As I write this, I am 37 weeks and two days pregnant. It feels pretty surreal knowing that Jeremy and I will be meeting our daughter in less than a month (really, I’m hoping less than three weeks but I’m trying to be realistic and patient).
I’ve got to say… these final couple weeks have been tough. I used to get kind of confused when pregnant women would say the last few weeks of pregnancy seemed to go on forever – You’re so close! Don’t complain! It’s really not that long! Suddenly, I get it. I am this weird mixture of anxiety and excitement, fear and elation. I cannot wait to go into labor, and at the same time I am terrified to go into labor. I am so excited to start our new life as a family of three, and simultaneously mourning the end of our life as a twosome. It’s a strange limbo.
The Hardest Part
While it’s probably not shocking to anyone, the third trimester has been the hardest one symptom-wise. And, frustratingly, my symptoms haven’t really been the ones I was expecting and mentally bracing myself for.
Here’s a fun little fact I’ve learned about the third trimester: some of the more common symptoms are also basically all of my panic attack triggers. Shortness of breath, dizziness, a pounding heart… they’re all pretty normal at the end of pregnancy, and they also all have the power to send me into an absolute downward spiral. A few weeks ago, I started attending weekly therapy in hopes of getting a little extra help with my increasing anxiety and to “set myself up for success” postpartum. One of our conversations went like this…
Therapist: What is your biggest, worst-case-scenario-level fear when you’re in the middle of a panic attack?
Therapist: Have you ever actually fainted?
Therapist: Remember that. Use that fact as a comfort when you’re feeling anxious. You’ve never fainted before, so why would you suddenly faint this time?
She was right! Why should I fear something that hasn’t happened in my ten years of having panic attacks? Clearly, that isn’t a logical fear. Silly me!
And then two days later I fainted at Target. Life is funny, isn’t it? The one little fact that I could cling to – that I’d never actually fainted – was no longer. Luckily, Jeremy was with me, I didn’t hit the ground, and it hasn’t happened since… but it’s really shaken me up.
Since then, I’ve basically been on edge. In fact, my anxiety got so insane one day that I went straight to triage, convinced I was having serious pregnancy complications. I got every test they could think of (including an EKG!) and everything looked completely normal… it was just general third trimester crappiness combined with my runaway anxiety.
Dealing with panic attack after panic attack has taken a major toll on my confidence. I really thought that the worst days of my panic disorder were behind me, and it’s been really tough having such a dramatic “relapse,” if you will. Jeremy and I are both pretty convinced that pregnancy is the culprit for most of it – the hormones, the increased heart rate, hot flashes, etc. – and I firmly believe I’ll feel a lot better once I give birth and my body gets back to normal (however long that takes).
Overall, this just wasn’t really something I was expecting and it’s been hard trying to cope with it on top of the typical physical discomforts of being this pregnant. I’ve also felt extreme guilt whenever anyone says to, “Take advantage of date nights!” and “Relax as much as you can!” when both a) public spaces currently make me feel like I’m dying and b) I cannot relax. I wasn’t even sure if I’d share this aspect of pregnancy on my blog, but I sharing is second nature and I hope (hope hope hope!) that one day I’ll read this back again and think, “God, I barely remember how that feels because panic attacks are such a thing of the past.” I feel extremely lucky to have the support system I have, and know that this crazy hormonal rollercoaster will all be worth it so soon.
The Best Part
There are two things that stick out as the BEST parts of the third trimester. Well, the best parts of pregnancy in general.
First, I love that every single day I wake up one day closer to meeting my daughter. It is like my childhood Christmas countdowns on steroids. We are no longer talking about her birth as if it’s a far off idea. Our hospital bag is packed, our hospital registration is submitted, and labor and delivery officially feels like it could be “any day now!” Knowing that we are so close after so many months of excitement is surreal.
My second favorite thing about being pregnant is, without a doubt, the love and support I’ve felt from women around me. I feel like I’ve joined this community of mamas (and hopeful mamas, pregnant mamas, future mamas, etc.) and we are all rooting for and relying on each other. I’ve received invaluable wisdom, advice, and general support throughout my entire pregnancy, and now at the tail end of it I’m relying on those helpful words more than ever. During my bad moments, I’ve always had someone to talk to, lift me up, and remind me, “It’s temporary.” On the good days – which truly are much more plentiful than the bad ones – I’ve had so many women to share and celebrate with. I’ve felt a wonderfully overwhelming amount of love and encouragement coming from near and far, and it’s made this experience even better.
All in all, I simply feel grateful. I am grateful I was able to get pregnant and grateful I have been able to carry her to term. These are two things I do not take for granted. Every anxious moment is forgotten when she gives me a strong kick and I know that she is OK. I remind myself daily that I am growing a human and I need to be easy on myself. And with three-ish weeks to go, I know one thing is true: any physical and mental discomfort I’ve had this pregnancy will be worth it tenfold once I’m holding my baby girl. And before too long, I’m certain I’ll be missing this big belly and those beautiful, comforting little kicks.