by Shabd Simran Adeniji
Being in the moment is a constant battle of mine. Like many, I struggle with my ‘monkey mind’. Thinking and then more thinking! As a kid, I grew up around yoga and meditation. I have used these tools all my life as a way to control my mind and turn inward to find a more peaceful balance. But even all that meditation didn’t prepare me for the anxiety of pregnancy.
When I had first became a midwife one of my mentors used to say ‘worry of the work of pregnancy’. I didn’t really get what she meant and I actually felt like she was being a little cynical when she said it but then I was pregnant for myself and it all made sense.
My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at 10 weeks -- heartbreaking for my husband and I both. So by the time I was pregnant the second time I was full of angst about it going well. I felt like all I did for the first many months was worry; worry whether everything was ok with the baby; worry that I might do something to ‘cause’ another miscarriage; worry that something was wrong with me or that I might never have a baby. My hands were basically clenched in fists for the first four months of pregnancy. It was rough. No matter what people said I couldn’t shake the fear that things might end at any moment.
I couldn’t trust anything about the process because it was so fallible, so fragile and so out of my control.
I couldn’t understand the depth of fear one can feel even though I had walked with many women on the journey of pregnancy loss. To add to it, having seen so much as a midwife, I kept thinking of wore case scenarios. Unlikely situations that were still ‘possible’.
I was a mess.
Once I passed the golden twelve-week mark I thought things would get better. They didn’t. I continued to feel scared. I started to realize this wasn’t going away by the mere fact that the pregnancy was progressing smoothly. I needed to take charge of my mind because it was taking over my pregnancy and my whole inner world.
I went back to what I knew worked for me so many times before. When my mind would begin to spin with fears and worries I would stop, sit up straight, close my eyes, take a deep breath and get myself back in to my body. It was the only thing that brought any sense of peace in my mind. Getting out of my head and into my body where I could get a real sense of whether things were ok or not. Sometimes the breathing was enough but other times I would need to add a mantra to the mix, something to occupy my spiral thinking.
I use mantras from the Sikh tradition for the most part but I also would use affirmations like ‘ I am ok, my baby is ok’ or ‘ we are taken care of… I don’t need to worry’. I would simply repeat those ‘mantras’ over and over engaging my brain in different thinking. I was able to almost ‘talk back’ to the anxiety with my positive affirmations, prayers or mantras.
Even in to the second and third trimesters when things were stable and I could feel baby moving regularly I still found myself feeling fearful. If it wasn’t about the pregnancy itself then I found other things to worry about; could I handle the birth, would I be a good mother, will there be enough money if I stop working, will my marriage change. The list kept going. I only started relaxing toward the end of my pregnancy, surrendering in the process and realizing no matter what the outcome- I cannot control it.
I used my meditation practice and called on friends for reassurance regularly. I mostly needed reminding that I needed to trust in a higher power and that my main role in this pregnancy is to keep a relaxed, calm environment for baby to grow in (within reason of course, it’s never all roses and unicorns).
What I now know as a mom and midwife that I didn’t know before is that worry is indeed the work of pregnancy BUT it doesn’t need to consume us. It is biological for a parents to become hyper aware of their circumstances and surroundings in order to prepare for the arrival of a new baby. And despite the fact that this might begin as a hormonal response, our mind can take it to another level- a non-beneficial level.
Here is a list of tools I used and that I regularly recommend to parents who experience worry or anxiety in pregnancy and early parenting.
- Learn a simple breathing practice
- Regular prenatal yoga and meditation
- Outdoor activities- nature works wonders on our minds
- Acupuncture (there are some great points to quiet the mind)
- Essential oils (diffused over night helped me with sleep)
And remember, for many parents this is a passing phase, for some it lasts through the early months after birth (others are able to move through it faster) and some continue to struggle further in to parenting. If you or your partner struggle with anxiety on a deeper level please be sure to reach out for additional support/guidance and feel free to contact me for referrals to local providers who may be able to help.