When we are hoping and trying for a new baby, the morning we read a positive result on an early pregnancy test is one of the most joyous times in our lives. We hope that it is the beginning page to many long chapters to come.
Sometimes, after a few days, the hope we feel for the baby-to-be is outweighed by fear that our dreams might not come true – that we might lose the baby. Having close friends or family that have had pregnancy losses, or conceiving on the heels of your own pregnancy loss can cause this fear to become overwhelming.
Although none of us can control the specific outcome of a pregnancy, we can set ourselves up for the best chance of success. If you read much about preventing miscarriage, you’ll come across the old “reduce stress” or “think positively!” advice. It’s true that chronic stress never helps anything, but how exactly does an expectant mama reduce stress and fear in a situation where she is so emotionally invested?
Consider the following actionable ideas that approach our fears from all three sides – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Fear might end up being your constant companion throughout pregnancy, but nurturing yourself through the fear will be the very best thing you can do for your baby.
The most valuable things you can do on a physical level are to eat well, supplement properly, support your adrenals, and listen to your body’s limitations.
Eating high quality, nutrient-dense foods during pregnancy can do amazing things for your body’s ability to support new life. Although this is challenging in early pregnancy when nausea is often an issue, all mamas-to-be should try to find nutritious foods they can tolerate. Look at Dr. Brewer’s diet for ideas, then fit in as many as your morning sickness will allow.
Take a multi-vitamin every day. If your prenatal makes you nauseous, try another brand or consider a different form. Many women find large pills difficult to swallow during early pregnancy, but a powdered or liquid form mixed into a fruit drink might be easier to handle.
Vitamins – especially those made from whole foods, such as what you might find at health food stores – help fill in deficiencies and gaps in diet. Also consider taking daily a separate mineral supplement, cod liver oil, and (particularly in the winter) Vitamin D drops. As always, let your health practitioner know what you are taking in case you have a pre-existing condition that could worsen with certain supplements.
Your adrenals are incredibly important in the production of progesterone, a hormone that is essential to carrying a baby through the first trimester. (Beyond the first trimester, the placenta itself produces the needed progesterone.) Support your adrenals by eliminating or drastically reducing caffeine and sugar, reducing stressful environments, and getting as much sleep as possible.
Listen to your body and its limitations. If there are any activities that cause you to cramp afterwards, consider dropping those activities for a short while. While “experts” claim to know what activity is or isn’t good to do during pregnancy, it’s not that simple. All women are different, and your own body is the best marker of what’s safe for you. If nothing else, cramping triggers more fear, so preventing cramping helps reduce the stress of fear.
When you approach your fears from a mental angle, you need a good external support system that will allow you to put words to your fears without judgement. Some of us have people like this in real life. If you are fortunate to have some of these folks in your circle, seek them out. They are a wonderful resource for a scary time.
If your current support system isn’t open to hearing you in a way that makes you feel comfortable, that’s okay. There are other ways to fill this need. The online forums for Pregnancy after Birth Loss and Pregnancy after Infertility on the mothering.com community are excellent resources. Also, reading the stories of others even without contributing your own can be cathartic. A search at the library for memoirs about pregnancy loss or infertility should yield several results.
Journaling your fears in a notebook or on a personal blog can help put words to difficult emotions. Somehow, when dark emotions are articulated and brought into the light, they can lose a lot of their power.
Regardless of your specific spiritual beliefs, you can address your fears through meditation, prayer, or imagery.
My own fears were at their highest point during my first full-term pregnancy after multiple early losses. To cope with the fear, I set aside time each night to connect with the growing baby in a positive way. When I had a placental bleeding scare at 12 weeks, this connection helped me stay calm until the cause of the bleeding was found and I learned I wasn’t miscarrying again.
Each night, I would lay on my bed alone and clear my head by allowing my body to sink into the bed, part by part, which brought me to a meditative state. I laid my hand on my belly and focused on sending the baby love, then joy, then peace. Then together, the baby and I would send out love, then joy, then peace, in prayers toward people we thought needed it.
Not only did this allow me to feel a deep connection to the growing baby, but it also helped me to remember to step outside myself to others in need. Whatever your choice of spiritual practice, this stepping outside of your own head can provide the grounding that you need to work through your fears.
When we are expectant mamas, we are naturally full of hopes and dreams. But if our experience has given us a reason to fear the loss of those hopes and dreams, our best goal is to live the pregnancy without letting our fear suck the joy out of it. By setting ourselves up for success physically, finding a support system that allows us to verbally process our fears, and working to replace a fearful spirit with a loving and peaceful one, we can give our little one the best possible environment to grow in.
This article is featured in week 5 of our pregnancy series.
Julie Stockman lives in Farmland, Indiana where she homeschools her children with her husband, Jeff. She spends her days baking, gardening, keeping chickens, listening to the nature around them, practicing gratitude and faithfulness, and stealing minutes to write about it all.