The day I started to take less notice of the external white noise was the day I could start enjoying pending motherhood.
The biggest surprise during my first pregnancy was the presence of two heartbeats, however, a close second was the constant barrage of negative stories I had to politely sit and endure from an overwhelming number of people.
All of these stories had a similar ending – the babies or twins they were talking about had died, were born sick, or were born so premature that they didn’t leave the hospital for months.
These people may have a mother’s best interests at heart, but in the final stages of pregnancy, all a mum can hope for is the safe delivery of their healthy baby, or in my case, two healthy babies. It’s something you can’t plan and you just have to have faith that everything will be okay. However, with each story presenting another possible complication, risk or fear, a little bit of hope ( which a mother is fiercely clinging to) is shattered, often making those last few months more difficult than they need to be.
Unfortunately, the stories all outlined the sad realities of what can go wrong. The truth, however, is that expectant mothers know the potential complications of their pregnancy – every single one. From those that the obstetrician spoke about the moment a heartbeat appears on the ultrasound monitor, to those that we compulsively Google at all hours of the day and night.
Like any expectant mother, I didn’t need any help in fearing the worst, but I needed reassurance that there was every chance I would bring two healthy babies into the world. Overcoming the fear instilled upon mums by society as a whole (as I discovered first hand) is no easy feat, and the unfair thing is that it can taint what should be one of the most exciting times in a girl’s life. I spent many sleepless nights obsessing over what people told me could go wrong, to the point where I was dreading my scheduled induction.
It did take a lot of soul-searching, time and tears but there were positive people and a new mindset that eventually got me past this surprising struggle. Talking with my husband about these fears was the most valuable source of solace I had during the tough days. My husband likes facts and has the ability to keep a level head no matter the situation. Luckily for me, he never managed to get as wrapped up in the ‘what ifs’ as I did. Although harbouring the same anxieties as I had in regards to the health of our boys, he was able to rationalise better than me and while I was overly emotional, he was more balanced and could take value from the stories whilst still appraising the fact that my pregnancy was progressing smoothly. A problem shared is a problem halved. I blame the hormones, but for a big part of my pregnancy, my husband was the voice of reason which I couldn’t always find for myself.
I was lucky enough to have a very down-to-earth obstetrician who was wonderful in delivering the right amount of information and was open to questioning. What she wasn’t open to was indulging me in my unfounded anxieties about things that were not relevant to my pregnancy. If I’m honest, at times I found myself thinking that she wasn’t worried enough about everything that could go wrong and it wasn’t until the latter stages of my pregnancy that I realised that she would worry when there was something to actually worry about and not a moment sooner.
Frank discussions and dialogue with a midwife or obstetrician involved in your care is the most accurate way to get information on your pregnancy. Textbooks, websites, cited articles and fact sheets might be able to deliver accurate general facts and figures, but each pregnancy journey is tailor-made and unique. What you find researching may not pertain specifically to your situation, whereas the information that your medical provider gives you will be.
Being practical about how you approach these story-tellers that all mean well was also key in overcoming the negativity. Some strategies were easier to create and implement than others. For example, to avoid the little lady from next door with her doomsday stories, I pretended to be on a phone call each time I went to check the letterbox. To avoid the ‘means well’ stranger in the supermarket, I would pretend I was in a hurry; and to avoid the negative colleague in the tearoom, I took a lunch break with a friend.
However, when it is your friends and family who are emotionally dragging you down, it’s a lot more difficult. I’m not the kind of person who would outright tell a loved one to stop. If you’re that type of person, then this is your quick fix – tell them that you appreciate that they think they’re helping, but they’re not. I didn’t feel comfortable with that approach, so I was left with no other option but to change my attitude about it.
I decided that these people cared for me and my husband and all wanted the same outcome as we did. No one was wishing these sad stories upon us. Wrongly or rightly, they considered it their duty to prepare us for the ‘what ifs’. It’s not what we needed, but it might have been what they needed to feel helpful as we prepared for such a monumental life change. The day I started to take less notice of the external white noise in regards to my pregnancy and focus only on the perspectives of those clinically informed, was the day I could start enjoying pending motherhood.
It wasn’t easy, but eventually, I was able to recognise that with each day I was creating my own new positive pregnancy story that these negative storytellers might witness and start to tell some other expectant mother one day. And for the record, it is possible to have a smooth pregnancy and two happy healthy twins at the end of it!