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How to deal with the anxiety you may feel right before childbirth

Upset Pregnant Woman
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I was experiencing a normal pregnancy but I still had anxiety — here's how I dealt with it.

I remember clearly the last weeks of my pregnancy with my son. Since I felt well, and hadn’t experienced any situation that would require moving forward my maternity leave, I followed my ordinary routine. I woke up early, I went to the gym, I worked all day long—I actually feel nostalgic for that time, and for all the joyful expectation I felt!

When I started my 36th week of pregnancy, my medical check-ups started to be weekly, and during that time, I received some very good news: my baby was finally in the right position! Up until that time, my greatest concern regarding childbirth was the possibility of needing a C-section and of going through the consequent post-operative discomfort. So, knowing that my baby was already perfectly lined up was a relief.

However, my happiness was short-lived, because something else caught me by surprise: according to an ultrasound exam I took in the final stretch, it was very possible that my baby would be born weighing more than 8.8 lb! I’m never going to forget the comments I heard from the doctor who performed the exam. “My goodness, what a fat little baby! Look at those legs!”

I went back to work dreaming about my chubby little baby, but also a little concerned about his size. Once I got over the initial surprise, I talked to the doctor and he told me that the ultrasound exams have a margin of error and that, in the case of my baby, he could be born weighing between 8.4 and 9.25 lb.

Holding on to the positive thought that my baby would weigh 8.4 lb, I continued on the path towards giving birth normally, trusting that my prayers to Our Lady of Good Birth would be heard. And they were! My labor and childbirth went perfectly; although my water didn’t break, I experienced strong contractions and intense pain, and Thomas was born exactly on the date predicted by the doctor, weighing 8.86 lb.

Besides being alarmed at the size of my baby, the oddest memory I have of the last two days of my pregnancy was the incredible desire I suddenly had to organize things around me. When I reached the end of my 39th week, I decided to finish all the pending tasks I still had at work, and I remember that on Friday, which preceded a long weekend, I worked even later than usual, finishing off my last reports.

That same day, I coordinated with my husband so we could go see a movie that had just come out and which we really wanted to see, because I doubted it would be possible the following week. It was in the movie theater that, for the first time, I felt strong contractions. They lasted a little more than an hour, and then stopped, and that was enough for me to be sure that I would go into labor that weekend.

The following day, however, I didn’t feel anything. I woke up normally, and dealt with household matters, making sure everything was okay for when my little boy would come home. On Sunday, though, I woke up with some light but painful contractions, and with the confidence that my baby would be in my arms in less than 24 hours. It was at that exact moment that I reached the peak of “nesting” syndrome.

From the moment I got out of bed until I went to the maternity ward, I didn’t relax for a single moment. I prepared lunch for my husband, organized the closets, washed clothes, and moved things around, and as I did all of this, I felt that the intervals between my contractions were getting shorter, and the pain was becoming more intense.

At the end of the day, I took a long hot bath to relieve the pain. Right afterwards, I decided to make some soup, because the time between contractions didn’t justify going to the maternity ward yet. But about two hours later, there I was on my way to the hospital, experiencing strong contractions and feeling psychologically prepared to face the active phase of labor.

Throughout labor, I stayed alert to what my heart was telling me, and it let me know that my baby would be in my arms very soon. Holding onto my faith, I detached myself from the pain and surrendered my body to God’s will, and he gave me a strong and healthy baby.

I believe that one of the reasons that everything went so well was the tactic that I adopted in order to distance myself from my anxiety about my baby’s weight. I simply decided that I would not think about it, and told myself that, when the time came, everything would go well.

If an anxious mother were to come to me to ask for advice about how to deal with all of the anxiety that accompanies the arrival of a baby, I would recommend that she relax and take advantage of this unique moment in complete peace. Go out and take a walk, prepare a foot bath, write a letter for your baby, go to Mass, pray to Our Lady of Good Birth, go have lunch in your favorite restaurant or prepare a delicious meal, read a book, re-watch your favorite movie, or binge watch a series that you haven’t finished yet. These are the last days you’ll have to rest completely. Very shortly, you’ll be blessed with the greatest of joys, and all of your attention will be turned towards your baby!

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