Ask Fiona: I am very anxious about giving birth to my third baby
Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine advises a woman who is anxious about giving birth to her third child
I'M the mother of two healthy young children – a boy, four, and a girl, almost two – and now expecting my third child. My previous two were very easy deliveries, but something about this one is really scaring me. I have had all the usual preliminary tests and my doctor, the ante-natal clinic and the midwife I've seen have all tried to reassure me that everything is fine. I just can't shake the feeling though, that something is wrong. I have been having bouts of real panic where my heart is going 19-to-the-dozen and I can't breathe. It's worrying me that this may be affecting the baby, but nobody seems to be taking my fears seriously.
Not even my husband, who just tells me to relax and that everything will be fine – but I can't.
What's wrong with me?
FIONA SAYS: I'm surprised that no-one is taking your anxiety seriously, because it's obviously very real to you.
I'm not a doctor, nor have I seen you or examined you – as they have – so I cannot tell you if anything is wrong with your pregnancy or not.
However, I can think of a number of reasons why this pregnancy might be making you so anxious.
Firstly, the changes in your hormone balance can trigger all kinds of problems, and I'm surprised no-one has suggested this as a very minimum. On top of that, think back to your last pregnancy. Did you, by any chance, suffer from post-natal depression at all and if so, was this treated at the time?
It might have been mild, and it might have passed, but being pregnant again could have reawakened the anxiety, especially if it wasn't dealt with.
Thirdly, you now have two children. That may seem obvious but, when you have two little people depending on you, you become much more aware of your responsibilities. Those responsibilities include being there and being available to those little people. Anything that could, potentially, take you away from them becomes a threat, so fears and phobias will, potentially increase. You know, now, how important you are to your children – you know that they would suffer if anything happened to you. That might not have impacted on you as strongly before as it does now they are beginning to get a little older.
I – for example – never used to worry about heights, but once I had two small children to take care of, I became paranoid about being near any ledges much higher than a curb. Having a baby – even a third one – is not something to be taken lightly, so I am not surprised that, on this occasion, you are feeling apprehensive.
It's quite possible that you're anxious about the prospect of managing three small children. That may be the physical act of coping, on a day-to-day basis or it may be anxiety about the financial implications. Please don't think I'm implying there is anything wrong with your relationship, but is there something in your husband's attitude that gives you cause for concern? Like the medical professionals, he is dismissing your fears – do you perhaps worry that he's not being more supportive?
If it's any consolation, you are not alone. About one woman in eight experiences depression or anxiety at some point during their pregnancy and it can be a time when women experience mental health issues for the first time. A support group, like the National Childbirth Trust (NCT.org.uk), for example, could help you.
Talking to others going through the same range of emotions can be valuable – and to help with stress you could consider joining a pregnancy yoga group.
Finally, talk to your GP again about your feelings – you need to be taken seriously.
I CANNOT COPE WITH MY GRIEF
WHEN my husband died suddenly last year, I felt nothing – absolutely nothing. I was just hollow inside and couldn't express the way I felt at all. Since then my feelings have started to return, with a vengeance and although some days are better than others, I often break down and cry uncontrollably. On other days, I feel like screaming at the world and it's as much as I can do to get out of bed. I try to tell myself that I have to get on with my life and set about all sorts of new projects, but I never manage to complete anything. Every day I miss my husband and the simple things we did for each other - someone to love, cuddle, talk with or just sit quietly with me. I know I have to accept that these will never again be part of my life, and I know I can't go on like this forever.
Do you think it would help if I talked to someone who has been through the same thing?
FIONA SAYS: I can't promise you that it will definitely help, but there's every chance that it might and that's a chance worth taking. When someone you love dies it is a huge trauma and it can take a long time for the pain to become bearable – so don't expect too much of yourself too quickly. You need time to grieve and, if you feel like having a good cry or scream, just let it out. While someone who has been through the same thing might help, so could a good friend or relative. Is there someone you can trust who is a good listener? Don't worry that you're being a burden to them – if they're a good friend, they will want to help. To find someone who has been through what you've been through, contact CRUSE Bereavement Care (cruse.org.uk). Aside from a great website, the organisation has a free counselling service and has a great many local support groups around the UK. However much it may feel like it, you are not alone – there really are people there who will want to help you.
HOW DO I START SAYING 'NO'?
I don't know why, but I've always found it hard to say no.
It's bad enough when people ask me to do things I don't really want to do, but it also extends to my social life.
I can't say no to men when they ask me out.
Fortunately – so far – I've managed to avoid situations where things might have got out of control, and I'd have been unable to stop them, but I'm worried it's only a matter of time. I don't want to be seen as someone who sleeps around, but I find it so difficult, even with men I'm not attracted to – I just hate hurting people's feelings.
It's led to a few unpleasant scenes in the past, so why can't I just be honest?
FIONA SAYS: While it's lovely that you're such a kind and sympathetic person who doesn't want to hurt others, you've got to get this under control to avoid hurting yourself. The unpleasant scenes you've found yourself in are a clear indicator that it doesn't always pay to spare someone the truth – especially when it comes to relationships. In such cases, honesty has to be the best and only policy – anything else just isn't fair to you or the other person. So, the next time someone asks you out – and you are not really interested in him – smile, thank him and say, 'No thank you'. Yes, he may feel initially rejected – but this will spare him, and you, a potentially much greater hurt later. There's nothing at all wrong in being assertive, but it's sometimes something you have to learn. If you go online you can find lots of assertiveness training materials or, if you really can't face doing this alone, you could speak to your GP about possible counselling. I'm afraid it's almost certainly something you'd have to pay for, but as things stand, this could ruin your life if you don't get it under control.
HOW DO I SUPPORT MY SON WHEN HE IS STRUGGLING?
My son's in his mid-20s and has Asperger's. While he manages most of the time, there are occasions when things get really difficult for him. When that happens, he can get really tense and sometimes he gets irate and angry. If I'm around, I can manage to help him but, when I'm not, things can escalate quite quickly. He holds down a job where they understand his condition but it's outside work where things can go wrong. When he gets like this, he finds it hard to talk, but he can generally manage to send me a text. The trouble is, I can't always answer him when he needs me to. He doesn't have much of a social life but he's beginning to develop one, but I just wish I knew of a way to help him – especially as I won't be around for ever.
FIONA SAYS: When your son experiences sensory overload and it all becomes too much for him, he probably reaches a crisis quite quickly.
One thing to try and teach him is how to avoid this happening in the first place and the National Autistic Society (autism.org.uk) can help. If he's not spoken to them before, I'm sure it would help him to do so.
There is other support available too. Recently there have been huge advances in ways of helping people, thanks to the work being done to encourage people to talk more openly. The Heads Together campaign launched a service called 'Shout. The idea is that people in a crisis can text the word 'shout to 85258 and be connected to a volunteer who will talk them down from their crisis to a place of calm. It sounds like it could be an idea for your son.
In trials it has been mainly used by young people, under 25, and has proved very helpful. Do have a look at the website (giveusashout.org) and see if you think your son could use it when he needs help.
If you don't think this is suitable for him, do consider also encouraging him to contact the Samaritans if he needs to. It will mean he has to talk, but hopefully he'll manage if he knows he's speaking to someone who wants to help.
:: If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.