your birth doesn’t turn out a certain way?
That’s most likely control – or a sense of anxiety that you can let go of with the right tools and education.
3. Have I built the proper support systems around me to feel supported through birth?
When you’re committed – you do things because birthing a certain way would bring you joy and be good for both you and your baby. But you know that you aren’t doing it alone.
When you’re in control mode, you stick with a plan, even if it originally seemed to be a good plan, no matter what. You expect yourself to do it on your own or you fear letting others down.
But birth isn’t a win lose game. It’s a process that’s enhanced by moving through it with openness and curiosity. You get to walk a unique path that’s right for you.
Olivia’s Journey Through Pregnancy Anxiety
Olivia and I worked together for about 6 months in her pregnancy. In fact, she was one of the first people who had access to my Birth Course.
We focused on learning how to care for herself and make time for self appreciation, respect and ultimately love.
This meant learning to care for her body, mind and connection with her baby and spouse.
Day by day, bit by bit she learned about the process of birth, how incredible her body was, and she developed habits that helped her be ready for the big day.
I was with her as she labored in the hospital. She moved through contractions confidently. The nurses commented several times on how well she coped and how easy it was for her to make decisions that helped her labor progress.
When she was ready, she got her epidural without fear, as was her plan from the beginning.
After she delivered her beautiful baby Ethan – which means strong and firm, she told me “that was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. When I look back to where I was 9 months ago, I never imagined then that I would be able to do that. It’s amazing how far I’ve come.”
Her face radiated with pride and accomplishment. She did it!
3 Ways My Childbirth Course Helped Olivia With Her Birth
I asked Olivia if she would mind sharing how her preparation with my childbirth course, Birth Undone, helped undo her pregnancy anxiety and properly prepared her for birth. This is what she said.
“Learning about how I am made to give birth really helped me understand my body and the process. I stopped having to fear all the changes because I could anticipate what would come next. For the first time I felt like I had a path to follow and a process that would work for me.”
“Having concrete tools to use during pregnancy helped me keep my mind calm. The breathing patterns really helped me through labor. They also helped me in pregnancy when I was having a hard time controlling my thoughts. I think these are life skills that will help me far beyond birth.”
“My husband Jake was able to become such a strong support person. As we packed the hospital bag he was so thoughtful to bring all the things he learned about. He definitely used almost every trick he learned. There were moments that were incredibly peaceful and I just felt overwhelmed with love and support. He wouldn’t have been able to show up for me in such thoughtful ways if someone didn’t give him ideas for what to do.”
There are many benefits to taking a childbirth class. In fact, studies have shown that moms who take high quality childbirth classes have a lower risk for a c-section, fewer interventions in their birth and generally have a more positive experience. You can see that it was the right decisions for Olivia to take Birth Undone.
It helped her create a beautiful beginning – which she ultimately deserves.
What Does It Take To Move Past Pregnancy Anxiety?
One of my favorite things about working with moms through their birth is playing the what if game. So often, moms come to me with ‘what ifs’ that are so heart breaking… what if I have a c-section? What if everything goes wrong? I’m sure you’ve had your own what ifs.
These can be helpful questions. Questions like this alert us to places we are vulnerable and where we might be at risk for being hurt.
And so often, the answer to flipping the script is in gaining knowledge and developing skills that allow you to be safe through the work of birth and present and in the moment.
These are things you learn within my course Birth Undone. If you are preparing for birth, I would absolutely love to take these steps together. You can learn more about what it’s like to prepare for birth with my method here.
Also, one thing that Olivia did that I think will help her for years, and that I always wish I did sooner, was to find a qualified therapist. Having one person that can stay with her for months and years to come will help her for years. Parenthood has many transitions. It’s wise to have help processing the emotions of large life changes.
When you think about what you need to find peace and a sense of safety and security in the present… what is it that you need?
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