There is a side of pregnancy that I don't believe is talked about enough. We talk about hiccups and nausea and heartburn and constipation and hemorrhoids and stretch marks and puking our brains out. We talk about baby kicks and weight gain and ultrasounds and epidurals and the joys of trying to decide on baby names as a couple.
But I don't hear so much about the mental and emotional challenges that pregnancy can bring. Sure, we joke about mood swings, crying over cute puppies, and being hangry. Our husbands laugh and roll their eyes when we talk about our crazy hormones.
But friends. There is a side to pregnancy that is very real and very hard. It is the side that includes anxiety, panic attacks, anger, depression, sadness, guilt, and darkness.
It's the tightening of the chest and inability to get a good breath and you're not even sure why.
It's sobbing so hard it hurts at midnight.
It's completely irrational anger over irrational things.
It's heaviness, sadness, and feelings of depression, when you know you should be happier than you've ever been.
It's enormous guilt for having those feelings.
It's not knowing what to say when people ask how you're doing.
It's trying so hard to put on a good super duper happy face, when it feels like others are more excited for you than you are for you.
(Enter, more feelings of guilt.)
It's laying in bed shaking and hyperventilating when you should be sleeping.
It's long dark nights of not nearly enough sleep and way too many hot tears.
It's deep heaviness, darkness, and literally feeling the evil attacks of the enemy on your soul in the middle of the night.
It's the overwhelming anxiety surrounding every little decision to be made.
It's snapping at your hubby in anger when he's just trying to help and love you and then feeling horrible about it.
It's not knowing where to even begin to answer your hubby when he lovingly asks, "what's wrong?", when you're bawling your eyes out over every. single. thing. under the sun.
It's being angry about being angry and being stressed about being stressed and being anxious about having anxiety and knowing you're being irrational and hating yourself for it.
Told you it was gonna get real today.
I mentioned just a couple of these things at my last OB appointment and was informed things like anxiety are extremely common in pregnancy. What? Than why aren't we talking more openly about it, friends?
Our mental, emotional, and spiritual health is just as important, if not more so, than our physical health.
This is not the first time I have had struggles like this (thanks to extreme physical trauma in the past) but it is all heightened and intensified by crazy high hormone levels, fears and uncertainties about being a new mom, fears about the health of the little one growing inside my womb, and complete overwhelm at all the changes taking place. It is triggered by the extreme physical challenges and pain that have been associated with my pregnancy so far.
(Side note: I think I'll do a whole separate post about the fears associated with pregnancy. They fit into the theme of this post but I'm thinking there are enough of them to make up a post all of their own.)
So what do we do with these struggles, these feelings, this overwhelm?
First of all, we pray. We pray like we've never prayed before. We fight the enemy in Jesus' name and we plead with the Father for mercy, grace, strength, and joy.
Second, we spend time in the Word. A friend of mine recently invited me to join her in reading the whole Bible in 90 days. This means I am reading and/or listening to huge portions of Scripture every day. Is it a "miracle cure" that makes everything hunky dory? Absolutely not! But filling our minds with the truths of God's Word, the truths that we are loved and His strength is made perfect in our weakness, the truths that He is faithful, is one of the greatest tools we can have in this fight for the health of our minds, hearts, and souls.
Third, we accept outside help and support. This can look different for different people. For me, it means...
- asking my closest people to pray for me in the specific ways that i need on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.
- knowing my Christian counselor is one phone call away and there is no shame in calling her for an appointment.
- being honest with my husband about what is going on in my mind and heart.
- weekly acupuncture and chiropractor appointments to help keep my body in alignment.
- gratefully accepting meals, help around the house, etc.
- knowing that it's okay if at some point i do have to call the OB and have them send over that prescription they recommended for an anxiety medication.
Fourth, we change our lifestyle, habits, and routines to better manage these extra internal battles (and physical struggles). Right now in my own life, this looks like...
- learning new deep breathing and relaxation practices.
- journaling more.
- letting the house stay messy so I can sit & rest and make my heart less messy.
- working to retrain my brain, when the thoughts are unhealthy and toxic (taking every thought captive)
- getting back in the habit of blogging (writing is therapy to my soul and like oxygen to my lungs).
- incorporating simple self-care rituals like washing & moisturizing my face at night (I know, I know, I should've been doing this my whole life), soaking in Epsom salt baths to relax every part of my being a couple times a week, taking my vitamins & supplements every single day, etc.
- baking muffins and pies and brownies and bread again, now that the nausea is less intense. Baking has always been my favorite form of art and breathes life into my soul (plus, it makes for a very happy hubby)
Fifth, we give ourselves grace. These struggles & thoughts & emotions bring so much guilt. I don't know if I've ever felt like a more horrible person than I have these last few months. It boggles my mind how my heart can be filled with so much gratitude, awe, wonder, love, and joy, knowing God is growing a LIFE within my WOMB, and yet still experience these other overwhelming negative emotions, anxiety, struggles, and battles. I have repeatedly said to my hubby that is so crazy how a time can be filled with so much joy and so much pain all at the same time. My heart has never been exploding with this much love and gratitude. My heart has also never faced this many battles and emotions and challenges. I heard recently that a pregnant woman experiences more hormones in nine months of pregnancy than a woman who never has children experiences in her whole life. So ladies, let's give ourselves grace. It's okay to not be okay. Let's stop beating ourselves up. Let's take responsibility and be proactive but we need to stop criticizing and attacking ourselves with feelings of guilt, failure, and defeat. (1 Cor. 15:57)
These are simply the things I've slowly been learning over the past few months. Each day is a new battle and a new opportunity to keep growing and pressing on. This is my first pregnancy and I still have half a pregnancy to go, so I am the furthest thing from an expert. But i have experienced my share of challenges in these first 20 weeks of pregnancy and my desire is to share & bless others through these storms and lessons.
I would love to hear from you and about your experiences. I also always thoroughly enjoy hearing what others are doing for self-care, daily rituals & routines, and just staying sane in this crazy world. Please drop a comment or send me a message. Happy Thursday, friends!