My husband is very thoughtful. He is the better cook and despite his propensity to create meals with chili powder and Sriracha, he has taken to making me deliciously bland foods as third trimester heartburn rages. He tracks each week of pregnancy with his fruit/vegetable comparison calendar and tries to incorporate that item into a dish during the week. Week 31 is a coconut – I’ll keep you posted how that goes!
This weekend he bought me a body pillow to help with insomnia. It’s hard to criticize when he is being so considerate, but it was like getting up in the middle of the night and trying to solve a Rubiks Cube! This contraption had velcro and three different pieces! Now I wasn’t just awake, I was WIDE awake trying to figure out where to put my head, my belly and my bum! I have since abandoned the body pillow and instead, my husband has gifted me a loving card and a new shiny unopened box of pepcid!
I know that his support and efforts are in an attempt to decrease my level of stress. I had a moment during the second trimester when I truly felt that my personal stress was getting the better of me. I was able to objectively remember the advice I had given to so many patients in the past: our bodies are amazing and adaptive, both mother and fetus. Short periods of stress should not have a negative impact on maternal or fetal health status. It is only in periods of prolonged exposure to stress that mother or baby can be at risk. However, intervention prior to that time is part of the prenatal care process. I reviewed in my mind the stress reduction techniques I often recommend. Unfortunately, I was also harboring negative thoughts that I had already failed as a mother because I was not protecting my unborn baby from the stress that I was experiencing. Despite my medical background, I was having a difficult time applying my knowledge to my own experience.
And then I tried…
I went for a long walk. I bought a coloring book. I listened to music that made me smile. I confided in friends and family who I felt could be supportive — including my VBOG OB team. I rode my bike. I exercised. I shopped (maybe too much). And I started to feel better.
I accepted that I could not control everything around me. I committed to trying to control only the components of life that I could. I relieved myself of the guilt of feeling like a failing mother.
We all have stress, we all try to protect our children and families, and we will all make mistakes.
And hopefully we will all, myself included, continue to try to be the best version of ourselves.
Please don’t hesitate to talk to your prenatal care providers about your stress. It is likely they have experienced some or all of what you’re feeling and would really like to help.
In this case, feeling stressed did not equate to more desserts due to that heartburn thing I keep mentioning…but maybe that new box of pepcid will help!
Ilene B. Goldstein, M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist, practicing at Virginia Beach Obstetrics & Gynecology. She and her husband, Len Futerman, DDS, are expecting their first daughter in November, 2015. Dr. Goldstein practices in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, VA.