What happens when you remember what it’s like to be pregnant and nervous?

I recently met a bunch of lovely women who are pregnant for the very first time. Being pregnant with my second child, I’ve been going to pregnancy yoga classes and hitting a few on-line forums for expectant mums. Strangely, I seem to have forgotten what it’s like being pregnant for the first time – yet my daughter is only four years old. I obviously remembered being pregnant but somehow the intensity and depth of my first pregnancy experience has faded.

Chatting with these newly pregnant women, I didn’t take long to tune back into the joy and excitement, the fear, apprehension and bewilderment. When you’re pregnant for the first time, there are so many unknowns.

So, in the spirit of honouring these pregnant women, I spent a few moments reflecting on the fears and concerns I experienced during my first pregnancy and I came up with what I’d say to “first-time pregnant me”.

First-time pregnant me: I’m pregnant and feeling nervous. No scrap that, terrified. Terrified of many things but particularly the birth itself. How can I possibly manage it! Words like ‘crowning’, ‘pushing’, ‘episiotomy’ make me want to hide in the linen cupboard. I can’t read the birth bits of any of the books I have. What the hell is your perineum anyway?

Current me: Being pregnant and feeling nervous (terrified) about birth is natural and normal. You’ll get through it and you’ll be amazed by the process, by your body, and by your depth of courage and resilience. Prepare as best you can mentally and physically. Find some supportive people to connect with and don’t over-think it.

You’re over-thinking it right now, aren’t you?

There are some things you just need to experience. Don’t give too much focus to the words that freak you out. What you’re most worried about won’t be as significant for you as you think anyway. Your body is designed for this process. You’ll be ok.

Beware of well-meaning ladies who like to engage in unsolicited over-sharing. Fearlessly block out personal birth anecdotes that contribute to your fear and anxiety. Try this: “Sorry Mrs Jones, thanks for your thoughts about your vaginal stitches but I’m trying to stay in a positive frame of mind at the moment”. Then, as subtly and respectfully as you can, flee the scene with your fingers in both ears.

First-time pregnant me: What if the birth goes wrong? What if I need a C-section? What if I need pain medication? I want to have a natural birth. What if I end up with … you know… stitches? Arrhhggg!!!

Current me: Take a breath. Have a cup of tea. Or a scotch. Oh no, wait, don’t do that, you’re pregnant.

Jokes aside, if you need to have any medical intervention during the birth, then be assured that the medical team is simply doing the best for you and for your baby. However, many women experience birth without the need for intervention. Be informed beforehand so that you understand what the doctors and nurses are talking about. Make sure your partner is informed too. While it’s great if you have a ‘natural birth’, it may not happen and that’s ok too. Birth is just the start.

First-time pregnant me: Well now you mention it, am I going to be a good mum? What if I stuff up?

Current me: You’ll absolutely be a good mum. A great mum even. Not a perfect mum though. Your future daughter ate honey toast for dinner last night. But you’ll do your best and your best will be enough.

You will stuff up. It’s inevitable. Own it. Make peace with it. Learn from it and make amends, or correct if you need to. Motherhood will teach you a lot about learning, growing and acceptance. It’s impossible to know at the start everything you need to know. As you go along, you’ll figure out important things like your own style of parenting, and which Octonaut is best. To give you a head start – it’s Captain Barnacles hands down.

First-time pregnant me: How can I be good enough to be a mum by the time the baby arrives? Aren’t our brains, personalities and habits formed by the time we’re five years old? Someone told me that what you say to your child when they’re young forms their inner voice. There’s so much pressure.

Current me: There’s no point playing it down. Being a parent is a huge responsibility. It will challenge you in ways you probably can’t fathom at the moment. Your priorities, the way you live, the way you think about the world, who you want to spend your time around, the things you want to do in life – it’ll all come undone and you’ll find yourself shaken right to your core. It will bring up stuff you didn’t even know was there (and I’m not talking about baby vomit).

But here’s the thing. You’ll put it all back together again with sharpened clarity. You’ll channel a depth of love, fierceness (think lioness) and emotion you didn’t know you had and you’ll resurface changed but the same. Having a baby is transformative. You won’t be able to predict its impact. Sounds pretty deep, doesn’t it. Just flow with it, my friend. The point is, you’ll grow into it and surprise yourself.

The other quite startling thing is that your kids give you feedback. As they get older, they mirror your words, actions and behaviour. So if you’re open to it, you can pick up things that aren’t working or that need to be adjusted. It gives you the opportunity to make changes. When a young child tells you to “use your patience” or that “you’re not being kind”, it stops you in your tracks.

First-time pregnant me: My body is out of control. So many changes. When will it go back to normal? It will, won’t it?

Current me: Depends on the individual woman, but, um, for me, afraid not. Especially my hips. They’re wider now. Weird maybe, but the good news is you’ll learn to be kinder and more accepting of yourself so that those things won’t matter.

First-time pregnant me: Will my relationship with my partner be ok once we have kids?

Current me: Having a baby is akin to throwing a hand grenade into your relationship. What you know will be blown wide open and you’ll have to put it back together. Your relationship will have to evolve. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; nothing stays the same. It will be challenging and you’ll both need to work hard and redefine a new way of being together that works for you both.

So to any first-time pregnant women reading this, be kind to yourself. Being pregnant and feeling nervous or apprehensive is completely and utterly normal. If you’re doing the best you can, you’re doing enough. Your fears and concerns are valid but don’t let them take over. You can’t know it all and you’ll be ok.

To those of us who’ve been there before, take a moment to remember what it was like being pregnant for the first time. Be kind to the pregnant women you meet. Don’t tell them about your stitches – unless they really, really, want to know. Tell them they’re beautiful and doing great instead.

By Lisa McAully

You may also like our article: How I got over my birth fears.