Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Overcome Your Pregnancy Fears: Birth, Body Image and Marriage

During the last few months of my pregnancy, I was a big (BIG) ball of stress and anxiety. My fears ranged from small (what do I pack in my hospital bag?) to big (what if I don't like kids enough to be a good parent?). 

I was excited about a lot of things, and I was so happy to be becoming a mom, but with that amazing 9-pound baby came more worry and anxiety than I'd ever felt in my life. Everything was unknown, most advice felt unhelpful, and I was overwhelmed. 

I am looking forward to my next pregnancy because there will be far fewer scary unknowns. And while some fears are just not going to subside until you've passed the big day and your baby is here, here are some reasons why you can stop stressing just a little.

In part one of a three-part series (yes, there are that many things to stress about!), I'm going to focus on fears related to birth, your body, and your marriage. In part two we'll look at preparing for baby. 

1. Your body was specifically designed to give birth. You can do it. 
Disclaimer: For those of you reading this who have had difficult birth experiences, please know that I in no way judge or look down on you. Our birth experiences are deeply personal and the last thing we need is criticism from each other. My only goal in offering my feelings about birth is to encourage and empower women to have the best birth experience possible.

If you are anticipating giving birth with great terror, I can understand why. Movies depict women screaming in hospital beds, school health classes don't even teach about natural birth, and your doctor talks about pain, pain, pain. We are taught that birth is a traumatic, dangerous medical event.

But here's the thing, ladies: God designed our bodies beautifully and miraculously to carry and deliver a human being into the world. It's one of the most natural things you'll ever do. The best thing you can do to prepare for labor and delivery is to practice relaxation techniques and focus on positive thinking, not negative thinking. 

Labor is intense, and I believe the reason why most women feel that they have to have drugs is because they go in expecting pain, then feel overwhelmed and out of control. If you are calm and positive during labor instead of fighting your body and focusing on fear, you can have a beautiful, natural birth.

If you'd like to learn more about how to practically prepare to have a natural birth, read about Hypnobirthing here.

2. Your body will be just fine after giving birth. 
As my due date grew closer, I was afraid of what my body would look like in the hours and days after giving birth. My belly was huge, people, and visions of a saggy, deflated balloon for a tummy haunted my dreams. Even though he assured me over and over, I was worried that my husband wouldn't find me attractive. Basically, pregnancy and birth take your body and make it not yours for awhile, and it's scary.

I know everyone's body is different, and how healthy your lifestyle is during pregnancy will affect your recovery. But take heart that after giving birth, I felt completely opposite about my body from what I'd expected. 

After being pregnant for almost 42 weeks, my post-baby body was such a relief. I felt so light and small, even though I did still look about six months pregnant like you've probably been warned. I could lie on my back. My heartburn was gone. My body, though recovering, felt like it was mine again. I didn't have skin hanging down to my knees like I'd worried. Our bodies do take time to recover, but God is incredible. He has designed our bodies to know what to do before, during, and after birth. So be patient and trust your body to do what it needs to. 

Now, more than a year later, I will tell you that my body is not exactly the same as it was before I got pregnant. But, while the world around me says that the only purpose of my body is to stay as youthful and sexy as possible for everyone around me to enjoy, I believe that the joy of giving life and nurturing my son is much better. My body is everything it needs to be, for me, my husband, and my son.

Taking our first family walk at about 5 days old.

3. Your marriage as you know it does not have to end. 
As our baby-free days came to an end, I worried about how becoming parents would change our marriage. I was afraid that once I was a "mom" (said with dreadful emphasis) and not just his wife, my husband would see me differently. He'd still love me, but I wouldn't be as young, attractive or exciting.

I also felt an overwhelming surge of panic in the last weeks of my pregnancy because our "just us" time was ending, and there was nothing I could do about it. I was certain that we wouldn't be the same "us" after the baby was born.

There are two sides to the reality of your marriage once a baby is in the picture. First: You are exhausted. I mean really, really tired. It's true that you and your husband will not feel like yourselves for a few weeks. Caring for a newborn is hard.

But here's the thing: before, you and your husband had each other. Now there is this brand new, incredible human being whom you both desperately love. The feeling of loving your child so much is great. Sharing that feeling with another person is beautiful. And after those first few months, when you start to find a rhythm and get a little sleep and time to yourself, you'll find that you and your husband are still the same people. In fact, my husband and I have a deeper appreciation for each other now that we get to watch each other as parents. God created the family, and it's a good thing.

Fellow mamas, what did you (or do you) stress about during pregnancy? What wisdom have you picked up along the way?

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