Do you find yourself constantly worrying about every little detail of your child’s birth and health? Do you feel overwhelmed at the thought of your children being jealous of the new baby and the time it will demand of you from the get-go? Do you find yourself immersed in worry about being spread too thin in parenthood, marriage, work, and for your own emotional/spiritual growth? If so, you may be experiencing anxiety in pregnancy and/or early parenthood.
Tips for Overcoming Anxiety in Pregnancy and Parenthood
Do you begin to have tightness in your chest, legs that go limp, and sweaty palms at the mere thought of how and when you will go into labor? Are you obsessing over the fact that every little outfit is not perfectly folded, meals prepped, hospital bag packed, and notes laid out for the person who will stay with your other children while you are at the hospital?
Take a deep breath, mama.
As you prepare to welcome a beautiful new bundle of joy into your home and heart, your anxiety might begin to overtake that joy. You are not alone.
You can do this.
Say it aloud: “I can do this!” You might be tossing and turning at night, feel unequipped, feel incapable, and feel like your cup is already running on empty. Rest assured – God is with you in the chaos. He is with you when your children are giggling and playing nicely, and bonding and He is with you at 2:00 AM as you sing lullabies as your newborn faces bouts of gas or colic.
He is with you during the overwhelming morning sickness during pregnancy, and as you try to decide whether something is worth a phone call to the doctor. He is with you when you cannot choke back the tears, and when your hormones are trying to regulate during the postpartum period.
Take everything one step at a time.
It was once said that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one single step.”
While you wait for your child to vacate the womb, there are so many things that run through your mind:
- Who will I choose for my child’s pediatrician?
- Will I stay home, or will we find a babysitter once the baby is old enough?
- Will my spouse and I rotate shifts through the night so one of us can get some sleep in the beginning?
- How will we make the other kids feel special through this new transition?
- Who am I going to talk to if I feel postpartum anxiety or depression starting to kick in?
The answers to these questions might not always feel simple, however, it is okay to take things as they come. Tackle one thing at a time. Do not feel the need to chase perfection, raising children is an ever-changing house of emotions, unanswered questions, and new beginnings. Remember, perfection is the enemy of the good.
Be vulnerable with your partner.Becoming a first-time parent or third-time parent each brings its own set of challenges. Always remember that the journey is a shared journey between mother and father. You are a team! As a team, you need to be vulnerable with one another. It can be terrifying to ask for help from one another or admit that you are struggling with postpartum anxiety or depression. Jennifer Smith said, “Marriage is vulnerable because it is the intimate union between two sinners.”
We need to remember that God intended marriage to be a place of vulnerability – a place where you can admit defeat and struggles and lift one another up. It is one where you can extend your hand when the other feels they are falling in pit after pit of failure. It is a place where you can grieve together and celebrate together. It is meant to be a place where you can be authentic, which will strengthen your relationship and bond as a couple.
Relationship struggles after the introduction of a new baby into the home are normal. The whole family will be adjusting to new schedules, roles, and emotions. It can be difficult to communicate to your partner what your exact struggles and needs are. If you find that you and your partner are not communicating well or resolving conflict well, please reach out for couple’s counseling to help you walk through this challenging time.
Accept help when you can.
Sue Atkins said, “There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.”
There is something so freeing about not trying to keep a wall of perfection up. Sure, we want everyone to think everything is happy and great, but there is something so liberating about being authentic with one another. If someone asks if you need help with something as a parent, do not be afraid to ask for help. If someone asks if they can bring a warm meal, let them.
If someone asks if you need someone to hold the baby so you can eat your meal, then let them. If your mom or sister asks if you need help around the house and it is currently overwhelming you, allow yourself to accept help. Offer yourself grace. Do not be afraid to let other people in to support and encourage you in this unique journey of parenthood. There are seasons of giving and seasons of receiving. The postpartum period is a season of receiving from others so that you can give to your infant.
Savor what you can, but get help when you need it.
The moment that your newborn enters the world and is placed on your chest is a moment that cannot be put into words. For some who are overcome with exhaustion, the sheer joy will take over as you lay eyes on the precious bundle of joy that God has blessed you with.
For others, the exhaustion of a traumatic birth will prevent you from experiencing that joy. If this is the case, you are not failing as a mother. Birth is the closest many women will get to death before they actually die. Traumatic stress can interrupt attachment, so please reach out to a counselor if you find that you are struggling in this new journey.
Some will forget the pain they just endured. Others won’t. Some will get the birth plan and postpartum period they hoped for. Others won’t.. Moments like this continue in parenthood. Postpartum depression and anxiety have a variety of potential causes, none of which are the fault of the new parents. But treatment is available.
Blessings might not always come in big packages wrapped in a bow. Even in the midst of a postpartum mood disorder, there might be moments of joy and happiness. They might come in moments of seeing your baby smile for the first time or hearing your toddler say “I love you.” Don’t use those positive moments to pretend the difficult ones don’t matter.
Additionally, don’t use the negative moments to say the positive ones don’t matter. One of my favorite quotes is from the TV show Dr. Who – “The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa, the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant.” Try to adapt a balanced mindset that can savor the good, but also validate the bad.
Every season of life has a different form of chaos, but every season also brings a roller coaster of emotions, overflowing with love, laughter, and memories that you will treasure forever.
Pregnancy and parenthood do bring a new sense of anxiety, which can be normal. But if you feel consumed with thoughts of worry or fear or are constantly worried something bad will happen or cannot sleep, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with a counselor who can support you in this journey. You do not have to endure a postpartum mood disorder alone.
A Prayer for the Anxious Parent
Tonight, we lift up the parent who is feeling anxious. Whether they are preparing for their first or fourth child, please comfort their heart as only You can. Please place a shield of protection around them, give them the strength they need, and give them comfort in knowing that they are not alone. Please give them a strong support system. Please strengthen their bond as husband and wife. Please give them the wisdom to know when to ask for help or seek professional help, if needed.
In Jesus’ Name,
Affirmations for Your Heart
I am a child of God
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.. – 1 John 3:1
I am beautifully made
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, my soul knows it very well. – Psalm 139:13-14
I am intelligent
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. – James 1:5
I am loved
For I am sure that neither death nor life, angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.. – Romans 8:38-39
I can be brave
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
I am never alone
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.. – Psalm 34:18
I am safe
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart… – Psalm 91: 1-4
“Baby Bump”, Courtesy of Joey Thompson, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pregnant Woman Standing in Field”, Courtesy of Sergiu Valenas, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Mother and Child”, Courtesy of Pexels, Pixabay.com, CC0 License; “Woman Kissing Child”, Courtesy of Tubarones Photography, Pexels.com, CC0 License
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