Postpartum anxiety, devastating prenatal diagnosis: What to expect when parenthood isn't what you expected

January 27 | Guest post by Kelly Bauer
Photo by name
Photo by Kelly Bauer

If there is one thing you can expect when you are having a baby, it's that everyone will have some bit of advice for you. Parents and the childless alike will have some witty remark or tip given in earnest. Some will simply chuckle as they reassure you that "you'll never sleep again!" (By the way, I've decided that people who are amused by the impending sleep deprivation of expectant parents, reveal themselves to be rather sadistic. Don't you think?) And, while your newly identified sadistic friends are giggling, another acquaintance will provide you with a list of "must-have" items. (Should you choose to not purchase that cherry-scented butt-wipe warmer, your children will obviously grow up to be criminals.)

If this is your first child, it can be difficult to distinguish the helpful advice from the nonsense. (Pro-tip: most of it is nonsense.) But, even if you are expecting your second, third, or fourth child, or beyond, you will continue to receive similar "advice" from honest well-wishers and know-it-alls alike.

The thing is, no one really knows what you should expect, when you're expecting. More often than not, the things you experience as a parent are not what you expected. Sometimes they're beautiful little surprises, like the first time your child says "I love you," or a sweet drawing of the family, brought home from school. They are wonders that you never could have prepared for, like the immense love you never realized yourself capable of feeling.

Unfortunately, sometimes things are not so wonderful. The stomach bug comes to mind, or a twisted ankle during a baseball game. Sometimes it's Postpartum Anxiety. A devastating prenatal diagnosis. An abortion.

So, what do you do when pregnancy or parenthood isn't what you expected? For mothers and fathers alike, one of the most important things that you can do is find someone to talk to. A licensed therapist, preferably one that specializes in the mental health of postpartum women or in that of parents, can be especially helpful. It can be scary to admit to yourself that things aren't what you expected, and even scarier to speak that truth aloud to a therapist.

You aren't alone, though. It took me two-and-a-half years before I sought therapy to deal with Postpartum Anxiety after the birth of my son. Two-and-a-half years of being afraid. Two-and-a-half years of insomnia and panic attacks. Two-and-a-half years of knowing that this was not what I expected.

That's why, when I lost my daughter at 22 weeks pregnant, I did not hesitate to call my therapist. I did not expect to get a lethal fetal anomaly diagnosis in the form of Spina Bifida Myelomeningocele. I did not expect to choose a surgical abortion over carrying my daughter to term, only to watch her die shortly after birth. What I did expect though, through previous experience, was that therapy would be an invaluable tool towards healing.

So, though I try my best to not give unsolicited advice to expectant parents. Were I asked to share anything, it would be this — you won't enjoy every moment, and that's okay. However, I hope that you will enjoy most moments, more than you ever dreamed possible, so soak them up as best you can. That, and find a good therapist.

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  1. What a perfect post. This came at just the the right time for me.
    I've been suffering with horrific morning sickness, that all came to a head on the weekend where I need to be hospitalised for fluids overnight. I've been diagnosed with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is a pregnancy condition that causes uncontrollable vomiting and nausea, which can lead to dehydration and malnutrition. In the most severe cases, women have been known to opt for terminating their pregnancies rather than continuing, sometimes because of the very real threat to their health.
    I am not suffering to that degree. But it scares me. A lot. I only had one day of being unable to keep down any food or liquids, and that was enough for me to require hospitalisation. Only one night in hospital but still. I'm on medication now that helps somewhat, but it doesn't always feel that way. I'm exhausted all the time, I spend so much time lying down or sleeping and I just can't keep up with the housework.
    This pregnancy has not been AT ALL what I expected. I expected to glow. I expected to feel all earth-mama-happy-floaty whatever! I expected an easy pregnancy and then maybe a slightly harder labour and then a beautiful baby. Then I'd do it again in a year or two. I expected to want a big family.
    But this has been hard. Slogging it out, mud in your teeth, thankless with no joy hard. And it's really making me reconsider having another child at all, which breaks my heart cos I loved having sisters, I still love having sisters.
    It will still be worth it, I'll still have a beautiful baby at the end of it. But right now, I'm not enjoying pregnancy at all and if I'm honest, I'm counting down the weeks til it's over.
    I think I need to talk to someone, get a therapist. I already have depression but came off my medication to get pregnant, but I don't feel like I'm coping anymore.
    Thanks for this post, it's really helped.

    8 agree
    • I feel for you and your situation. Sorry you have to go through this. Know that even if you decide not to go through another pregnancy, there are other options to grow your family. Fostering, adoption, etc. Good luck with everything. Hopefully the doctors and you can get the condition under control and hopefully it eases for your pregnancy goes along.

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    • I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis, and that pregnancy so far has been so different than you expected/hoped.

      I also have been diagnosed with anxiety/depression and have recently gone off meds in preparation for trying to get pregnant. I went off my psych meds a little over a month ago and only went off of hormonal birth control a couple of weeks ago. Right now I kind of feel like a cluster of symptoms loosely held together in the shape of a human being, and that's (probably) before actually becoming pregnant.

      I'm mostly just hoping that by assuming pregnancy will be awful I'll either be right or pleasantly surprised, but this is making me wonder whether trying therapy again might be worthwhile. (And/or making sure to set-up times to have longer, more intense conversations with friends.)

      1 agrees
    • Hello there Mama, I see you. <3 I'm holding you in strength and health and I 200% co-sign your thought to seek therapy to help you through this. Therapy is self-care, and it sounds to me like you are in dire need of some self-care, and of course you would be! Being sick and feeling unwell for long periods of time is enough to unhinge even the strongest, most battle-hardened among us. Combine that with the emotions and uncertainty that come with preparing to welcome your first child, and yes, I'd say some intentional self-care and a good therapist is just the thing. Please, please feel free to reach out any time (all my contact info is on my blog). I have a lot of peer-support resources and would be happy to help you find a good therapist in your area. A good place to start would be PostpartumProgress.org. On their website, they have a listing of therapists in various states who specialize in Pre and Postnatal life. They will have the right experience and knowledge to properly counsel you through your pregnancy and beyond. I am so glad to have helped you in anyway, and wish you all the best. Comments like yours are the reason I write.

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      • Kelly, your comments are so loving and positive and kind. I want to wrap myself up in your words like a blanket and be protected from negativity by your vibes. Thank you for spreading that around!

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        • Oh my goodness, you are so sweet. Y'all are gonna make me cry! I feel like Oprah, "You get a hug, you get a hug, EVERYBODY GETS A HUUUUUUUG!"

          In all seriousness, there is no better balm for grief and pain than Love. <3

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    • If you're changing your medication, it's a really good idea to have a therapist. They can give you alternative coping strategies, such as mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapy, and gauge how you're doing without your medication. I tried going off Lexapro for pregnancy because of a small but real risk of a scary complication at birth, but I just couldn't adult without it and almost lost my job. With my therapist and psychiatrist, I decided that I'd take the small risk that comes with the medication so that I could keep myself stable during pregnancy and after. My baby was APGAR 9/10 – nearly a perfect score for health at birth. Now I have a wonderful two-year-old daughter who couldn't possibly be happier or healthier, and I'm a better mom because I'm taking care of my mental health.

      In short, be kind to yourself – you're not a failure or a monster if you can't hack it without your medication – and talk to a professional or two who can help you truly understand the risks and benefits of each medication and mental health condition during pregnancy/postpartum.

      1 agrees
      • Katie,

        I just want to pop by and say 100% YES to your comment. That and give you a little virtual fist bump for being brave and informed during your pregnancy by choosing to do what you knew was the right and healthiest choice for both of you. After all, a distraught and unemployed Mama would not have been good for your daughter. You are SO RIGHT about being a better Mama because you are taking care of your mental health. That's some A+ self care! Thanks for your courage in owning your narrative. It is powerful voices like yours that will help to de-stigmatize mental illness, pre and postnatal mood disorders and medication as a form of treatment.

        Thank you for adding your voice and contributing towards change. <3

        Sending you love!

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  2. Amen.

    I was diagnosed with Postpartum Anxiety and postpartum PTSD a little over a year after my twins were born. I had been having waking nightmares, panic attacks, visions of horrible things happening to us, the worst rage. I didn't recognize what was happening to me until their 1st birthday. When I had the most epic of epic panic attacks while putting away groceries. I had gone into labor at the grocery store and had to take a cab to the hospital to have my twins. The only thing I brought with me was a shopping bag full of groceries. So 1 year later while carrying the same grocery bag home from the store I lost it. A year after that when I was put on strict hospital bed rest at 23 weeks pregnant I knew the first thing I needed to do was get a counselor. Four years later I am better. I still have an occasional waking nightmare but I can talk myself through it now.

    So that is now my one and only piece of advice for new parents. Talk it out. Either with a friend, partner, or therapist. I doesn't matter if you are just typical level of new parent exhausted/ stressed or have full blown postpartum mood disorders everyone needs to get help.

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    • Keren, thank you so much for sharing. Sounds like you experienced your first major "trigger" with the grocery bag. I completely understand how that goes. Triggers are awful and good all at the same time, when we identify them, we become more empowered in managing our anxiety, but being surprised and blindsided by them is pretty much the worst. You are so, so brave for seeking help and I am so happy to hear that you are doing better. Good job, Mama!!!

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  3. My struggle is that I constantly flip-flop between wanting to have them versus not wanting them. I've never pictured myself being a mom, but I also think that the "child-free" lifestyle seems so incredibly harsh.

    My partner has always wanted kids, and would be a truly amazing father, but has also said he loves me more than kids and would be fine with getting a dog and being an awesome uncle. I would obviously never want to deprive him of having children, but I don't know if I'm ready. I also know there is a lot of family/societal pressure to have kids.

    My anxieties stem from two big things: 1) financial – I feel like I'm just getting ahead financially and money is my largest source of anxiety. I feel that with kids, all of my time and money will go towards them..forever. and 2) I unfortunately had a terrible homelife growing up, categorized by violence and mental illness. And as a result, I'm super fearful repeating the same mistakes.

    But then I read stories of moms who sound kind of similar to me, never expected or necessarily wanted to have kids, but decided to have them and that it changed their lives…and I just don't know. I'm not 100% against the idea, but I'm also not 100% sold. I'm 27 though and I wonder if I'm running out of time.

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    • I'm am 32 and prego with my 1st child. Don't feel that you have to rush into having kids if you are not sure. Keep thinking things through and talking about it with trusted friends and your partner. I didn't 'get on board' with really wanting to personally have children until I was 30 or 31. Our lives were more on track and I saw several close family and friends start to have kids. It was great to be a fun Aunt or friend to the kid until that point. Then, all of the sudden, I started to feel like I/we could do it and that it was something that I truly wanted. It's hard as a women to be pregnant and go through everything that it entails. I could not image doing it without being 100% sure!

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    • I would like to say you are totally not running out of time. Please don't feel rushed, most of my friends and colleagues started having children in their early thirties. I had similar feelings of the timing being off for us to add to our family and panicking about getting older, (I'm 31 now) and went and talked to my doctor about which really helped put me at ease and made for planning that was far less pressured.

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    • You are definitely not running out of time, and you are doing it all 100% right by having thoughtful conversation with your partner and loving conversation with yourself. And I just want to take one moment to speak to your fears about repeating the mistakes that were made in your childhood. First, I am SO sorry that you experienced that growing up. I see you. Second, the fact that you see these mistakes and can identify them already means you are unlikely to make them yourself. Lastly, therapy can help you be mindful of where you may have triggers or habitually made toxic thought patterns, ensuring that you are not letting those into your life or your parenting, should you choose to have children. Either way, you will do exactly what is right for you, and it sounds like you have a loving partner who will support it. <3

      1 agrees
    • I could have written this post myself. I definitely didn't want children and then flip-flopped for a few years. Then one day I just had a burning desire for a child. What I'm trying to say is that I think you will know when the time is right for you. Don't let anyone pressure or rush you into making the decision. There is plenty of time. If it helps I was 31 when I began flip-flopping about whether I wanted children and 36 when my son was born.

      3 agree
    • Haha, wow, I think I'm exactly in your situation. I'm 28. I really like being comfortable financially, but I can't see it ever happening again with children. Especially since I would really really like one parent to be able to be home with them full-time as they grow up. I would decide to go off birth control and just let what happens happen… but medically we are unable to have kids that way and it will certainly have to be planned out. Sooooo…. not really sure what I wanted to say here, except that I completely understand how you feel, and I feel the same way. At least whichever way we go, we'll probably be happy. Don't forget that. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • You are definitely not running out of time. Expecting my first at 33 and the timing is so perfect. I was definitely thinking about it at 27, but wasn't ready. I spent the next 5-6 years getting ready! Saving money, travelling, researching, crossing things off my bucket list, having so many conversations about child rearing with my husband, getting my business off the ground etc.

      I feel so at peace and comfortable with parenthood now in a way I wouldn't have been at 27!

      2 agree
    • So, I have a different perspective than some of the other posters. I would say, "don't wait." I mean, obvi, if you are unable to support yourself or need to deal with health (mental or physical) stuff, make sure you take care of that first. BUT. I didn't even want kids until I was about 27 or so, and then we found out my husband was infertile. It is being treated, but we haven't had much luck and we would have more options if we'd started sooner. It has honestly been awful.
      By all means, take this with a grain of salt – my experience is different that yours or the next person's, and kids aren't right for everyone, and this isn't a guilt-trip! Just…don't feel like you have to wait, either.

      1 agrees
  4. It took me nine months to get help with my postpartum anxiety because I didn't know postpartum anxiety was a thing. I knew about postpartum depression but that's not what this was so I figured it was…. I don't know what I thought it was. My natural response to parenthood? Or everyone's natural response to parenthood and I just couldn't cope as well as everyone else? It didn't help that the people who gleefully told me "Just wait! Everything will be horrible! HAHA" were the same ones saying, "Oh, just wait, it'll get better" whenever I complained. So I just shut up and retreated into my brain, where everything was terrible. It was definitely not what I expected parenthood to be like.

    So I try to be gentle with new/future parents. I watch my language. I say, "It can…" instead of "It will…" Because my experiences are not universal and I think it's that expectation that makes us think we're going crazy or aren't good enough when it's not picture perfect.

    9 agree
    • If I could THIS! this 1 million times, I would. This was exactly my reaction to PPA, which is why it took me so long to seek help. I had never heard of it either! And everyone around me just kept saying it was normal "mommy worries". It was decidedly not. So glad you sought help and have used your own experience to inform how you speak to new parents. Good job, Mama!

      If you're interested, I did a short talk a while back where I address PPA and its relatively unknown status! You can find it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Vc9e9jy2SQ

      <3

  5. I had a subchorional hematoma (bleeding) at 12 weeks and worried constantly that I was going to lose my baby. Worry is not a strong enough word. Now at 28 weeks I started feeling weird and had a tiny bit more blood, and I'm freaking out about preterm labor. My midwife is on top of it and thinks I'm fine, but I feel so on edge and just want this to be done. I, too, thought I would love being pregnant, but it's just been one giant ball of anxiety and fear, and I really don't know if I'll want to do this twice. I know motherhood comes with it's own set of worries, but at least I'll be able to SEE him then, and know he's alive, instead of waiting with a pounding heart for the next kicks.

    2 agree
    • Hi Mama, thanks for sharing. I'm so sorry you have had to experience such scares during your pregnancy. It sounds like you have a trusted healthcare provider on your side, and that counts for so much! It might be a good idea to seek out a therapist to help you manage your fears. You don't have to suffer. A good place to start would be PostpartumProgress.org. On their website, they have a listing of therapists in various states who specialize in Pre and Postnatal life. They will have the right experience and knowledge to properly counsel you through your pregnancy and beyond. In addition to that, I have a lot of peer-support resources and would also be happy to help you find a therapist in your area, if you need help. All my contact information is on my blog, feel free to reach out. I am sending you love and strength and all the healthy vibes!

      1 agrees
  6. Thank you Kelly for this post- it came at an incredibly appropriate time for us. We are dealing with my 31 year old daughter's extreme gender disappointment. There is much condemnation and shame around this issue, not the least on her own part.
    My daughter is 18 weeks pregnant after IVF (two years trying, first IVF successful). We found out 4 days ago that the baby is a boy. My daughter is terribly disappointed- she has no interest in a boy or a life with a boy. I admit that I am probably to blame for this- she is my only child and I always talked a lot of trash about boys and boy moms (all males in our family are dysfunctional- we are a matriarchy!). I am so regretful of this. My daughter is depressed and very angry and resentful. She is grief- stricken at the loss of her dream of a daughter. I also was initially devastated but I have been able to really change my heart and mind about this little guy. I know he is meant for us and that he will be a perfect fit. My daughter cannot bear to look at the little boy clothes well-meaning friends have gifted, she says she has no interest in choosing a name or making a nursery.
    She feels immense guilt about this. There is support online, and her sweet husband and I are encouraging her to acknowledge her disappointment but start walking toward this new experience. So far she continues to despair. I know it has only been a few days, and she does agree that she is fortunate to get to be a mother at all, so I hope she will soon come to terms and feel happiness.
    Thank you for telling your story, may your heart be comforted to know that you have helped me today with a different parenting heartache. Thank you especially for the info on postpartum progress. I hope we do not need it but I had no idea where to turn for help. I cannot tell you how grateful I am

    2 agree
    • Oh goodness. Honestly, I was kind of hopeful that the joy of motherhood and pregnancy would override any disappointment I will likely have if our child (not yet pregnant but probably will be soon) is a boy. I don't really know why I expect/want a girl, and I feel terribly guilty about it! But I know that both my husband and I do want a girl, so… Now I'm extra worried about this. I hope your daughter can talk to someone about and find help, just like I hope we can/will if we go through the same thing.

      If it helps, maybe you can convince her that this is the chance to finally get an extra-awesome boy in your family, since she'll be raising it and she knows what's up since she is a matriarch…? ๐Ÿ™‚

      2 agree
      • I did not intend to make anyone uneasy. I am so sorry. From my reading I learned that the vast majority of parents -to -be who have a preference very quickly come to prefer what they are having. I think this will be true for my daughter eventually.

        • Haha, sorry, I am more nervous now that I know gender disappointment is a real (and serious) thing, but at the same time I am relieved to know that others have it and I'm not just a horrible person for secretly wanting a girl. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!

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          • Don't feel guilty at all! I had preferences during both of my pregnancies. I was wrong about my son, who I initially thought was a girl, but pretty quickly came to prefer a boy, just like Susanna mentions most mothers do, after we found out. With my second pregnancy, I knew it was a girl, was thrilled it was a girl, and then we lost her. SO, these days, I find myself less concerned about gender and more concerned about healthy. Either way, preferring a gender is 100% normal, nothing to feel guilty about and gender disappointment is common and usually fleeting, from what I have experienced and read. Good luck to you on the baby makin! Sending healthy pregnancy vibes your way! ๐Ÿ™‚

            2 agree
          • This is why I think the 20 week gender reveal is so important. With my first pregnancy I thought I had only a slight preference for a girl and was shocked at how disapointed I was when I saw it was a boy. I am so grateful I had months to get over that before meeting my beautiful baby. It would have been awful to have been blindsided with that feeling while actually having my little man in front of me.

            4 agree
          • You know, Anie, I never thought of that. I never really wanted to know the gender beforehand, because I didn't want it to influence anything, really, but your comment made me realize that actually I do want to know! In case it's a boy! ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you!

            1 agrees
    • Susanna,
      Thank you so much for your comment. I was moved to tears by it and wish that I could give you and your daughter a big hug. Comments and connections like this are the reason I write. My heart aches for your daughter, for the needless guilt she feels and the way I wish I could lift it from her shoulders, but I know, as I am sure you do, that mom-guilt is a difficult beast to tame. I cannot recommend strongly enough that she seek a therapist with a specialty in pre and postnatal health, even if she doesn't think she "needs" it. In my opinion, if she is crying, angry, losing sleep, or in anyway unhappy about the situation, she will likely benefit from talk therapy. I would also encourage her to not stop searching if the first therapist she meets is not a good fit. It took me a couple of tries before I found the therapist I see now (who I did find through Postpartum Progress!). I also want to take a moment to encourage you to not spend a single wasted moment feeling guilty about what influence you may or may not have on her feelings towards having a boy. It sounds to me like you are a loving and supportive mother, and that is what matters most! What I also see here is the potential for your daughter, informed and influenced by her strong female family members, to raise an incredible, feminist son. I have all boys and I was pretty broken up after we lost Clara, my unborn daughter, because I felt like I lost my chance to have a girl. We aren't sure yet if we are done, so there may be room for a girl, still. But, I'm not so worried about it anymore because one day I realized that I am raising brilliant, feminist sons who I know will grow up to be amazing men, like the one I married! Sending your whole family love, and wishes for peaceful hearts.

      4 agree
      • You will never know how deeply grateful I am for your kind reply. We felt very alone in this, but I no longer do. Your words to me about how I feel about my role in this are an incredible comfort. I am going to the postpartum progress site now. I promise you that we will use this information and experience to help someone else someday, and I will not forget your support. Your willingness to tell your story has made all the difference in the world to us, Kelly. God bless you and your family always.

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        • You are most certainly not alone. Delighted to be of help and tickled pink to be able to impact your journey. My contact info is on my blog, if your daughter ever needs a peer resource, I am always open and willing. Sending love.

    • Ugh, I am dealing with this right now (though it sounds like not quite to the degree that your daughter is). Our family already has three boys. I'd been planning to adopt our next child (thus being able to *guarantee* it would be a girl) when I got pregnant again. As happy as I was to be having this final baby (I'd been having some trouble talking my partners into the idea of another kid), there is definitely some [significant] disapointment that I now will not be getting the daughter I'd not just been hoping for, but planning on. Disapointment is a normal part of the process.

      However, if the disapointment is so severe that it is robbing all joy from the pregnancy, that's normal – or at least, it's not healthy. This is what my OB told me when a diagnosis of gestational diabetes during my last pregnancy filled me with anger and resentment towards the baby who was making me sick. She told me about some studies on the effects of untreated perinatal depression on newborns and convinced me to try a very low dosage of an anti-depressant. So low that most doctors I've talked to question whether it was even enough to have more than a placebo effect. But it worked. Truth is, I didn't even end up going to therapy at the time (despite that being what I'd originally been asking for a referal for) because the slight chemical correction made me realize how irrational I was being and support from my partners ended up being enough ("It's not his fault; he's sick, too" ended up being the quote from my husband that I would repeat like a mantra whenever I caught myself getting resentful).

      Everyone talks about Post Partum Depression, but Perinatal Depression is incredibly undermentioned. As someone with a tendency towards depression, me and my partners were prepared for me to go into a depressive episode post-partum. I just never realized that I should be looking for warning signs before that. Therapy is definitely a positive, but don't rule out the idea of medical help as well. There are some side effect risks for newborns with even the safest anti-depressants, but there are also side effects to untreated depression.

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      • Thank you Anie. Your story and this information helps so much. I feel like we are not alone, and I will definitely be vigilant about guiding my daughter to counseling if things continue as they have been. It has been five days since we found out we are expecting a little guy, and in talking to mom-to-be this morning I was encouraged that she verbalized her resolve to, "just for today", try in her speech and actions to be positive about having a boy, in the hope that her heart will follow.

      • Anie,

        Thanks so much for sharing. You are right, medicinal help should not be discounted. I am a Medicated Mama, and definitely not ashamed. I currently take Xanax as needed to manage my anxiety. For now, it's the right fit, but Xanax is not recommended for long term, nor is it safe during pregnancy. So, if I get pregnant or if I am unable to get my anxiety back under control within a reasonable amount of time, my doctors and I will make the call to switch my meds to fit the circumstances, whatever they may be.

        So, I definitely co-sign the recommendation to consider medication. I think therapy + medication + mediTation is a pretty awesome combo for battling anxiety, depression and a number of additional mood disorders.

        Wishing you and your partners a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby!

    • My situation hardly compares, but I want to reassure you that you cannot and should not blame yourself. I have many reasons for choosing to remain childless, but a big one of them is that I do not want to take the 50/50 risk of having a boy. I cannot imagine raising one or living with one – my male partner is enough to deal with and I have heard enough stories from he and his brother's dirty, loud, crude, rowdy, messy, injurious, destructive and physical childhoods that I do not want that in my house. I have not said this out loud to anyone except my partner because it sounds terrible, but it is truly how I feel deep down. I have amazing parents and father figures in my life. It is not you, and it is okay she feels this way now. Like you, I am confident she will be over the moon with her baby boy when he arrives. In the meantime, release this guilt you have placed on yourself. Best of luck to you both. <3

      1 agrees
      • Thanks for this. I know you understand- your viewpoint is pretty similar to my daughter's, even though I believe (she says) she knows that individuals are shaped by their environment to a great extent.
        If you do want a child, I would encourage you to check out a procedure called Micro-Sort, wherein a clinic can separate out X and Y cells and implant with only X's. I think this is how it works- not an expert by any means. I begged my daughter to do this, but she inexplicably refused. She had a lot of resentment about needing the whole IVF process, which was a mystery to me since I would have been thrilled to have that option for my secondary infertility.

        I am so glad I found this blog/thread to be able to discuss this topic at all. There are many who are very condemning and cruel about gender preference. My husband/her stepfather is one of them.

        • I also agree with your daughter that individuals are shaped more by their environment. I have no doubt she will be an amazing mother to her son and you, grandmother. I'm actually also sure that if I were to personally become pregnant with a son I would also be an amazing mother despite the feelings I currently have (but I have other reasons for not doing so).

          I think it is more difficult for men (like your husband) to understand the enormous complication of feelings and emotions that come along with not just parenthood but feeling that internal maternal "longing" for a child, trying to get pregnant, pregnancy itself, carrying a child, child birth, the postpartum period, maternal instinct etc… they only experience one moment along the way, and only as a witness (birth… two I guess if you count sex!), women experience the entire, wide, years-long spectrum and are forever changed by it. Through really no fault of their own, it is easier for them to cast stones from their perspective.

      • Thanks so much for sharing. I just wanted to pop by to say that I am so in awe of your level of self-understanding. Very few people are able to decode their inclinations so coherently and I'm so impressed by your ability to, as well as how you were open and honest with your partner about it all. For the record, I don't think it sounds terrible at all and makes perfect sense to me! We're all entitled to our preferences and they should never be something we feel ashamed about. <3

        • Thanks Kelly – it took years to be self-aware and did not happen overnight. I am blessed with an amazing partner who makes it easy to come to him with my true feelings. Thank you for discussing this topic so openly and honestly, even coming from a childless person – I love to learn from as many perspectives as possible so we can all be more compassionate.

    • Give her time. With both my pregnancies it felt difficult for me to connect with a being I had never even seen, and I have to say it was more difficult for me to feel connected with my son than my daughter. Although I didn't experience the extremes of disappointment that it sounds like your daughter has, I would encourage you not to rush her through grieving the baby and the life she has just learned she will not have. I didn't truly feel connected to my son until I held him in my arms, and from conversations with other moms I truly believe this is far, far more common than any of us usually talk about. There is a big, big difference between a vague image in your mind of what having a son might be like, and the reality of a tiny baby in your arms that just happens to have a penis. Your daughter has lots of time to process her grief before she even meets her son–she doesn't need to rush herself through it.

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  7. I am so fearful in my pregnancy. I am 12 weeks and have spent the entire first trimester worrying. We had a really tough time getting pregnant; we did IVF and got pregnant last summer but had a miscarriage. It was one of the hardest things I have ever dealt with. I hope that doesn't sound dramatic; it was so painful. We did IVF again in the fall and I am now 12 weeks with a precious baby girl, but I am so incredibly scared of losing her. Literally everything I do, I worry about its effect on her ("oh my gosh, I just ate a salad, what if it had listeria?" "I am crying, I think the emotions are going to hurt her." "I want to do yoga but what if it hurts her?") I feel like I am driving my husband crazy. I love this child so incredibly much that I feel like if anything were to happen, like in my first pregnancy, my heart would completely break. I am on Zoloft which helps some, but I worry about that hurting her too. I am jealous of the naivity of a pregnancy without any history of infertility or loss- having the deep belief that everything will be okay without an undercurrent of fear. Despite that, I know all of my experiences brought me to this child and for that I am grateful (not to mention grateful for the ability to afford IVF).

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    • With no history of infertility or loss, I still lived in fear of loss (or tragic diagnosis). With my first pregnancy I wasn't really willing to start bonding with the baby until it was 23 weeks or so (the point at which it would be considered a premature birth rather than a miscarriage if I went into labor). This time around, I'm willing to let some of the fear go after a healthy 20 week ultrasound, but up until that point I wasn't even willing to tell people other than my immediate family for fear of having to go back and tell them something tragic.

      Parenthood is scary business.

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      • Anie,

        I totally get this. I've already told my husband that if we get pregnant again, I will likely not tell anyone (especially our children) until we have a healthy 20 week ultrasound. I know it will be kind of difficult to conceal that that point (I began pretty obviously showing with my second pregnancy at 11 weeks!), but I do not ever want to deliver that kind of news again. Especially to our children. It was the worst. Sending hugs to you and wishes for a healthy pregnancy!

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    • Sandy,

      Thank you so much for sharing. I am so sorry to hear of your previous pregnancy loss, and of the difficulty you've experienced with getting pregnant. However, I am totally celebrating and WOOHOO-ing your current pregnancy and sending you SO MUCH love and wishes for a healthy and vibrant pre and postnatal period!! Pregnancy and parenthood is indeed a scary thing, and I am glad to hear that you are finding some relief with your medication. If you are on Zoloft, then I am going to assume that you already have a therapist, but if not, I'd encourage you to seek one out. I've linked in previous comments, but will do so again, to postpartumprogress.org. Fear during pregnancy, particularly one that you had to work hard for, is a normal thing, but it shouldn't be all consuming. I'm a huge proponent of therapy, so if you don't have a therapist or aren't loving the one you have, I definitely recommend you search. You might also find some comfort in a support group for Moms to Be? Sometimes vocalizing our fears to people who can relate to us, can bring a little relief all on its own.

      Either way, I understand the sentiment to be jealous of people who get to experience pregnancy without the shadow of fear that stems from loss or infertility. I know that, should my husband and I decide to try again for another baby, I will certainly be affected by having lost my unborn daughter. However, my hope is that I will have learned some coping mechanisms to manage that fear, because if there is one goal that I have for myself, it is to not let my anxiety disorder control my life or rob me of the joys that I would otherwise be experiencing.

      Best of luck to you!

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  8. Hi Kelly,
    Firstly, I am so sorry for your loss xoxoxox. I appreciate this article more than you know. I lost my first son at a week old to SIDS and then three months later had an ectopic pregnancy/miscarriage (which is where the baby implants in the wrong place, in my case it was my right fallopian tube). Now over a year later, I am nearly 19 weeks pregnant, I oscillate between being absolutely thrilled and grateful – to being anxious and fearful about everything as some of the other ladies have expressed. I am lucky to have a wonderful therapist and great midwifery care, but today I am feeling especially low even though I am only a week out from my 20 week ultrasound. Reading your article and the responses has helped me feel less alone and more normal. Thank you xoxoxox

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    • I want to start by saying that I am so, so sorry for your losses. I cannot imagine the pain you have been through and I wish I could just give you a huge hug. You are so, so brave and so, so strong. I am happy to hear that you are currently well taken care of, both in terms of your mental and physical health and absolutely delighted for your current pregnancy. I want to tell you that I am cheering for you, Mama. I am cheering for you SO HARD. Your fears are normal, your joy is normal, and I see you.

      I also want to thank you for taking the time to comment. Words like yours fuel me. This journey, both with my blog, my writing elsewhere on the internet, like here on Offbeat Home and the public speaking that I do is more a two way street than many people realize. Through sharing my own experience, I am able to create a space for women to feel less alone, but what many don't realize is that every time one of you speaks up and thanks me, or shares your story in return, I feel less alone. And it becomes a beautiful conversation, despite the pain that may exist in the subject matter. We are creating something beautiful and supportive, and oh so important, out of shared pain. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

      Sending you so much love.

  9. I'm going through the process of awaiting a termination after the detection of a fatal fetal anomaly. Less than a year after a spontaneous miscarriage.

    We've decided to try again when we can. And your story is a reminder that seeking mental health help is of utmost importance. I don't think it's really possible to traverse these waters without outside support.

    Thank-you for sharing your story. It brings a ray of hope.

    • I am so sorry to hear this. I am sending you love and strength and hope. So, so much hope. The sun does rise again, I promise. Please take care of your heart and your mind. A great place to start, if you are looking for a therapist is here: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/womens-mental-health-treatment-programs-specialists-us-canada-australia

      Specialists who are trained to work with postpartum women will be able to help you in a way that a general therapist may not. They understand the mindset of parents and the specific needs of women who have experienced this kind of loss.

      I'm happy to have reminded you that you aren't alone. That is why I do what I do! Please don't hesitate to reach out if you ever need a virtual hand squeeze. All my contact info is on my blog and I'm ready to lift you up, whenever you need it. Peace and love to you.

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