Recently a mom asked what she could do to manage her anxiety and worry during her current pregnancy given that she’s had repeated miscarriages before. She’s in a constant state of fight or flight, ruminating on everything that could go wrong, desperately hoping things are ok in there where she can’t see - where she can’t protect her baby from the unknown threats *within.*
I commented on the post but wanted to share these things with you all too. I have *always* wanted babies and I met my husband when I was 19. I thought I’d have a ton of kids. My body had other plans. When we decided to get pregnant it was a bit of a struggle and once we finally succeeded I was over the moon! I wrote in the sand in CA “We’re having a baby!” and posted it to social media to tell everyone we knew. I didn't know that just twelve and a half weeks later, I’d be laboring in my bathroom, feeling my tiny amniotic sac burst, and holding the smallest human I had ever seen. Just the size of my palm. I remember his hands most of all.
This experience changed me. It took the optimistic, silly, joyful young mom and turned her into a guarded, hesitant, and anxious one. I have a history of anxiety (GAD) and panic attacks so maybe I was prone to that shift anyway. But losing our 1st baby, felt like it kicked it all into hyperdrive! So reading this mom’s post - I felt for her! I know that state of fear you can’t escape. I thought back through all the things I did during my successive pregnancies that resulted in 2 more miscarriages (earlier ones) and 3 children here earthside. Here are my “tips” - take them or leave them, there is no *right* answer here.
1) Accept anxiety. It's ok to feel anxious. Anxiety is a messenger, an alarm system going off saying there is threat. There *is* threat. You're not wrong to acknowledge that bad things happen in pregnancy, because they do. Trying to deny or escape that feeling means it has to get louder and stronger. Saying, "ah yes, I hear you. Thank you for caring about my baby. I’m doing what I can.," helped me.
2) Flip the “what-if.” Whenever my brain came up with a "what if," I immediately flipped it over like a coin - tails to heads. This looks like:
"What if I start bleeding?" >> "What if I don't."
"What if the bleeding means miscarriage." >> "What if the bleeding means placenta previa, or sub chorionic hematoma, or irritated cervix, or any other non-miscarriage reason." (all reasons I bled during my 3 full-ish term pregnancies.)
"What if I lose this baby too." >> "What if I welcome this baby into my arms and get to breathe in their beautiful new scent and get to feel their soft warm skin?"
This created balance. See our brains have a natural negativity bias in order to protect us and keep us safe. It makes sense - things going *well* aren’t a threat so we don't need to really perk up and notice those evolutionarily speaking. Since it isn’t automatic, we have to put the conscious effort in to *make* our brain consider the positive too. Afterall, it’s often just as - if not more - likely to be the outcome as the fear-based stuff.
3) Write. I wrote to my angel baby, Riley, who I mentioned above, and asked him to come watch over his sibling. The benefit of this is he can do his “job” or “assignment” whether i miscarry or not. Either he helps this baby stay, or he guides them to a safe afterlife and keeps them company until I can get there. It’s just helpful to not feel like my baby is alone. (Sometimes I’ve thought about the role Riley has played in our lives even from afar and I feel blessed to have had an angel-baby first. Sometimes I still feel sad or angry that he can’t just be here growing up with my other kids. I make room for both sides of those feelings.)
4) Distraction. I distracted myself with productive things in my current life to pass the time. I’ve helped friends start businesses, I’ve helped friends garden and harvest and cook, I’ve done crafting projects, I’ve read and written about books that helped me expand, I’ve volunteered with kids (some people would find this painful and may be better served volunteering with animals or some other service instead.) I focused on photography - a long time hobby and art that I love. Just whatever allowed me to *be* and not obsess for a time. There’s also adult coloring books with swear words if you’re really just *over* it! (https://amzn.to/3K5waYh)
5) Listen to the heartbeat. After 12 weeks I che
cked my baby’s heartbeat with a doppler at home once a week. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it more than that, not sure if that’s totally founded or not, but I had to do what I was comfortable with. After 20 weeks a fetascope works and that uses no electronic waves and can be used safely ALL the time so I didn’t limit those checks - though for my sanity, I usually stuck to no more than once a day. (If you try to use a doppler before 12 weeks there is a very high chance that your baby will be too small and hard to find, and you’ll think “there’s no heartbeat!" I find for most moms the panic than ensues is not worth it. It feels impossible to wait, but for *this* option - you may need to.)
6) Noticed what I was putting into my body too. I made sure to focus on nutritionally helpful tools towards less anxiety. L theanine, magnesium, juice plus, avoiding tons of sugar.
7) Hypnosis. I listened to Hypnobabies hypnosis tracks to go to sleep at night.
8) Walking/Grounding. I went on walks and tried to reach in and "hold" my baby energetically so I still got time with them even if they didn't make it earth side. I’ve since learned of research that walking barefoot in the grass can reduce inflammation in the body very rapidly. So I’d do more grounding if I was back in that situation now.
9) Another letter. Can you tell I like writing? Writing activates 10,000 more neurons in the brain and can tap into subconscious places we can’t “think” our way into. So it’s a go-to strategy. For this one, I wrote to the baby in my womb and told them I wanted them and hoped they could stay. I told them anything I wanted them to know and signed off “Love, Mom.”
10) Make a Labyrinth. I created a labyrinth drawing from Birthing from Within and followed it with my finger almost meditatively. I including obstacles that were unique to me and visualizing baby and I overcoming them together. I can’t find the one with the obstacles but this is another one I made - rainbow for my rainbow baby!
11) EFT Tapping. “Even though I’m scared, I am going to take this one day at a time.” “I'm worried I might lose my baby, and I’m grateful they are here today with me.” “I’m releasing excess cortisol and welcoming in soothing deep breaths.”
12) My husband would add ChiGong - It is a practice of moving your energy or chi throughout your whole body, getting it unstuck, creating balance and peace. There are Youtube videos specifically for anxiety. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jr5vt2-iaeo)
13) BONUS. I got my blood checked for clotting problems and found out that I have 2 MTHFR gene mutations and that’s been linked to repeated miscarriage so my doctors now have me take baby aspirin every day. This won’t apply to everyone but I figured I’d mention it in case it’s relevant to you.
Please know that you are NOT alone, your story deserves to be heard, your experience is valid, and your fears are fair. People who are uncomfortable with others’ feelings (becasue someone has been uncomfortable with theirs) will try to tell you to “stop worrying,” or “it’ll be fine,” or the worst, “you’re going to manifest that bad thing if you don’t stop.” I’ve head all of the above and more. It sucks. And I don’t have time to include those folks in my very delicate journey to bring a life earthside. Not everyone has to be a right fit for every need you have. It’s ok to choose carefully and intentionally who you share your pregnancy with. This time is for YOU and that baby and anything you need to do to protect that sacred space - this is your permission to do it.
Lots of love, lots of sticky baby dust, lots of positive wishes and prayers for a long healthy journey for you both.