One of the worst things that can happen to someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder is to see the worst case scenarios they concoct in their minds suddenly become their reality. It’s much easier to talk myself out of an anxiety spiral when I know there is no logical reason or life precedent to justify my catastrophizing. Throw a cocktail of volatile pregnancy hormones into the mix, and suddenly my default anxiety mode borders on explosive.
Physically speaking, my pregnancy with Leah was on the “easy” end of the spectrum. My first trimester nausea mainly consisted of food aversions, I felt fairly energetic all the way through, and my recurrent acid reflux could be easily remedied by chalky antacid tablets. But the anxiety. I felt one whopping day of pregnancy bliss before the worry kicked in. I knew immediately that I loved the little life that was growing inside me, so of course I immediately began worrying about losing it.
To say that researching everything that can go wrong during pregnancy became my hobby for the next nine months would be an understatement. It was more like a full time job. Ectopic pregnancies. Missed miscarriages. Cervical incompetence. Placental abruptions. Amniotic fluid leaks. Umbilical cord accidents. I knew it all, and I also knew that if these things happened to pregnant women every day somewhere in the world, they could also happen to me.
I did my best to proceed throughout the pregnancy with cautious optimism. After all, as a friend had sardonically remarked, I was the “perfect human incubator”: At 29 I was a young(ish) mother in my ideal weight range with no underlying health issues or harmful addictions. I bought books on using mindfulness techniques to mitigate anxiety and tried my best to take my pregnancy one day at a time. Still, each time I felt the cold touch of a Doppler or ultrasound machine on my swollen belly, I held my breath and silently braced myself for the worst.
I did not allow myself to relax in my pregnancy until I was 36 weeks along. And when I heard my anxiety beckon me back to its side, I would assure myself that, finally, I was statistically more likely to bring a healthy baby home at this point than not.
So I finally let go of the fear. I finally allowed myself to embrace the pregnancy bliss that I had heard other women talk about but never dared allow myself to feel. I began speaking about Leah in terms of “when’s” and not “if’s.” I cooked big batches of meals to freeze and made a Netflix playlist to keep me occupied during late night feedings. I washed baby clothes, installed the car seat, and packed my hospital bag. I was ecstatic. I was ready.
And then it all went to hell.