Posts Tagged ‘ reality check ’

Fear and Pregnancy

Friday, November 9th, 2012

My job in writing this here blog is to chronicle pregnancy. I try to keep a healthy dose of humor, reality, self-deprecation, and truth, but today, the only emotion I can muster is fear. I write this not to be self-indulgent but to confront the fear that accompanies pregnancy and to hopefully diminish it as others share how they ease their fears.

I just got off the phone from scheduling another ultrasound. I have been avoiding this call because this ultrasound is different than previous ultrasounds. This one is to check the amount of fluid in our baby’s kidneys. While I suppose other ultrasounds check fluids along with growth and development, this one feels different. It feels different because we know something isn’t quite right. Our baby girl has too much fluid in her kidneys. The medical term for her excess fluid is renal pyelectasis and they keep telling me it’s very common and can mean a myriad of different things. This check then is to see if the fluid levels are now normal or if they have persisted and that means there really is a problem.

This is the second time this pregnancy I have had to try and brace myself for less than healthy news. Our first ultrasound was at 11 weeks because my OBGYN was unable to detect a heartbeat and an ultrasound was necessary to determine the vitality of the baby. The fear and devastation I felt as I waited for that ultrasound was new and incomparable to any other fear I’d felt before. I know many women have much larger worries during pregnancy and have faced the reality of losing their babies and my heart breaks for them. It is terrifying.

I’d never felt the legitimate fear of losing a baby. I worry about miscarrying or that something could go terribly wrong but really, those fears are unwarranted because they have no medical basis and are more easily pushed from my thoughts with the immediate needs and distractions of everyday life.

But this ultrasound is different. There is some medical basis. There is some concern. And I have fear.

Excess kidney fluid can mean a few things, none of which at this point I understand to be life threatening. I try to keep that in the back of my mind that IF something is wrong, it will not be at the cost of her life. And I can handle that. But it doesn’t stop me entirely from worrying about what exactly is wrong and what I can do to protect and help her.

I know fear serves little purpose. I know worry does not change anything. I know thinking of the worst case scenario is counter-productive because we don’t know that it is the worst case scenario, but today, I am only feeling, not able to listen to what I “know.” Because really, I don’t KNOW anything yet. And that’s the scariest part. We just have to wait.  And that’s pregnancy in a nutshell. The looming “ifs” and “maybes” and “it could happen to mes” turn pregnancy into nine months of worry.

There is so much left to chance with pregnancy and that helplessness, that fear of loss and expectations and dreams is agonizing. On days like today, I’m not sure how to curb the fear. Today I will let myself worry but with the hope that tomorrow the fear will feel less palpable and I’ll have the strength to embrace more of the bright and less of the dark.

Image: Waiting room via tarasov/

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The Truth About Pregnancy Pounds

Monday, October 29th, 2012

While I can joke about my pregnancy weight gain, I thought it only fair to be completely candid about the mental battle with pregnancy pounds in an attempt to acknowledge and commend all my pregnant friends who struggle like I do at times, to love their changing bodies.

Body image is a large component of the nine-month wait and while intellectually most know that weight gain is positive, some days it is just not easy to accept one’s expanding figure.

I have a strict policy that I don’t look at my weight, ever. Aside from the doctor’s office, I don’t step on scales.

Being pregnant requires that I step on a scale at regular appointments, but I always turn around so I don’t see my weight. My doctor and I have an understanding that we don’t discuss weight gain unless it is medically necessary. I have no idea what I gained with my first pregnancy except that it fell into the “healthy range.” I plan to do the same with this pregnancy.

The habit of no numbers and scales is one I have cultivated after many years of beating myself up for what the scale did read. I have discovered that no good comes from them. If the number is too high, I berate myself. If the number is low, I think of a myriad of ways to keep it low. This is why scales and I have parted. It is a no win situation.

During pregnancy and post-pregnancy there is so much pressure surrounding weight. The media perpetually reports about and flogs stars for “letting themselves go” during pregnancy, yet eagerly applauds them when they shed the baby weight and walk the runway with a “perfect post-pregnancy figure” just two months postpartum. It’s devastating, unrealistic, and harmful.

There is so much pressure to look a certain way. During postpartum recovery the nurses continually commented on how small I was and how I’d fit into my regular jeans in no time. While I enjoyed the flattery, it also made me uncomfortable that these were the most readily available compliments. It only adds fuel to the body image fire. Instead, I truly relished the compliments about our adorable baby and sweet family.

It is also frustrating that the amount one gains during pregnancy is a source of competition. Women congratulate each other or smugly compare notes regarding who gained the least. No good comes from this either. I think it should be outlawed to talk weight with other women.

There are so many things women give up during pregnancy. While it is overly apparent that one’s body is sacrificed, it is not always discussed how much mental anxiety this places on women. I have been very fortunate to run for the last 25 weeks of this pregnancy. I was unable to run that long with my first. I know my running days are numbered however. I feel anxious about giving up running and I’m afraid of the mental war it will wage. It makes me admire the women who are put on bed-rest and the inner struggle some face to wonder and worry at how their body will change. Pregnancy requires much sacrifice and it is most definitely worth it, but sometimes, amidst pressure, hormones, and the day-to-day work of growing a baby, it is hard to remember that.

I think the difficulty of letting go of control and embracing one’s pregnant body is a common but not always acceptable topic. It may be viewed as superficial, but it is truly valid because of the conflicting messages to simply “love whatever skin you’re in.” Women are told the pregnant body is beautiful, but society outlines a very specific type of pregnant body that is beautiful and doesn’t truly celebrate the different ways bodies carry babies. It’s too much about numbers and looks.

While some women more easily accept their changing bodies, others struggle for longer. It took me five years to mentally prepare for the uncontrollable nature of pregnancy and the acceptance that having a baby was worth sacrificing my body. I feel selfish and embarrassed admitting that, but it is the truth. The journey to embrace one’s pregnant body is different for everyone, but my hope is that all come to a place of confidence and gratitude for their bodies.

Some days I am love what my body is doing. Other days I struggle to love my new curves or stretch marks. When I am in my head a little too much, when I let the superficiality consume me, I look at my daughter. Her innocent, inquisitive voice calms the negative voice in my head and really does remind me that this job of mothering isn’t about me or my looks. I would endure anything for her and the sweet babe in my belly. And even though it isn’t always easy, I know I can and will and want to endure and embrace it all.

Image: Bathroom scale via trekandshoot/

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Baby Kicks

Friday, October 5th, 2012

The best thing about pregnancy is baby kicks.

Those tiny, everyday movements bring me so much joy. There is palpable companionship and instantaneous love in carrying and feeling life.

I know those kicks can be painful at times but mostly, they make me feel safe. There is absolute comfort in the consistent kicks of a new life.

Devastatingly, as I wrote of a friend’s loss this week, another friend lost her baby at full term. I am reeling from the prevalence of what seem like normal, healthy pregnancies turning shockingly wrong.

The difference between this pregnancy and my first is my awareness of the fragility of life. I feel so vulnerable. I no longer have the luxury of naivete like I did with my first pregnancy. Instead, I feel a million reminders, a million signs indicating that I NEED to enjoy each moment I get with my pregnancy because it is all so fleeting.

My heart aches for mothers who lose their children. Even even as I type that sentence I feel guilty, guilty that I don’t know their explicit heartache and as much as I feel bad, I do not know the depths of their grief. On dark days, I let myself give into the fear that I could lose this baby, or our daughter. I panic that I’ll be asked to endure the seemingly unbearable and I won’t survive the heartbreak.

I don’t know the outcome of this pregnancy. I have my obvious optimistic hopes but they could be dashed. The reality is that I do not have control. Perhaps it will all go horribly wrong, perhaps I will join the awful “I lost a child” club or perhaps, for unforeseen reasons, this will be my last pregnancy. I do not know. I do not have control. I do not know how many moments I will get but I’m trying to stifle fear and embrace hope.

Today feels like one of those dark days, so I’m clinging to baby kicks. I need to memorize them. I need to cherish them.

Today, I’m also clinging to the memory that each time we read stories or sing songs, my daughter sits in my lap while her baby sister spiritedly kicks my belly in what I like to think is a greeting to her sister and a recognition of proximity and love. I’m clinging to the moment when I cry happy tears, rocking my two girls, and my daughter asks if I’m sad. I’m clinging to my response that “no, I’m not sad, I’m just so happy to be your mom.” I’m clinging to my daughter’s, “I missed yous” when she wakes up from naps and the sound of her voice as she chases bubbles, laughing unabashedly as the grass tickles her bare feet and she yells, “Hey bubbles, wait for me and sissy boo!”

But mainly, I’m clinging to baby kicks and the thought of them really meeting someday, these sisters, these two girls I love more than life. That thought makes the perpetual fear and anxiety seem worthwhile.

And someday, when life truly is hard and seemingly unbearable, I’ll conjure up the memory of my girls, one strewn cozily across my lap, the other nestled in my tummy, reminding me that life is made up of baby kicks and lullabies and there are still many, happy, simple moments you do get and luckily, you get to hold onto them forever.

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