I will never forget the feeling of seeing the line form on the pregnancy test. The truth is, while we had been trying for a few months, I was woefully unprepared for the joys and pains of what was to come...
Sure I had read books, but only books about getting pregnant, not about being pregnant. I wish someone would have sat me down and said, "now Rose, this is going to be hard."
You'll get enough sparkles and romance about pregnancy from TV and social media (I mean, isn't my instagram announcement below just so precious?) Someone's gotta talk about the ugly :) And I take that as my cue to tell you this sisters -- pregnancy is HARD.
I recognize that this post may sting for those of you who may be struggling to become pregnant. Those of you who struggle with waiting, fertility issues, and beyond, are in my heart and prayers. My goal is to share from experience the difficulties and delights of pregnancy.
And there's so much delight. Delight in the Lord's plan, delight in a rounder tummy, delight in seeing an ultrasound printout of your little nugget -- your own little snapshot of the beauty of heaven.
The enemy hates when we delight in the Lord, because our joy and delight are spiritual postures that glorify and magnify God. It is my opinion that Satan particularly hates women because of our incredible role in the world as givers of life and love. Spiritual warfare is real and you may experience it during pregnancy as I did. I felt, and still do often feel, that I have to fight to sit in the moments of joy, and to intentionally choose joy instead of dwelling on my physical pain and suffering.
I love this (paraphrased) quote by Sarah Reinhard in her book about pregnancy, "The more we sink into our physical suffering, the less we can see the joy of a human growing inside of us." This is so true and I sadly fell into this trap time and time again. By understanding and mitigating the stressors of early pregnancy and offering up our suffering to Christ, we can be present with that joy and miracle of our babies.
"The more we sink into our physical suffering, the less we can see the joy of a human growing inside of us."
The pains of pregnancy are unique and there is nothing like them. You may experience the following stressors that may hamper mental health during early pregnancy like I did:
1. New worries:
After the joy of the positive test, you may find yourself overcome with anxiety (like I did): "Whoa, I wanted a baby in me, but now there's actually a baby in me." There's joy, giddiness, excitement...and fear.
I'll never forget. I was about five weeks pregnant and reading SO much about pregnancy online. I somehow came across a viral youtube video of a crunchy gal delivering her baby casually in a creek on a yoga mat. I can't tell you exactly what happened in my deepest psyche, but I remember totally losing it and experiencing a mental meltdown and not sleeping for like three nights.
My advice: don't watch videos of birth at this early stage. Please, just don't. Trust.
2. Little support from others:
It is fairly common that women don't share the news about their pregnancy with others early on. Indeed, you may feel especially lonely and isolated in your thoughts without the support of your community, friends, and family during this time.
3. Your body is rapidly changing:
Just because you don't see a bump, doesn't mean your body isn't rapidly changing. The hormones are surging and only keep increasing as the weeks go by. Your body may react in a number of ways: fatigue, depression, mood swings, morning sickness, all-day sickness, intense food aversions, insomnia, hypersomnia. The list goes on, but each woman reacts to the hormonal changes differently. (It's incredible, actually.)
I hate to burst your bubble, but you probably aren't likely to be frolicking through a field, picking flowers, baking homemade cinnamon rolls, and then making sweet love to your hubby. Let me rephrase: I wasn't doing any of these things.
And I am still waiting on that fabled "pregnancy glow." Unless the nighttime sweat dripping down my perpetually hot face counts. (Or the shine off my newfound acne.) And my GI tract basically just decided to retire and move to Florida. So yeah, there's that.
4. Suffering is just hard yall:
There were so many moments of absolute despair. Lacking experience and foresight, I could only see what was right before me -- weeks of nausea and vomiting. ("What if this lasts the whole 40 weeks?!!!") I didn't think I could do it. I didn't feel like I had it in me, but I had no other choice. Carrying a whole new cross so suddenly can get weighty, but you CAN do it. If I can, you can.
As a psychologist, I knew cognitively about the connection between mind and body, but only in pregnancy did that reality manifest so personally. Physical suffering surely does result in emotional suffering as well, and I have a whole new level of empathy for patients with chronic illnesses.
I realized pretty quickly that I am really bad at suffering. Besides regular headaches, I never really struggled with medical problems. I was woefully unprepared for the physical aspect of the sickness of my first trimester. It almost seemed to crush my spirits. I experienced so much guilt too. (I am supposed to be happy about this precious baby! What's wrong with me?)
I realized that unlike the great saints we study (like St. Maximilian Kolbe), my physical pains seemed to take me farther from Christ. I felt more self-centered and insular than ever before. Looking back, I realize that I didn't discipline myself or learn to offer my suffering up to Christ. In all humility, I am still working on it.
I am so grateful for my comforting circle of friends and community, my incredibly selfless husband(who found it acceptable to eat Wendy's every day instead of a home cooked meal without a single complaint), and good medical care.
5. If you have pre-existing mental health issues (or even if you don't), you may notice them exacerbated during those early months:
Yup. It's called peripartum mood disorders. This is the stuff they don't seem to emphasize at those precious first OB visits. Peripartum (or during pregnancy) depression occurs in 1 in 7 pregnant women. Peripartum depression can appear in the following symptoms:
Feeling sad, hopeless, helpless, or worthless
Difficulty sleeping/sleeping too much
Changes in appetite
Crying for “no reason”
Feelings of being a bad mother
Fear of harming the baby or oneself
Peripartum anxiety occurs in 8-10% of pregnant women! Here are some symptoms of anxiety during pregnancy:
Feeling tense, nervous and on edge
Having a sense of dread, or fearing the worst
Feeling like the world is speeding up or slowing down
Feeling like other people can see that you’re anxious and are looking at you
Feeling your mind is really busy with thoughts
Dwelling on negative experiences, or thinking over a situation again and again (this is called rumination)
Feeling restless and not being able to concentrate
You may notice a peripartum depression or anxiety for a number of reasons:
You may have stopped taking your antidepressants. This is a personal choice only you can make. Sometimes, women choose to continue their medications, tweak them, or taper off all together. That's something to discuss with your OB and your psychiatric medication prescriber.
If you're experiencing morning sickness, you may not be able to tolerate taking your normal mood medications (like your antidepressant) or vomit your pills, resulting in inconsistent use and a less effective result.
The stress of early pregnancy is real: you may start to experience a whole new host of worries and stressors you haven't quite processed before. If you have anxiety, this anxiety may "attach" onto typical pregnancy worries, amplifying them. If you're feeling unwell, your depression may be amplified with fatigue and malaise.
Pregnancy hormones are often the culprit, and worsen you symptoms that may have already been lingering or under the surface for some time prior to pregnancy.
I don't share my story and symptoms as a way to scare you away from growing your family, but only as an unscripted and honest account about the difficulties. I felt almost cheated and lied to by baby books and subsequently unprepared as my symptoms took me off guard.
My hope is to help you be prepared and educated so that you can put things into perspective, come what may, as you develop a little beautiful
life within your body.
In my next post I plan to go through each of these stressors to mental health and offer some tools and tips to help mitigate these stressors. There is SO much you can do to support and care for yourself as you prepare for and journey through pregnancy. I am so excited to share some of these ideas with you!
Comment below or on my instagram with any questions or concerns. I'd love to dialogue with you further. Praying for your grace filled mind...Dr. Rose
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