When I found out I was pregnant for the first time, three years ago exactly, I remember being flooded with clashing emotions that I had never experienced before in my life. Of course, I was ecstatic. But, deep down I felt a pinch of anxiety that didn’t fully go away until I delivered my son and knew he was healthy.
During pregnancy, we get no guarantee that things will go smoothly. We pray before ultrasounds and checkups and anxiously await genetic test results from our doctors. In a way we are powerless during these nine, endless months. We tell ourselves to remain calm while our minds imagine the worst possible scenarios, the most challenging fates we can possibly be dealt. What will we do if something awful happens? What can we do? We try not to think about it. We try to remain positive. But the anxiety remains.
Despite all of this, I love being pregnant. I really do. I feel protected and pampered by family and friends daily, cherish each kick and flutter within me, and am in daily awe of the female body. Women are truly incredible. I constantly remind myself to appreciate the beauty and tranquility of these nine months, without allowing myself to sink into worry and apprehension. These fears are normal, we all have them, but they can easily take over if we let them.
Here’s how you can be stronger than these fears:
Bottom line is this: less than 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage, and the chances go down significantly as the weeks progress. After your doctor finds a heartbeat (usually around 6 to 8 weeks) the risk of miscarriage drops to about 5 percent. Still, if you seem to obsess over the fear of a late miscarriage, an at-home fetal monitor should help. This doesn’t mean you should look for a heartbeat 5 times a day for reassurance. Just once every week or two should do the trick. I love my Up & Raise Fetal Monitor and being able to find a clear, powerful heartbeat within seconds. As you move further along in your pregnancy, flutters, kicks, and hiccups should also be daily reminders that your little one is doing just fine.Here’s another reassuring fact: the risk of your baby having any birth defect is only 4 percent – whether that means serious ones or the thousands of other small abnormalities out there. To do your part in making sure your baby develops properly, you can take a daily prenatal vitamin, algal or fish oil, and/or any other supplement(s) your doctor recommends (many women, for example, are anemic during pregnancy and are advised to supplement in iron.)I was never afraid of labor because I took a step back and reminded myself that women have been giving birth since the dawn of time. Why not have faith in myself? My mother delivered three healthy babies naturally and always encouraged me to try, which I did. The media loves to paint childbirth as the most excruciating moment in a woman’s life, but the images we see are dramatic and unrealistic. Despite what Hollywood wants you to believe, your water will probably not break in the middle of a busy street and you will definitely not be rushed through hospital doors screaming at the top of your lungs a mere twenty minutes later.
Labor is not easy, but it’s manageable if you go into it with the right attitude. No one is telling you what kind of birth you should have. There are tons of ways to relieve pain during labor, but also many ways to prepare for childbirth beforehand: classes are a great way to learn more about breathing techniques, labor stages, and what to expect at the hospital in general. The more informed you are about childbirth, the less likely you are to get a non-emergency intervention at the hospital. The most important thing to remember is that you need to feel comfortable with your doctor or midwife, trust that you are delivering at a hospital aligned with your philosophy, and have a good support system (whether that is your husband, mother, or doula… or three) in the room with you.Many moms are terrified about not being able to breastfeed, or not being capable of keeping it up for very long. Think of breastfeeding as a learning curve: if this is your first child, you have most likely never breastfed before. You are learning an entirely new art, and your tiny baby is, too. You have to be patient, keep trying, and have faith in yourself. The truth is, 90 percent or more of women can successfully breastfeed if they have the right support and mindset. Most women expect breastfeeding to immediately “click”, but that is not always the case. It takes some time for milk to come in fully and for both mom and baby to be on the same page. Do not give up because it isn’t easy right away – the first week may seem incredibly difficult to some, but like any new skill, it takes some practice and time. Lactation consultants and breastfeeding support groups are great resources to research during pregnancy if breastfeeding is something you really want to commit to.Although labor wasn’t one of my big fears, I did have concerns about bringing home a newborn. For life, as we knew it, to change drastically. I had never been around babies before my son, and I knew the first year would be a challenge. How would we adapt to this new life? How would we balance everything? I was anxious about the immense responsibility now on our shoulders: we would be shaping the life of a human being, educating, disciplining, and building them up in a tough, frightening world. If you worry about whether or not you will be a good parent, though, that is a great sign. It means you deeply care, which is huge! You will be the perfect parent for your child if you put him/her first and do your best every single day. It won’t always be easy, but if there is love, that is all that matters.