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As I write this I am one day short of 23 weeks pregnant. Over the past three weeks I’ve felt very discouraged. I’m already dealing with so many pregnancy nuisances – heartburn, rib pain, indigestion, constipation, lower back pain, symphysis pubis pain, and fatigue.
I was really hoping I would get further into pregnancy before hitting the miserable-all-the-time stage.
Strangers ask me when I’m due now, and I still have four months to go.
This past weekend was pretty much awful for our family. We were all fighting with each other, miscommunication was abounding, and our son’s behavior was in a rough patch. I just wanted to run away from everything. I did a lot of crying. And the last thing I wanted to think about was bringing another child into this mayhem.
Monday morning dawned with beautiful weather, but I was incredibly depressed. All I wanted to do was lie on the couch and binge on Netflix and ice cream.
Instead, I had a computer repair that meant I had to take a trip to the mall. While there, my husband called and insisted that I take a few laps around the mall. I didn’t want to, but I heeded his encouragement. I also stopped by the maternity store and got some new shorts and some belly butter. By the time I got home, I felt like a new person.
I went on that day to also walk at the park, treated myself to a chocolate milkshake, and we actually had a pleasant evening as a family. I ended the day by going to bed early.
Pregnancy is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t expect to feel like a rock star every day. You just can’t.
But what you can do is hope and try for continual forward momentum.
For me, throughout the pregnancy, it was so easy for me to look at my list of things I was so desperately trying to control: my weight, my baby’s positioning, my exercise routines, my diet. And when I felt like I was failing – when the number on the scale went up more than I thought it should, when I started swelling, when I said yes to sugar too many times, or when the discomfort of pregnancy was just too overwhelming – I would get discouraged.
When this happened during my first pregnancy, I gave up. And I let it defeat me.
With Little Brother, things were different.
At 32 weeks, I again found myself discouraged. Between vacation and the Independence Day holiday, I hadn’t eaten so well. I felt like I just kept getting bigger and bigger. I was finding it hard to move around, let alone exercise. Sitting properly for fetal positioning was getting harder because of my size. Round ligament pain, psoas pain, and intense Braxton Hicks contractions were abounding. In other words, 3rd trimester was knocking me on my butt. So on a tired Sunday, I went to the store and stocked up on healthy food, ate a salad, chugged some water and supplements, then went to the park and blasted Mandisa’s “Stronger” on repeat while I walked 1.13 miles. I ended up getting poured on and walked the last little bit while drenched. Afterward, I felt so much better. And I started the week in a much better place.
Here are some things you can do to fight discouragement in your pregnancy:
1. Just. Keep. Moving.
Exercise is daunting, especially when you are pregnant. But if you can just. keep. moving., it really can be your best defense against depression. Not to mention all of the health benefits.
Take a walk around the block, or around the mall. Get off the couch and rest in child’s pose. Dance to music in your living room. Take five or ten minutes and do something that gets your body moving.
I know. Easier said than done when your throat is burning and you have a baby’s butt in your ribs. But taking deep cleansing breaths can really help clear your mind and focus on what really matters.
3. Seek out some oxytocin
Focus on your other children. Rock them, hug them, cuddle and kiss them. Get physical with your spouse. This releases calming chemicals into your body and helps you relax and feel happier. Spending quality physical time with your existing children can help you keep perspective – that pregnancy and even all you are doing to prepare for an amazing birth experience is not the end-all of your new baby’s life. There’s so much still to come, and no matter what the outcome of your VBAC attempt, what’s most important is the rest of your child’s life.
4. Focus on the long term
Following up on #3, I think this was a lot easier because I had an almost 5-year-old constantly reminding me how quickly life passes with little ones. So the nights of heartburn and rib pain became more bearable when I stopped to focus on how quickly the time was going to go, and how short this pregnancy misery really lasts.
5. Use music and affirmations to remind you of the long-term
I speak of this a lot more in my posts about my pregnancy and labor playlist and affirmations for pregnancy and labor. A great place to start with is the songs Stronger and Before the Morning. Stronger was my personal anthem during Little Brother’s pregnancy, and Before the Morning helped me through the final days of Ezra’s pregnancy.
When the waves are taking you under
Hold on just a little bit longer
He knows that this is gonna make you stronger, stronger
The pain ain’t gonna last forever
And things can only get better
This is gonna make you stronger
Mandisa – Stronger Lyrics
Would you dare, would you dare to believe
That you still have a reason to sing?
‘Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It can’t compare to the joy that’s coming
So hold on, you gotta wait for the light
Press on and just fight the good fight
‘Cause the pain that you’ve been feeling
It’s just the dark before the morning
Josh Wilson – Before The Morning Lyrics
6. Do something for YOU
Yes weight and diet matters, but sometimes a pregnant mama just needs a milkshake or a Coke. Paint your nails. Rub some lotion on your belly. Buy yourself some cute maternity clothes. Celebrate the mother you are, the mother you are going to be, and the amazing work you are doing just by being alive right now.
7. Do something for baby
Not for pregnancy – not for labor. For BABY. Work on the nursery, fold baby clothes, just something to remind you of the end result– which is not a successful VBAC, but a healthy, beautiful baby.
8. Reach out to someone who can encourage you
For me, it was my two closest friends and my doula (who I befriended very early on in my pregnancy). Sometimes an encouraging word (or some validation of my misery) from my biggest cheerleaders was all I needed to get through a difficult day.
9. Take a nap
Seriously, I found naps to be so heavenly during this pregnancy, and by the 3rd trimester, I was napping almost daily. It’s just the reset that you need.
10. Hide the scale
It’s stressful enough worrying about your weight and having to be weighed at your prenatals. You do NOT need the stress of weighing yourself at home. Hiding the scale will help ward off discouragement.
When I look back on my pregnancy and birth experience as a whole, it is the times when I was discouraged – but not overcome – where I feel the most accomplishment. When I kept moving forward. When I was knocked down but got back up. I was a healthier person throughout Little Brother’s pregnancy – not just physically, but emotionally. And I am stronger for those times, in every way.