There is some predictability as to the unpredictability of childbirth. I know I’m going to have a baby, probably between the 38th and 42nd week of pregnancy. I know labor will most likely start with irregular contractions that look like mild cramps and will eventually become more painful and regular until they are close enough that it’s time to go to the hospital. I know that at some point my water will break (or be broken for me), that I will suffer extremely, that nurses and my partner will surround me to help me and that everything will finally end with me holding my baby in my arms.
But there is nothing predictable about giving birth in the middle of a pandemic – this is where I find myself at the start of my 39th week of pregnancy.
For over a year, my husband and I have anticipated this momentous occasion in our lives. We started trying, got pregnant, had a miscarriage, had a hard time curing, tried again, got pregnant a second time, and overcame all the additional anxiety of being pregnant after a miscarriage.
I went through the terrifying first trimester, when the chances of having another miscarriage are at their highest level, I discovered the sex of our child and I started to set up the crib and organize the house at second quarter, and I finally reached the third quarter. This is when we could put the finishing touches on the baby’s room, celebrate her next arrival with our family and friends at our baby shower and spend the last weeks of this pregnancy enjoying our last moments. family of two.
But in the midst of a national emergency, taking advantage of these last moments begins to seem very different from what we could have imagined.
Since there is no manual on what to expect when you expect in the midst of a global pandemic, my moderate levels of pregnancy anxiety quickly turned into unmanageable levels of perinatal anxiety“That’s why, barely a week before my scheduled date, I decided it was time to take medication for my anxiety disorder.
Five years ago, after my mom took me to rehab, I was diagnosed generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in addition to the addiction disorder that I was struggling with at the time. Even though I became sober and haven’t had a drink in four years, my anxiety hasn’t just subsided. At the time, I sought therapy and continued to see a therapist all these years in order to manage my anxiety and work on healthier coping mechanisms that didn’t involve shutting down my anxious brain with a bottle of vodka.
I mostly managed to find new ways to deal with my anxiety and for a long time I resisted the drugs. After all, cognitive behavior therapy – a type of common speaking therapy aimed at becoming aware of “negative thinking so that you can see difficult situations more clearly and respond to them more effectively.” according to the Mayo clinic… Worked well for me. I still suffered from anxiety, but it seemed largely manageable.
Even when my anxiety about losing this baby became an anxiety during pregnancy, it became an anxiety about giving birth and becoming a mom for the first time, I succeeded. I knew that in the end, I had a solid marriage with a loving partner, an excellent support system in my family and friends, and that I was going through much more difficult things. I knew that the hospital where I am going to give birth in Florida allows the partners to be present. I also knew that it would all end up going home as a family. And while all of this is still true, the world I bring my baby to today is not the same as the world we thought we were going to be just a few weeks ago.
As a first-time mom, I knew I had no idea what the delivery was going to really to be like, or how awkwardly my husband and I would change our first diapers, or how often I should call my mother in the middle of the night and beg her to come help me. I knew it “takes a village” to raise a child because it is in every pregnancy book I have read in the past nine months, and I read a lot. But what I didn’t know was that my village would be very different from what I imagined or wanted. What I didn’t know, when we enthusiastically built baby furniture and bought tiny pajamas and stored our freezer and attended our hospital’s maternity classes, is that my planned fourth quarter won’t look like it that he should.
There will be no smiling family welcoming our baby to the hospital because the hospitals of the country limit their maternities to only one support person or visitor per mom – or not at all. In my case, only my husband is allowed to be with me during work and the following days. No doula to help us during childbirth or the first moments after childbirth. No friend came to meet our baby when he was just starting out, bringing pans and offering to help with the laundry. I will not even be able to attend the new local mom groups that I enthusiastically set up calendar months ago in anticipation of my need to bond with other moms.
Instead, it will be just my husband and I – and now my Lexapro.
The decision to take anxiety medication was not an easy one. I had several discussions with my OB-GYN and my therapist during this pregnancy to find out if I might need to take medication to manage my anxiety. I knew I had a higher risk of pregnancy and postpartum anxiety because of my history of TAG, the trauma of my previous miscarriage, and even my hypothyroidism, according to Postpartum Support International. I also knew what symptoms to watch for and how to distinguish between when anxiety always seemed manageable with my usual coping skills (like therapy, even though like many other therapists, mine are working on setting it up. teletherapy but are not) I do not know if my insurance will cover this option) and when it will cross the line to become completely unmanageable. I knew how to ask for help if I needed it.
As things surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and the precautions that followed started to collapse a few weeks ago, I realized that I was getting more and more panicked and paranoid during the day. All my normal, dismaying and disturbing thoughts suddenly increased to the point where I found myself stressed enough to be almost catatonic, barely able to function with work and everyday life. I found myself stressed out eating and gained five pounds in the past two weeks (which, according to my OB-GYN, is unusual but perfectly fine given the situation).
So, on my last prenatal exam, I brought medication with my doctor and just a few days before the start of labor, my doctor and I have a plan in place.
Although she did not recommend that I start the medication right away because I am about to give birth, I am ready to start taking Lexapro, a commonly prescribed SSRI used to treat depression and anxiety, before leaving the hospital with my baby in my arms. . Together, we made the decision to help me be the best mom I can be by taking medicine to soothe the unmanageable worry, panic, sleepless nights, intrusive thoughts and pure paranoia that I have felt in recent weeks. as a pregnant woman in the midst of a pandemic.
Giving birth and becoming a new mom in the midst of the coronavirus crisis is completely unprecedented and unpredictable. But doing something about my feelings of worry and panic, well, it’s something I can control. I can ask for help and I can work, as cheesy as it sounds, to accept the things I cannot change (the pandemic) and to change the things I can (my medicines and the other precautions we take with family during this period).
The worries still torment me: Will childbirth do more harm than I can imagine? Will my parents be able to meet my baby? Will the drug make breastfeeding difficult? Will walking around the block with my baby help us to feel less lonely and isolated? Will I be a good mom? But I also know that I’m doing the best I can for myself and my baby right now. I isolate myself at home, constantly wash my hands, keep going to the doctor and looking for help with my anxiety, and have been well prepared for just months to leave the house.
For now, while new parenthood is still uncertain and this pandemic continues to change our lives on a daily basis, that’s all I can do. And you know what? I already feel like a good mom.