The more babies I have, the more profound my fears are. Ignorance may be bliss and knowledge may be power but there’s a murky in-between – the more you know, the more you fear.
I often talk to my prenatal students about fear. To be honest, I don’t think it’s a discussion many of them expect from a yoga class. But when you give pregnant women the opportunity to share they do so; with their hearts wide open and all their guards down. For some women it’s the first time they’ve ever spoken of past miscarriages; an experience shrouded in silence, a secret finally shared. Others talk about fear of pain, labour complications and birthing a baby that needs special care. Some women are genuinely worried about how their partners will cope and others are anxious about overbearing relatives.
Worry and fear is pertinent in pregnancy and it can easily become all consuming. Here’s five ways to ease worry and fear and, ultimately, make space for the joy and delight.
Acknowledge your fears and write them down
Fear is easily brushed aside or pushed down. Perhaps the worst result that can come from ignoring fear is that it will arise again and, more often than not, at the most inconvenient of times (like when you’re deep in labour – all-of-a-sudden those fears bubble up and bring with them the inability to breathe and maintain positivity). Ignoring your fears is easy – acknowledging them takes courage. Writing down your fears is a practical way for you to acknowledge them and, ultimately, start letting them go.
Create a positive affirmation/intention
In times of fear and doubt it’s incredibly beneficial to have a positive affirmation or intention to repeat to yourself like a mantra. Yogis often talk about a sankalpa (san-kal-pa); an idea or intention that’s formed in the heart or mind, a solemn vow, a definite intention. My sankalpa during Poet’s pregnancy was: I will carry my baby to full term and birth calmly and confidently, a healthy baby. I never shared my sankalpa with anyone else but every single day I repeated it to myself – three times, like a mantra.
The beauty of a positive mantra is that it’s always there; if you can shift your thoughts from negative to positive you automatically stop the “spiralling out of control” thought process.
Be selective with the information you read; seek it from reputable sources (ie. don’t google)
It’s ironic that I share this advice on a blog but, in general, the internet is rife with fear-fuelled stories of pregnancy, labour and birth. Read articles that are written by reputable sources and ones that, ideally, contain expert advice. Arm yourself with books like Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth, The New Pregnancy and Childbirth and Your Best Birth and, if you’re interested, watch documentaries like The Business of Being Born and The Face of Birth.If you do get sucked into an article that starts to conjure fear and worry within you stop reading it and come back to your mantra.Own your experience; discuss your concerns with your support person and caregiver and don’t be a magnet for negativity
This is a sensitive matter, I know. Pregnant women are magnets for a gamut of birth stories. Whether you’re standing in line at the supermarket, waiting in the playground at school pick up or chatting with a new friend at a wedding – someone, at sometime during your pregnancy, will offload their birth experience to you. For the woman sharing, it’s an opportunity to work through her own experience but often, that’s best done with a midwife or counsellor. Remember that you have the right to own your pregnancy and birth – that means taking responsibility for it. You can politely ask someone to stop telling you their grief-filled story; it’s not rude, it’s self-awareness and self-care.Chat with your partner or support person about your fears and work through them together. If you feel that you’re not understood talk to your midwife, obstetrician or GP – they are there to offer support and advice every step of the way, even if that means referring you to a counsellor or psychologist. If you feel more comfortable discussing your worries over the phone, PANDA has a 24hour hotline for those suffering ante and postnatal depression – 1300 726 306.
Get out of your head – exercise, practise yoga, connect with your body and your baby
One of the best ways to ease stress and anxiety in pregnancy is to exercise – walking, swimming and yoga are extremely beneficial on a physical, emotional and mental level. If you have the opportunity (and sometimes it requires discipline and determination to create the opportunity) enrol in a prenatal yoga class. Whilst every class is different, yoga encourages body awareness; when you are aware of your body you automatically develop faith in its ability to grow and birth your baby. If you’re a second, third, fourth time mum, a yoga class can provide a set time each week for you to just be – to connect with your body and your baby and consciously prepare for the journey ahead. It’s also a great opportunity to let go of your past birth experiences and memories and, ultimately, create a fresh perspective for your imminent birth.There’s a lot to be said for connecting with other pregnant women in a safe and open space. I’ve witnessed many friendships blossom in my classes – proof that finding your “village” is incredibly beneficial in pregnancy.
If you want to find support online I highly recommend Smiling Mind for easy-to-follow meditation.
How did you deal with your fears and worries in pregnancy? What books brought the most comfort and how did your partner and caregiver support your journey?
Reprinted with permission from author Jodi Wilson of Practicing Simplicity. Visit her blog for additional advice on living simply and naturally.