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An open letter to the pregnant lady downstairs.

I see you. We talk politely.

I can tell that you’re not following the script. That script that is sent to your subconscious at the very moment you see those two little lines on your pregnancy test.

You know, the script that says:

“I’m the luckiest person alive.”

“You must be so happy.”

“This is such a special time, savour every moment.”

That’s okay. I didn’t follow it either.

I was afraid. I was overwhelmed. I was terrified of the irrevocable change that was barrelling my way, and I was anxious that I wasn’t up to the task.

Pregnancy doesn’t always bring up the feelings you’d expect.

Sometimes my anxiety would manifest in irrational ways. No-one expects a pregnant woman to be rational, which helps, but that doesn’t stop it being a rude shock when our emotions seem to run out of control. There are tears when you tell yourself that there should be joy. Arguments that 10 minutes later seemed like the terrible idea that they were. A rejection of affection and support when you need it most.

Are you stressing about things that seem unimaginably tiny to anyone else?

Are you sometimes paralysed by the fear that you’re going to be a very average mother?

Are you wondering where the hell your pregnancy glow is?

Then there are some things you need to know.

These things are not about how to cure nappy rash, or where to buy the best bottle, or how to wrap your baby so that they sleep through the night.

I have two kids and I don’t know any of those things.

But these are the things that I do know for sure.

However you’re feeling about your pregnancy, you will not be the only one who feels it.

One of the most wonderful things about parenthood is the discovery of the shared experience. You will meet women who will, after trust has been established over tales of sleepless nights and copious amounts of banana bread, tell you that they shared your pregnancy feelings.

But you might meet these women too late, which is why you need to know this right now.

10 things about pregnancy nobody tells you

1. It’s okay if your excitement is tinged with fear.

Nothing more significant will ever happen to you than what you’re about to go through. It will redefine your life. Sorry, no pressure. If you were not feeling afraid, you wouldn’t be human, never mind a mother.

It’s ok to be feeling a little scared.

2. It’s okay to be scared of change.

Sometimes being pregnant felt to me like driving a train that was veering out of control. There was no sane way of stopping or slowing what was happening to my body, my life – the changes just kept happening, every day, every week. Sometimes I’d want to slow the train down, sometimes I’d want to speed it up. You can do neither. It’s okay to be scared when you’re out of control.

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3. It’s okay to be afraid that what has happened before, might happen again.

If you have lost a baby, nothing anyone can say to you will calm the dread in the pit of your stomach that it will happen again. You cannot allow yourself to be happy until milestones are reached, dates counted down. Even then. There is no easy way to deal with it other than by taking it one breath at a time, day after day, with the best support you can find.

Jaime King on the struggles and agony of 5 miscarriages

4. It’s okay to feel unprepared.

Your life has not gone away because you are pregnant. I can see in your eyes that the same pressures are there – your work, your relationship, money and health – none of this vanishes because you’re making a person. Sometimes the anxiety about everything in my life not being perfect before the baby comes would overwhelm me. But there’s no such thing as perfect. Tell yourself that, and try to believe it.

5. It’s okay to doubt yourself.

Holly with her children (and partner) now.

If you have never done this before, how do you know if you can do it? Lurking in your mind is the possible reality that you are going to be the world’s worst parent. That you won’t live up to the parents who brought you up, or that you’ll repeat their same, sad mistakes. You can do it. You can.
But this is the most important one of all of those:

6. It’s okay to ask for help.

‘Ask for help’ should be scrawled on the top of every pre-baby to do list, and on every new mother’s fridge. It’s the only thing you need to know to get you through. Let go of pride, let go of shame, and ASK. Ask people in your life who have your back. Talk to them about how you’re feeling. Deflect comments that aren’t helpful, and anything else that adds to the anxiety mountain.

And pick up the phone. Antenatal depression is not discussed as much as post-natal depression, but feeling sad and anxious during your pregnancy is more common than you think. Reach out to your friends, your doctor or midwife. Reach out to the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline. They specialise in short-term advice for those moments when you can’t “snap out of it”.

Picking up the phone will be incredibly hard. But putting it down will be easier. Talking does that.

Be kind to yourself. It’s the biggest responsibility you have now, to make sure that you’re okay. So don’t pretend you’ve got it.

No-one needs to have everything together. But just knowing who to turn to when you feel things are falling apart? That’s what matters.

You’re going to be good. You really are.

Love, the lady upstairs.

Whatever feelings or thoughts are on your mind we’re here for you. Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak with a qualified counsellor for confidential advice and non-judgemental support.

If you would like to know more about pregnancy or caring for baby, visit www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au for online trusted information.

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