I’m a big fan of voyeuristic, reality television. I love peeking in on other people’s lives (albeit the made-for-TV version), and marveling at how different we all are. I am especially intrigued by the Duggar clan (of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting fame), and began following their story a while back when I was admittedly quite jealous that one family could be blessed with so many children while we were struggling to have just one. I no longer watch the show, but when I heard that “Jessa is engaged” and that “Jill got married” – I knew who the tabloids were talking about. So, recently, when I learned that Jill Duggar (now Dillard) is expecting, I had a timeline in my head of about how far along she must have been when they made the announcement.
When I heard that she told her family 30 days (!) after her wedding that a baby was on the way – my first reaction was to be appalled that she didn’t wait the “requisite” three months to tell the world. I wondered if nobody had ever told her the first trimester “rule.” Was she not worried that something would happen and the pregnancy would not be viable? Was she not afraid that she would have to experience the roller coaster of emotions that can and do occur in pregnancy, publicly? Did she even consider that this may not be the happiest of times the whole time? The answer, is almost certainly “no” – she likely didn’t worry too much about any of those things. Rather, she is probably having the “normal” pregnancy that I longed for, but that didn’t happen.
Before the endless tests and examinations and doctor visits, the heartbreaking losses, and the unwanted plethora of information about just how hard it can be to conceive and just how many things can go wrong once you do – I envisioned a storybook pregnancy. It would begin with a cute, poignant and creative way to tell my husband that he was going to be a father. Then I would spend the next nine months positively glowing, serenely growing a healthy baby while cradling a cute little baby bump, and designing a picture-perfect nursery to welcome my easy, contented first child.
In reality my husband found out we were expecting when I made him take the call from the nurse with the results after our IVF procedure. I spent the first few months trying to pass off my growing-faster-than-expected belly (twins) as too many donuts for fear of telling anyone “too soon,” and I refused to even put cribs together until the last minute for fear of “jinxing” everything.
I can honestly say that I never really took the time to “enjoy” finally being pregnant. The stress and worry was constant. I agonized over having no morning sickness, and thought it was all over when I did feel ill or had an odd twinge or pain. I refused to give the babies names before the last trimester for fear of getting too attached, but worried that they would not connect with me if they actually were born because I wasn’t nurturing them in utero as I should. I would count kicks incessantly, and eventually bought an at-home doppler that gave me even more anxiety when I couldn’t immediately find both heartbeats. I worried that after seven years of child-free marriage, my husband and I would not be able to adapt to being parents, that we would not be able to manage two children, and that we weren’t cut out to be twin parents. I was a wreck, but I wasn’t alone. I found an online community of women that helped me tremendously. The site was a sounding board and reassured me that others were having the same thoughts and fears. It also saved my poor husband from our every conversation being about the pregnancy and my worry of the day.
Some anxiety in pregnancy is to be expected. If, however, you feel like you need some help coping or you are looking for strategies to alleviate stress – there are some solutions. There is not a one-size-fits-all answer – but there are things you can do to make your pregnancy less stressful (good for all involved). For me, the online community of ladies that were due at the same time and going through the same issues, was helpful. Some people really benefit from meditation or self-help techniques and books (check out Circle + Bloom for some great mind-body programs). There are therapists and counselors available who specialize in pregnancy anxiety and depression and support groups available if you prefer to meet, talk and commiserate in person – ask your doctor for some referrals. Acupuncture has been known to be beneficial for people struggling with fertility as well as for those dealing with stress and worry when pregnant. Some foods are purported to be mood-enhancing and Omega-3 in particular seemingly helps with stress and anxiety, according to some studies. Exercise is beneficial whether pregnant or not, and many formerly super stressed moms-to-be swear by prenatal yoga.
The good news, too, is that many women see the intense anxiety of early pregnancy subside somewhat after the first trimester. Maybe Jill Dillard (and other early announcers like her) are on to something. Secrets are hard to keep, support networks are great and necessary, and worry, fear and anxiety are hard to deal with on your own, especially when you are pregnant. Maybe one of the best coping techniques of all is to garner the support of close friends and family by letting them in on the baby news early? I hope you can find what works for you when it comes to dealing with pregnancy anxiety, even if that means shouting it from the rooftops (or posting to Facebook) as soon as the stick is positive!
Shellie Fossick is “mom” to 5 year old boy/girl twins. She is also the Development Director for a non-profit organization that provides high quality early care and education for more than 400 low-income children in Middle Tennessee. She lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and two children.
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Are you a new twin parent? Check out Natalie Diaz’s new book “What To Do When You’re Having Two: The Twin Survival Guide From Pregnancy Through the First Year”, available in stores now!
The rate of twin births has risen 79 percent over the last three decades, and continues to increase. A mom of fraternal twins and a national guru on having two, Natalie Diaz launched Twiniversity, a supportive website with advice from the twin-trenches.
What to Do When You’re Having Two is the definitive how-to guide to parenting twins, covering how to make a Birth Plan checklist, sticking to one sleep schedule, managing double-duty breastfeeding, stocking up on all the necessary gear, building one-on-one relationships with each child, and more.
Accessible and informative, What to Do When You’re Having Two is the must-have manual for all parents of twins.