“How are you feeling today?” The nurse asked me this past Wednesday, as she closed the door to the tiny exam room for my 16 week checkup. Those words apparently were all I needed to hear to release the pent up anxiety hiding inside me behind a façade of calm and collectedness. Alligator tears came pouring out of my eyes. As I sobbed, “I said fine.” This was obviously NOT the case.
I know anxiety is common, even normal during pregnancy. I remember having the typical concerns during my first pregnancy: Will this baby be healthy? Is that food safe to eat? Will I be a good mom? All these worries, and more, ran through my head on a daily basis, sometimes more than once a day. I mean, it’s a BIG responsibility growing a new life inside you and it’s scary.
My fretfulness during this pregnancy has been 10 times worse as anxiety is now my constant companion. I expected to feel more anxious with baby No. 2 after losing baby No. 1, but I never thought worry would be as persistent as it is. Living with anxiety during a pregnancy after a loss is like walking on a tight rope for nine months, with no safety net below, just waiting in fear that I will slip and fall.
Even the littlest things can send me into a nervous spiral, an ache from round ligament pain, a cramp from constipation, and silence from the ultrasound tech, all of these increasing the already overwhelming amount of worries asking the question, “Will baby be OK?” This past week one of those anxiety whirlwinds hit when I remembered that I had not heard back from my doctor about my most recent lab work to test for birth defects. The nurse informed me that I should have the results back within twenty-four hours from my appointment. As I thought about this sitting on the couch after work, I realized it was 5:30 p.m. on Friday!!! My mind immediately spun in all directions conjuring up every negative possibility that could be WHY I didn’t hear back from the doctor on time. “This must mean something is wrong.” My mind wouldn’t even comprehend that it could just be a clerical error, no; it decided to do fearful summersaults, over and over again until I was dizzy.
I sat on the couch in dread as there was no one to talk to, my husband wasn’t home yet, and the clinic was closed. Not knowing what to do, I cried. Tears of fear emptied out of me as I succumbed to being powerless and anxiety stricken. Out of desperation I called the afterhours nurse’s line in hopes that someone there might have an answer. Luckily, the kind angel on the other end of the line was able to calm my fears and reassure me that my test result came back negative. Baby was fine. I was fine. Relief set in and I cried all over again.
Overwhelming anxiety can be a real concern if left untreated in pregnancy. I have come up with a list of ways to manage my anxiety for the next 6 months that work for me and that I have discussed with my doctor and therapist. I share in hopes that you too might find a strategy below helpful, if you also struggle from anxiety after loss or just typical worries that come from creating a life for 9 months:
- Practice Self-Care: Going to bed early, giving myself permission to do less housework, and spending time relaxing with my husband and little dog.
- Use the “What If Question” to My Advantage: “What if (insert negative thought here) happens?” Then I envision myself coming up with a solution or possible future action. It usually ends with, “Even if the WORST happens, I can handle it.”
- Avoid Google: I know I do it. As soon as there is a concern I turn to Google for help. As if it’s a magic eight ball that will solve my problems. When in reality, I usually walk away more fretful about my most recent worry than I did before. I no longer Google concerns, I call the nurse.
- Talk to a Supportive Loved One: Talking to my husband, therapist, doctor, nurse, and other pregnant friends, has been extremely helpful in reducing my anxiety. Surrounding myself with supportive loved ones has been some of the best medicine to help me through anxious moments of both pregnancies.