Severe Prenatal Stress & Anxiety

Control: Losing it & Taking it

This pregnancy has been about taking control: eliminating all present agents of dysfunction and disorder and establishing healthy routines, all for the sake of purifying and strengthening my body for the best possible beginning for this baby.

In many ways, I've been able to do that.  I've enjoyed the self-authority to make solid decisions and stick to them.  For instance, I've been diligent about increasing my protein intake.  I've kept to a decent sleep schedule.  I've been careful not to overexert with lifting and moving things the way I normally do.

But in many more ways, the things that are simply beyond my control are getting the best of me.  I can't control how others behave or how they word things.  I can't control my environment.  I can't control the convenience factor of things.  I can't control entropy.

And yet, it seems my entire sense of well-being depends on my sense of relative control.  If all the factors of life are where I put them, as I put them, then I feel fine.  And if not (as is 99.9% the case), then I feel as if I'm failing or doing something wrong, or I'm angry because I'm trying and putting my energy, effort, and WILL out into the world, and nothing seems to oblige me.

I suppose it boils down to not getting what I want.  And when I don't get what I want how I want it, I feel like my blood pressure's going through the roof, my brain is pounding in my head, and my internal potty-mouth is ranting unchecked.

And besides the anger...there is the heartbreak -- the deep, heavyset feeling of failure and self-pity soaking the razor-edges of my rage.  Inside, I am a pathetic, ineffective, sopping cardboard knife.  (And paper cuts are always the worst.)

NO meds, please!!!

I do NOT want to go back on medication.  The literature says medications may be perfectly safe for me and the baby, and it's not that I don't trust the studies.  It's just that my gut, my instinct tells me not to, and I won't go against that.  At least not unless/until I'm absolutely desperate.

I feel kind of desperate (as opposed to "absolutely").  I'm just about to that "something's-got-to-give" stage.  All these years of suffering Depression, I know without a doubt when I've arrived at that place where I've GOT to get some help.  I'm not there at this precise moment, but it's right there, just feet away in the fog.  I can already feel the warmth of its hot, stinking breath on my face.

So I really, really, really don't want to go back on medication.  I really, really, really don't.  But I won't say "never," because I know me, and I know the pain, and I know where one ends and the other begins.

Non-medicinal Stress Relief Alternatives

Alternatively, I've been researching Stress Relief During Pregnancy.  So far, just about all the resources I've read say the same kinds of things:

  • hot baths/showers
  • prenatal massage
  • yoga
  • meditation
  • plenty of sleep
  • proper diet
  • scale back on commitments

These are pretty much no-brainers.  And they're so broad and obvious, they're really not help at all.

I need some solutions that are dynamic yet simple, classic yet revolutionary.

  • Aromatherapy - This might be an option, except with the Prenatal Super-Nose, I'm really afraid the risk of migraine would outweigh the benefits of relaxation.  Maybe I could explore certain natural fragrances that have a calming effect.  Aveeno Active Naturals Shower & Bath Oil ("Natural Soothing Oatmeal") is one of the only fragrances that seems to have a positive effect on me.  Maybe it's the smooth, almond-ish scent.  I'm not sure.  But I don't get a headache or gag when I smell that.  Natural vanilla? Gardenia? Honeysuckle? Cinnamon? Baby powder???

  • White noise - I could see this working for me, except I can only see it working for me at night after the kids have gone to bed. No white noise in the world would be able to drown out their bickering.  I could re-institute the little rock fountain on my nightstand, or maybe plug into some "thunderstorm" or "light rain" mp3s. Classical music might work, but then, it would have to be very specifically low and melodic, like Moonlight Sonata.  Something like Rhapsody in Blue simply would not do.

  • Nature - Nature healing properties.  It's why I love camping so much.  The second my feet touch the unpaved earth, my blood pressure drops, and I feel whole and complete.  When I smell trees and fresh flowing water...when I smell salt in the air and on the winds blowing in from the Gulf...when I can actually hear the wind undisturbed by humming engines or man-made movement.  Nature is why I sleep so well and so easily sitting in a canvas chair on the riverbank.  It's why a day feels like a week and I relish it.  Nature is why I hardly ever raise my voice or chastise anyone for anything.

Whatever strategies I settle on for neutralizing my stress, I've got to decide on them and pursue them immediately and deliberately.  I can't wait for things to get better or worse.  If I don't want to be treated for stress and anxiety, I better treat myself fast.  And I better keep brainstorming and researching and trying and trying and trying until I find something or somethings that work.  I just don't want a damn prescription.

First Trimester Draws to an End

(Photo at right: baby bump at three months.)

First trimester draws to an end

These first three months have gone by awfully fast, but they've certainly taken their toll.  The fog of morning sickness gently lifts away, and in barrels the churning storm of irritability at its most vicious.  I cannot seem to shake it.  Woe to those who live within my radius of reach.

An awful fact:  Obstetricians in the Acadiana region are so overloaded with patient cases, some of us have to wait an entire month or more for an appointment opening.  Fortunately, I found one who was able to book me much sooner than that, but I had to postpone until payday.

So, my first appointment with the OB will be later than is routinely recommended.  I'd be a little put off about that, except I believe I've been taking very good care of myself and have paid very close attention to what my body's been telling me.  No red flags thus far.

And I have great faith in this OB I'll be seeing.  He was hand-picked and highly recommended by our midwife.  "He's 100% on-board for natural birth and homebirth.  Just be honest with him about your preexisting conditions so he can make an honest, informed assessment."

That I will do.

Don't know how much I weigh right now, but it feels like I'm probably around 115 or so.  Can definitely feel the extra padding, and the strain on the lower back is certainly beginning to make itself known.

Do-it-yourself neck and back support

Surprisingly, I haven't had trouble sleeping at all.  I discovered a way to support my neck, and it's so effective, I've been sleeping soundly every night and waking up with no aches in my spine or neck.  I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner.

I took a cylindrical pillow that Priss made for me several years ago, and I rolled it up in a long fleece scarf.  The result is a comfy, cushy little neck roll that keeps my spine aligned and my airway open so I can breathe freely and easily.

I also surround myself with support pillows.  The top two stabilize my head and take all strain off of my neck.  The bottom two stabilize my spine and take all strain off of my lower back.

The four-pillow positioning also works whether I'm lying on my back or on either side.

I'd been wondering for a while how I've been able to get up earlier and earlier yet still feel rested.  And I found myself pain-free.  Now I know why.  If my back is wonky over night, my whole body will be wonky the next day.

Now, if only there were a strategic pillow-positioning that would help my attitude.  :(

Fighting Against Overeating

I've had a big problem with heartburn and bloat.  I also think I may be gaining unnecessary pounds simply because I give in to every craving that strikes me and then I eat until I'm overly full.

In order to combat overeating, I decided to try a few strategies to achieve a healthier meal routine.

Eating less, more often.  Instead of eating three large meals a day, I'm eating four or five smaller meals a day. 

Allowing myself to snack.  I still grab a snack when the mood strikes me, but instead of parking myself next to the canister or cookies or dragging out the whole bag of cubed cheese, I take a handful and limit myself to that.  No going back for seconds.

What I'm eating has changed, too. I figured, one of the reasons I've been so prone to overeating is because there hasn't been much in the house for me to "grab" when I'm hungry.  I've had to wait for one of the family meals to roll around, and by then, I'm starving, so I stuff myself silly.

This last trip to the grocery store, I decided I'd make sure the house was stocked with snacks and foods "just for me," so they're there for me to grab when I want them.

  • tapioca pudding
  • yogurt
  • cheese wheels
  • fresh fruits, bite-sized
  • tommy toe tomatoes (of course)
  • cottage cheese

Another thing I'm keeping on-hand is a supply of Lean Cuisine frozen entrees.  I realize it's not the best nutrition in the world, but the meals are already prepared.  It only takes five minutes for them to heat in the microwave, and the serving is just enough to fill me up until the next meal.  Sitting down to one serving of Glazed Chicken and herb rice is much more satisfying than cracking open a can of chicken noodle soup or fixing myself a double-decker turkey-and-provolone sandwich.  Side note: I do very much enjoy the occasional soup or sandwich; just not every single time I'm hungry between meals every single day.  The Lean Cuisine meals offer variety without a truckload of calories.

So far, my new strategies have worked.  I've gotten heartburn once in the last two weeks, and I find I'm not constantly miserable because I want something to eat, but can't find anything, or can't find anything that will satisfy my picky pregnant appetite.

Louisiana Statutes for Midwife Practitioners

(From email sent to husband and mother)
Dear Miner & Mom...

LA State Statutes and Regulations for Midwife Practitioners

The first part of the document covers details about board members and certification requirements.  Not necessary to read.

What you may want to look at begins with "Chapter 53. Licensed Midwives."  Scroll about halfway down the page, and you'll see the bold heading there.

From this section on, you can read about midwives standards of care, like what tests they're required to do on their patients/clients, what situations require them to consult with the supporting physician, etc.  You can see there's not much guesswork involved in what they do.  Their steps are pretty cut and dried.

It's a lot of reading, but very interesting if you have the time.  It really clarifies what we'll be looking at for a home birth and what we can expect from the midwife in most situations we can think of.

Love you!

Why some women would like to give birth at home

Some women choose to birth at home because home is where they're most comfortable.  They may want to feel free to roam about in a skirt, in a favorite bathrobe, or in nothing at all!  They may want people with them who can be present without being intrusive. They may want to fix their own snacks, move back and forth from the birthing tub to the outside garden as the mood moves them, and even read or nap if that's what they feel like doing.  In other words, they want to be free to do what they want to do, when they want to do it, and how they want to do it -- without time, protocols, liability, and other external factors defining their choices.

-- Jennifer L. West, LM, CPM, HBCE, and Deborah S. Romaine, Complete Idiot's Guide to Natural Childbirth

I was surprised to see this concept worded just so as it reflects all the intrinsic desires I've wanted since I gave birth to Squeak seven years ago.  I'd already decided what and how I wanted to do things before I ever began researching "home birth."  Reading about my preferences as written by someone I've never met, all nicely summed up in one paragraph, not only gives me confidence in what my instincts have told me, but thrills me to no end there are people and practitioners who are supportive and willing to accommodate me!

Nesting or Prenatal OCD

  • Cleaned out my half of the closet.
  • Boxed up non-maternity clothes for attic.
  • Filled large bag with clothes and shoes for donation.
  • Sorted all hangers.
  • Washed, dried, folded, and hung three loads of laundry.
  • Archived last three months' homeschooling.
  • Updated lesson plans and assignment cards.
  • Organized homeschooling desk (surface).

Nesting has always been a crazed frenzy.  I clearly recall using Q-tips to dig out dust from nooks and crannies in the wooden furniture.  Once upon a time, I alphabetized the books in the bookshelf and sorted the clothes hanging in the closet according to color.  When I get it, I get it bad.

I had no plans whatsoever to tear apart the closet tonight.  It began with the stuff hanging on the racks. I figured I'd get rid of the clothes I'll never, ever fit into again.  That led to the shelves. Then the shoes. Then the upper shelves of things I haven't touch since 2003.  Before I knew it, my side of the closet was practically bare except for the few new maternity clothes I've collected.  And I can actually walk around in there without stepping on something.

I killed a good four hours cleaning and sorting and sifting and trashing.  Still, there's no end in sight.  In this bedroom alone, I've got two bookshelves filled to capacity, books crammed together so tightly you couldn't slip a bookmark between them.

I've got two baskets full of sewing notions, a trunk stuffed with bolts and bolts of fabric and remnants. And I haven't even begun to touch the contents of the file cabinet, or the pile of papers that should be in the file cabinet.

Just writing about it, I'm getting an unbearable itch to keep going.  I could easily pull an all-nighter and double both the trash pile and the donation pile.  I could storm though the rest of the laundry, start dusting and disinfecting all the surfaces.  I could revert back to my past nesting form and take a Q-tip to the cracks and corners of the furniture.  I could create and implement my own library organization system according to alphabet AND color.

I could do it. And the itch would go away for a while.  But when it comes back, what will I do then???

Month Two: Mission Complete

Today marks the end of the second month.  The evidence is "growing," but sometimes, I find I'm still in disbelief.

Physically, I'm hanging in there. This pregnancy is turning out to be a lot more challenging than any of the ones before.  I might attribute that to age, but that's just a theory.

I've never been plagued by true morning sickness before, but this time, I consistently wake up queasy.  Vomiting is not an issue (thank God), but there's no other feeling in the world worse for me than nausea.  I know I'm supposed to eat bread or crackers or what-not, but the last thing I feel like doing when I'm feeling that way is eating.  So, I muscle through it until I can tolerate putting something in my stomach.

I can tell my face is filling out.  Cheeks are a little rounder.  Eyes aren't as sunken as they usually are, even though I'm just as tired.  I'm not afraid of gaining too much weight.  I just hope I can handle the weight I do gain.  Usually, the lower back and groin muscles take the biggest toll.

The biggest problem right now is a heavy sense of anxiety.  And it scares me.  Naturally, I'm feeling much more vulnerable, so that leads to feelings of inadequacy.  Now is NOT the time to feel inadequate.

Trying to view this realistically...of course my moods are going to fluctuate with the raging storm of hormones.  My body is causing this, and not something I've done or haven't done.  There is no impending doom, no unpleasant consequences I'm about to face.

The fact of the matter is that I'm psychologically unprepared.  I know I'm more than capable of preparing, and I take great joy in summoning those skills I've learned over the years.  It's just the sheer hard work of talking myself up, getting out the tools I need, putting my plans into practice.  I'm so tired!  What if I don't do the job all the way?  What if I don't do the job the way I want to do it?  What if I fail???

I think the thing I need is a small victory.  A little reminder of what I'm made of.  I need to face a modest challenge and overcome it.

Like laundry.  For every load I do, another two take its place.  Usually, it takes a whole day to get through it all (because I can't do what a normal person does and do a little every day).  The thought of spending another dawn-to-dusk kicking my way through these piles has me shaking in my boots.  I'll be completely exhausted by the time I'm done with it all.

Yes, one can be so utterly exhausted she can't relax or sleep.  As Miner's buddies say offshore, "That's bad juju."

So what will I do now? Throw in a load of laundry before I go to sleep?

No. I'm going to take a scalding shower and hope it stings away every bit of tension in my body.  Then I'm going to sleep and try to follow through with laundry tomorrow morning.  I hope I hope I hope I'll be able to write that I did that.
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