Samantha blogs about the impact the pandemic is having on her mental health.
I am 37 weeks pregnant and pretty scared. No point sugar coating it or beating around the bush – this is not how I envisaged my last few weeks of pregnancy. This is my first pregnancy and I have to admit that before becoming pregnant I was one of those people who thought that people exaggerated how grueling pregnancy is. But now my hands and feet are double the size, I have carpal tunnel, I can't sleep properly and generally feel awful! Add in the fact that my baby is going to be born in the middle of a global pandemic and the normal pregnancy worries and woes sky rocket.
Pregnancy and being a new parent is hard enough without a pandemic.
Pregnancy and being a new parent is hard enough without a pandemic. I can't speak for everyone who is pregnant but I think a lot of people in this situation feel a similar way.
Before COVID-19, my pregnancy anxieties were pretty hefty anyway. So many worries and irrational thoughts cluttered my mind. Will I be a good mother? Will I bond with the baby or will I develop post partum depression or psychosis? What if the junk food I've been eating has harmed the baby? Will my body ever be the same? What if I have a late miscarriage or what if I die during childbirth? I'm fully aware that these fears are extreme, but late at night in the deepest darkest corner of my mind these thoughts exist, and for some of them there is always a small possibility that these things could actually happen.
Prior to this I was handling these thoughts pretty well using CBT and trying to prepare in the best possible way. These thoughts are common amongst expectant parents – the unknown is and always will be a little bit scary no matter how you try to frame it. But the coronavirus has added some very real and some very irrational anxieties to my list. What if I get the virus and pass it on to the baby? What if I can't give birth with my husband in the same room? Will I get any postnatal support? What if this is the start of an apocalypse and society as we know it collapses and I'm bringing a baby into a world that will never be the same again? What if there will never be any toilet roll in the supermarket again?
My anxiety reached its peak after reading an article about women delivering their babies alone.
A few weeks back my anxiety reached its peak after reading an article about women delivering their babies alone and partners not being allowed to the hospital. What followed was days of waking up with the physical manifestations of anxiety (feeling like I couldn't breath a tightness in my chest, hot flashes, sweaty palms, being unable to sit still or feeling so overwhelmed I would just lie in bed still for hours) Then I started having panic attacks. I was able to reach out to some friends about how I was feeling, but the problem with anxiety is that it convinces you that everyone else around you would think that your feelings are trivial and It can also make it hard to actually articulate why you feel this way. I felt more isolated than ever, and my anxiety had me just where it wanted me – trapped in a corner, alone.
What helped was challenging the thoughts that were fuelling my anxiety, taking each thought at a time and trying my best to reframe it. I considered what I could and couldn't control and focused my energy on things I could control such as preparing for the baby's arrival to the best of my ability (I reorganised two wardrobes and made space for all his things). I forgave myself for the overwhelming days where I accomplished nothing, even though I have a ridiculously long to do list right now. I tried to limit my social media intake and the news. I had a big cry and told my husband everything I was worried about.
As an occupational therapist I told myself that purposeful activity can have a huge impact on mental wellbeing so I have made sure each day I am getting washed and dressed – even though I'm not going anywhere and even though dressed means a clean pair of PJs! I have been writing on my laptop, calling friends and family, reading articles that will be helpful for when I go back to work, reading books, watching my favorite TV shows and planning meals that I can freeze now for when the baby arrives so when I'm even more exhausted than I am right now I won't have to worry about cooking.
There is also the worry that because of the virus we don't know when family will be able to meet him.
There are certain things about this situation that are anxiety provoking regardless. There is the fact that myself and my husband have no income right now (we're both self-employed) and we are about to embark on the very expensive journey of parenthood with no idea of when we will be able to start earning again. There is also the worry that because of the virus we don't know when family will be able to visit us and meet him. And of course there is the fact people are dying from this virus, and we don't know when things will get better or what the future holds.
Every day I try to remind myself that I have little to no control over these factors and all I can do is take one day at a time. Sometimes I can only manage an hour at a time and count down the days till I get to meet my son for the very first time. And even though some days the world feels like It's on fire and crumbling around me, I really cannot wait to meet him.
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