When my son was only a few months old and I was at the lowest point in my illness I swore blind that I would never put myself through this again. I always wanted at least two children but the emotional pain I was experiencing was darker and sharper than anything I could have ever imagined. I was terrified to be a mum to the baby I had, let alone any more.
But with recovery came clarity and eventually, as the PND & Anxiety subsided, and my love for my son and motherhood grew, the shy voice suggesting I do it all again began to speak a little louder.
This was not an easy decision. It had taken a really long time and a lot of hard work to get well and it seemed reckless to risk throwing that progress away. However, I couldn’t stop listening to my heart and finally I felt like I was ready (read more about reaching this decision here).
To cut another long story short, it turns out simply deciding to have another baby doesn’t mean it’s going to happen and the last couple of years have been an emotional battle with miscarriage and fertility
But I’m here now and I’m so grateful and happy. But, of course, I’m also nervous. This blog has historically had a dual purpose – to help others, of course, but also to effectively journal my experience (and therefore help me too!). So I want to be as honest as possible during the upcoming months about any triggers I experience or Anxiety symptoms I struggle with etc.
My main source of Anxiety during the first trimester was miscarriage, as is to be expected following what happened last time. As I’ve written previously, it’s really difficult after a Mental Health struggle to establish the difference between “normal” emotional responses and ones rooted in clinical Anxiety. For the most part, my worries during the last couple of months have been on the normal end of the scale from what I can gather – with a couple of notable exceptions.
The first occurred at work only a week or so after we found out I was pregnant. For me, Anxiety attacks create a feeling of being trapped in my own mind, my own life essentially. This usually happens when I’m consumed with uncertainty about something, frankly the cause of most Anxious thoughts, and this was, of course, a time of uncertainty. The worry of not knowing which way this pregnancy was going to go began to build up in my mind until I felt suddenly trapped with it and panicked.
As is the nature of anxiety, this feeling of intense dread and fear creates a vicious cycle where you struggle to calm yourself and feel balanced. I could feel myself slipping into this spiral but thankfully I had enough rational mind left to stop the Anxiety in it’s tracks and take action. I told myself I had encountered these feelings many times before and had learnt how to manage them.
I reached for one of my favourite Anxiety management techniques which is the “fear vs fact” strategy, also known as “taking the thought to court.” I grabbed a piece of paper and listed my fears on one side and a rational argument against them on the other. Very quickly I began to feel calmer and that reminded me that I have these methods, I know they work and there’s nothing to fear. A big part of Anxiety recovery is routed in confidence in your ability to overcome the panic. (You can read more about the “fear vs fact” method here.)
The second time during this first trimester where Anxiety threatened to overwhelm me happened one evening when I was trying to sleep. Once again I found myself overwhelmed with the question of whether or not I would miscarry again and the constant barrage of thoughts was preventing me from getting any mental peace.
This time I left my notebook aside and reached for another tried and tested technique which is mindfulness. Anxiety exists when we focus on the future so if we can find a way to bring our minds into the present moment we can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of Anxiety. To do this I first of all did a five minute Headspace mindful meditation, and then I said mantras to myself such as “You’re pregnant right now, you can’t control what happens so just focus on the happiness and relief of being pregnant right now.” I also focused my attention on what I could see, hear and touch around me, another good mindfulness technique. Eventually I calmed and fell asleep, and again the fact that I’d been able to stave off the panic a second time helped to build my confidence about my anxiety management abilities.
Other than these two instances, and lots of “normal” worries about health and miscarriage I’ve not really had any mental struggles so far during this pregnancy. This has come as a bit of a surprise to me, especially considering how much my Anxiety spiked when I was pregnant in 2016 with the one we lost. It makes me grateful that perhaps I’m more prepared this time.
Now that the first trimester is complete and my miscarriage worries are alleviated a little (not completely gone by any stretch but at least reduced) I fully expect to experience some Anxiety centred around the arrival of the baby, my ability to love them and cope with motherhood, and all the other worries that consumed me when I had Caterpillar five years ago. I have already had a few moments of concern around these triggers but thankfully I’ve again managed to quickly defeat such fears. I also know that being as positive as possible can have a huge impact, so that’s what I intend to do.