Thursday, August 14, 2014

Choosing Joy and Managing Anxiety

Often I feel helpless towards the anxiety that bubbles up every so often during this pregnancy. I entered into this pregnancy knowing that anxiety would be a reality but that doesn't mean that it is any less surprising when a panic attack comes on. Thankfully they have been few and far between but when something rocks me, when fear and grief and darkness enter back into my mindset, I feel a suffocating pressure.

It surprises me that whenever a friend or acquaintance announces a safe and happy delivery online, that while overall I am joyful for them, underneath lurks a jealousy that feels ugly. In my mind, safe deliveries feel like a twisted lottery and when I lost James, it was because my number was up. Every delivery of a living baby is warped in my mind to mean that I could be that 1 in 160 once again.

This year I have found that the mind is a strange place, it has the capability of so much power over our general state of happiness. At times, I have felt that there was absolutely no control over where my mind took me. What I have come to realize however, is that with guidance, effort and consistency,  I can direct the state of my mind away from the anxiety.

Shop for baby
One of the hardest parts after losing James was packing away all that I had taken out in preparation for his coming. All of the onesies and blankets and that stupid bassinet, all were shoved quickly into a closet. Choosing to actually buy more baby clothes is one way that I feel helps me to choose joy. Choosing to plan and prepare and imagine, despite all that I know could happen. Every time I purchase something, it feels like a small step towards hope and that hope brings me a lot of peace and joy.

Rereading The Gift of Giving Life
I first read this book when I was pregnant with James and it helped me a ton to connect to the spiritual side of pregnancy and birth. I also reread portions of it after I lost James, to try to help me understand that even though things had not turned out how I imagined, that there was still meaning and beauty within it all. I was so happy to open it once more once we unpacked it from a box where it has been kept for the last six months. It has an entire chapter on fear that has been IMMENSELY helpful in reminding me how to have peace, which as I have said before is a huge aspect of me feeling joy. (FYI this book is written by  LDS women and therefore much of the vocabulary and references are LDS based. However in reality, I imagine any woman of faith would enjoy and benefit from it). What I love most about this book is that it is a collaboration of personal stories and articles written by midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, etc. It is wonderful to just pick up and thumb through and read a portion at a time, at a pace that works for you.

I have never been consistent at documenting my pregnancies but this time I have made more of an effort to. Each picture of my rounded stomach is a reminder that there is life inside and that brings great comfort.

Enjoying the Kicks
This baby kicks and kicks and kicks and I don't mind one bit. Yes, it can be incredibly uncomfortable. It can be distracting when I am trying to relax or go to sleep, but I am never NOT grateful for each reminder that this boy is alive and well.

Prenatal Yoga
Yoga has been a HUGE lifesaver for me. It focuses my thoughts and reminds me to prepare and take care of this body so that it can do its best growing the life within. Additionally, it helps relieve so many aches and pains that I feel that sometimes contribute to my general state of anxiety. It relaxes me both physically and mentally and gives me a feeling of strength. Overall, I REALLY love it when I make the effort to do it. It can be hard to completely focus and relax with a toddler suddenly visualizing my body as his personal monkey bars, but over time and a promise of ONE crawling under me in hands/knees position, he has been wonderful at giving me a little space. Of course, I also go into it expecting to be interrupted, giving myself permission to press pause or end before it's over.There are some BAD yoga DVDs out there, but I have LOVED Jane Austin's prenatal yoga DVD and the Body Talk Daily series for free on YouTube. I switch them up to keep things exciting.

Writing and Talking
I write on here when I can, but I have started to keep paper by the side of my bed because right before I start to drift off, a barrage of thoughts, worries, epiphanies, and ideas come to my mind. It can keep me up if I don't get them onto some sort of solid source, so I write with a pen and paper. Most of it is rambling, stream of consciousness, but it feels good to let it out. Alternatively, I have been known to wake Kyle up in the middle of the night, to call my mom during her lunch break, and to go over and over the same thing with friends when I visit. My verbal communication skills are probably even more rambling than my written, but nevertheless a listening ear is a huge help.

Scripture Study/Singing Hymns/Prayer
Connecting spiritually with Heavenly Father ALWAYS provides the necessary perspective shift when I feel anxiety and darkness start to close in. I am not perfect at scripture study or always remembering to pray when I start my day, but it has been an incredible lesson to me to realize how much I NEED that spiritual nourishment for my general well-being. It alters my day for the better every single time and I am grateful for an understanding, patient, and merciful Heavenly Father who remains consistent in His outpouring of love. I feel that love when I pray and sing and study.

Time with Family
My husband and son are my rocks. Sometimes I selfishly want to spend time alone, and at times this is necessary. But my days go best when I find joy in who I have around me. They know me and love me and care for me and at the end of the day, they aid me in finding joy now.

My anxiety often convinces me that once baby comes happy and healthy THEN I can be happy and relax and breath and all will be well. But it just isn't true. I will feel the loss of James forever, this is the reality that I have come to accept. Some days feel worse than others, but I KNOW that joy is still possible. Peace and comfort are still attainable and that James WANTS us to choose joy. He wants us to be happy within our circumstances. Pregnancy after loss is tough, I knew it would be going into it, but I am grateful for the way it has stretched me to grow. The observations it has forced me to make about myself, to be honest and open to my weakness in all aspects and to continue living onward through them, gaining understand, strength, and peace along the way.

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