There are a myriad of different situations you may find yourself in when you discover you have successfully conceived a child. You may have decided to begin trying only a few weeks prior. You may have been charting your basal temperature and tracking your ovulation for months to no avail, deciding to enlist help from specialists before finally hearing the blissful sounds of a tiny heartbeat. Or you may find yourself—after a few days of feeling “off”—staring at two pink lines in shocked surprise at the realization your life now has a completely different trajectory than you anticipated it would when you woke up that morning.
No matter what circumstances led to the moment of the discovery that you’re growing a human being and will soon become a mother, it’s likely that at a certain point, some level of fear will enter the picture. Housing new life is no small task, and it’s normal—and actually necessary—for you to take a keen interest in details about your health and lifestyle that you may have been able to gloss over in your prebaby life. But don’t let this hyperawareness take over and rob you of self-confidence. Face your fears and empower yourself as you undergo the transformation into motherhood.
Facts vs. feelings
A frequent refrain you’ll hear as you navigate pregnancy and plan for birth is to educate yourself as much as possible in order to make the decisions that best serve your personal needs. But while knowledge may certainly be power, it isn’t always an antidote for anxiety, and in fact may introduce new fears. In their book, The Greatest Pregnancy Ever: Keys to the MotherBaby Bond, Tracy Wilson-Peters, CCCE, CLE, CLD, and Laurel Wilson, IBCLC, CCCE, CLE, CLD, explore the importance of acknowledging apprehension, and of not dismissing feelings when gathering facts. Says Wilson, “Becoming conscious is becoming self-aware—aware of our thoughts and emotions. Thoughts and emotions shape daily lives, affecting our health, stress levels, fertility and the growth of our babies. Studies show that our beliefs and attitudes have a direct impact on our overall health.”
The more in tune you are with yourself, the better able you’ll be to interpret the information you receive throughout your pregnancy and make decisions based on what’s best not only for your body, but for your overall well-being. Wilson-Peters explains, “Moving from the idea of ‘informed consent,’ which is a legal/medical term that means you accept a procedure, to embracing the idea of being in conscious agreement or ‘harmony’ with every decision we make is crucial to the health of the mother-baby connection.” This mother-baby connection will bring a peaceful atmosphere to your pregnancy and equip you with the self-assurance to confront any prenatal worries you may be experiencing.
Inevitably, there will be days when you won’t feel your best. And for these days, you’ll want to have a plan for how to handle the curveballs pregnancy throws to your psyche. It’s hard to think about self-assuredness and chutzpah when you’ve spent the morning face down in a porcelain receptacle. Come up with stock answers to the inquiries and comments you’re most likely to face, whether from well-meaning friends, healthcare providers or strangers on the bus. Being able to provide a retort from rote memory saves you from the emotional hijacking that a question or jibe might threaten when you’re down and out. Here are a few scenarios for which you’ll want to be prepared.
Belly-touching. A lot of jokes are made about this friend (or stranger) faux-pas, but for some, an outstretched hand to the midsection creates true feelings of discomfort. Spend some time determining which touch-deterring phrase you can say casually (but with conviction) and practice repeating it out loud privately until it becomes second nature. You may find that all it takes is a simple “Please don’t touch” spoken clearly and with eye contact to do the trick.
Birth planning. There are as many birth philosophies as there are women who have given birth, and no two are exactly alike. Once you and your partner have discussed your options for delivery and decided on what sounds right for you, trust your instincts. If it seems like your friends and family are taking every opportunity to discuss what they think you should or shouldn’t do, find your automatic reply and stick to it. Examples: “That’s interesting, we’ll file it away for consideration.” Or, “We’re still discussing what we think might work best for us, but thanks for the input.”
Ringside seating. Between excited grandparents-to-be and friends who pledge to be there every step of the way, you’re often left with the potential for a crowded bedside at the main event—and no clue how to let the crowd know you’re hoping for a slightly more intimate experience. Sidestep this tricky situation by responding to people who ask if (or worse, assume) they can be there for the birth with “I’ll have to check the hospital’s policy to see who’s allowed into the delivery room.” That way you’ll buy yourself time to come up with a carefully worded refusal for your overeager mother-in-law or longtime best friend that won’t put a strain on your relationship.
Physician pleasing. It’s easy to defer to your doctor without question—after all, she’s the one with the MD, right? But if you’ve decided after reading up on an optional procedure (such as amniocentesis or CVS) that it’s not for you, don’t be afraid to say so. Offer up a short and to the point “We’ve decided to pass on that option” sentiment, and if she pushes for explanation, a simple “It’s not the option for us” should suffice.
Rehearsing these preplanned lines in your head or even out loud is a way to stand firm in your convictions while remaining unflustered in the moment. After all, any time you frame your decisions as conscious, deliberate choices, you are reinforcing your active role in your prenatal health, which can only lead to increased trust in your abilities as an expectant mom and soon-to-be parent.