Fear Almost Destroyed My Pregnancy: Don't Let It Happen To You
Photo credit: Beatrice Murch/Flickr
When pregnancy means joy but also fear
When I became pregnant with my first child, I was overjoyed. My medical history meant it should have taken a long time to conceive, but the stick turned pink almost immediately.
But along with excitement, I also had an overwhelming fear that something would go wrong during pregnancy, labor and delivery. My sister is severely disabled due to complications during delivery, and while most of my pregnancy went smoothly, I couldn't shake the feeling that something would happen to my baby, too.
Physical and emotional stress wasn't good for me or my developing baby
I suffered from severe "morning" sickness (like many moms who are nauseous or vomit off-and-on most of the day, every day, I can't stand this term).
Learn more about hyperemesis gravidarum >>
Looking back, I'm sure while part of this was hereditary, a lot was due to how stressed and worried I was that something would go wrong. I missed work and at around seven months pregnant started having so many Braxton Hicks contractions that my doctor worried about premature labor. Thankfully, it wasn't, but I was told to take it easy.
Then the nightmares started — literally. I would wake up in the middle of the night sweating through my sheets. I don't recall dreams about anything specific going wrong, but couldn't shake the feeling.
How to face your fears about labor >>
Learning to relax during pregnancy
Luckily, I wasn't filled with fear and anxiety every moment of every day. I still enjoyed all the fun things about pregnancy: registering for baby gear, having a baby shower and taking Lamaze classes. Learning breathing and relaxation techniques for labor helped me start to let go a little bit more during my third trimester. I knew all along that the mistakes made during my sister's delivery that caused her to be without oxygen and the resulting brain damage likely wouldn't happen to me or my baby. It just took nearly nine months for me to believe it. I'm not a very religious person, but I spent the final weeks of pregnancy doing a lot of praying.
Giving birth to a baby and a new career
My labor went fairly quickly and while delivery wasn't completely smooth, everything was fine. My baby was healthy and hefty — 10 pounds, 13 ounces and 21-1/2 inches long — and my feelings of dread and worry were immediately replaced with ones of amazement and power. I did it! I gave birth. And everything was OK.
Dealing with fear during pregnancy and ultimately taking control of my labor and birth lead me to become a Lamaze-certified childbirth educator. I wanted to help other women learn about labor and how to cope. I've been honored to teach hundreds of couples just that over the last 15 years.
Nothing is guaranteed during childbirth, but pregnancy should ideally be a time of happiness. I wish I had spent more time letting myself believe that, but I'm glad I can help others do that now.