Pregnancy has given me a lot. It has given me food cravings; it has given me love handles; it has given me gratitude; but most of all, it has given me a new lens through which I can see how I can take the best possible care of myself.
I have always been a person who has struggled with anxiety. While (thankfully) my anxiety has rarely gotten to the point where it has debilitated me, most of the time I have a pretty steady stream of anxiousness running through my body. It’s like the hum of a machine that I’ve mostly gotten used to.
As I wrote about in my Baby K announcement, my anxiety actually got really bad the few months before I found out I was pregnant. I knew the stress I was putting on myself by running through worst case scenarios in my head and worrying about things I couldn’t control was taking a toll on me both mentally and physically, but I couldn’t stop. How was I just supposed to stop stressing?
I was so worried about my body, about my “ability” as a woman, that in some ways I lost a sense of why I was doing what I was doing. I wanted to be a mother, but I wasn’t willing to give myself the same grace and compassion that I would give a child.
Ever since finding out I was pregnant, I’ve developed a totally new relationship with my anxiety. I used to let my anxiety lead, and I’d follow. Now, there’s something more important leading me, and that’s my commitment to the health and well being of my child. And that means that I have to be committed to the health and well being of me because right now, we are one in the same.
In the last month, we have had some issues going on in our family. Had all of this happened before I got pregnant, I think the stress and anxiety of it would have brought me to my knees. Now, instead of internalizing it all, I pretend like my body is a shield. Inside of me, I’m carrying the most precious thing in the world…I’m carrying life, and I’m more committed to protecting that life than anything else.
So anytime this issue comes up, I imagine myself putting on my golden armor. I take a deep breath (or five), and I remind myself that I am safe, that we are safe.
I’ve started to think of stress the same way I think about food. What do I want to nourish my body with? If I give in to my craving for a Big Mac and fries, I know I’m not giving my body (or my baby) the nourishment it needs. When I allow stress to be the primary thing that fills me up, I am definitely not giving my body (or my baby) what it needs. And just like making better nutritional choices takes practice and discipline, so does making better self-care choices. I’m not saying that I live a stress-free life. The fact of the matter is, I’ve had anxiety my whole life, so to expect it to just *poof* disappear isn’t realistic, but I find myself able to make better choices each day to take care of myself and my baby.
I said earlier that a lot started to shift for me when I realized that I’m carrying within me the gift of life. What I see in a new way now is the precious value of my own life. My goal is to continue to honor the life within me, MY LIFE, long after I’ve delivered Baby K. I think the best way I can love this baby is to model for him or her the value of taking care of myself in the hopes that he or she will learn to do the same someday.
I know this road is not going to be easy, but part of the reason I’m writing this is to be able to go back and remind myself (and others) of the lessons I learned while pregnant:
I’m so grateful to my child already for giving me this new perspective on life. I can’t wait to see what else we’ll learn together on this journey.