Years ago I struggled with anxiety. I had always struggled with it, but I hit a low point in college where there were days filled with anxiety attacks, side effects from medications, psychiatrists, and days/weeks of missed classes and what felt like a complete halt on my life. I don’t really know how to explain what changed or when. It was slow, but eventually I found myself healing. It had a lot to do with my relationship with Mike at the time and our desire to seek God as much as possible in preparation for our marriage. While I was learning about marriage from couples in our lives, my mentor, my friends, God was slowly revealing His truth to me that brought back a sense of peace and comfort into my life that I had been missing.
By the time we got married, I had stopped all medication and got to a place where I felt I could lean on my relationship with the Lord to keep my anxiety “in check.” Now I know I must have written about this before, but I want to be clear that I am NOT against medication for mental illness and I absolutely do not think that taking medicine means you’re not relying on the Lord (which people have argued with me before). I know that can be a controversial topic and I don’t mean it to be, my choice was personal and it was mainly because I felt like constantly changing dosages and trying to find the perfect balance of meds was doing more harm than good in my life. If I had ever found the correct dosage, maybe my decision would have been different.
Anyway, that is not what this post is about. Fast forward four years to today, and I definitely still describe myself as an anxious person but I truly didn’t think I had been in a place of struggling with my anxiety in a really long time. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I realized my anxiety has definitely manifested itself in a different way. There may not have been anxiety attacks and days of missing work and other events, but it was there. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it started, but now that I’ve been aware and reflecting I realize it’s definitely related to my pregnancy. I think I’ve been shoving the thought that I could be anxious over something that’s supposed to be so joyful because I felt guilty. I know that not everyone can get pregnant, it takes some couples years to conceive, there is loss, complications, and so much more heartbreak when it comes to pregnancy. We found out we were pregnant on Christmas Eve and it was one of the very best moments of my life, but I would be lying if I said that feeling lasted. Don’t get me wrong, of course there is an underlying joy of growing our sweet baby. There are moments and days where I have loved every second of it, and overall I would say I have enjoyed my pregnancy. That’s where this is so confusing. Can you feel like you’ve loved AND missed every second of something?
Hear me out. This is how I think my anxiety showed up again: by making me only want to get through the day. It was almost immediate. I had it in my mind that if we just made it to 12 weeks I could relax. Week by week I would count, read about pregnancy and statistics, wonder about every symptom I was having. Then it was 24 weeks for viability. After 24 weeks hit, I sat there wondering why I was still just thinking about getting through the day. It’s really no way to live. I’ve had some complications this pregnancy, and I typically overshare and I really haven’t with this (until now), but multiple scares early on led me to be uber-focused on Zoe. Obviously being focused on your pregnancy doesn’t sound like a problem, and I guess it’s not in and of itself. The problem came when I realized a few weeks ago how unfocused I’ve been on everything else. Everything in my life took a backseat because of my worry and my need to be constantly thinking about what could be going on in my body. I’ve been on autopilot. I would wake up, go to work, go home, do anything I was supposed to do that night, go to bed. Repeat. I definitely wasn’t the teacher I’ve been in the past, I’m sure I wasn’t always the wife I should be, and I know I’ve neglected some of my friends in the process. It’s just been day to day – countdowns to the weekend, countdowns to summer, countdowns to baby. Did I ever stop to pay attention to what was happening now? (The answer is yes, but a lot less than I should have been).
After realizing this a few weeks ago I would love to say awareness brought me back to life and I turned off autopilot and started to enjoy and focus on every moment. Unfortunately my guilt has gotten the best of me and feeling like I’ve neglected some of the most important aspects of my life for the past few months was a lot to process. I started intentionally praying about it, seeking the Lord even more, and reading/researching anxiety again. I felt like I was able to get a grip on things for a few days and then this week everything came to a screeching halt. For a few weeks/maybe a month I’ve been having some pain, and by some pain I mean I was curled on the bathroom floor thinking I was either in labor or having a heart attack multiple times. We suspected from my very thorough google searches that I was having an issue with my gallbladder, but it was confirmed through multiple doctors appointments that I am now having gallbladder issues brought on by pregnancy. Another thing for me to feel guilty about, I thought, because I thought it was directly related to my health. However I was assured by multiple professionals that this is not often talked about but very common for pregnancy and they’ve seen in numerous times. Our hope and prayer is that the issue goes away after pregnancy as my doctor thinks it will, and luckily the only major change I’ve had to make is not giving into my cravings for Chick-fil-A. And I say luckily but I don’t actually mean it because hello.. it’s Chick-fil-A. But I got this.
We also got the news this week that Mike and I are both carriers of the same exact gene for cystic fibrosis. We were told on Tuesday that Zoe has a 1 in 4 chance of being born affected by it. I know some people might think it’s crazy to share but most of you know by now that this is how I process and I’ve always embraced being transparent. I lost that in some ways this year and I want to take it back. We found out I was a carrier earlier in the pregnancy – probably around 12 weeks. It’s a whole long story and there was a big miscommunication where I was told I needed to come in immediately (meanwhile I’m at work and crying and my principal did not yet know about my pregnancy) and that I would be going to the hospital. All this to find out that I am only a carrier, which apparently the odds were 1 in 28. My doctor did suggest getting my husband tested, but it’s another long story as to why that didn’t happen. We ended up switching doctors because of all the issues and when we went to my first appointment with the new doctor at 24 weeks they tested Mike. It took about two weeks for us to get the results, but there were days that I didn’t even think about it. For someone that has been so focused on everything that can go wrong in pregnancy, I honestly did not even think that Mike would ALSO be 1 in 28. And the doctors were adamant that it was super rare for carriers to end up together, but they just wanted to rule it out. So when I got the call on Tuesday afternoon I wasn’t sure how to feel. Shocked wouldn’t be the word to describe it, and I didn’t fall to pieces or anything like that. I felt a weird calm about it, maybe with a little bit of denial, and set off to do some research.
I’m not going to bore you with the details of my emotional rollercoaster these past three days. I’ve shed some tears but I’m not sure if they are tears of fear or worry or what. All I know is that the sense of calm in the background hasn’t left. We met with a specialist and she told us all the same things I had already found out from the internet. I could have run the meeting honestly. It’s the first time this pregnancy that my need to research has left me feeling empowered rather than worried. We did decide that we will not being doing any testing during pregnancy because the test in invasive and comes with risk, so it was easy to turn down. This means that we will wait until Zoe is born to see if she is affected or not. It does pain me a little to not know, but 13 weeks will fly by in the grand scheme of things and we will know soon enough.
This post is lengthy and if you’re still reading I’m thoroughly impressed. I titled it “when you hear Gods voice” and I have yet to explain how that’s happened. You would think finding out that my pregnancy is now considered “high risk” would make me feel like my worry and anxiety leading up to this point was justified, that I would be saying “See! This is why I was worried!” Fortunately, it’s been the opposite. Yes, there are moments of doubt and fear and I’m sure it’ll be that way throughout the rest of my pregnancy but I woke up suddenly aware of so much truth:
1) God has been preparing our hearts for this moment. Mike and I have had to have conversations about future biological children the past few days. While I’ve learned this is a very controversial topic in the CF community, and I truly believe it’s a personal decision and there is no one right answer (and ours could certainly change), Mike and I are have been leaning toward no more biological children, regardless of whether or not our sweet Zoe is affected by CF. We love Zoe and know she is a beautiful gift from God, but we truly believe that this may be the reason God has given us a heart for foster care and adoption in the future. We’ve debated at least weekly since getting pregnant how many biological children we want, how many adopted, how many spots for foster children, etc. It’s always been a conversation but I knew I wanted the experience of being pregnant at least once if possible. I have plenty of friends that can’t picture adoption at all, and that it totally okay, but I’m thankful we’ve always wanted to do it, because it’s made processing through this information a lot easier than it could have been.
2) Mike named our daughter after he had an experience of hearing Gods voice for the first time. Zoe means life and Grace means favor of God. Her name literally speaks the truth that she will have a life full of the favor of God. No matter what life looks like for our girl, her name has brought me so much comfort already.
3) God used me even when I wasn’t paying attention. Now I don’t have tons of scripture to back that up with, and I don’t have lots of stories to share about how I was used. But I woke up with a little less guilt about how unfocused I’ve been lately and very clearly felt like God was telling me to trust Him. Should I be more focused and present in the moment? Absolutely. Do I need to make some changes? Yes. And that’s the plan. But I’m also trusting in the truth that God uses us even when we don’t feel worthy, even in our weakest times.
4) God is in control. Looking back I laugh to myself because WHY would I spend so much time worrying about things I literally cannot control? In fact, I was So worried about what I can’t control that I didn’t pay attention to what I could. I don’t want to live that way anymore, and God certainly doesn’t want me to either. It’s like I woke up this morning being embraced by God, suddenly feeling so much more trusting of him. I guess it just took me hitting a breaking point to feel it instead of just knowing it.
I’m going to end with a disclaimer like I always do, because I always overthink how people will react to what I post. Hear me when I say that this year in North Carolina has been incredible. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it’s been a year of growth, a year of healing, and year of learning. I’m so thankful for our time and our community here. Yes, I’ve felt like I’ve been on autopilot and yes, I’ve felt like overall I haven’t been the wife, teacher, friend I know I can be. But that does not take away from the amazing moments we’ve had and the memories we’ve made. I’m just ready to get rid of the underlying sense of anxiety that has slowly crept back into my life.
Now hear me say this: I’m not looking for people to tell me I’ve been great this year and I’m being hard on myself. This is not about a need for encouragement, it’s about transparency and realness and maybe letting someone else relate to what I’m going through. Anxiety and depression are talked about a lot for after pregnancy, but not much during. Mental health in general is still not talked about enough, and everyone knows I’ve always wanted that to change. I also want accountability, and by finally being open and honest about all this, I know that’ll happen. The problem with autopilot is that it’s easy and comfortable and so easy to go back to. I’m not willing to let that happen.
As always, thanks for reading! If you made it through the whole thing you deserve a reward.