Finding out that you’re pregnant can feel very scary. Even if you had been hoping for a child, whether now or at some point in the future, it is common to experience some amount of fear when you read a positive pregnancy test. In a moment, it can feel like your whole life has changed. If this is your first pregnancy, this journey may feel even more daunting because everything can feel so new and uncertain. The best course of action for those who are pregnant and afraid is to gain insight into what is fueling those fears and be better prepared to address them.
The first thing to understand is that it is VERY common to experience feelings of fear, doubt, and uncertainty during pregnancy, especially the first time you are pregnant. This is easily one of the most life-changing pieces of news you will ever receive. So first, take a deep breath. You are not terrible for experiencing less than enthusiastic feelings. These messy feelings are preparing you for parenting, which is...well, very messy! Once you give yourself permission to feel whatever you’re feeling, you can begin to identify what you’re really afraid of. Bringing fearful emotions to the light can often make them less scary. Here are some common thoughts that may accompany news of pregnancy:
I don’t want my body to change.
Understandable! Your body will indeed change and you will have a new relationship with it even if it returns to how you now know it (or at least close). Hopefully, you will grow in appreciation of how much your body can do and you may even view it as more empowered than ever before. That being said, there is a grieving process you may need to go through. During your pregnancy and postpartum period, your relationship with food, exercise, sleep, and leisure may change. Allow yourself the space to grieve, but also remember that this will not last forever. There is probably no other time in your life that your body changes at such a fast and intense rate. Be patient with your frustrations – there is nothing easy about nurturing a life while also nurturing yourself! Be open to knowing your body in a new way – get curious and work with yourself where you are. While you grieve what you can’t do, also celebrate the new things your body is doing as it changes and grows.
I won’t be able to get through labor.
This is a common one! Fortunately, your body and mind have nine months to prepare for this. There’s a reason that it takes so long. Your body will stretch and strengthen in all the ways it needs to. Your mind will also have time to prepare. It will probably be helpful to educate yourself on the process of labor and delivery, and what you can expect at every stage. This may help normalize the process for you. You can read books, watch videos, attend a childbirth education class, and/or hire a doula – lots of great resources! For those who are pregnant and afraid, remember that your body was made to do this and you have everything you need to successfully deliver a baby, whether vaginally or via C-section.
It may also be helpful to start reflecting on how you normally manage pain day-to-day because you can use those same techniques during labor! Do you like distracting yourself? Put on some music or the television while you labor. Do you practice mindfulness? Practice breathing exercises that you can use while in labor. You will be amazed at the way your body RISES TO THE OCCASION and shows you just how strong you are.
I will lose all my free time.
This may feel true, especially at the beginning. You can expect a time of transition where a lot of your energy is going into figuring out how to care for your baby and figuring out how to care for yourself (like when to take a shower). That being said, as you settle into your role as a mother and figure out your baby’s schedule, you will regain a new rhythm and you WILL know free time again. It just might look a little different. You may even find that you learn to use your time more wisely and intentionally. Take time to reflect on what you value and brainstorm how you can integrate those values into your day in creative ways during this transitional period. Also be prepared for some of your values and priorities to change when you become a parent.
My relationship with my partner will change
Yes, it will change in some ways. You will likely experience newfound appreciation for your partner and also newfound frustrations! Both of your lives are changing and both of your roles are changing. You are coming together to care for a life, which means you are not solely focused on the relationship – your energy now has to be redirected to a third party. Communicate with one another about both the struggles and joys of this new season, carve out time to be together in restorative ways that are not centered around caretaking, and relish the new and beautiful traditions you are making as a family.
I don’t have a partner!
Some people choose to become pregnant without a partner, but if this was not your choice, it can feel very frightening. If this is you and you have decided to keep your baby, remember that you may not be alone forever. There is a sadness in realizing that perhaps the family you imagined may not be as you imagined. Let yourself grieve that. Then, build up a system of support around you. Call in the troops! Think of all your most reliable friends and family members and let them be the team that surrounds you and carries you when you feel overwhelmed and alone. If you are pregnant and afraid, make a list of things that you need to feel supported and let your team know so that they can be ahead of the game. You may also consider hiring a birth and/or a postpartum doula who will walk with you through pregnancy and the postpartum period.
My life is so stressful already – how will I handle a child?
You will experience a lot of shifting in your life as you make space for a baby, both literally and figuratively. You may need to let go of some things that you no longer have space for. This should ultimately serve you. Start taking inventory of where your stressors are. What can you let go of? What does pregnancy/motherhood require that you let go of? How can you view this as a positive shift? Sometimes we fall into stressful patterns and stressful lives by default. We don’t know how to get off the proverbial hamster wheel of life and make a change, but a big life event – like getting pregnant – can almost force us to let go of what is not necessary. Think about your body making space for a child and reflect on the ways you can do that outside of your womb.
I won’t be a good mom.
We are given exactly what we need in the moment we need it, never before. Just like labor! You won’t be able to push that baby out until your body is 100% ready – 10 cm dilated – and then you’re ready. So it is with parenthood. You won’t be ready for the newborn stage or toddler stage or adolescent stage until you get there. You are learning and growing as a parent at every season and in every moment. Even now as you read this, you are preparing and becoming. It might be helpful to think about other times in your life when you were afraid of doing something that you had never done before, but then succeeded. It is always scary to anticipate the unknown. Parenting is not easy, but be prepared to surprise yourself. Just like labor, you will rise to the occasion – over and over and over again. Surround yourself with support, get good at self-care, and learn to forgive yourself when you make mistakes.
If you are pregnant and afraid, don't hesitate to reach out for professional help when you need it. As you care for your body by going to regular prenatal check-ups, also care for your emotional and mental well-being. The fear you are experiencing is important to process through and we are here to help you do just that. Feel free to call to schedule an appointment at (267) 662-1800 or schedule online!