Your Own Private Freakout


This week, I want to hear your reactions to something posited by a good friend of mine. While she has no children of her own, my friend Julie developed my show Mother Load with me, and directed another wonderful one-mother show called BabyLove. Julie has put in her time studying our kind, like Jane Goodall among the chimps, and so I have come to consider her an expert of sorts.

Julie was telling me recently that a cousin of hers, as the birth of her first child neared, was completely and utterly freaking out about how she might have to have a C-section. “Why?” I said. “I don’t know,” Julie said, “something about how the baby might get too much of the anesthesia in its system?”

“I guess I read that somewhere too,” I said, “but I can’t say it was something I spent much time worrying about.”
“No,” said Julie, “but you had your thing too. And so that’s what I told Simone. Every pregnant woman has her thing.”
Come again?

“Your thing was what if you couldn’t breastfeed,” Julie reminded me. “And Simone’s thing is what if she has to have a C-section. Pregnancy and childbirth are such overwhelming events, so fundamentally unknowable, that a mother can’t process it all, so I think each woman picks one thing to freak out about while she’s pregnant, and funnels all her anxieties into that one thing.”

This, I have to say, blew my mind.

I certainly had freaked out about being able to breastfeed before Cooper was born, and I guess I must have bent Julie’s ear about it a few times. I did wonder, then, how it was that other mothers-to-be didn’t seem as singularly concerned. It never occurred to me that it was the anxiety of Impending Motherhood itself that was made manifest, in me, in this particular way, and when other mothers had other anxieties that I didn’t particularly share, it was because I had already chosen my Personal Freakout Issue.

In the end, I breastfed three children without a hitch (and believe me, I know how fortunate I am to say that). And Simone didn’t have to have her C-section. So Simone will probably not worry about that if she has a second pregnancy—which doesn’t mean she won’t find a new pitcher to pour her anxieties into.

I thought Julie’s theory was supremely interesting, at the very least, and so I’m wondering: was there one thing, large or small, that YOU freaked out about during your first pregnancy? What was it? And do you think my friend’s theory holds water?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Penny July 18, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I think it's very true. I stressed about having a C-section and in the end, I have had 3 of them. There's life just biting me in the you-know-what for ever worrying about it in the first place. I do think her theory holds a lot of weight, some are big worries and some are small worries, but in the end, all of us going through it the first time pour our worry into some area, I think it's perfectly normal. I would be concerned with a pregnant woman who isn't worried about anything, cause me thinks they have their head you-know-where.

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LutherLiz July 19, 2009 at 2:08 am

My big worry was pre-eclampsia. And wouldn't you know it I developed it in my 32 week, but I knew all the signs from my anxiety. Weird, scary but it all worked out too.

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Kristi July 19, 2009 at 2:40 am

I laugh about the c-section fear, only because of a deformity I have I can only have a c-section. I was fine by this, in fact having a regular vaginal birth scares me more!
But my main fear was pre-eclampsia as well. Any sign of swelling, I was on the phone with my doctor and finally she convinced me that while it was one sign, it was not the main sign of pre-eclampsia. I stopped working one week before my scheduled c-section date and that week my swelling had went down, I guess with out the stress of working and not being on my feet helped. But when I went in for my last appointment, low and behold I had the beginning stages of pre-eclampsia. We went ahead and had the baby that night, four days early. I wasn't in any danger yet but my doctor didn't want to bed rest me for 4 days and it all worked out. I just find it so humorous, that when I actually did get pre-eclampic I didn't even realize it. Of course now I do know the signs and will be more 'on guard' for future pregnancies!

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hayley July 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm

I actually had hyperemesis until my fifth month of my second pregnancy. I was just able to start writing about it, the experience was so scarring. I was constantly worried that the nausea would continue for the rest of my pregnancy (or maybe the rest of my life) – and it did in tiny spurts, though no where near the beginning of my pregnancy.

About a month ago, I had a stomach bug that made me very nauseas, and I actually went into a little bit of a crazy panic that a) I was still pregnant (like I said, crazy panic, since my daughter is 4 months old!) or b) that I was pregnant again. Neither was the case – I was just a little sick!

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Leslie July 20, 2009 at 12:54 am

I freaked out because my friend in dental school told me babies could be born with teeth. I obsessed over it. Out of all of the things that could happen or be wrong this is what I chose. It's so silly now but at the time it was the cause of a lot of anxiety. My dentist told me his was SIDS so I don't think it is just a mom thing.

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bitteroldshrew July 20, 2009 at 2:47 am

I must be the odd one out here because I didn't have any localized fears about childbirth. With my first I was nervous, only because I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but I was ready for anything. I was probably most nervous with my third child because the first two had gone so smoothly that I became almost positive that something would go wrong. Once again though, it was only generalized anxiety. Of course this could still go along with your friend's theory. It's just that instead of focusing on any particular fear, I spread out the anxiety amongst all possibilities. Come to think of it, I'm not sure if that's better or worse, but as yet I've retained most of my sanity. (At least as much as three children allow me to have.)

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Naeelah July 20, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Currently I am 19 weeks pregnant. My initial freakout during this pregnancy was the fear of having a miscarriage. My previous pregnancy ended at 10 weeks. Now that I am the second trimester that fear has subsided some. My new anxiety is breastfeeding. I was unable to get my daughter to nurse so I had to pump the entire time. I guess being pregnant just gives us the opportunity to get fixiated on something.

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Katie July 20, 2009 at 1:10 pm

My biggest worry was actually having a "natural" delivery. I wanted a c-section from the get-go, but unfortunately, my doctor said I couldn't automatically have one! I was distraught! I had been a car accident a few years previous and suffered a pelvic fracture (among many other more serious injuries), but this injury in particular seemed to cause me the most problems. As crazy as this probably sounds, I was sure that if I had to have a "natural" birth, I was going to split completely in half!!!

Turns out, after a 3-week spread of inductions with several doses of pitocin, 3 different treatments to make me dilate, and a million different hands in a very private area (which I could have very much lived without), I finally got that much desired c-section!!

I am convinced that if I had not been given that c-section, my precious boy would be a 4-1/2 year old still in my belly!! 🙂

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Sweet P July 20, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I agree with your friend's thinking. Unfortunately my children are all grown and I don't remember if I had a particular fear. My DIL had my grandson 3 months ago. I'll have to ask her if she had any fears.

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Anonymous July 20, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I completely agree! My big fear was not having a natural childbirth. Unfortunately things got crazy and delivery and my baby's first few weeks of life were anything but natural. It was the beginning of the gulf war and we were waiting to see when and if my husband would deploy, and I just could not let myself go to that big unknown. I think all my anxious energy went to worrying about the delivery. In the end hubby was here for delivery, got orders while we were in the hospital, came home safe, and baby is a perfectly healthy kid! All that worry focused on the delivery probably helped keep me sane at the time!

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Mary Pat July 20, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Biggest fear with #1 – having a colicky baby which thankfully I didn't. Biggest fear with #2 was how my relationship would change with #1. Would she hate me b/c I brought a new baby into the house and couldn't devote 100% of my attention to her? Would she hate the baby? Turns out everything worked out just fine – she pretty much ignored her brother until she discovered she can make him smile! Now he is her little puppet.

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Anonymous July 20, 2009 at 8:58 pm

My biggest concern was tearing. I just couldn't image being ripped open from stem to stern! I developed pre-eclampsia and had an emergency c-section, so no vaginal delivery for me. But I do agree, I seemed to focus on one thing to worry about!

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MsAmanda Jones July 20, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I have three children. First child – it was the fear of what to do with a little child & what happens if she doesn't stop crying? what about this, what about that? I think I called my God-mother a 100 times before she was born with different scenarios. Then child #2, it was dear god don't let me have to go through that much pain again. With my first I had a botched epidural and it only numbed half of my body-so the other half felt everything. I was having panic attacks about the pain right before I had my son. Child #3, It was the fear of everything changing once more. It wasn't about the pain of childbirth – but mostly about how after a 7 year old I was back at square one. That was the biggest fear of all three.

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Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 5:10 am

I watched my sister have her first child and she expelled a bit of fecal matter whilst "bearing down", if you will. I was horrified that I too would lay excrement proceeding the birth of my daughter. For months I spoke to other girlfriends about this and no one really had any comforting advice. "They whisk it away immediately", my sister assured me. I thought about it up until and even during my intervals of pushing. The doctor urged me to push harder. "I can't, I'm affraid I'm going to poop" I explained. He then explained that pooping is a sign of proper pushing. That was all I needed to hear. And then I pooped….

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AJ July 22, 2009 at 2:12 pm

cord around the neck. i was obsessed about it. i think it's totally true. i feel as though with most of my friends they freak about something weird, and i try to talk them out of it and tell them how irrational that is, but now that you mention it and take a step back, it's probably better not to try. let them focus on it.

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Anonymous July 22, 2009 at 5:37 pm

I'm with the other anonymous… Pooping…I was PETRIFIED of pooping. I was only 23 when I had my oldest so it was poop and bad pictures of the baby and I. At that age, nothing else matters. Ended up with an 11 pound c-section, so no poop, but terribly unnatractive photos!

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Roxane B. Salonen July 23, 2009 at 4:44 am

I had a low-lying placenta early on in my first pregnancy, so freaked about C-section (did NOT want that). It corrected itself and all went well. When I did have a miscarriage with baby #3, that became the freak-out thing (with good reason) thereafter. Gestational diabetes was another, when I "flunked" too sugar tests. Diabetes is huge in our family. I have a grandfather who died from it and my father suffers from it. None of the things about which I worried came to pass, thankfully. I'd never thought about this in quite this way before; interesting.

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