I remember feeling so fortunate to fall pregnant quickly. I’d felt prepared for motherhood for a long time and my husband and I were excited and ready to start a family.
Within days of my first scan at six weeks pregnant, I soon realised how mentally unprepared I was for the pregnancy journey ahead. As I progressed through the first trimester, anxiety began to creep deeper into my days and nights.
I began to feel dissociated from my body, and the uncontrollable elements of pregnancy and worst-case scenarios were replaying in my mind on repeat.
The anxiety would find different ways to attack me each day, or sometimes even hourly. How sick would I feel today, and what pregnancy symptoms would I get? What if I fainted while I was alone? Would my fears and anxieties pass onto my baby, did I actually still want a baby and could I give them the life they deserved?
Getting out of bed was enough to induce the feeling that I wasn’t safe. I felt fear everywhere and began shutting off from the world around me. I started declining invites from friends and family and friends to catch up and hoping my phone wouldn’t ring.
The feelings were so overwhelming that I lost all excitement I once had about bringing a baby into the world.
At a routine scan, I struggled to connect with the image of my baby on the ultrasound screen. Seeing this tiny human that I was growing, such a special moment for many – made me nauseous. My obstetrician excitedly told me that my baby looked happy and healthy but all I felt was an overwhelming feeling that I had more months of anxiety to push through.
As my pregnancy progressed further into my second trimester, my mind turned past pregnancy to birth, and my next challenge – my deep fear of hospitals which I’ve had since I was a child. By this stage, the thought of being in a hospital had become so overwhelming, that I could no longer attend my routine scans or obstetric appointments.
I know how fortunate I was to fall pregnant quickly, and that for many it can be very difficult to understand how the blessing of growing a baby could induce crippling fear. Having a baby was always my dream but I couldn’t have predicted the scale of my anxiety.
Thankfully my husband was calm and an incredible teammate while I was pregnant (and an amazing dad now) and never stopped believing in me, us, and our baby. He reminded me that no matter how bad I felt I’d never have to repeat that day, but this became tough on him too.
I’d heard of Gidget Foundation Australia through two friends and although I wasn’t sure how I could be helped, I was willing to give anything a try.
I attended my first appointment with angst and uncertainty but it proved to be a turning point in my pregnancy. A team grew around me and my incredible Gidget Clinicians brought together my GP, my wonderful Obstetrician Rachael and Midwife Claire and Obstetric Social Worker Deb (who is the real life guardian angel of new parents), to build a support plan. Together we trialed various treatments, and worked on in-hospital exposure therapy and a plan for my birth. The team helped me walk the steps that I would walk the day I birthed my baby, over and over to lessen the unknown. Over time, I went from not being able to walk into the hospital, to be able to sit on a bed in the maternity ward.
There were many accommodations made to ensure that the physical health of my baby and I remained a priority while working on my mental health. The team at Gidget, along with my Midwife, OB and Obstetric Social Worker truly carried me through when I needed it most. I can’t imagine where I would be without them, or how I ever would have made it to childbirth.
When the day finally came to deliver my baby, I was terrified, however, there was a familiarity all the way to the delivery suite. The careful planning, patience, and reassurance in the months leading up to delivery gave me enough confidence to know what I was doing. I may not have enjoyed it, but I knew that my job was to stay calm and focus on what I needed to do to deliver my baby, and to trust the incredible experts around me to help me get there. I managed to walk into the hospital birth suite, and we spent another 4 days in hospital after our baby girl was born.
I have shared my story in the hope of helping anyone who is experiencing or knows someone who is experiencing, anxiety or mental ill-health. If my story has resonated with you, know that you don’t need to do it alone and there’s help available.