My first experience with anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was at age 12. On September 4, 2001, my family and I visited the observation deck of the World Trade Center. It was beautiful and a memory I hold so dear to my heart. I can still remember the feeling of experiencing the breathtaking views of our city. A few days after our visit, the unimaginable happened. Even after all these years, I still view my life as pre 9/11 and post 9/11. Since that day, I developed an unhealthy obsession with the news and my anxiety spiraled out of control.
When I finally got the help I needed, I spent the next few years in therapy—which helped tremendously, but eventually, I slowly stopped going and tried to deal with my anxiety on my own.
Fast forward to this past year.
After six months of marriage, my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby. To prepare for this major life event I knew I had to get some control over my anxiety, so I found a therapist and started weekly sessions. The biggest lesson my therapist taught me was how little control I have over most situations and to always stay mindful and accept feelings and events as they happen.
I had no idea how much I would need the tools she was giving me in the upcoming months during my pregnancy.
I found out I was pregnant a few months into therapy. I was confident I had the tools to manage my anxiety and felt I had a good game plan to keep it under control. Less than two weeks after finding out we were expecting our first child, my husband was laid off from his job. Subsequently, we lost our insurance since it was the last day of the month. Panic set in.
The first seven months of pregnancy were difficult.
After the layoff came morning after morning of nausea and vomiting, plus several breast biopsies after a lump was found and then a major health scare at 25 weeks.
After spending a morning in excruciating pain I went to urgent care, then was rushed to the emergency room due to a 7mm kidney stone blocking my ureter and causing my kidney to swell more than it already does during pregnancy. Almost four days of pain later, I underwent emergency surgery to place a stent in my ureter to relieve the blockage of urine going from my kidney to bladder. Not only did my pregnancy complicate the surgical procedure, but we found out I was born with a congenital defect that resulted in a duplicated system. Most people have one ureter but I have two and it has been affecting the kidney with the blockage.
A week after my surgery was my 28-week checkup and I learned I had gestational diabetes. I felt like I had been knocked down again. I immediately burst into tears.
My midwife was so kind to me. She balled her hand into a fist and placed it into my open palm and said, “This is your power. It's yours to have back." It was a small gesture that had a big impact on me. At this moment I felt empowered and I felt like she helped piece me back together. This was a pivotal part of my pregnancy journey.
Despite all the bumps in the road, I knew I had to deal with the situation given to me and so far I was doing a pretty good job, so now was not the time to lose it.
I spent the next few weeks adjusting to monitoring my blood sugar and getting used to a stricter diet.
I am currently 32 weeks and had to have a nephrostomy tube placed to further protect my affected kidney. The nephrostomy tube is a catheter that drains urine from my kidney through my back into a collecting bag that attaches to my leg. I currently have two draining tubes and collection bags.
(If that doesn't sound fun to deal with on top of 30 extra pounds, pelvic pain, impending labor and delivery, then I don't know what does! ?)
But I refuse to give up my power.
That doesn't mean I haven't spent days crying, thinking, “Why is this happening?" or allowing myself a little pity party here and there. Because, to be honest, at times I feel like my body is failing at something it was built to do. Throughout all of this, I kept thinking “What am I doing to my baby?"
I've had to reel myself back in, stay mindful and take it one breath at a time.
Jumping ahead of ourselves is something we are prone to do, especially being pregnant. It is so easy to start questioning the “what ifs?"
I am learning that the best thing I can do for myself and my baby is to have a sound mind.
To find something that brings you peace, something that will comfort you during the scary times. Let's face it—pregnancy can be scary even if you are experiencing a completely typical pregnancy. Our bodies go through unimaginable changes. Nothing can prepare you. I am surrounded by some amazing, strong women who had seemingly uncomplicated pregnancies and births—I had no reason to believe I would be any different.
During this journey I decided to turn to my faith.
My faith has given me strength and has helped me surrender my control (that I never actually really had) and to trust in the process. It won't be the same for every woman, of course. Maybe you will choose art, yoga, writing, or knitting. Pick something that when you feel the overwhelm coming on, you can turn to and bring your mind back to the task at hand. ?
This pregnancy has been a lot to go through, but I have no other choice. And I know so many other women are walking a similar (or more complicated) path than me. I am calm in knowing that the end result will be the greatest gift of my life. My heart is full of love when I think about my husband holding our daughter. I am brought to tears when I feel my baby moving inside my womb.
This is all worth it.
Trying to conceive and experiencing the ups and downs of pregnancy are the two biggest lessons in surrendering control (which I hear, you have to do as a parent, too.) We don't have control over perfect timing or unexpected twists and turns. Our only option is to take things as they come.
Oh and—never, ever google anything. Like...ever. ❌