I've written before about my encounters with anxious and repetitive thoughts. The unknown has always freaked me out, so over time I learned to develop some unhelpful coping skills, including trying to control everything going on around me, which made me crazier (at least on the inside). The good news is, the brain is a really amazing organ, and with time, patience, and practice, a person can learn to re-pattern maladaptive coping skills and start to engage in healthy thinking patterns that keep the peace inside and out.
Anyone who's been pregnant or knows anything about growing a human knows that it's full of uncertainty. As I sit here, pregnant for the first time, I won't be the first person to ever tell you that. On the surface, I know I'm not alone in the anxiety of pregnancy. It's hard to remember this, though, because I see pregnant women who are seemingly filled with joy and excitement, and only joy and excitement. I could go round and round in my head, wondering if that's a facade or if those women are just emotionally more content, more grounded, more settled than I am.
Time, practice, and patience have shown me that I, too, can be grounded, content, and settled in my thoughts. When I'm in this still, aware place, I know that an anxious pregnancy is, in some ways, a choice. While that's undoubtedly going to raise some flags for some folks, I believe it in my heart. I don't want to go down a rabbit hole with that - it's a different topic, for a different day. The point I'm trying to make is that with this still, calm awareness, with the knowledge that I can choose my thoughts, I can choose alternatives to the anxious thoughts that fight to take over.
When I hit 14 weeks, when I heard the baby's heartbeat on the dopplar for the first time, I knew I had a choice. I could choose to keep Googling worst-case scenarios or I could practice mindfulness and be aware of my own unique experience. I have the power and control to choose joy over worry. In the long line of life, 40 weeks of pregnancy is a blip. At the end of the day - my body is going to keep growing this baby until it's not anymore. Staying in this mindset, I am in full control of my thoughts about the experience, even if I can't really control the experience itself (beyond the very basics of nutritious food, exercise, and trying to get good sleep).
So...in order to continue feeling joy, I have to continually remind myself that it's my choice. I am working hard at this, because the truth is, old habits creep back in and it's SO easy for me to fall back into worry. It's a practice, and just like all other mindfulness practices, part of the journey is noticing the old pattern, recognizing the habit I've fallen back into, not judging myself, and letting my thoughts gently move to a more peaceful place.
So what have I been doing to keep it together?
- Mantras. Like...for real. At 3 a.m., when I'm wide awake thanks to a full bladder and/or wack-o dreams, my mind would otherwise start to race. 3 a.m. seems to be my favorite time to think about everything that stresses me out the most. Mantras bring me back. It seems I need to remind myself that my body is healthy...regular midnight mantras include "(inhale) I am safe, (exhale) I am healthy and "(inhale) I am healthy, (exhale) I am calm". Over, and over, and over. I found some mantras on Pinterest that I LOVE - my favorite one is, "I am the most important person in my baby's world. How I feel matters and I choose to feel safe." Woah.
- Yoga. No surprises here, but my practice, even though it's changing, continues to be my anchor, my solace, my guide. Nothing brings me back into my body and into the moment like a deep ujjayi breath, eyes closed, feet grounded. It's a really beautiful thing to feel like I'm sending my breath to my baby, and I know the blood flow and movement is healthy for both of us. It takes me out of the place of helplessness and into a place of comfort and control. Even if the control is just of my breath and the shape my body is in, it's powerful.
- Relying on my Mama Friends (and Husband). A couple very close friends have really been able to support me through this process, and I'm not sure I'd ever have been able to really 'choose joy' without them. My best friend reminds me regularly that you really just have to trust your body, while reminding me that having that trust can be excruciatingly difficult. Another helps me stay really grounded and present with the body's natural ability to do amazing things. My husband is also one of the most rational people I've ever met - he brings me back down to Earth when I'm spinning out of control. Knowing he's in this with me all the way is a huge relief. I am grateful for my people.
Full disclosure...I'm really bad at meditating. I know repeating mantras and mindful movement are forms of meditation, but when it comes to sitting down and making time to technically 'meditate'...I give myself a D-. That's why I recently joined Expectful, which is a monthly subscription service to guided meditations designed specifically for expecting and new moms. It comes with a private, small FB group of other like-minded Mama's who are also engaged with the meditations. I'm so excited to start my journey with it and I can't wait to report back.
Any other anxious pregnant ladies out there? What works for you? Share in the comments. :)