Tuesday, November 9, 2010


One of the women in the online birth club I'm in was talking about how hard it is to find help when you have trouble dealing with all the emotions, stresses, and tasks of pregnancy. I'd say it's hard to find or ask for help for anyone, pregnant or not, when you need it. We have such an emphasis on independence and 'strength' rather than community and family. The phrase "suck it up" is bandied about like it's a personal failure to need support or want to talk something out.

I know from lots of personal experience with tragedy and disappointment that while sometimes you really do need help from an outside source, when that is not readily available, you can make a difference to your own life by some focused introspection.

An at-home technique that I find helpful is to consider what you're stressing over, then break it down. One way to do this is in a journal with two columns. The first column is a daily journal where you can vent or just write about your day. Review your day's writing and identify the issue(s) that are really giving you trouble by underlining or simplifying the issue into a short sentence; then try to identify if it is a:

(a) fear (a future possibility but not a current reality)
(b) fact (that you just have to deal with)
(c) frustration (a problem that is recurrent)

Then use the other column to write down ideas, no matter how silly, to deal with them.

- are they realistic? (eg is it really likely that I won't get to the hospital in time and have to deliver in the car? probably not! Labour takes hours and it's only 15 minutes to the hospital!)
- is it helping to worry about this? (rarely, unless it's productive thinking where you consider alternatives or possible solutions)
- can you think of other ways things might play out? (eg if you are scared of a c-section -> alternately, you might have a natural birth, or perhaps a c-section will be faster and less stressful on you, dad and baby than an extended labour)
- is there a way you can alleviate the fear? (eg if you are worried you won't succeed at breastfeeding, sign up for a prenatal breastfeeding class, read a lot about it, see if there is a mom group or local La Leche League meeting you could attend)
- can you think of productive ways to help overcome the fear? (eg if you're afraid of the pain from labour but want a natural childbirth -> leave yourself the option of an epidural, learn breathing and moving techniques, ask for support from your spouse, talk about it with your care provider, practice perineal massage, etc.)

- is it a problem that can be solved? (eg you haven't booked a pre-natal class yet -> schedule a specific time to make that phone call)
- can you change your attitude about it by finding positive aspects (eg you may have to move and you don't want to. -> You could have a nicer house, you may make more money, the library might be bigger and better, during maternity leave is the ideal time to move, you will make new friends, there are more things to do there)
- can you change the facts? (eg you don't have enough money -> find a way to make some extra money, like selling things you don't use, taking in a child for after-school care, tutoring, crafting and selling on Etsy, part time work, swapping childcare with a neighbour so that you can get some time to work; also, find a way to cut back on extra spending - buy a frozen pizza for pizza night rather than ordering in, rent a movie or invite friends over to play a board game rather than going out, when you need new shoes get the decent $40 pair on sale rather than those lovely $95 ones)

- if there is something that keeps coming back and bothering you, try to think of a positive that outweighs the negative. (eg. Argh! My lazy husband left socks on the floor again! -> then again, my hard-working husband had a rough day at the office, he's super tired, fighting allergies, and he still took care of all our accounting when he got home and he put the winter tires on the car, and cleaned up the garden, and vacuumed, and made time to read a birth support book despite working ridiculous hours.... Hm. Kind of makes leaving a sock or two around not such a huge deal!)

I want to be clear that all these examples are JUST examples & not necessarily my issues! I promise, I've already booked our prenatal class, I'm okay with however the birth may go, etc..
(I do have a hard-working husband though!)

I find that just the act of reviewing whatever I'm upset about and trying to think of ways to resolve it helps me get past the emotional aspect of it and back to a more rational way of dealing with things. (Like my mother says, "It doesn't matter, and what if it did?")

If you are feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list, try to break down big tasks into small ones and schedule times to deal with each step - it's much easier to deal with things that way. Make lists of what needs to be done, then break each item into steps (eg: big overwhelming task: Decorate the nursery. Okay, that includes slipcovering the glider, getting a dust ruffle, installing a curtain rod, cleaning out the closet, hanging the art, etc... I have an hour on Saturday, so I can get the closet cleaned, etc.)

Anyway, this is just something I was thinking about as I, like the other women in my birth club, am going through the roller coaster of pregnancy hormones and find that I can be on the edge of tears one moment and laughing so hard I cry the next (why it all has to end in tears, I don't know!). I am loving being pregnant but it is definitely stressful, too. There seems like an awful lot to do and sort out. And such a big, life-changing event tends to stir up little things that weren't a big deal before but suddenly are all-consuming issues that need attention! Maintaining focus and taking the time to consider my concerns is helping me keep on a relatively even keel.

How do you deal with worry or stress?


  1. great tips! writing it all out and scheduling tasks helps so much! wish I could remember to stay regular at doing this.

  2. Oh my goodness, I LOVE your tips! I am a journaling-addict, and so your idea really spoke to me. I am such a type-A person, I love to put things into pro-con like columns, and this will be a great way to put my nervous energy to a more positive (and solution-finding) use!



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