12 weeks into my fifth pregnancy, my doctor asked me how I was coping emotionally. It was the first time I’d heard that question. Ever.
Nine years ago, when I learned I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, the first thing I did was buy and promptly devour a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I talked at every opportunity with two family members who were just a few months ahead of me, thirsty for any breadcrumbs that would lead me further down the path toward the birth of my little nugget.
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I downloaded the What to Expect app and joined various pregnancy forums, message boards, and social media groups. Members, united only by our hope for healthy pregnancies that would lead to happy, healthy babies, would discuss our bloating and constipation, our round ligament pain and cravings, our nausea and heightened (or nonexistent) sex drives.
With all these access points, I felt well-equipped to get through the physical changes the next nine months would bring.
What was never meaningfully discussed, though, in any of those books or groups or apps or conversations, was the toll that anxiety takes on the pregnant woman’s mind in the weeks and months between the day she sees that first line in that first pregnancy test – so faint she questions its very existence – and the first time she feels that alien yet miraculously welcome flutter in her abdomen.
We’re all familiar with the physical symptoms of pregnancy, especially those of us who have been around the block a few times. If we have a question about what our bodies or our babies are up to, answers are always at our fingertips.
But no one ever tells you what to do with the persistent anxiety of just not knowing. Sure, you peed on a stick and it told you there was a baby in there. Sure, your boobs hurt and the smell of yogurt makes you want to puke and you’ve already peed sixteen times today and it’s not even lunchtime yet.
But knowing you have symptoms caused by a rise in a specific hormone is not the same as knowing there’s a living, squirming being in there with a heartbeat and fingers and toes and a head that’s as big as the entire rest of it.
Doctors often won’t even see you until you’re 10 weeks along, and that’s a long time to sit around wondering. Even if everything appears to be fine at the appointment, and even if you continue to have all the outward signs of pregnancy, by the time the next one finally arrives, the worry has had weeks to boil up and bubble over once more.