“She who faces death by torture for each life beneath her breast…”

| 02-12-AD2013 | [3]

Foxfier - Kipling Death

Well, these days that is rather less likely than when Kipling wrote it. In the US in 2009 there were fewer than a thousand deaths, although for comparison’s sake that’s only slightly less than double the number killed in gun accidents. (2009 Vital Statistic Death Report, Table 10, pages 38 – 39)

Even without the specter of death hovering over you, pregnancy is scary. I’m happily married, have two adorable little girls already, a loving husband with a steady job, had healed up for the recommended time after my last birth, and I still got light-headed when I found out we were expecting another baby. Panic attacks are normal, although if it gets debilitating you need to ask for some help. Speaking of which….

A lot of pregnancy involves asking for help, NOT my favorite activity. But that’s part of the most obviously scary part of being pregnant — you aren’t operating at your highest level. Your mind and body are feeling the effects, and even your basic reactions change (such as protecting your belly before your face). You do need more help than usual, even before you start to “show.” This can cause stress.

Less obvious but more likely to keep you awake nights, you are totally responsible for the safety of your little child, and there is nothing you can do to control the outcome. You can control risks, but not outcomes. Eat right, daily moderate exercise, take the proper supplements before you are pregnant, avoid everything that has been even possibly associated with “negative outcomes” in pregnancy, and your baby may still not be alright. Digression: Any mother has a list of special terrors. Mine is probably because of Baby Samuel. (Wonderful story, wonderful—if graphic– picture, a problem I hadn’t heard of before.) Part of loving your neighbor is not inflicting them if it’s unneeded, so please don’t share horror stories in the comments here.

Depending on how you prefer to deal with worries (well, not exactly “worries” more “bursts of cold-sweat inducing terror alternated with stomach churning fear of failing at the start of the biggest job of your life, with an undercurrent of wondering if there has ever been anyone as ill-suited for the challenges you’re facing as yourself,” but that doesn’t fit into a sentence very well, so I’ll stick with “worries”) you might dedicate your spare time to strictly avoiding the laundry list of foods, substances and activities that have been associated with problems, such as coffee, soft plastic bottles and hot baths.

If you are a milder personality, you may apply common sense to what you eat or drink, focus on not stressing your body in any shape or form, and relax.

If you’re a bit more of a scientifically minded, obsessive control freak –*cough*– you may spend a lot of time researching the various “rules” you are given. Coffee is my favorite example — my poor husband went through two of my pregnancies with a wife who really likes her coffee, subsisting on decaf, and was going to have to face one who didn’t get anything but small amounts of mint tea when some studies indicated no difference between caffeinated and decaff coffee, then someone noticed that the correlation between bad outcomes and coffee consumption was pretty close to the opposite of that between how bad your morning sickness/touchy stomach was and the end result. Yes, morning sickness is associated with better outcomes; the difference is so tiny that when they corrected for morning sickness, some saw the effect entirely disappear, some saw it mostly vanish, and I’m sure at least one saw coffee associated with better outcomes. It’s never a little thing when your child is the one that’s lost, but trying to detect what is really going on gets very, very tough very quickly when we’re dealing with such a small and uncontrolled group.

You may also start annoying people with rants about how everyone along the way, when making recommendations, feels the need to cut the maximum amount suggested. I spent a lot of sleepless nights during my first pregnancy, because I didn’t know I was pregnant during Lent and far, far exceeded the “half a can, once a month” of tuna that I was told was the maximum. Our Princess is fine, although I may have scorched a few walls when I found out that the original guideline from the FDA was based on the highest possible risk of mercury, from a high risk area, cut by one tenth, and was still more than six times what I’d been told. Some advice is just out-dated, like “don’t eat soft cheese.” Formerly, soft cheese was made from unpasteurized milk; watch the labels, but that’s seldom the case these days. Deli cold cuts (and cheese, and…) have a higher risk of listeria, not so much the pack that’s in your fridge. A cake with rum frosting isn’t going to hurt the baby, a six pack a night will. (All examples from personal experience.)

While you should remind yourself that people mean well and aren’t hurting either of you, try to work on your stress levels, too. Accept the help people try to offer. It can be tough on your pride, but that might be a feature, not a bug and it really is nice. If you do lose your temper, they will forgive you if you ask. Try praying– EWTN has a very good site for the rosary, and mp3s. I found it helpful to turn on an MP3 and pray along while pacing. (Kneeling often doesn’t work as well with an active baby, as all mine have been; I know some women have an easier time in that aspect.) Plus—hey, Rosary, Mary, I think we can assume she understands where we’re coming from, both in physical discomfort and mental pain. (I bought my first ever really nice rosary for this reason. The physical heft of it helps focus me.) You might also look up saints to ask to pray for you. Saint Ann (“Jesus’ grandma,” as I explain to my girls) is a favorite for me. I’m no good at asking folks with a pulse to pray for me, but the saints have a lot of time on their hands so I don’t feel nearly as bad about bothering them!

With God and humor, you’ll be fine. Really!

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About the Author:

Former sailor and technician, current geek, "three prong" conservative, mother and practicing Catholic. Happily married to TrueBlue. Ranch raised in rural Washington, currently settled in the Seattle Blob.
Family, Parenting Filed in: Parenting
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  • John Morgan

    With me, it seems the more desparate my situation is, the simplier my prayers become. With my brain stable and body relatively free from pain, I’m able to meditate and give thanks for many things. When I’m in extremis, “Lord, let me live” is often all than comes from my lips. Accepting the help that people offer is a challenge for me as well.

    • http://foxfier.wordpress.com/ Foxfier

      There’s a reason the Prayer of Cyrus Brown is popular.

      I think the most heartfelt prayer I ever said was a simple, “Oh, God-”.
      I’m not even sure which of them would be the most heartfelt– all the ones I can think of, I was sure it was a life or death situation. The funniest, in retrospect, would be when I yelled it over the phone while trying to set up my daughter’s baptism and she tried to fly down the stairwell. Thankfully, they didn’t hang up until I picked the phone back up and explained she was alive, but I’d call back later.

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