The anxious reality of a high-risk pregnancy

Pregnant belly

Looking back on my high-risk pregnancy with Jack, I'm not sure how I survived. Sounds dramatic, right? But honestly, I was drowning in a very raw and helpless fear each day. I was an anxious mess...desperately hoping for the best but constantly expecting the worse; a person I don't even recognise now. I remember everyone saying that I was so positive and carrying it so well, but on the inside, I was falling apart. There wasn’t a moment that I felt comfortable or safe - I was living in a constant state of nerve-wracking worry; my mind in overdrive as I played the 'what ifs' over and over again in my mind. Every single day I fought back tears as I second guessed myself. I not only worried that I would lose my baby, but I was convinced that every symptom was the beginning of the end. A sharp pain was my stitch failing, a headache was the beginning of pre-eclampsia, a tightening was the start of labour. Nothing was innocent, nothing was simple. This continued every day, every waking hour, even my sleep brought bad dreams…it was relentless. And on top of this, I had an overwhelming responsibility to notice if and when something was wrong, to prevent the worst, to keep our unborn child safe. The guilt of having James prematurely was constantly at the surface reminding me how quickly things could go wrong, how it was my role to read my body and the signs, how I was the reason that these concerns were real and we could never have a stress-free pregnancy. And sadly, while I absolutely loved being pregnant, I could never truly enjoy it – in fact, I found myself wishing for it to be over.

As most of you know, we've had our fair share of hardships and have suffered a great deal of loss, but I can hand on my heart say that our high-risk pregnancy with Jack was one of the toughest challenges of all. I reached boiling point. More than even my closest family and friends probably realise. While in hindsight there’s so much I wish I could go back and tell my pregnant self, I also know that in that moment, nothing could have eased my mind. I’ve had so many of you contact me over the past year asking how I did it….each of you saying the exact same thing - “I am so terrified that something will go wrong” – and as I try to think of something I can say to reduce the fear that’s crippling you, the trauma that I’ve been burying deep inside instantly comes bubbling to the surface. So I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to worry, that everything will be ok…because I can’t promise you that. In fact, I wish someone had told me that it wasn’t fair, instead of telling me that it would be ok – an acknowledgement of my feelings; anything to make me feel less irrational. Because the reality is, you probably won’t feel ok until your baby is safe and well in your arms. And even then, you may take some time to let go of the angst you feel. But please know that these emotions that consume you every day are not only totally normal, they are warranted. What you are experiencing is fucking tough, and you are reacting naturally to that. Allow yourself to grieve; to feel sad and sorry for yourself; to want it to be different. Allow yourself to take it one day, or even one hour, at a time; to remember why this is so difficult for you; to remind yourself of how far you have come. And while I want to assure you that you’re absolutely NOT alone, I understand that even this doesn’t help when you’re in the thick of it. But I do know all too well how you’re feeling, and I hope that brings you some comfort.

Pregnant belly

Our high-risk pregnancy damn-near broke me, so much so that it confirmed our decision not to have any more children. I seriously underestimated how stressful it would be the second time around following the trauma of our past experiences. I thought I would be prepared; that I had the knowledge, experience and strength to get me through – I’d already done it once, right? I was so wrong. But as with any hardship, it taught me so much and it became my story. I found a strength within me that I never knew I had. I battled with emotions I never had before. I found hope when it seemed there was no hope left. Above all else, I didn’t quit. And because of that I gained so much more than I ever dreamed. So while there’s nothing I can do to make the anxiety any lighter, I can assure you that fighting this bloody hard for something not only makes you grateful, but it makes you a freaking warrior…and that’s something that can never be taken away. Your fragile pieces may never fully glue back together, but I promise you that one day, you will feel whole again.

Birth photography Mum holding newborn baby

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