Written by Guest Contributor: Marielle Melling
I was very pregnant with my fourth child and thought I had this pregnancy thing down pat. I was so excited to give birth and welcome a new baby into our family.
Even so, when a dear friend invited me to participate in a prenatal doula session with her and a client, I jumped at the chance. I am all about learning from people with vast experience and I knew this friend had a lot to offer.
When I told my friend that I was all in, she said, “Great! In preparation for our session, please write down a list of all of your fears or worries right now.”
“No problem,” I replied, hanging up my phone.
The night before my session, I sat down to write out what I thought would be a very short list of worries. What followed led to some of the best pregnancy advice I can offer.
Two Important Reasons to Address Our Fears
First, stress and anxiety during pregnancy can affect the health and well-being of both mom and baby. While the effects of short-term stress are minimal, studies have shown that long-term or high levels of stress and anxiety have links to low birth weight, increased childhood fear, higher risks of ADHD in the future, and more.
Second, in the business of bringing your baby out of its’ comfortable amniotic seascape and into our arms, the abdominal muscles will be doing a lot of stretching.
No worries; that is what those muscles are intended to do during childbirth. However, the body’s natural reaction to fear is fight or flight, not stretch and relax. When fear or worry accompanies us into our delivery, it only makes the job harder.
6 Steps to Address Birth and New Mom Fears
Some of the best pregnancy advice that I can offer is to recognize and address our worries and fears. By addressing our fears, we improve the health and well-being of ourselves and our children and prepare powerfully for delivery. The following six steps will help us do just that.
1. Write a List of Fears or Worries
When I sat down to write my list of worries, I only had one particular worry in mind. However, I decided to be really honest with myself. So I asked, “What else?”
I wrote down everything that came to mind. I encourage you to do the same.
Our lists may include concerns about the health of ourselves or our baby, not just during pregnancy or childbirth, but after, as well. Maybe we wonder how we will be able to afford life after baby’s arrival or juggling the new responsibilities of motherhood. Maybe you worry if you’ll be able to get the next job promotion now that you’re a mom in the workforce or share our your love between the children.
Even if there’s only a hint of worry, put it on this list.
There is something immensely powerful in admitting the existence of a fear. Taking that fear out of our hearts or subconscious and placing it on paper can be the first step in overcoming it.
2. Analyze the List
After writing out my list, I took a deep breath and looked it over. I realized there were many different kinds of fears represented.
Some of our fears, once committed to writing and analyzed, will turn out to be insignificant.
“I’m afraid I’ll poop during delivery.” Really, it’s not a big deal. Been there, done that, and do you know what those doctors have seen!?! Your poop is nothing.
Other fears might be simple and solvable once we realize they exist.
“I’m afraid I won’t be ready to go to the hospital when the time comes.” Then you will realize how you need to be prepared for your hospital stay by having your delivery bag packed, ready, and in the car, and a plan to get to the hospital. Read about my Third Trimester Checklist to prepare for birth and your baby.
Still other fears might be deep-rooted and more complex. These may take a little more diving into to understand and work through.
“I’m afraid I won’t be a good mother.” Fears such as these are often connected to our insecurities or life experiences.
3. Plan and Take Actionable Steps
When I really analyzed my list, I found there were some simple things I could do to eliminate many of my smaller worries.
Consider your worries that are “solvable” and create an action plan. Whether it is packing your hospital bag early, taking a trial drive to the hospital, or putting some meals in the freezer, getting prepared can alleviate a lot of concerns.
Then act. Check one thing off right now. Set aside a little time every day for the process. Don’t just make a nice, little to-do list, actually do it.
If worries feel more like anxiety, make sure one of your actionable steps is to talk to your healthcare provider.
4. Be Humble and Pay Attention
I realized something after committing my worries to writing: I wasn’t the only one. Suddenly, I recognized blog posts or heard stories that soothed these doubts. Many have been where we are now and have a wealth of wisdom to share.
Ask for advice about your particular fears. We don’t have to take all the advice we hear, but when we are humble enough to ask for it, we will learn much more than we could on our own.
Related Post: Common Pregnancy Fears and Why You Shouldn’t Worry
5. Meditate and Relax
The night of my prenatal session arrived. After some conversation, I laid back on my friend’s couch. She led us through a guided meditation and relaxation, and afterward, I felt different.
Much of the meditation was centered on addressing our list of worries.
As we breathed out fear, we breathed in love and acceptance. She took us into a deep relaxation. The kind of relaxation that is perfect for expanding muscles and delivering babies.
She affirmed that our bodies are strong and created to do this work. Since the beginning of time, women have been bringing babies into the world.
None of us are perfect or without doubts, but we are more than enough. We are exactly the mother that our child needs. Even if we can’t “solve” all of our fears, we can move forward with trust.
You can find meditation within prenatal yoga classes, prenatal massage, childbirth classes, or even videos online. These can really help to alleviate stress and worry during pregnancy.
6. Find Your Tribe
A few weeks after my meditation with my friend, I was diagnosed with a condition that carried with it, an increased risk of stillbirth. While this could have induced intense fear, I chose to trust.
I trusted that my care providers were competent, that I would be in tune with what my body and this baby needed, and that this little one was supposed to join our family.
Shortly thereafter, the results of a non-stress test sent me in for an induction. As I sat in the waiting room, I was feeling nervous about how my body would react to Pitocin.
When I texted a friend to arrange some plans for the other kids, she responded, “Perfect! I’m happy to help as you need! You can do this! You are one of the strongest women I know. You will be watched over and protected.“”
I replied, “Thanks…I need to hear that right now!”
About 18 hours later, we welcomed a healthy baby girl into the world.
In that moment, those words were everything I needed. That boost of confidence and faith was enough to turn the tide on my fears.
My doula friend, loving family members, healthcare professionals, and a well-timed text from a friend had prepared me for even the surprises of this delivery and the adjustments that would follow. My tribe had come through for me.
Reach out and find those who will support and sustain you, helping you address your worries and prepare for childbirth in healthy ways. Choose a practitioner you trust. Confide in your partner. Find the sisterhood that will teach, relax, and inspire you.
. . . . .
Having a baby, whether it is our first or tenth, will change our lives forever. It is very natural for worries and fears to arise during this time. However, these six steps will help us address our fears in ways that will prepare us for the most worthwhile work we will ever do.
Marielle Melling is passionate about helping people, especially parents, conquer insecurities and overwhelm. As a mom of five with a degree in health education, Marielle loves combining practical ideas and solutions with the underlying perspective that makes all the difference. Marielle is the author of Peace amidst the Mayhem and blogs regularly at Lovin’ Life with Littles. She would also love to connect with you on Instagram.