So you’re knocked up and someone with a stethoscope has calmly (they always speak so calmly to pregnant ladies) told you your pregnancy is in the “high risk” category.
Maybe you’re of advanced maternal age, or have type I diabetes, or you’re pregnant with twins. Or maybe – oh joy of joys! – you’re all three, as I recently was.
And maybe you find your condition a wee bit stressful and your right hand is clenched into a fist in preparation for the next person who comments on how big you are already or how tired you look.
Or you’ve locked yourself in your bedroom and only come out to pee (every 15 minutes) because you can’t stop sobbing for fear and worry about your baby?
Read on, sister. Here’s what you need to know to survive until your baby safely arrives and the crazy subsides.
1. Every crazy-ass feeling you’re having is totally normal. In the span of a few milliseconds you will go from rueing the day (or night) you got yourself into this mess to being scared to death your baby will be malformed, sick, stillborn or otherwise unhealthy and it will be ALL YOUR FAULT to blissed out and nesting, ready to take on the world and wipe down your mop boards with Clorox using only a Q-tip. You are entitled to all these feelings and more, not to mention that bawling your freaking eyes out three times a day is your constitutional right. Use it.
2. It’s your partner’s job to listen compassionately as you complain. Make sure he or she (I don’t want to be all hetero-normative on you) knows it. And knows how to nod sympathetically while giving killer foot rubs.
3. NEVER GO TO AN ULTRASOUND ALONE. Never ever. Remember my aforementioned twin pregnancy? Well, at nine weeks I went to an ultrasound ALONE and found out one of them wasn’t “viable.” I had to drive my sobbing self home where my husband had to pick me up off of the driveway cement. You need your people with you so you can collapse in their arms right there at the clinic if – GAWD FORBID – you get bad news.
4. Always be sticky sweet (authentically, if possible) to your care providers – until you can’t be anymore. Guess what? Pregnant people who treat other people well get treated better by people who treat pregnant people. Got that? If you want great prenatal care, save your bitching for your partner (see number 2). That said, if the care you’re getting is somehow lacking and jeopardizing your safety or that of your baby, raise a holy ruckus. And then switch doctors.
5. If you’re going to Google your condition… (and I KNOW you are, I’m not even going to tell you not to) then FOR THE LOVE OF JON HAMM DON’T READ ANY FORUM POSTS! Medical forums are full of those people who try to tell you birth horror stories in waiting rooms. Avoid them as you would a three-way mirror while wearing only your maternity undies.
6. Get your pregnant butt in bed by 8 p.m. Or better yet, 7. The earlier you turn in, the better your odds of somehow ending up with a level of rest that would almost qualify as life-sustaining. Between trips to the bathroom, trying to wriggle into a comfortable position and straight-up insomnia, sleep is going to get tough real fast. Commit to spending nine hours in bed, whether you’re actually sleeping or not.
7. Listen to shit that calms you down. Rinse and repeat. For me, it was audiobooks by Pema Chodron. Maybe for you it’s ocean sounds or Julio Iglesias or ambient techno pop. Listen to it regularly and train your brain to chill out. Anxiety is one of your biggest enemies; if you can control that, you’ve got half the battle bagged.
8. Remember, you are not alone. Misery loves company, and despite what people who post cute baby bump pictures on Facebook would have you believe, there’s plenty of gestational misery to go around. As my best gal Pema taught me (see number 7), sometimes just remembering that “other people feel this” can help a little bit.
9. Throw money at your problems. Stock up on Tucks, colace, Tums, vulva support belts, gigantic bras and acetaminophen. If they make a product that claims to soothe what ails you, give it a shot. Also spend freely on delicious healthy food you don’t have to cook and a house cleaning service. You can embrace frugality once this baby graduates and asks you to cough up college tuition. Not now.
10. Offload. That goes for both emotions and tasks. Keep a list of what’s stressing you out so your brain doesn’t feel the need to constantly keep a running tally at the forefront of your thoughts. When someone asks what they can do to help, refer to your list. Have them call the damn insurance company to fight about why that last ultrasound wasn’t covered, or take your dog in to have his teeth cleaned. You’ve got bigger shit to deal with, such as perfecting your positive visualization of a healthy little bundle in your arms and putting a stop to the insanity that goes hand-in-hand with high risk pregnancy.