Prenatal Anxiety Part 1: Pregnancy Guilt

I promise after the next few pregnancy and post partum posts I’ll move on to a lighter note, but first it’s time to dig in to the more emotional side… I’ve been hesitant to write these thoughts because I don’t want my 3rd kid (or any of my kids!) to read this one day and think that I didn’t want them, but I know that the fear and shame I still feel around what I know is a much more common occurrence than people talk about is exactly why I need to write this post.

*In this post I do list some specific fears and anxieties, so it could be triggering for others suffering from anxiety or those who have been through miscarriage or infant loss*

I feel guilty for how much I hated being pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and they are and were very much wanted, and I was so thankful that I COULD get pregnant, but I also spent almost every day of all three of my pregnancies feeling physically and emotionally miserable and/or exhausted. What might be surprising is in spite of very bad “morning sickness” aka all the time sickness aka hyperemesis gravidarum in one of my pregnancies, I feel like the physical symptoms were easier to deal with than the mental ones of suffering from prenatal anxiety. I wanted my babies, what I didn’t want was the hormone cocktail that turns my brain into my own worst enemy and convinces me in the dark moments that nothing can turn out ok ever and the reason it won’t turn out ok is probably my fault.

My first pregnancy I didn’t know what I was going through. I thought I was just losing my mind. It wasn’t until months after I gave birth that I started learning about the little talked about postpartum anxiety and its even less well known twin, prenatal anxiety. I wasn’t losing my mind, I wasn’t having all those invasive thoughts and horrible feelings because I was destined to be a bad mom, I was just dealing with a whole lot of hormones that made me feel awful and out of control. And the amazing thing was, it went away almost immediately after I delivered.

My second pregnancy I knew what was happening, but everything was so much worse physically that the combo just took me out and I felt deeply ashamed of what I was going through and like I couldn’t even talk about it until it was over. I spent my days in the bathroom throwing up and crying and I came out of that pregnancy unsure of if I could ever go through that again. It felt like torture knowing that I wanted another family member but not feeling strong enough to go through the process of growing another person. This made me feel, once again, overwhelmed with guilt as by this time I had lots of friends who were struggling with fertility issues, miscarriage, or kids with serious medical conditions. I was comparing my suffering to theirs constantly in a really unhelpful way, but I couldn’t help feeling like I couldn’t talk about my fears of putting myself through the sacrifices I knew pregnancy would mentally and physically demand, like I would only be looked at as ungrateful, as selfish, as unreasonable, as all the other things women are gaslighted to believe when it comes to having feelings about basically anything… but especially when it comes to anything to do with having children. Once again, my anxiety shifted dramatically within 48 hours of giving birth. This time, however, I did not go back to my baseline “normal” right away the way I had with my son. It was SIGNIFICANTLY better and I was able to get off the medication I had to be on while pregnant and still feel ok, but this time I breastfed after birth so my hormones were still a little wacky and I had notably elevated anxiety until I weaned my daughter 18 months later. During that time, I found a lot of tools to deal with that lower level of anxiety that kept the experience of my third pregnancy from being mentally unbearable.

It’s me! Every day of my pregnancy… also Chidi’s quote about the sound a fork makes in a garbage disposal being the sound his brain makes all the time… thankfully this is not always my reality… if you don’t understand this reference get yourself to the TV and watch The Good Place!

My third aka my most recent pregnancy started with my most extreme anxiety, but I was also the most
prepared for it. This was the first time I documented my obsession with “progression lines” aka when you take way too many pregnancy tests during the first week or two of finding out you are expecting to watch the lines get darker/reassure yourself that your hCG levels are going up without the scientifically more accurate blood draws. This is actually the biggest downside of using natural family planning. I always find out I am pregnant SUPER early and then drive myself crazy the entire nine months after that. On days I felt particularly sick, I was anxious about getting the extreme morning sickness I had with my second
pregnancy and how rough that was with extra medical bills. On days I wasn’t sick and had a reprieve (admittedly few and far between, but they existed!) I was anxious that it was a sign I was losing my baby. Every single time I went to the bathroom I was sure I would see blood and be on my way to the ER. Every doctor appointment I cried on the way there, sure I was about to get terrible news. Every new person I told, there was this truly illogical voice in the back of my head telling me I was tempting fate- like God or your biology cares who you tell about your pregnancy when. I wasn’t ready to post and share about this until I was through it, but I DID
keep a list of invasive thoughts I had while pregnant, and here’s just a taste:

* “my anxiety has been kicked up a notch this past month.”

*”Each night I find myself having more worries about the world, the baby, the kids I already have.”

*”Trouble sleeping. I need to find better ways to combat the bad tricks hormones play in my mind. I don’t wish this anxiety on anyone”

*”Everyone gets so excited about feeling their baby kick- I know it’s supposed to be a highlight, but my head twists it and each kick my brain tells me it’s my baby telling me something is wrong and I have to fix it instead of just letting myself find peace in knowing that kicks mean everything is right, that your are literally supposed to count kicks as a reassurance of this”

*”I hate that I spend every day wishing these nine months away.”

While my anxiety was strong, I had done this twice before, so I had some solid coping mechanisms in place, and I had a stronger support group. I’ll be writing about those in my next post, and about how I clung on to my theme last year of having more fun to help me through!

4 thoughts on “Prenatal Anxiety Part 1: Pregnancy Guilt

  1. clarakbiesel says:

    Amanda, thank you for writing about this. Looks like I’ve had an easier go of it both physically and mentally but trimester one I was in a really dark place anxiety-wise. And I had never heard anyone talk about prenatal anxiety (and honestly I’d never really experienced that kind of anxiety) so I just assumed my perception of reality was reality. Love you!

    Like

    • I’m sorry you also had to struggle with anxiety! It really is crazy how little it is talked about- we as a society have finally made strides starting to talk about post partum depression but still don’t mention post partum anxiety as much and talk about pre-partum depression or anxiety even less! I’m grateful for any doctors or midwives who are trying to shed some light on it so hopefully people will feel less alone. Wishing you a brighter rest of your pregnancy, sweet friend! ❤

      Like

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