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Planning for an Unplanned Pregnancy - 6 Tips to Calm the Overwhelm

Hi all! Michelle here. I am the Co-Founder of a planner company, currently in month 6 of an unplanned pregnancy, all happening during a global pandemic. The irony of my love of a good plan/need for control amidst the total chaos of these past few months is not at all lost on me. Needless to say, it has been quite a wild ride. 
My husband and I have been together for 8 years, and married for 4. Many of our friends have kids, so while we’ve definitely discussed it, we’ve always landed in the “ehh not yet” or the “maybe not ever?” camp. We've been enjoying a pretty fun, carefree lifestyle that we weren’t quite ready to give up just yet. We recently went to Banff on a whim for our anniversary, and we had plans this year (pre CO-VID) to go to Africa and see the impact of one of bloom’s longest-standing give back lines and go on a safari. That DINK (“Dual Income, No Kids”) lifestyle was looking prettyyy good to us for the foreseeable future. My husband also has early-onset Parkinson’s Disease. While not genetic, and not a reason we would ever change course if having kids was a big priority to either of us, there are just so many unknowns with his health that bringing a baby into the mix simply added another layer to an already “scary” topic for the both of us. Basically, we were having fun, focusing on each-other, and loving it. Babies were on hold. 
I had an IUD (a 99.99% effective form of birth control) and I also have PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) which can make it difficult to get pregnant. I thought that if we ever did change our minds, we would, like many of our friends, need to do fertility treatments. The universe obviously had other plans. This miracle baby is part of the .0001%!
Finding out was NOT the fairytale moment that I ever pictured. It involved a 7-11 store brand pregnancy test at midnight, a lot of curse words, and a lot of tears. The next morning we showed up to my gynecologist the second they opened without any appointment. They saw the desperation in my eyes and thankfully squeezed me in for bloodwork and an emergency ultrasound (because the IUD, which could have, but thankfully did not, have had adverse effects on the baby.) Surprise! I was not only pregnant, I was 10 weeks pregnant! For anyone unfamiliar with typical pregnancy timelines, this is not normal. You typically find out around 4-5 weeks. You definitely don’t find out via ultrasound, by a tech saying “oh look, there’s the baby!” We actually saw him and heard his heartbeat that day, a mere 9 hours after that positive 7-11 test we weren't sure we could trust. It was easily the craziest, most mind-blowing, most emotional day of my life. 
I went from being in “just another day” to being in basically the 2nd trimester of a pregnancy in a matter of hours. I was extremely scared of the unknown. I was totally overwhelmed by my lack of control in the situation. I was in mourning of the carefree lifestyle we loved so much that was so suddenly taken away from us. I was angry that we were robbed of the “happier” experiences of doing this when we were both planning for and “ready for" this next step. I felt guilty I was “ruining” all of these ‘first’ experiences for my husband by being so emotional. Most of all I felt ashamed for having so many “negative” thoughts in what I felt should have been such a happy, life-changing moment.
I am happy to report that I am in a much better headspace now. I want to go back to that overwhelmed, scared girl, give her a hug and tell her everything will be OK. For anyone going through a similar situation, this is the advice I wish I was given in those early moments: 

1. Do not shame yourself for being scared

I have seen so many friends struggle through infertility and miscarriages. This only added to my extreme guilt and confusion over all of the “negative” feelings I was having towards my unplanned, but healthy, pregnancy. My thoughts included: 
  • “What’s wrong with me? Why am I crying about a healthy baby?!”
  • “What would X (person struggling with fertility) think? I’m so awful!” 
  • “Why am I feeling like a victim here? This baby is a miracle. Why am I so selfish? Why am I so ungrateful?” 
Your life has completely shifted in the blink of an eye, and you’re allowed to have big feelings about that. You being scared of your unplanned pregnancy does not in any way negate the pain and empathy you have for others trying and failing to get pregnant. You are in shock. How you are feeling now is definitely not how you will feel forever, and is in no way a reflection of the mother you will grow to be. You didn't sign up for this life-rocking experience, but it's coming. That is scary, and feeling that fear (and any other emotion that comes with it) is valid. Give yourself the proper time, space, and grace to process it all without any self-judgement. Be gentle with yourself - you're doing the best you can!

2. Find a safe place to express *everything* going on in your head 

There was a day when I cried almost all day, and my husband (who is amazing and says the right thing 99% of the time) said, “You’re scaring me.” My anxiety shot through the roof even further, and my negative self-talk tripled. “He’s right - what’s wrong with me?,” “Why am I reacting like this?,” “I’m not handling this right,” “This proves I’m not ready for this,” “I am not going to be a good mom.” 
Repeat after me: Thinking a negative thought does not make you a bad person. Especially when you are pregnant. Hormones are a wild ride, and they amplify every crazy emotion and thought racing through your head (and there are A LOT of them). Having a fleeting feeling or thought does not mean that’s actually how you feel or think, and it absolutely does not define you or the mother you will be.
The danger lies in holding those thoughts inside and letting them fester. You need a safe outlet to be listened to without being or judged or "fixed." Luckily this led to a very productive talk between my husband and I. Now if I have any “bad” or “negative” thoughts, I tell him immediately and we talk it out together. As soon as I get the “crazy” out of my head, I feel 10x better. I am able to clear that mental space and re-focus on the good.
Talk to your partner, family members, friends, and/or even a therapist if needed. If you feel judged, try saying something like this: “I need you to be a safe space where I can talk about my feelings openly without being judged or defined by them - can you be that safe place for me?”, “I know these thoughts are fleeting, but I would feel so much better if I could just get them out of my head - will you listen?,” “I don’t need a solution, I just need to feel heard - could you listen without trying to fix it for me?” Find a safe way to express all of your feelings, and don’t keep them locked inside. 
I found the instagram accounts @positivelypresent and @heyamberrae extremely therapeutic during this time. Here were a few of my favorite posts!

3. Find a mom group

I’m lucky to have some of my best friends who are also mamas to support me. They are definitely one of my "safe spaces" and they are constantly listening to me, answering my millions of questions, and reassuring me that what I’m feeling and experiencing (emotionally and physically) are all totally normal. Reach out to other moms in your life! Being pregnant is an instant ticket into the ‘mom club’ and it immediately bonds you to other women. It’s been one of the most incredible, supportive circles I’ve ever entered. If you’re the first in your group, there are a ton of online mom support groups out there. What to Expect is a great resource.

4. Bad day? Sleep on it

Again, hormones are a wild ride. There are days when I was so sure I felt a certain way, and the next day, I felt completely the opposite. If you feel yourself spiraling, go for a walk, do a mediation, work out, or just go to sleep! You seriously can not underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep in re-setting an overwhelmed headspace. 

5. Flip the script in your head

If you have a negative thought, flip the script and look for the silver lining. 
  • “I’m not ready” —> “If I waited until I was ‘ready,’ I would never do anything.” 
  • “It’s a pandemic and I’m pregnant! The world is so scary!” —> “This is an OK time to be pregnant. I am home safe. I am learning to slow down. I am able to appreciate this extra time with my partner.” 
  • "This is bad timing! We had other plans!" ---> "There will never be a 100% perfect time, and there will always be 'other plans.' It's good timing because of X, Y, and Z." 
Seek out the good moments - the baby kicks, the cute kid at the coffee shop hugging his mom, catching your partner reading a parenting book, the friends and family that are constantly checking on you - and fill your heart with those. 

6. Trust the timing of your life

I didn’t plan this, but my heart has already grown in ways that I couldn’t before imagine. I know it’s just the start. Every single day I feel more connected to this baby, and more excited for this new future. I have a new appreciation for my own mom, and all of the moms in my life. I have a new appreciation for my friends and family who have been so sweet and supportive. I am falling even deeper in love with my husband, who has been truly amazing and adorable throughout this entire process. My heart now explodes at the simple thought of him with our son, and I can’t imagine how that will amplify when they actually meet in 3 months. It took me longer than I’d like to admit to get to this point, but maybe this was actually perfect timing, and I just needed a little push. 
I hope this helps anyone who was in my shoes 5 months ago. Please share with any mamas who could benefit, and feel free to reach out to me at Michelle@bloomplanners.com to continue the conversation. 
xoxo,
Michelle
Check out bloom's Pregnancy & Baby's First Year planner that walks you through planning for and documenting your (planned or unplanned!) pregnancy, from finding out to the baby's first birthday. It's a wonderful resource!


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