Pre-Birth Anxiety (And Relief)
(Squish with our friends’ new baby girl, born on the 4th of July.)
It was an innocent thing, really, just me awkwardly scooting off the bed last Saturday night. But something about the movement made an image jump into my head and practically stopped me in my tracks. I imagined giving birth on that bed. And this whole endeavor was suddenly a bad idea. A very, very bad idea.
I spent the next hour or so trying to re-assure myself. I’ve done this before. Twice. I’ll be fine. I can do it. My body is strong. It knows what to do. I pulled out some mantras: I am strong. I am capable. I am tough. I am strong. I am capable. I am tough. Over and over and over again.
I told Micah about my sudden anxiety. He seemed surprised, but I think I’m allowed to have a little freak-out about pushing a baby out of my body.
Thunder rolled and lightening flashed as we fell asleep that night, and I worried that the storm would bring the baby. Just at the moment when I was least mentally prepared . . . . But it didn’t. I woke up with the balloon still under my shirt and that sense of dread still percolating throughout my body. And so I started with the mantras again. I am strong. I am capable. I am tough. But still. What a bad idea this was.
So I tried to forget about it and focus on getting to church on time. Waiting for trains is not conducive to forgetting about anxiety. Especially since waiting for trains makes me slightly claustrophobic, which promotes anxious thinking. Thankfully, we made it without any drama or trauma.
But then, at church, everyone asks me how I’m feeling. Mostly just in passing, and I can get away with, “Pretty good.” Or, “Great.” Or, “Just fine, thank you.” But sometimes we’re actually having a conversation. Standing, talking to each other, and suddenly I’m telling them how I’m anxious about giving birth, about how I don’t really want to do this any more.
It’s probably the third person I’m telling. We’re walking down the stairs together. She asks how my other births have been. “Easy. Normal. No problems.” I say. “I know I can do it.” I say. And then I hear myself say this: “It’s just the anticipation. The waiting for it to finally start.” And with that, the anxiety dissipates. As suddenly as it came, it’s gone.
It’s just the anticipation. Just like before a race. Of course. If I think about the race – the whole race – all at once I’m going to be anxious about it. Whether it’s 26.2 miles at a 7:40 pace or 3.1 at a 6:40 pace, it’s going to be uncomfortable, overwhelming, ridiculous to attempt. But thankfully I get to take it one step at a time, one mile at a time. Same as childbirth. Just take it one contraction at a time. Relax when I can. Know that I’m as ready as I’m going to be. And I’ll get through it just fine.