How to Let Go of Fear During Pregnancy and Birth
Many pregnant women live with a constant daily dose of fear. Who can blame them? Pregnancy is a time where a woman has to live with many unanswerable questions.
Who is this baby I’m growing inside of me?
What will they be like?
Will I have a healthy pregnancy and birth?
Will my baby be healthy?
For many of us, the unknown provokes a huge amount of anxiety. Inevitably, this anxiety becomes fear. Sometimes the fears are realistic. On the other hand, sometimes they are rare and exotic!
Realistic Fears (as in, statistically common enough to happen):
What if I have a miscarriage?
What if there’s something wrong with my baby?
What if I go into preterm labor?
What if I go overdue, and then need to be induced?
What if I need a C-Section?
Rare and Exotic Fears
(Note: I’m not going to be specific here. Why? Because for those of you who suffer from anxiety, I’m not going to plant unnecessary seeds.)
- My cousin’s friend’s baby has a rare, terminal condition that is not commonly tested for. Could this happen to me?
- My friend had an epidural and the epidural caused this highly unlikely complication that made her need an emergency C-Section. Could this happen to me?
- My friend needed a C-Section and this and that horrible complication happened and she almost died! Could this happen to me?
I’ve been a labor and delivery nurse for almost a decade. I’ve witnessed countless sad and tragic events during pregnancy and birth. I’ve experienced death, trauma, grief and loss, which are just as much a part of my job as happiness and joy.
However, when I meet a healthy, low-risk pregnant woman, I try not to assume the worst possible thing is going to happen to her. Because the chances are good that she and her baby will be perfectly healthy and her baby will be born safely.
In order to support her through the healthiest possible birth, it’s important that I trust that she and her baby will be healthy unless there is obvious evidence otherwise.
When I worked on the Navajo Reservation, my fellow nurses taught me an important ritual that I will always carry with me.
During pregnancy, women are forbidden to witness images of death. Even if a pregnant woman’s own relative passes away during the pregnancy, she is forbidden to attend the funeral. A pregnant nurse cannot care for a woman experiencing a miscarriage or loss. If a pregnant woman miscarries in the hospital, the room is cleaned, blessed and sealed off for a length of time so that another pregnant women will not be affected.
When we are consumed by fear and anxiety, the repetitive thoughts churn in our minds. We cannot sleep, eat or otherwise function in the world without being disrupted by persistent thoughts.
The thing about anxiety? It is the opposite of intuition.
In my almost-decade of nursing practice, I have never seen a complication of pregnancy prevented by a woman’s persistent anxiety. On the contrary, I have seen anxious women experience more complications of pregnancy, require more interventions during birth, have an increased risk of C-Section, and have more difficulty postpartum (including postpartum depression and anxiety.)
On the other hand, I vividly remember times when women sought medical treatment because of strong intuition.
A woman stops feeling her baby move. Though it’s only been a brief amount of time, her heart tells her to go to the hospital right away. Routine monitoring shows signs of distress. She gives birth by emergency C-Section. Her baby is born healthy.
A woman planning a homebirth is wearing a necklace passed down to her from her grandmother. Suddenly, the chain of the necklace breaks, and the glass amulet shatters. The woman immediately thinks of her grandmother’s own stillbirth. She realizes that her baby would not be safe being born at home, and needs to be born in the hospital.
Read Amelia’s amazing story of trusting her intuition during pregnancy.
So intuition is important. But how can I learn to use it?
First, it is helpful to learn the difference between fear and intuition.
Fear keeps you up at night. Intuition allows you to feel relaxed and calm, knowing that everything will be ok.
For example: If you feel scared all the time, of everything, then it’s not intuition.
Intuitive messages can only come to you when you are otherwise calm, connected and quiet. They are very specific and direct.
Intuition is a Muscle. It Needs to Be Developed.
Here is a list of exercises to help build your intuition during pregnancy:
Find a Provider That You Trust
Find a provider who listens to you. Who puts you at ease. Who is wise and experienced. Who pays close attention when you say, “I have a feeling ….”
If you trust your Google search more than you trust your provider, then you might consider finding a new provider! Find a provider that trusts your intuition and whose experience and expertise YOU trust.
Beware Fear Seekers
And be careful… they are everywhere!
- Beware anyone who starts a sentence with, “If I were you…”
- Beware anyone that shares a personal story that causes your palms to sweat and your heart to skip a beat.
- Don’t assume someone else’s awful experience will be yours.
- Scare tactics are remarkably persuasive – for the whole history of humanity they have been used to convince people to do things they would never otherwise rationally do.
Turn Off Screens and Find Your Peace
Trust me, if you are feeling anxious the Internet will not make you feel better! Social media can inspire, or it can instigate drama, but it will NOT help you get to the calm, connected place where you can hear the voice of inner reason.
YOUR VOICE OF INNER REASON IS INSIDE YOU. YOU CAN’T FIND IT ANYWHERE ELSE.
Deal With Your Shit
If you believe you suffer from anxiety (no shame — I do too), then please, please, find counseling. There is help out there! Living with anxiety is like riding a merry-go-round when all you want is to get someplace else.
If you’re angry, find an outlet. Yoga, art, essential oils, sunlight, good books, loving and supportive voices, a great doula, active physical movement and good, nourishing food can do wonders. I am a huge fan of bodywork and holistic therapies, including acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage and/or care by a naturopathic physician.
When in Doubt, Pray
Or meditate. Turn off the TV, smartphone, stereo or any other source of noise. Sit comfortably in a quiet room (or park, or beach, or forest). Try to sit still, without moving or distracting yourself, for five minutes in a row. The next day, try 10 minutes.
Sister, your inner voice is the greatest gift you could ever give yourself. You deserve the freedom of trusting your own heart to keep you safe. Not only will you have a healthy pregnancy and birth … you will have an amazing life.